Modern multiplex cinemas may have killed some of the grandeur associated with the movie-going experience but even the smallest, blandest box of a theatre maintains that most essential element of the cinema's magic - the projected image.
It's not surprising, then, that a projector provides the most cinema-like experience at home. There are untold models to choose from at all points of the price spectrum. While the cheapest of these costs about the same amount of money as a year's worth of trips to your local fleapit (the value of owning a projector only improves if you calculate the cost of buying exorbitantly priced popcorn, drinks and sweets - it's robbery) the more expensive projectors are worth about 10 years of mortgage repayments.
In this issue, it's a member of the latter group that has caught our attention: the wallet-busting InFocus ScreenPlay 777 DLP projector. It is an outstanding piece of equipment with image quality and features that are at the top of their class. It's also InFocus' flagship projector, but at $47,999 you'd want it to be. What is it that makes this lump of plastic, metal and glass so incredibly good? Well, let's start with the inside of the 777 and work outwards to find out.
Texas Instruments (inventor of DLP technology) provides the heart of the beast through its ultra-high-quality three-chip DLP system. Whereas virtually all domestic DLP projectors use a single DLP chip along with a spinning colour wheel to create the red, green and blue colour spectrum, a three-chip system uses a digital micro-mirror device (DMD) chip for each colour, which does away with the need for a spinning colour wheel. This has two distinct advantages: noise is reduced, and the oh-so-annoying rainbow effect is banished completely. The DMD chips themselves are of the Mustang HD2 variety, which provides a progressive scan, high-definition-capable 1280 x 720 resolution of glorious quality. The reassuring presence of Faroudja processing takes care of de-interlacing (the image is drawn in one pass instead of two) and scaling.
The electronics share a symbiotic relationship with the optics, in this instance provided by Minolta and fully interchangeable with a variety of lenses with different throw ratios to suit every room size. Digital keystone correction is on hand, but the real star of the show when it comes to solving off-axis placement issues is the mechanical lens shift. It's motorised, so can be adjusted from the comfort of your chair and has a staggering range of movement.
Input options abound, with two sets of component sockets, S-Video and HDCP-enabled DVI (which is HDMI-compatible with an optional adaptor).
Physically, the 777 is large and heavy but nonetheless stylish, looking not entirely unlike the helmets of imperial soldiers operating the Death Star in Star Wars.
The image quality the 777 produces is awe-inspiring, with tremendous detail, perfectly accurate colour and superb black levels. Brightness isn't a problem, and the lamp - a 250W user-replaceable unit - is powerful enough that it will look good even in a room with lots of ambient light bouncing around. The result of all this is an image with real depth that excels in every way. The 777 will bring any video thrown at it to life; in fact the only thing to suffer will be the bank balance.