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Projection: changing not declining

In part one of this projection feature we took the temperature of the market to see how it is coping with what many thought would be increasingly hostile conditions. Following that we revealed some of the application-specific functionality manufacturers are introducing. Here Ian McMurray looks at the segments where projection is still the go-to as well as the emerging opportunities.

Despite the gloom-mongers and the nay-sayers, the projector industry appears to be in good – very good – health. The market for delivering images of 60 inches or less may have been lost to FPDs – but there are still numerous opportunities.

“Overall projector sales are indeed going down, driven by the popularity of flat panels,” says Ignace Rombaut, vice president of projection at Barco, “but some segments are showing significant growth – and it’s exactly those segments in which Barco has historically been very active, such as cinema and events, venues and hospitality.”

He adds that the market for simulation – another key market for Barco – is “stable”, but it’s a market that drives innovation. 

“The 6,000+ lumen market is where we are seeing the growth,” says Hans Dummer, director – visual instruments EMEAR at Epson Europe. “Not only is the market growing, but we are taking share from more established competitors in this space. Rental and staging, particularly in the 15,000+ lumen range, is also a particularly hot market.”

“Projection is still the go-to technology for large-scale mapping, domes and planetariums and so on,” adds Mark Wadsworth VP of global marketing at Digital Projection. “The ability to quickly set them up and edge blend them sets them apart from other technologies. There are also many environments where you can’t physically mount a flat panel or LED wall to the structure of a building, for example in historic buildings, so projectors are really the only option.”

Picture: Mark Hadden

Case study: NEC projectors attract attention at Glastonbury
Projection really comes into its own at live events – and that was the case at this year’s Glastonbury festival, where NEC worked with experience designers Hoare Lea and provided 12 10,000 lumen PX1004UL laser projectors that animated the walls of the Greenpeace clearing to help create a multi-sensory experience designed to draw attention to the plight of the honey bee.

“The live entertainment market is a huge opportunity,” echoes Panasonic’s Thomas Vertommen, European product manager for projectors at Panasonic Visual System Solutions. “As more and more people value live experiences, the opportunity for projection mapping and visual immersive experiences at open air concerts, events and museums is exploding”

“In the retail sector, as shopping malls and stores look to attract and retain their customers, the ability to instantly mini-map fashion items onto mannequins or objects becomes attractive,” he continues. “Projection is still one of the most effective ways to create high quality images onto a surface that is not flat.”

“We see a changing, rather than declining, marketplace,” he concludes. “Volume sales may be declining in certain markets, but there is also huge innovation in areas such as live entertainment, retail and education. Panasonic believes the projector market will remain robust and continues to invest and innovate to offer customers specialist solutions.”

“Volume sales may be declining in certain markets, but there is also huge innovation in areas such as live entertainment, retail and education”
Thomas Vertommen, Panasonic

“In higher education, conference rooms and other large venue installations, high bright and super-detailed laser projection delivers an unbeatable price/performance ratio,” adds Gerd Kaiser, senior product manager projectors at NEC Display Solutions Europe. “For rental and staging applications where flexibility and fast install/deinstall are key, large venue projectors are still the preferred choice in the majority of cases.”

“Thanks to laser projection,” he goes on, “the previous limitations associated with projection such as orientation, lamp exchange and low brightness are now gone. Laser projection offers a real alternative for digital signage; its flexibility offers many advantages and opportunities for creativity.”

Reinventing itself
And that’s what the projector industry has quietly been doing over the last couple of years or so: progressively eliminating the objections to projection ownership – too expensive to buy, too expensive to own, too large, too heavy – while at the same time looking to the needs of specific markets in order to bring unique – and differentiating – new functionalities that provide positive reasons to buy. It has been reinventing itself.

“Projector sales by quantity may be showing a decline,” says Julia Lin, EMEA product marketing manager at Vivitek, “but we need to look at average selling price (ASP). Closer analysis shows that there are more higher-feature set projectors being launched, and thus a higher ASP. As a manufacturer, we think focusing on just the quantity of sales doesn’t really give a good insight for understanding or even predicting market trends. That’s why we focus on providing new and unconventional products and features to the end user, believing them to be more relevant to customers as well as the future growth of the market.”

What’s most persuasively powerful about the projector industry today is that, in the face of what could have been overwhelming odds, it has remained enormously relevant.  Manufacturers have – largely – shifted their attention away from the markets in which projection was once strong, but is no longer competitive, and focused on the applications and environments in which their products deliver a value that isn’t deliverable by any other technology. And: they’ve succeeded in their efforts. The signs are looking very good for the next 30 years.