I still remember the day when my parents bought our first TV with a remote control. It marked the start of a new era in our home: one where my brother and I could – for the first time – define and decide which products we had in our home. “Mum, now that we have the new TV, we must have a VCR”. Over the years, the small and compact TV corner was extended with a VCR, DVD player, game console etc. I’ll never forget the look on my mum’s face every time a new box entered her living room.

The day her youngest son moved out was actually a happy day: all of those clunky boxes and their ugly wiring finally gone. In the years after, I added a set top box and media player to the ‘TV ecosystem’ at my own home. Plenty of functionality, plenty of boxes. I’m currently looking into replacing my 2003 CRT with a shiny new flat screen TV. Enter the smart TV: integrated set top box, gaming apps, VoD apps, media player functionality etc. More functionality in just one box. It’s just a matter of kicking that CRT in the right place to give me a reason to upgrade.

If we look at the digital cinema world, we can recognise a similar pattern. With the move to digital, external servers were the norm to start with. The promise of alternative content added a scaler box and media player to the mix. Plenty of boxes and cabling, not in the living room but in the projection booth. The introduction of integrated media servers brought the DCP playback capability on-board of the projection system. In 2014, Barco launched its Integrated Cinema Media Processor (ICMP), leveraging the capabilities of Series3 electronics, to integrate the world of playback and projection even more. This enabled capabilities like 4K60 and 4K3D.

Now, Barco is taking the next step in this evolution, by adding support for HDMI2.0 on the Barco Alchemy projectors with ICMP. HDMI2.0 is the latest standard for bringing alternative content to cinema. It supports HDR, HFR and has enhanced content protection (so-called HDCP2.2). Thanks to the next-generation ICMP, exhibitors can leverage the full benefits of alternative content by directly hooking up their 4K HDR – sometimes called ‘UHD Premium’ – sources to the projector. We added two HDMI2.0 interfaces to the ICMP, while keeping our legacy HDMI1.4 (and SDI) inputs; giving you the option to hook up four different sources. Thanks to the abilities of HDMI2.0, the 4K HFR and 4K3D capabilities that the projector and server already had; are now linked to a much wider portfolio of new alternative content sources.

This is another step in bringing to cinema what my brand-new Smart TV – pending budget approval of my wife – will bring to my home: more integration, more functionality, less complexity, more flexibility. What we have here, could be called ‘the projector as a switch’: hooking up many sources and managing them from a single interface, for smooth show management.

Where will it end: ‘the projector as a full media player’; ‘the projector as an app console’? The future will tell.

This story has been written by Tom Bert, a senior member of the Product Management team in Barco’s Entertainment division, and does not represent the views of the Commercial Integrator Europe editorial team.

Story originally appeared on Barco.com.

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