The history of projections used for theatre goes back to the 1400’s. Both Fontana and da Vinci worked on designs for projections during the 1450’s to 1550’s. But they really came into their own when Huygens developed the first practical projector called the Magic Lantern.
In the ensuing years, projections were used by both scientists (astronomy) and magicians. In several cases scientists and magicians were one and the same people. From a technological perspective the time from 1650 to the 1950s saw an enormous numbers of incremental improvements. But, the basic Magic Lantern design of having a light source, in some cases a reflector, display source, and lens remains the same today.
Jumping forward to the recent past, a number of key technologies were developed:
- 1960: LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) built by Theodore Harold Maiman
- 1968: LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) at RCA by John Van Raalte at RCA
- 1972: CRT projection TV (VideoBeam 1000) at Henry Kloss at Advent
- 1977: LASER light source for projection TV by Helmut Lotsch
- 1987: DLP (Digital Light Processing) by Larry Hornbeck at Texas Instrument
These inventions paved the way for the use of video projector in theatres today based on two important criteria:
- Relative affordability
- Light output in the same range as other lighting fixtures
While the cost of a projector that can compete with the output of a standard ETC Source 4 is still high on a price per Lux bases, with the combination of DLP and LASER light sources, the gap is likely to be reduced from the present 50:1 ratio to a more manageable 10:1 ratio during the next 3 years.
For cutting-edge entertainment in the fields of opera, musicals, concerts, and architecture: No one is waiting. Video projection has already been adopted.