My New Video Projector

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Several years ago, I tried to setup a home theatre. I already had a good sound system purchased when I was a college freshman in Las Vegas (Worked at a hifi store and got a 50% discount direct from Marantz) in 1974. It is a Marantz 2325 with built in Dolby and plenty of power. Over the years I have eventually wasted the speakers (advent) (acoustic research) (altec lansing). Later, I worked for many years at Radio Shack Corporate headquarters. I was aware that one of their inexpensive speakers (the small die cast maximus 7 I think) are exact copies of a rather excellant speaker from braun called the ADS 2000 (made in 1970's - first box speaker for the car, excellant long throw 4 inch wooder and real hemispherical dome tweeters). Anyway a good speaker coupled with a cheap passive subwoofer does an excellant home theatre job on the cheap.

Now for the video. I thought that by 1999 the price for projectors would have dropped from the $50,000-15,000 dollar range. I was right. I could get a very crappy LCD projector for $4000. I looked at the output. it was crappy to say the least. $7,000 and $10,000 machines were better but dim. The killer projector in the room next door was a Runco and cost $50,000 still. I marveled at the clarity of the three gun projector. The LCD (Liquid Crystal Display - like a laptop) machines were dim and had visible pixels. The CRTs were brighter and cleaner.

I next purchased a Barco 400 graphics 3-CRT projector on eBay from a guy in Vancouver, Canada (I live in Texas) for about $700, extremely used. The guy there is a CRT wizard and reconditions these CRT based projectors. Had to get it air shipped and a custom wooden case made for it. Had to go down to customs and swear it was for my own personal use. Total tab $1,100. It was too heavy to carry but I carried it anyway. I have had back surgery to alleviate pain from a soccer injury and am not supposed to lift much more than a gallon of milk (ha, break that rule everyday!) It also had a large hifi looking piece of equipment that you used to hook up various devices. I took it home and tried to set it up in the living room. I had purchased a 8 foot screen for $97. I ended up scratching one of my wifes antique end tables. She also hated the placement of the screen in the middle of the entertainment system. She also hated the 5 large cables connecting the input device to the projector. So I watched movies there for one night. It looked okay but the blue was not calibrated. I opened the case and found 72 buttons for color and calibration. Aggggghhhh! Called the guy I bought it from for a manual. Moved it into a spare bedroom to quell the wife. The room I set it up in was one inch too short for the prefocused distance to the screen. I did not know this and spent many hours trying to setup the colors. There was a built in grid to calibrate with. When I used this it looked terrible. I calibrated with favorite movies and got a pretty good picture. Many friends dropped by and admired how cool Star Wars looked on an eight foot screen. I kept in in the spare room for 2000, 2001 and 2002. Of course I spent additional monies on wiring cables from my entertainment center in the living room to the spare room. The cable run was too long and somehow we encountered a ground loop problem. Had to buy an additional DVD and VCR for the "movie room" as my kids called it. Lucily they were selling a DVD players for 19 dollars with any television purchase. Since Christmas was only 2 days away bought oldest daughter a new TV. Video Players now down to $59.00 for a Hitachi. Cheap. Noticed that the color error showed up on DVDs more than Video tapes. Also video tapes filled screen and widescreen DVD looked crappy. In Januray 2003, my mother came to live with us. I had to move the projector out of the spare room. My wife stood guard over the living room and laughed out loud when I suggested the dining room. This left only the garage, which was full of my moms furniture. Hired help to shift furniture around and bought a rug for the garage. Setup new home theatre in half of a 2 car garage. Was sorta nice cause my Video Games are there anyway so it was kinda kool (PACMAN standup and Pole Position II Sitdown arcade game. Funny, wife somehow insisted that the perfect place for the video games was "in the garage" too? Hmmm must be some correlation there.). The other plus was that I finally placed the projector the correct distance from the screen. Color was great! Finally began to enjoy projector. Watched nonstop movies for about two weeks when projector began to misbehave. Finally showing its age it began to roll up after an hour or so. If I was lucky I could watch a movie before it began to shift the picture up. Darn.

Saw a TigerDirect Ad on the web in January that claimed cheap projectors. I knew that the Texas Instrument DLP chip was causing projector prices and size to drop. The DLP, Digital Light Processor is basically a projector on a chip. The chip has 16.7 million independent mirrors all spinning at different speeds to produce a much smaller pixel size that the LCD projectors. Just add lights or a light and a color wheel and viola! instant projector. Prices were dropping. As I watched the price for a DLP dropped to $1799. I held my breath. Then $1599, then $1299 with a $200 rebate! Just $1100!!! I closed my eyes, justified it as a partial business expense. I could use it for power point presentations! Yeah, out came the credit card and boom before you could say Bobs your uncle, the UPS guy was knocking on my door with a new tiny 7x10 inch projector weighing less than 2 and a half pounds! It even had a carrying case and a remote, along with any cable you might ever need including european (110/220v). In less than 2 minutes I was watching a movie on the big screen (I found a new location in the living room that somewhat mollified my spousal unit). Auto focus, auto device detect and almost twice as bright as my BARCO. wow. Life is good. One other plus, the old interface for the BARCO would not support any computer resolution except 1992 laptop standards. the new BENQ projector works perfectly with my current laptop and I can carry it around to meetings and stuff. Tonite we watch Buckaroo Banzai, War of the Worlds, Fantastic Planet and Men in Black II. Unfortunately the new projectors resolution and dot pixel ratio is so good you can now see visible artifacts from the helical scan head used in VCRs. Now I have to replace VHS tapes with DVDs. Purchased 2001: A Space Odyssey as first tape to DVD replacement. Fortunately I already have 85 SciFi titles on DVD and about the same numbers of VHS SciFi tapes. Oh well. Thinking of buying a new screen and letting the kids have the old BARCO to watch cartoons in the garage. Plus it's still great for VCR tapes becuase you cannot see the helical scan lines. Currently no one but me is allowed to touch or operate the new projector. I cannot trust the house apes yet. They still pour cokes in their computers and download viruses as a hobby.

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