Attracting an impressive number of installers to its manufacturing base just outside Fredrikstad in southern Norway, Barco’s aim was to show visitors just how much manufacturing knowhow is contained within the company and how much detail goes into all of its products and in particular, the creation of the Loki platform.
Calling a projector after a norse god means the machine needs to offer some pretty special powers and Barco is aiming to deliver just that with a completely new software/electronics platform developed in-house.
The first part of the journey around the company’s facility was a presentation of a fresh operating platform designed to deliver new efficiencies in operation.
As explained by Anders Norman, senior expert in software design at the company, the system is based on Linux, due to this platform’s reliability, robust nature, scalability and strong networking abilities.
This new approach delivers what the company calls Single Step Processing (SSP), a system created to rationalise all of the processes which need to happen to produce an image into a single unified action.
Anders argued that the classic approach to image processing which follows a series of steps including receiving an HDMI signal, pre-processing, scaling, geometric correction and colour correction, costs in terms of quality as each one of these steps introduces ‘rounding errors’ which chip away at the quality of the final images.
Barco’s solution is to create a process where all these steps happen at the same time and so results in less image compromise and very low latency.
Other features highlighted in the presentation included UPnP for device discovery and bi-directional control between the projector and controller, making it easier to trigger set-up events based on what type of content is being used.
So much for the theory, what does Loki look like in real life?
The group moved onto Barco’s own cinema room to find out and also take a look at the performance of the current Orion projector.
Using a pre-production model – meaning no audio was available – an extended trailer for the Oscar winning The Revenant suitably demonstrated the class of the Loki platform with installers commenting on the impressive natural performance of the machine, shown to good affect with this particular movie as it was all shot in natural light with no artificial lamps being used.
Next it was off to get a closer look inside the Loki itself, where installers were able to get hands on with some of the key components, such as the laser diodes that deliver the light source for this laser based machine.
The Barco team pointed out that they were particularly happy with the performance of the laser set up in terms of eliminating any ‘speckle’ effect that can be an issue with laser based light sources and its life cycle of 20,000 hours.
Next up, it was time to adorn some very fetching anti dust jackets and shoe covers and experience the engine room of the facility where the machines themselves are created, expertly guided by Vegard Noklegard, director of manufacturing and supply chain, operations.
Barco has embraced modern production methods and uses an impressive automated system where speedy robots pick the components needed next in the production line, keeping the whole process on track and efficient.
A significant investment, Vegard explained the system has built in latency which means a couple of the robots can go down (which as yet has never happened) and still operate at the right level; the set-up has paid for itself inside 2.5 years.
The components that the robots pick are then quality controlled to ensure that no faulty parts reach the main production floor.
Barco is also very proud of its advanced circuit board manufacturing ability armed with machines that can place 40,000 components onto the printed circuit boards in one hour.
Once the boards have been built, they go through a final check done by the naked eye under a microscope.
The whole process of then starting to build the products can begin and a skilled team of production technicians set to work using computerised guides which the whole team contribute to and develop over time to further increase performance and efficiency.
During CE Pro Europe’s visit, Vegard explained that the main floor was concentrating on producing prototype circuit boards for the Loki platform to enter full production later in the year.
Visitors were also able to get a look at a new production line being created specifically to deliver Loki going into its final stages of preparation.
Full production of Loki will begin in September with the machines available in December.
The platform has been built to deliver 4K with HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 using a 0,9in DMD DLP engine, throwing 3840 x 2160 pixels onto the screen.
Loki also includes HDR, motorised lenses; auto aspect detection between 16:9 and cinemascope and delivers 8,500 lumens with an optional M version colour wheel available to boost output to 12,000 lumens.
The rest of the trip was taken up showing many of the company’s other abilities, such as its extensive testing facilities, including a light studio for analysing and checking the colour performance of the machines.
Barco even has its own photo studio for producing high-quality images of its products for marketing purposes.
All-in-all it was an impressive display of manufacturing quality, with the manufacturer drawing on all of its knowhow from the many sectors it operates in to deliver a machine that the company is confident will represent one of the most impressive high-performance projectors in the market.
As part of a deal to encourage dealers to get involved, Barco is offering installers a Barco Optix Projector if a Loki system is ordered before September 17 to act in its stead.
Once the Loki is delivered, the dealer can keep the Optix projector to use for demo or backup purposes.
Barco projectors are available in the UK from distributor Genesis Technologies.