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Digital Light Processing (DLP) is a trademark owned by Texas Instruments, representing a technology used in projectors and video projectors. It was originally developed in 1987 by Dr. Larry Hornbeck of Texas Instruments.

One application is DLP front projectors (small standalone projection units). DLP, along with LCD and LCoS are the current display technologies behind rear-projection television, having supplanted CRT projectors. These rear-projection technologies compete against LCD and Plasma flat panel displays in the HDTV market.[1]

DLP is also one of the leading technologies used in digital cinema projection.


Digital micromirror device


In DLP projectors, the image is created by microscopically small mirrors laid out in a matrix on a semiconductor chip, known as a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD). Each mirror represents one or more pixels in the projected image. The number of mirrors corresponds to the resolution of the projected image (often half as many mirrors as the advertised resolution due to wobulation). 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x720, and 1920x1080 (HDTV) matrices are some common DMD sizes. These mirrors can be repositioned rapidly to reflect light either through the lens or on to a heatsink (called a light dump in Barco terminology).

Rapidly toggling the mirror between these two orientations (essentially on and off) produces grayscales, controlled by the ratio of on time to off time.

Color in DLP projection

There are two primary methods by which DLP projection systems create a color image, those utilized by single-chip DLP projectors, and those used by three-chip projectors. A third method, sequential illumination by three colored light emitting diodes, is being developed.

Single-chip projectors

  In a projector with a single DMD chip, colors are produced by placing a spinning color wheel between the lamp and the DMD, much like the "CBS field-sequential-color television" system that was briefly the U.S. standard for color television in 1950.[2] The color wheel is usually divided into four sectors: the primary colors: red, green, and blue, and an additional clear section to boost brightness. Since the clear sector reduces color saturation, in some models it may be effectively disabled, and in others it is omitted altogether. Some projectors may use additional colors (for example, yellow).


The DMD chip is synchronized with the rotating motion of the color wheel so that the green component is displayed on the DMD when the green section of the color wheel is in front of the lamp. The same is true for the red and blue sections. The red, green, and blue images are thus displayed sequentially at a sufficiently high rate that the observer sees a composite "full color" image. In early models, this was one rotation per frame. Later models spin the wheel at two or three times the frame rate, and some also repeat the color pattern twice around the wheel, meaning the sequence may be repeated up to six times per frame.

The DLP "rainbow effect" in single-chip systems

This visual artifact is best described as brief flashes of perceived red, blue, and green "shadows" observed most often when the projected content features bright/white objects on a mostly dark/black background (the scrolling end credits of many movies are a common example). Some people perceive these rainbow artifacts all of the time, while others say they only see them when they let their eyes pan across the image. The effect is likely rooted in the concept of the flicker fusion threshold. In some viewers the effect can lead to eye strain, headaches, or migraines after as little as a few minutes of viewing.

The "rainbow effect" is unique to single-chip DLP projectors. As described above, only one color is actually displayed at any given moment. As the eye moves across the projected image, these separate colors become visible, resulting in a perceived "rainbow". The manufacturers of single-chip DLP projection systems have used color wheels rotating at higher speeds, or with more color segments, in order to minimize the appearance of the artifacts. These are referred to as 2x, 3x or 4x wheels. For example, a six segment wheel (RGBRGB) rotating at two revolutions per frame would be a 4x wheel.

Another way to reduce the rainbow effect is to replace a segmented wheel with a wheel whose colors are in an Archimedean spiral. This forms bands of color that move down (or up) the screen. With segmented wheels, the DMD must "go black" while the wheel transitions from one color to another. Not only can this interfere with persistence of vision and thus accentuate the rainbow effect, it means that the more segments there are, the darker the display will be, all else being equal. The spiral wheel can greatly reduce these effects.

Three-chip projectors

A three-chip DLP projector uses a prism to split light from the lamp, and each primary color of light is then routed to its own DMD chip, then recombined and routed out through the lens. Three-chip DLP projectors can resolve finer gradations of shade and color than one-chip projectors, because each color has a longer time available to be modulated within each video frame; furthermore, there won't be any flicker or rainbow effect like with the single chip solution. Like three-tube CRT projectors, the optics for some three-chip DLP projectors must be carefully aligned. But it's more common to use a prism which makes it only necessary for one optic instead of three and therefore no problem like color separation.

According to, the three-chip projectors used in movie theaters can produce 35 trillion colors, which many suggest is more than the human eye can detect. (The human eye is suggested to be able to detect around 16 million colors, which is theoretically possible with the single chip solution.)

Light source

The main light source used on DLP based rear screen projection TVs is based on a mercury vapor arc lamp. At start up the arc lamp is "struck" by a 5000V charge to start the arc in the arc tube. The arc starts and after warmup the "hold" voltage drops to approximately 60 volts. At the end of its life, a mercury-vapor lamp commonly exhibits a phenomenon known as cycling. As a lamp gets older, the maintaining voltage for the arc eventually rises to exceed the voltage provided by the ballast module. As the lamp heats, the arc fails and the lamp goes out. Eventually, with the arc extinguished, the lamp cools down again, the gas pressure in the arc tube is reduced, and the ballast can once again cause the arc to strike. The effect of this is that the lamp glows for a while and then goes out, repeatedly. The RPTV ballast designs detect cycling and give up attempting to start the lamp after a few cycles. If power is removed and reapplied, the ballast will make a new series of startup attempts. This failure is then typically indicated via LEDs on the unit, and necessitates replacement of the lamp.

The first commercially-available LED-based DLP screen was the Samsung HL-S5679W, [3] which also eliminated the use of color wheel.[4]

Digital Cinema

Main article: Digital cinema

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 October 2007, there are over 5000 DLP-based Digital Cinema Systems installed. [5]

DLP projectors are also used in Real D Cinema for 3-D films.

Manufacturers and market place

Texas Instruments remains the primary manufacturer of DLP technology, which is used by many licensees who market products based on T.I.'s chipsets. The Fraunhofer Institute of Dresden, Germany, also manufactures Digital Light Processors, termed Spatial Light Modulators, for use in specialized applications. For example, Micronic Laser Systems of Sweden utilizes Fraunhofer's SLMs to generate deep-ultraviolet imaging in its Sigma line of silicon mask lithography writers.

DLP is rapidly becoming a major player in the rear-projection TV market, having sold two million systems and achieved a 10% market share. Over 50 manufacturers offered models during the 2004 holiday season, up from 18 the previous year. DLP chips currently constitute 5% of Texas Instruments' total sales. Small standalone projection units (also called front projectors) using DLP technology have become very popular for office presentation and home theater duties.[citation needed]


  • Smooth (at 1080p resolution), jitter-free images.
  • Perfect geometry and excellent grayscale linearity achievable.
  • Usually great ANSI contrast.
  • No possibility of phosphor burn-in.
  • Less "screen door effect" than with LCD projectors.
  • DLP rear projection TVs are smaller, thinner, and lighter than CRT projectors.
  • DLP rear projection TVs are considerably cheaper than LCD or plasma flat-panel displays and can still offer 1080p resolution.
  • The use of a replaceable light source means a potentially longer life than CRTs and plasma displays.
  • The light source is more-easily replaceable than the backlights used with LCDs, and on DLPs is often user-replaceable.
  • Using two projectors, one can project full color stereoscopic images using polarized process (because beams can be polarized).
  • Lighter weight than LCD and Plasma televisions.


  • In single-chip designs, some viewers are bothered by the "rainbow effect," explained above.
  • Some viewers experience eye strain, headaches, and migraines when viewing DLP screens.
  • Not as thin as LCD or plasma flat-panel displays (although approximately comparable in weight), though newer sets are thin enough to be wall-mounted.
  • Some devices may have fan noise.
  • Silk screen effect
  • "Screen door effect" (SDE) may be visible at close distance and/or with lower resolution models (720p resolution and lower). SDE can also be perceived as artificially sharp looking (due to dark gaps between mirrors/pixels which are high frequency content, not part of the image displayed) and not film-like.
  • 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.
  • Mediocre on-off contrast compared to CRT reference.
  • Response time in video games may be affected by upscaling lag. While all HDTVs have some lag when upscaling lower resolution input to their native resolution, DLPs are commonly reported to have noticeably longer delays. Newer consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 do not have this problem as long as they are connected with HD-capable cables.[6]
  • Color rendition can be off, especially the bright reds and yellows when at maximum brightness.
  • Poor viewing angle compared with direct-view technologies such as CRT, Plasma, and LCD.

DLP, LCD, and LCoS Rear Projection TV

The most similar competing system to DLP is known as LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), which creates images using a stationary mirror mounted on the surface of a chip, and uses a liquid crystal matrix (similar to a Liquid Crystal Display) to control how much light is reflected.[1] DLP-based television systems are also arguably considered to be smaller in depth than traditional projection television.

Advertising campaign

Texas Instruments has aggressively marketed DLP, focusing on the microscopic mirrors which are the key to it. Texas Instruments' commercials feature a young girl, Bella Thorne, accompanied by an elephant, holding a tiny box. When the box is opened, a beam of light shines upward, and the girl replies with Texas Instruments' DLP slogan, "It's Amazing. It's The Mirrors."

See also

  • Comparison of display technology
  • CRT projector
  • Flat panel display
  • Handheld projector
  • Large-screen television technology
  • LCD projector
  • LED projector
  • Liquid crystal on silicon
  • OLED
  • Plasma display
  • SED


  1. ^ a b 4 styles of HDTV. (March 13, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-08-13.
  2. ^ CBS Field Sequential Color System. Novia Internetworking (1997). Retrieved on 2007-08-13.
  3. ^ Samsung Debuts "World’s First" LED DLP Rear-Projo HDTV
  4. ^ Samsung HL-S5679W 56-inch LED DLP HDTV
  5. ^ TI. "DLP Cinema® Technology Surpasses 5,000 Screen Milestone",, 2007-10-19. Retrieved on 2007-10-19. 
  6. ^ HDTVs and Video Game Lag: The Problem and the Solution.. AVS Forum (July 11, 2005). Retrieved on 2007-08-13.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "DLP". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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