In our house at Chester River the projection installation was somewhat difficult because we wanted to use the living room with the water view for the projection room. This is so that we can sit and watch the water as the sun sets, then just convert the room into a theater by pressing a button when it gets dark! Checkout the video at the bottom of this page to see the screen come down and the curtains close! As our Seleco SVT-180 projector has a fixed focal length (it has to be a distance of 1.5 times the screen width from the screen) and the room has a cathedral ceiling, the projector ended up sitting in between us like a pet dog or something! As the good old Seleco was getting on for ten years old at that point, I decided to start looking for new & smaller alternatives to solve the problem.
Sharp XV-DW100U Projector
As I wanted a projector that could also be used as a monitor for the PC that controlled the stereo with my PCRemote application, I decided to look for a 1024x782 pixel LCD projector. After looking around a bit, I decided to try a Sharp XV-DW100U. This is a three panel LCD High Definition projector and when it first came out, it was quite a high-end unit costing almost $10,000! By late 2001, it looked like I could get a factory refurbished unit for about $4000, so I ordered one from Reliable Audio Video an on-line dealer I had used before. When it arrived, I was very impressed with the brightness and performance compared to the old Seleco and I was quickly sure that I had made the right decision. Also because the Sharp has a zoom feature, it meant that the mounting position could be moved forward or back quite a bit. In fact it could be moved back beyond the line of the back wall of the room! This meant that I would be able to build a small room or more like a box for it to sit in that was actually inside the loft behind the cathedral ceiling with the front being open to the room. That way when the screen was rolled up, you would hardly be able to notice that there was even a projection system in the room at all!
The Projection Box
The box I made is simply constructed from 5 pieces of 24 X 24 X 3/4 inch chipboard from Lowes glued and screwed together to form a cube with one side open and two receptacle boxes at the back for the power, control and video cables. Next I made a frame to support the weight of the roof as the whole for the box needed to be in the center of the apex of the cathedral ceiling wall where the support for the main beam is. Due to space constraints in the loft, I made this from three separate frames made from 2 X 4 inch wood and built and inserted them in one at a time as the existing supports were removed. In fact the existing supports were just two pieces of 4 X 2 going from the floor of the loft to the centre beam. This is typical of what you find in an American wooden frame house! Next I had to cut out the whole which turned out to be quite easy although it made a bit of dust in the living room! After the square section of drywall was removed, the box was put in and fixed in place by securing it to the frame. Then Susan filled in the edges with plaster and painted the whole box to match the existing walls. Once the outside frame was added and stained, the whole thing just looked like a two foot square picture frame and blended into the room perfectly. Next, I added a small Holmes air purifier/fan that I got from Walmart. This has an electronic ionizer and a carbon HEPA filter to clean and circulate the air in the box as the projector is not designed to be trapped in a confined space like that. The fan is fitted upside down and is screwed to the ceiling of the box. When the projector is operating, the fan is turned on via an X10 appliance module. Next the projector was installed. Because the Sharp XV-DW100U is designed to be either floor mounted with the bottom of the lens level with the bottom of the screen, or on a ceiling with the bottom of the upside down lens level with the top of the screen, the projector had to sit on it's back on the floor of the box with it's feet sticking up in the air, level with where the ceiling would be if there was one.
Installing the Sharp XV-DW100U Projector
So, once the box was made and everything was setup it was time to tryout the Sharp XV-DW100U in the final installation. I powered it up and nothing happened except the odd click! By messing about and removing and replacing the lamp I managed to get it to startup. Once it was going it looked fantastic! It had good brightness and worked well with Laserdisc, DVD and the VGA connection to the computer. After watching a couple films though, I noticed what looked like a yellow stain stretching from the center to one side of the picture. As it had also failed to start a couple more times, I decided to get it replaced or fixed. Unfortunately as it had now been a few weeks since I first purchased the projector from Reliable Audio Video, the 30 day return period had expired, so I called Sharp about it to see what could be done under the warranty. To cut a long story short, I'll just list the sequence of events that then ensued all of which was paid for by Sharp under the terms of the Refurbished Products Consumer Limited Warranty and involved two repair centers, Sharp's local agent Certified Electronic Service Inc in Ellicott City MD 21042 and Sharp's own repair facility in Romeoville IL 60446. There were 14 FedEx shipments in all!
1. Replaced blue LCD panel (a $1000 item!), could not find lamp start problem. I returned unit, same problems.
2. Replaced green LCD panel (another $1000!), could not find lamp start problem. I found that the convergence was all screwed up so I contacted Sharp.
3. Cleaned & reset the convergence but ignored the lamp start problem. After this the picture was indeed fantastic and I was really pleased but then the lamp failed again!
4. Cleaned & reset the convergence and fixed the lamp driver. Ahh!!! The convergence was all messed up again!!
5. Cleaned & reset the convergence. Ahhhhh!!!!!! The convergence was worse than ever!
6. Cleaned & reset the convergence. Ahhhhh!!!!!!! They must have Stevie Wonder doing this?
Sharp XV-Z9000U Projector
At this point I demanded a new unit fresh from Japan and offered to pay the difference. It took quite some effort to get Sharp to agree to this and I had to swear at and humiliate three levels of Sharp customer service representatives before getting to the decision maker, a lady called Pam Rogel. After all this, the XV-DW100U was out of production and only other refurbished units were available so I had to have an XV-Z9000U which is a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio DLP projector. I wasn't too happy about the widescreen aspect but there appeared to be no other choice.
7. Sharp ships another refurbished XV-DW100U by mistake.
Oh, another XV-DW100U for me to play with! Sharp were calling UPS all day to try and get the package back, but I signed for it thinking I would find my XV-Z9000U. This XV-DW100U showed one thing though: It's a great projector! Again this one had perfect convergence and a brilliant picture! Just one thing though: It had one green pixel that was always on quite close to the centre of the picture. In dark scenes it looked ridiculous, so I unplugged it ready to return. Apparently at the time at least, Sharp would only consider an LCD panel to be faulty if three or more pixels were faulty. As far as I am concerned, once you are in the $10,000 league, perfect panels are what I expect!
8. Sharp ships a new XV-Z9000U
The next day the XV-Z9000U arrived. Wow!! Holy cow etc. etc.. What a difference DLP makes!! The brightness while not quite as good as the LCD XV-DW100U was still impressive but the depth of contrast and the blazing deep colors just blew me away. Running the XV-DW100U and the XV-Z9000U together side by side on the same screen, I just couldn't work out how I had ever been satisfied with the XV-DW100U? Also with DLP (in these Sharp units & most others) there is only one chip that does the red, green & blue on a time sharing basis using a rotating color wheel, so there will never be any convergence issues between three separate panels.
So, confident that everything was OK at last, I took down the temporary setup I had made to compare the two projectors and installed the XV-Z9000U in the projector box. Because the XV-Z9000U has a lens shift feature that can move the entire picture vertically so that either the top or bottom of the picture can be level with the lens, it meant that it could sit properly, feet down in the projector box unlike the XV-DW100U that had to sit with it's feet pointing upwards as described above. We settled down to watch our first DLP powered anamorphic DVD. As the theatrical animated logos flashed light and dark before us I actually considered starting the film again so I could watch the brilliant colors in the Dolby Digital trailer once again. But just then as the brightest and deepest colored Dolby Digital symbol I had ever seen stopped rotating in the blazing light, I noticed a dark spec on the screen! Well we often get the odd fly trapped in the screen as it rolls up, so I thought I'd just go up there and flick it off seeing as everything else was so perfect. As I approached the screen looking at the dark spot, a feeling of dread crossed me as if someone had walked over my grave... It's a fly, it's a beetle, it's a nit, it's a spot of dirt... Oh please let it be... As I pulled at the edge of the screen to see the spot move with the screen... No! No! It can't be... Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Yes, the spot was part of the picture, it's a DEAD PIXEL !!! Further investigation with a blue screen image showed a total of three such dead DLP pixels. I spent the rest of the film looking for for any other faults and drinking as much beer as I could to calm my nerves! The next day, I reluctantly called Sharp to give them the bad news. Basically they said they have never ever heard of such a thing although sometimes there were cases where the DLP chip was not seated correctly and a whole row or column of pixels would not be working, but this looked like a fault with the chip itself. As they were so desperate to satisfy me at that point, they immediately dispatched another new XV-Z9000U to replace it.
9. Sharp ships another new XV-Z9000U
Sharp XV-Z9000U Projector Installed & Working
Well, at this point it's now over a year since I purchased the original XV-DW100U and I am wondering what can go wrong next? As it turned out, the final replacement XV-Z9000U was perfect in every respect and it is still working perfectly today with now almost 1000 hours on the lamp. It looks looks we do about 50 hours a month, so a lamp will last us three years. While the replacement model XV-Z10000U and even the XV-Z12000U are getting cheaper & cheaper now, I just don't have any issues with the XV-Z9000U, so I think I'll get a new lamp soon and see if I can make the projector last for a total of six years! We just had some of our neighbors over last week to look at some digital photographs and watch a movie. It's always fun to watch people who have never seen a big front projection system before. Their eyes just light up!
I can tell you this: Sharp do definitely honor their warrantees in the end!
Digital Light Processing
The DLP (Digital Light Processing) electronics and the actual DMD (Digital Mirror Device) chip are invented and produced by Texas Instruments. There is little point in me describing how it works here as there is a great demo here on the DLP site. Suffice to say that everything they say about it is true! As you will know from reading this page, I have had the opportunity to directly compare CRT (Cathode Ray Tube), LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and now DLP projection technology all together on the same screen at the flick of a switch in my own home. All in all, DLP is clearly the winner, all things considered. Unlike LCD where the pixels are square and separated by a black grid (smudging the focus a bit on LCD can help solve this), the pixels look like what I can only describe as spinning doughnuts! They appear round and have a slight dip in the center and they somehow shimmer & merge together very smoothly. In fact it is difficult to believe when looking from the viewing position that the picture is made up of dot's at all! Because of this, the keystone correction feature should you need to use it does actually work and produce a good picture. The keystone correction effect on the LCD XV-DW100U is totally ridiculous and unusable. In addition to all this, the 2D and 3D progressive modes on the XV-Z9000U can make an interlaced Laserdisc look like a progressive scan DVD and I'm not kidding! Even an old VHS tape while not as crisp of course can still be given that progressive look & feel. A specific progressive scan DVD player is just not needed!
Wide Screen or Full Screen?
My only issue with the projector is that is has a 720p native DMD chip intended for 720p HDTV viewing (which we never do). This means that it is 1280 x 720 pixels in size and I'd just as soon have 1024 x 768 with 1024 filling the 8 foot width of my screen which would make the 768 a height of 6 feet like the XV-DW100U does. Although the XV-Z9000U was the first DLP projector to use this new chip and was hailed as a revolution because it could directly support the 720p HDTV format with no rescaling, I'm just not impressed with this letterbox thing and Sharp doesn't produce a 1024 x 768 DLP projector! So the XV-Z9000U (and just about anything else these days) has a wide screen aspect ratio of 16:9. Well I can tell you, it's not wider at all, it's just shorter! Try and tell me that the blue 16x9 screen on the right is bigger than the blue 4x3 screen on the right! Because our screen (and any front projection screen) is of a fixed width, 8 feet in our case, the height of the screen is now 8/16 x 9 = 4 feet 6 inches high. Anything bigger would be ridiculous plus the projector would have to be even further back in the room which it can't be. The XV-DW100U and XV-Z9000U have the same focal length based on width, not height. Before with a 4:3 aspect ratio the screen was 8 feet wide and 8/4 x 3 = 6 feet high! Yes, we have lost 12 whole square feet of screen size!! Is this supposed to be progress? As far as I am concerned, because of this widescreen is crap! Look at any 16:9 widescreen TV in any house. To make it 4:3 aspect ratio would just add 33% to the height. Is there really anything in the way above the TV preventing this? Again, it's more likely that the width is the real issue. Not only that, still a vast amount of video content is in 4:3, like music video and sports. The enormous wide screen sides that accompany a close up of a persons face (a component of most all films) has caused most film directors to zoom in to fill the width with the face thereby cutting off the tops of peoples heads and their chins! What is the point? Watching a widescreen film on a large 60 inch 4:3 TV like we have at our condo raises this question in my mind all the time? Of course, there is nothing like seeing a wide screen film in it's original aspect ratio (wide or otherwise) to get the full effect, but that's only because it was made with a short, err I mean wide shape! I guess at 8 feet wide we can afford the loss, but understand this: a loss is indeed what it is! Then again, we appear to have no choice as the best quality recorded video source we currently have is wide screen anamorphic DVD. To make matters even worse, many anamorphic DVD's and Laserdiscs go beyond 16:9 and present wide screen films in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 or even 2.35:1! Why can't they just stick to 16:9? So at 8 feet wide, 2.35 comes to 8/2.35 x 1 = 3 feet 5 inches! So to add insult to injury we now have black bars at the top and bottom of the screen that are 6 1/2 inches high and another 8 1/2 square feet of screen space wasted! So the total waste of screen space compared with 4:3 is now over 20 square feet because the height is now less than 3 1/2 feet where as before it was 6 feet. Not only that, when we look at our digital photographs that are of course 4:3, we get black sidebars on the screen that are a foot wide and the pictures are reduced to a width of 6 feet where as before they would have been 8 feet wide. So people ask why the pictures are so much smaller than on our old projector if the new projector is supposed to be so good??!!
Now in April 2006 I thought I would just check to see how the lamp time is going and it turned out to be at 1850 hours, so it looks like we do get more than three years from a lamp! As I am still 100% satisfied with the projector and deeply fearful of all the possible trouble in changing to another unit, I decided it was time to get a new lamp and planned to change it at 1900 hours in order to get another three years use from the unit. After looking on eBay I found www.bnotions.com and they have a page here for the lamp. At $439 with free shipping, it looked like a great deal (better than eBay)! Just a few days later, the lamp arrived shipped direct from Japan, beautifully packed and an original Sharp replacement (AN-K9LP also known as BQC-XVZ9000/1). So I set the new lamp aside and waited for the 1900 hour warning indication to come up on the projector. Get this: The very next day halfway through Jurassic Park, the original lamp exploded! So we ended up watching the rest of the film on the PC monitor. The next day, I took the projector down and removed the old lamp to checkout the damage. I was most fearful of some damage to the ballast in the power supply. The lamp looked to have ruptured at the base of the filament where it meets the reflector and the force of the rupture threw the filament against the back of the thick glass plate at the front of the lamp breaking the glass in one corner (see picture above). There was some glass left in the chamber of the projector after removing the lamp. I just cleaned that out with a vacuum cleaner, cleaned and polished the exposed convex side of the condensor lens and put the new lamp in. Click here to see the layout. It powered up first time and has been running perfectly ever since! The lamp replacement procedure is described in the user manual. You can see the full service manual here (be patient, large 16 Meg file) and there is an upgrade supplement here.
Now in 2006 four years after it's introduction, the Sharp XV-Z9000U is considered old and outdated and from an original retail price of more than $10000, they now sell on eBay for about $1000 depending on how much use the lamp has had. Even so, the newer units have only a small amount of extra contrast and I still say the picture on the XV-Z9000U is stunning and the progressive video upscaling is what really makes it!
Please give the video time to load! If you see black, it means it is still downloading!