CE Pro Europe was recently treated to a demonstration of SIM2’s brand new AR compact three-chip home cinema projector at Ideaworks’ impressive 7.4.4 JBL £250,000 home cinema room inside its showroom.
Massimo Zecchin, international sales director for SIM2 made the journey from Italy to talk installers through the manufacturer’s latest offering.
He explained that the AR projector is named after the late Alan Roser, who passed away while the projector was in the development stage. Alan joined SIM2 UK in 2002 as managing director, later becoming the MD and owner of Anthem AV Solutions, which has since been acquired by Invision UK.
“SIM2 recently lost a beloved and esteemed colleague known in the industry for his love of video projection,” Massimo explained. “As a tribute to him we have discreetly dedicated this jewel of technology to a man who dedicated his entire professional life in the pursuit of the ultimate video quality and performance. ‘Mr Grand Cinema,’ this statement product is dedicated to you.”
“SIM2 is not about colour resolution, it’s about colour accuracy,” stated Tom Garret, Anthem AV Solutions, after noting that the AR (with a retail price of £40,000) is a 1080P projector in a market where 4K is becoming the standard. To demonstrate the quality, 2014 film, Lucy was played through a Kaleidescape system, with 810 lines of resolution projected across a 5m wide screen.
Each projector SIM2 produces is carefully handcrafted in its Italian factory; the AR being no exception.
The new projector is equipped with all the latest innovations available from DLP technology, including custom-built Fujinon large aperture glass lenses which were specifically designed for this unit to guarantee exceptional on-screen clarity.
Additionally, a specialist colour notch filter which, when combined with the advanced on-board video processing, is said to dramatically widen the colour gamut of this projector to cover all the colour space requirements of a professional cinema environment: from Rec709 to DCI-P3.
At roughly a third of the size of other high-end models – just 18” x 18” x 9” – AR delivers up to 5,500 ANSI lumens from its high power lamp.
Massimo underlined that a good image is only marginally affected by the image’s pixel resolution, stating that picture quality is mainly affected by the quality of the optics, lenses and filters and, in the case of projectors, by the complete light engine and processing electronics.
This is where the custom-built Fujinon large aperture glass lenses come in, reportedly guaranteeing exceptional on-screen clarity.
“The days of the industrial-sized projectors in these systems are numbered,” stated Massimo.
The calibration capabilities of AR are designed with the expert calibrator in mind; its colour palette is wider than a conventional projector and can be precisely tuned to the customer’s individual screen and room characteristics. A specialist probe supplied with the projector preserves the quality of the calibrated image over its lifetime in an attempt to ensure that the best picture is produced, forever.
Speaking to CE Pro Eu after the demonstration, Massimo explained the thinking behind the product and justified the price tag.
“AR has been designed for the most demanding home cinema enthusiast that loves the technology and is prepared to pay the price for it,” he states. “They want the best performance. It is also for customers who are not experts, but that simply ask: ‘What’s the best performance I may have?’
“It’s more of a luxury business, yes,” he acknowledges. “In principal, AR is for home cinema enthusiasts with a budget and the luxury residential business for the best environments possible.”
In terms of overall education and awareness of the SIM2 brand, Massimo calls the UK market a “heaven when compared to other European countries. Education is always welcome as technology changes very fast; marketing affects a lot of decisions,” he considers. “In terms of development, we try to have products that can last for a long time.
“Consumers get very annoyed if they invest in a product, but then after a short time something comes along that is better and cheaper. We wish to give time to our partners to recover the investment. What we do when designing the products is to put whatever we know inside the model we present, and that’s why that model can last for many years. Other manufacturers do it differently; they introduce one more performance characteristic when compared to the last model and then after six months, do something else. This allows them either to force the trader to keep buying for the showroom, but also to force the trader to discount the old unit.”
Massimo makes it clear that this is not what SIM2 is interested in. “We have products installed after 10-15 years and customers still don’t want to change it. We know that the models need to be compact so that one installer can do it instead of having to send a team of four or five. It has to be extremely silent, because there isn’t always a dedicated, separate space from the theatre; very often they are installed in the living room. We always tailor-make our products for home applications.”
Why colour accuracy over resolution?
“That’s a good question,” he considers. “Colour accuracy is something you can see. Just looking at the skin of an actress, it has to be real, it cannot be yellowish/greenish – it is something that we are very familiar with. The resolution is something that no one can see. If you sit at the right distance from the screen, meaning, a distance at which you can see all the image on the screen – not too close, you don’t see the pixels. It means that the dimension of the pixel exceeds your viewing capability; the resolution of your eyes. So if you don’t see the existing pixels of this image, you can go to a smaller pixel – it’s already over your viewing capability. You can do as small pixels as you want – that means, as high a resolution as you want; nothing changes to you – it’s not visible. People assume that the higher resolution, the more it difference you can see, but it’s not true.”
Massimo states that what is important is to add good optics: “A good contrast to give a 3D feeling in the image plus accurate colour imagery are key. The resolution is something that does not give any benefit to the viewer unless you go with your nose close to the screen, which is obviously not the ideal way to watch a movie! No one should spend money for a theatre sitting in the wrong position.”
“4K has never been our focus. We focus on the cinematic experience, we are more than happy when people tell us ‘it’s like being at the cinema’.
We have never paid much attention to the marketing push. 4K is very good for the trade, yes, because it’s something new, it’s something that can be sold – but that’s not our focus. The DLP technology is extremely good and we are always using the new developments of DLP. What you have seen today remains the best possibility in terms of image quality that technology can allow.”
Addressing the steep price, Massimo highlights the level of care that goes into creating each projector.
“We have a level of customisation that is available for all the products we do. This is because the projector is part of the interior so it’s not just a technology product that you have to accept in the home. It has to be perfectly integrated so if you want a special colour, that can be done.”
SIM2 is a small company compared to its competitors, which works to the manufacturer’s advantage as it is not forced to produce a specific quantity of products per day.
“That’s why we have all the time to make an accurate production. If the guys in the factory are not happy, they dismantle the product and do it again.”
Customers can even visit the factory to oversee the production of their own product. “This is not possible for any other brand because the production is scheduled strictly based on minutes of the daily production. We will start the process in front of their eyes; we will put our signature on it and we go into their theatre and do a test together.
“This is happening more often than ever because there are a lot of consumers that are willing to spend that kind of money. What is different from the past, is that now they want to know what they will get for their money.
“They want good reasons for their investment and this is not only about the image quality, it’s not only the cinematic experience – there has to be a value. The intrinsic value of the product comes from the way it has been designed and the way it has been produced. We show our consumers that the way the products are produced are so accurate, that the product has value before powering them up.”