Sony plans to ship a 4K home theater projector, the catchily-named VPL-VW1000ES, for 25 grand in early 2012. Given the $13.50-a-ticket price to see a movie here in New York City, I've found myself disappointed at a few recent films where the image felt soft. Sony is on the record about 4K in theaters (PDF link), and I'm convinced that it is indeed the future for the big screen. But at home? I have a 720p projector in my apartment, and it looks pretty damn good. I can only imagine that 1080p would look better, and I don't know that I could ever tell the difference between 1080p and 4K. Still, that's not stopping Sony -- and RED -- from pushing 4K projection in the home.
Always one to push 4K, the folks at RED also have a 4K laser projector on the way, for "theater and home." Both companies have different approaches to 3D, with Sony relying on active shutter glasses, an approach that Jim Jannard has called "incredibly stupid." But even in only two dimensions, projection at 4k is only half the battle. You need a playback system, and with current 4K players costing $65,000, if 4K is going to come to the home the price of that is going to have to come down a lot. RED's solution is called RED RAY, and I got a look at it this past April. Here's my aptly-named hands-on video:
The consumer version of the above was, at the time at least, to be priced at "$1,000 or under." But as with everything RED, take specs and dates with a grain of salt, as word was floating around at NAB (April, mind you) that the RED RAY would be shipping "in the next eight weeks."
The math shows that on a 40-50" screen at normal viewing distances, 1080p is plenty, which makes it unlikely that 4K will ever have the adoption rate of 1080P HDTV. Is 4K on a plasma screen overkill? Certainly. But if you've got dreams of one day building a proper projection-based home theater, then 4K may be in your future. Even older film restorations look better at 4K. I also wonder about the relevance of higher resolution for 3D applications -- as far as production is concerned, on the latest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean they used the 4.5K resolution of the RED ONE MX to set the 3D convergence in post, which leads me to wonder if an ultra-high resolution projector could somehow take two video streams and set the appropriate convergence in real-time... okay, now we're talking "overkill."