Last month Barco, the technology company focusing on innovative visualization solutions, announced the launch of two new projectors, bringing RGB colour performance and native 4K quality to a range of immersive experiences. The Barco XDM & XDX will have many applications in the attractions sector, from dark rides and domes to artainment experiences and more.
To find out more, blooloop spoke to Barco’s Koen Van Belle, Product Manager Projection and Richard Marples, Director of Global Sales Enablement.
Leaders in visualisation technology
Barco was founded in 1934 and has grown to become a leader in visualisation technology. Its products can now be found in a wide range of sectors around the world, including monitor displays in healthcare locations, LED and LCD video walls in corporate environments, and projectors supporting some of the most popular theme park rides.
The company’s projection solutions are also in use at over 50% of cinema screens across the globe. This gives it a great deal of insight into the types of products and services that these customers need. In fact, last month Barco announced that it had produced its 100,000th digital cinema projector.
In addition to this, the company has a long history in the field of technology, specifically in visualisation technologies. It began by making radios, before progressing to other products such as jukeboxes and TVs and then monitors for professional applications. It also innovated with projection in aeroplanes for in-flight entertainment, working on three tube CRT projectors that displayed content at the front of the cabin.
“Barco began with these types of products,” says Marples. “We now cover different professional markets and have built up a great deal of experience, thanks to our long history. With this knowledge, we can provide the best technical solutions for our customers today.”
Introducing the Barco XDM and XDX
The two new Barco projectors, the XDM and XDX, meet the growing need for a native 4K solution combined with a very large colour gamut.
To achieve this, the projectors use separate lasers: red, green and blue, in the light source. With these very narrow light wavelengths, the colour gamut increases, and more colours are available for display. The XDM and XDX are derivatives of products that have already been proven in the cinema industry, which use the same RGB lasers and 4K native chips. Now, with this launch, Barco is also able to bring a version to fixed install markets outside cinema.
“In themed entertainment projects where you are trying to create very immersive experiences, for instance at theme parks, planetariums, museums, digital art installations, dark rides, and domes, every pixel counts,” says Marples.
“By starting with the maximum possible resolution available to us, which is 4K, the creators of these rides and experiences can stay much truer to the content, as it was originally created. Therefore, they can make the experience much more believable for visitors.”
Meeting the market’s needs
The wide colour gamut makes the whole experience much more believable and realistic, meaning attractions can truly immerse the visitor. This colour punch enables an impression of much higher contrast, which is ideal in multi-projector setups, such as dark rides.
The new release highlights Barco’s commitment to continued innovation, in order to meet the market’s evolving requirements, as Marples explains:
“We listen to our customers. So, we know this new solution is something that they want and need – the very wide colour gamut that we get from RGB and the native 4K resolution. That is why these two new projectors push the boundaries that much further and respond to the demands of the customers.”
Barco XDM and XDX provide quality projection with a small footprint
This projection technology itself has been in use in larger venues for some time. However, technology and cooling have progressed rapidly in recent years. This means that, with the Barco XDM and XDX, the company can now also provide native 4K, RGB projection to attractions or venues with a smaller footprint.
These two new projectors, one with 25,000 lumens, the other one with 40,000 lumens, are easier to manage and easier to install than any previous options for themed entertainment.
“For instance, you can install them in any direction: pointing up, pointing down, pointing sideways,” says Van Belle. “That’s why they fit the bill for installations in the themed entertainment sector.”
For visitor attractions who want to set up an immersive experience, multiple projectors can be placed, to provide a very bright image with high resolution. Some typical examples of this setup are dark rides, flying theatres, domes, and planetariums. Other instances are immersive rooms and artainment experiences where there is projection on all four walls, and even the floor. Previously, for attractions with large curved screens, like dark rides, cross-reflections from adjacent projectors could cause issues.
“These multi-projector setups are ideal for such immersive experiences,” adds Van Belle.
The key to a memorable experience
Quality projection can be the thing that turns an ordinary projection into a truly memorable experience. However, the technology itself should remain hidden, helping visitors to suspend disbelief. The projection technology is there to work together with all the other factors, for instance, the sound, the content.
“The projection is just one small piece, and the projectors should be there to deliver that content and that experience as intended by the designer,” says Marples. “By delivering as many pixels as possible and by delivering that wide colour gamut, you make the whole thing believable and more immersive. It’s the combination of everything that does that.”
“It should be invisible. Plus, there should also be an assurance for the customer that the projection technology will play well on day one, but also play well on day 100 and day 300, and so on,” adds Van Belle. “This consistent quality also goes a long way to making an unforgettable experience.”
Barco XDM and XDX bring extra reliability
Expanding on this reliability, Marples says:
“The reliability of our projectors has already been proven. The Barco XDM and XDX are new products in themed entertainment, but they build our previous successful products in cinema. Reliability is key in this market, because if the projector does not play, you miss a complete show or screening of a movie, and thus lose both revenue and customer satisfaction. Of course, that’s something cinema owners would like to avoid. This is the reason why over 50% of them have chosen Barco projection.”
One factor that sets it apart from the competition is the fact that Barco ensures that the different internal components of its products will all perform well over time.
“That is something we consider and work on a lot,” adds Van Belle. “And it is something you can’t see if you just look at the projector. Other projectors may look the same, but internally they can have a different design.”
Ease of servicing
While every effort has been made to ensure reliability, with so many projectors in the field, issues will inevitably occur. Fortunately, Barco has also worked to make sure that its projectors are easily serviceable.
When failures do happen, operators need them to be fixed and fixed quickly. Plus, they need to be serviceable in the field:
“Customers don’t want to have to take them down,” says Marples. “For example, a major theme park will not want to have to take the projector down. Because that means stopping the whole ride. Usually, in those cases, the projectors are installed high up in difficult to reach places. So, serviceability is key!”
Sustainable & cost-effective
Barco has worked on the modularity of its projector ranges. This means that the projector is made up of modules. For instance, the power supply, the processing box, the light source etc. are all separate. Each of these modules can easily be reached, removed and replaced, without having to remove all other components.
The Barco XDM and XDX are the easiest projectors to service on the market, according to Van Belle:
“This is because they have some extra space to provide better serviceability, allowing you to reach different modules easily. So, if there is a failure, you can just replace that part. You don’t have to rebuild or remove everything to access it. You can go as far as replacing down to the level of the light sources. Even the lasers themselves can be replaced.”
RGB lasers degrade over time. As they get older, they produce less light. However, the red, green and blue lasers degrade at different rates. So, depending on the content, how they’re used and where they are used, the individual lasers themselves will degrade at different speeds. With the high serviceability of the XDM and XDX, users can replace individual laser plates, rather than having to replace all three in order to restore the brightness.
Having this level of detail, and being able to go down to such a level inside the projector, means that users benefit from a cost-effective, sustainable system over a long period.
Cloud-based monitoring with Barco XDM and XDX
As well as the practicalities of replacing parts, Barco also includes a cloud-based monitoring system. This gives the user an overview of all the different projectors that are in use as well as giving details on how they are running. If issues pop up, operators can check from any location, and remotely run monitoring and diagnostics.
Operators simply connect the projector to an internet connection. Then, all the relevant information is collected automatically in the cloud. Thanks to the secure connection, anybody who has the authorization, can log on to the cloud and check that everything is working and whether there are any warning messages. They can also do this remotely through their phone or tablet.
“We believe this is a big step forward in monitoring projectors in the field,” says Marples.
For more information on the Barco XDM and XDX, please click here.