DLP Cinema systems have been deployed and tested commercially in theatres since 1999. In June 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was the first movie to be entirely scanned and distributed to theaters. Four theaters installed digital projectors for the movie's release. The same was done for the traditional and computer-animated hybrid film Tarzan that same year. Later that year, Toy Story 2 was the first movie to be entirely created, edited, and distributed digitally, with more theaters installing digital projectors for its release. DLP Cinema was the first commercial digital cinema technology and is the leading digital cinema technology with approximately 85% market share worldwide as of December 2011. Digital cinema has some advantages over film because the film can be subject to color fading, jumping, scratching, and dirt accumulation. Digital cinema allows the movie content to remain of consistent quality over time. Today, most movie content is also captured digitally. The first all-digital live-action feature shot without film was the 2002 release, Star Wars
DLP Cinema does not manufacture the end projectors, but rather provides the projection technology and works closely with Barco, Christie Digital, and NEC who make the end projection units. DLP Cinema is available to theatre owners in multiple resolutions depending on the needs of the exhibitor. These include 2K – for most theatre screens, 4K - for large theatre screens, and S2K, which was specifically designed for small theatres, particularly in emerging markets worldwide.
On February 2, 2000, Philippe Binant, technical manager of Digital Cinema Project at Gaumont in France, realized the first digital cinema projection in Europe with the DLP CINEMA technology developed by Texas Instruments. DLP is the current market-share leader in professional digital movie projection, largely because of its high contrast ratio and available resolution as compared to other digital front-projection technologies. As of December 2008, there are over 6,000 DLP-based Digital Cinema Systems installed worldwide.
DLP projectors are also used in RealD Cinema and newer IMAX theatres for 3-D films.
Manufacturers and marketplace
Since being introduced commercially in 1996, DLP technology has quickly gained market share in the front projection market and now holds greater than 50% of the worldwide share in front projection in addition to 85% market share in digital cinema worldwide. Additionally, in the pico category (small, mobile display) DLP technology holds approximately 70% market share. Over 30 manufacturers use the DLP chipset to power their projection display systems.
- Smooth (at 1080p resolution), jitter-free images.
- Perfect geometry and excellent grayscale linearity achievable.
- Usually excellent ANSI contrast.
- The use of a replaceable light source means a potentially longer life than CRTs and plasma displays (this may also be a con as listed below).
- The light source is more easily replaceable than the backlights used with LCDs, and on DLPs is often user-replaceable.
- The light from the projected image is not inherently polarized.
- New LED and laser DLP display systems more or less eliminate the need for lamp replacement.
- DLP offers an affordable 3D projection display from a single unit and can be used with both active and passive 3D solutions.
- Lighter weight than LCD and plasma televisions.
- Unlike their LCD and plasma counterparts, DLP screens do not rely on fluids as their projection medium and are therefore not limited in size by their inherent mirror mechanisms, making them ideal for increasingly larger high-definition theater and venue screens.
- DLP projectors can process up to seven separate colors, giving them a wider color gamut.
- Some viewers are bothered by the "rainbow effect" present in color-wheel models - particularly in older models (explained above). This can be observed easily by using a camera's digital viewfinder on projected content.
- Rear projection DLP TVs are not as thin as LCD or plasma flat-panel displays (although approximately comparable in weight), although some models as of 2008 are becoming wall-mountable (while still being 10" to 14" thick)
- Replacement of the lamp / light bulb in lamp-based units. The life span of an arc lamp averages 2000–5000 hours and the replacement cost for these range from $99 – 350, depending on the brand and model. Newer generations' units use LEDs or lasers which effectively eliminate this issue, although replacement LED chips could potentially be required over the extended lifespan of the television set.
- Some viewers find the high pitch whine of the color wheel to be an annoyance. However, the drive system can be engineered to be silent and some projectors don't produce any audible color wheel noise.
- Dithering noise may be noticeable, especially in dark image areas. Newer (post ~2004) chip generations have less noise than older ones.
- Error-diffusion artifacts caused by averaging a shade over different pixels, since one pixel cannot render the shade exactly
- Response time in video games may be affected by the upscaling lag. While all HDTVs have some lag when upscaling lower resolution input to their native resolution, DLPs are commonly reported to have longer delays. Newer consoles that have HD output signals do not have this problem as long as they are connected with HD-capable cables.
- Reduced viewing angle as compared to direct-view technologies such as CRT, plasma, and LCD
- May use more electricity, and generate more heat, than competing technologies.