TechDecisions spoke with Jim Hall, Senior Product Manager of Mainstream Projector Line for Christie Digital Systems, about projectors in colleges and schools, and how Christie’s Scholar Tech Program offers cost saving opportunities for educational institutions.
TD: What should colleges and schools be considering when purchasing projectors? Especially when purchasing a large number of projectors for a large-scale technology installation?
JH: Cost is consistently cited as a high priority when evaluating projection technology. However, it is simply a starting point to help you narrow down the field. The challenge is finding a projector that offers everything you’re looking for without spending more than you need for extras or spending too little and sacrificing benefits. The initial purchase price is not the only cost that should be considered, total cost of ownership gives you more of a comprehensive view into the investment you’re going to make.
Image quality is another important factor when considering projection technology. Understanding your needs in terms of brightness, resolution quality, color performance and contrast are very important and will help guide your decision on which route is best for you.
Performance and reliability in your intended environment are also important factors. Will your projector be operating in a 24/7 environment? Is it an indoor or outdoor application? Will you be viewing content in ambient light? These are just a few examples of questions that should be asked with regard to what kind of performance needs you have.
For more of a detailed guide on selecting projection technology, download this resource, click here.
TD: What are the main differences between standard lamp-based projectors and new solid state projectors? Why would a college want to go with one or the other?
JH: Lamp-illuminated projectors still tend to be the most cost-effective solution at initial purchase, and today’s lamps have longer life, requiring far fewer replacements. There are two types of lamps, mercury and xenon. Mercury is most common, as it provides low initial cost, great lamp life and the bulbs can be replaced easily. Since Xenon lamps require safety-trained handling, they are mostly found in high-brightness business or cinema projectors.
Solid-state illumination, or lampless projectors typically require a slightly more sizable investment, but are commonly rated for 20,000 hours of run time, with little to no maintenance, making them ideal for a typical classroom application.
There are, at present, three categories of lampless projectors: LED, laser phosphor and RGB laser. LED provides about 2,000 lumens of brightness, which is typically not enough brightness for most commercial applications. Laser phosphor is growing rapidly, producing brightness output up to 12,000+ lumens. RGB laser is sometimes referred to as “pure laser” or “true laser,” because rather than using a phosphor to derive other primary colors, the RGB light is beamed directly from Red, Green and Blue laser diodes, creating the best color representation and the richest, highest-contrast displays. But it’s also more expensive and physically larger, although it does pack a punch, with brightness levels of 30,000, 40,000 or 50,000 lumens for large-venue applications.
The choice between lamped or laser phosphor technology depends on a variety of factors but one of the most important is usage. Traditional lamped projection technology can run anywhere from 1,000-4,000 hours before lamps need to be replaced which for some applications could be the lifetime of the product depending on usage. Laser phosphor illumination however has a much longer lifespan, up to 20,000 hours. Before making the decision of which technology to go with it’s important to know your usage needs.
TD: Ensuring that the color range of a projector is strong is important to tech managers, but it’s not always simple to do so when reviewing projectors. What are some tips you can give tech managers to ensure the color range is the best possible for their school? What questions should they be asking about the projector when reviewing them? What should they be looking out for?
JH: One tried and true tip for ensuring proper matching of projector performance to the venue is to create a set of evaluation “slides”, using the applications most often employed in that space. For example, colorful pie charts representing the school of business, high-resolution images for science, etc. Comparing these same slides across a number of projectors helps tech managers see the varying levels of performance, thus making it easier to identify which products to consider for purchase.
Another tip when reviewing options for projection technology is to consider the ambient light in the room and ensure that the type of projector in question has enough brightness to present a clear image.
In smaller meeting rooms or classrooms, a 2,000-lumen to 7,000-lumen projector will do the job. In larger spaces, such as a typical lecture hall, a 20,000-lumen to 30,000-lumen projector may be recommended. It’s easy to go up or down from there, heading up to 40,000 lumens for situations with extremely high ambient light levels, or back down to a 10,000-lumen projector if the budget is tight.
TD: How many projectors do schools typically own and install? What about colleges?
JH: This really depends on the needs of the school. If a school is looking to refresh its classroom and/or meeting room projectors, this typically involves outfitting the whole school or at least one department in totality which could be a very large number of projectors depending on the size of the institution. When it comes to more specialized projects such as auditoriums, athletic complexes and the like these are usually more unique initiatives where the volume of technology being purchased is smaller but the requirement is to display more dynamic content and the performance needs of the projector would be very different than that of a classroom or meeting room.
TD: How often should projectors be updated?
JH: Smaller spaces, for example typical classrooms and meeting rooms, require smaller images and thus lower performance/brightness projectors, which we identify as Mainstream Projectors. For this class of projection technology, the same rule-of-thumb used for computer replacement cycles applies – roughly three to five years, based on amount of usage and initial cost. For larger spaces, five to seven years is common.
Consider this – If the venue is used 10 hours per day, five days per week, for 50 weeks per year, the projector will have 2,500 hours of use in one year (which is actually high in many instances). Most laser phosphor illuminated projectors provide 20,000 hours of “useful” life (i.e. to half brightness). Thus, these projectors have a service life of about eight years in this scenario.
TD: What budgetary challenges do schools and colleges typically face when purchasing projectors? How can they work around these challenges?
JH: A frequent challenge is simply not having enough budget to address all the rooms requiring a new system. For example, if you have multiple venues requiring projection and find that outfitting them with enough light output (brightness) exceeds your budget, the best advice if management cannot provide more funds, is to explain to stakeholders that it is better to properly furnish fewer rooms this year, than to install inadequate systems in all the locations needing an upgrade. The frustration of waiting another year to have one’s classroom updated is far less than living for eight or more years with a system that faculty and students mutually disdain.
TD: Tell me about Christie’s Scholar Tech initiative.
JH: The Christie ScholarTech program is a very exciting initiative that just launched for the education segment.
ScholarTech offers Christie’s industry leading projection technology and combines it with unique benefits for our education customers. With ScholarTech, program participants benefit from access to exclusive discounts on all applicable products. Our education customers get reliable, long-lasting, industry-leading education projectors at competitive, budget-friendly prices.
The program also includes our Christie Stay-bright lamp warranty program whereby applicable classroom projectors come with a 3-year lamp warranty that covers up to 3 lamp replacements in the second and third year of ownership.
ScholarTech also offers customers with the benefit of up to a 5 year warranty on select products, along with our CDXchange program whereby we provide free, next-day replacement of any faulty >1,000 lumen, 3LCD or 1DLP® projector with the same or a comparable product.
Lastly ScholarTech includes free freight on purchase orders greater than $25,000 USD, to drop ship the complete order to one location. For more information about the Christie ScholarTech program visit our website christiedigital.com/scholartech .