Thursday 26 April 2012

HD for Mice

Selecting a projector for my virtual reality setup has been a rather difficult process. It needs to meet certain criteria, the most important of which are the distance it can focus on and its throw ratio. Both of these lie outside the range projectors are typically built for, making it difficult to find a suitable unit. I've discussed this in more detail here. The problem: manufacturers won't tell you the actual maximum and minimum specs of their projectors so it's up to you to hold a screen in front of a given projector at various distances and see how close you can focus and what size the picture is at that distance. You can imagine the expression on a shop assistant's face when you tell him to set up every single projector they have for a demo. Recently I have switched to an HD projector for reasons mentioned below and because finding suitable projectors is such a painful process I want to share my experiences here in the hope that it will save expensive scientist man-hours and earn me your eternal gratitude.

After some research I found a great company in Edinburgh that, among other things, rents out projectors for art exhibits which often have odd requirements for projectors. That's why they know their units inside out and could tell me what I needed to know. They were the company to sell me the first projector and they also lent/sold me the HD unit. If you are on the hunt for a projector I can only recommend looking for a similar kind of company in your area.

The reason I started looking for a HD unit is that the picture I got with my current one got rather pixelated. Things in the distance (read: small on the screen) would not be displayed properly. More importantly however, edges were rather jagged at times. With 1024x768 pixels (Sanyo WX200) this is a problem I somewhat anticipated but still hoped I could get away with it. Switching to 1920x1080 pixels has alleviated that problem and adds extra brightness as well as contrast compared to the super cheap Sanyo unit.

Enter: the InFocus in3118HD

InFocus in3118HD (picture property of InFocus)

Focussing at 400mm and a small-ish picture at that distance were my requirements and to my suprise this was easily achieved by the in3118HD. As a matter of fact, I managed to get a crisp picture at as little as 250mm. Further, the price of this unit doesn't even reach the 4-digit range (around £900.- excl. VAT), a nice touch when money is a consideration.

The super-short focussing distance means that the unit doubles as a close quarter home defence weapon which allows you to burn a memorable message onto an intruder's retina before he (or she) can recover from the shock of being attacked with a projector. The top picture looks slightly blurry, but thats just the glare from the intensity of the light shining into the camera lens.

The InFocus in3118HD is otherwise of standard size so I was able to mount it on the same ceiling bracket that the Sanyo was on before. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the VR for comparison while the non-HD unit was still up and the effort of re-mounting and re-aligning everything outweighs the benefit of taking the pictures.

Of course the projector will be connected via HDMI once the cable arrives.

If you are facing the decision weather to go for HD or not I can only recommend HD. You won't have to worry about jagged edges or small things not being displayed properly. The unit I've got certainly does the job very well at a reasonable price so unless you feel like making some poor shop assistant work for their money this one is an option.

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