CTC’s Graham Lodge on the implications of Barco’s recent announcement that its Series One xenon projectors will be “end of life” from this September.
THE SERIES ONE RANGE of projectors manufactured by Barco between 2000 and 2010 saw thousands of these workhorse digital units enter the field. The company’s recent announcement that, as of September, it will no longer support these earliest digital projectors has led to some concerns in the cinema industry. Many who still own Series One projectors believe that they will be obliged to purchase a new Series 2 or Series 3 projectors, but this really isn’t the case — ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’!
At Sound Associates, we sold our very first Series One projectors in early 2007 and our last ones were sold in 2010 — about 100 or so projectors in total. Many of these are still in situ and are happily running in cinemas today. There is no reason why these cinemas shouldn’t continue to use these for many years to come.
Cinemas that are concerned particularly that they will no longer be provided with DCPs because their projectors are no longer supported need not worry — one of the original statements issued by the DCI when it was first formed was that “equipment would never be made obsolete by non-availability of content”. What this means is that if you have a Series One projector and server that has been installed and that currently runs DCPs, then the Studios will continue to provide features to run on these projectors.
Series One — good enough for SMPTE
With the latest firmware installed for both projector and server there is no reason why the projector cannot play the newly released SMPTE standard DCPs that are fast becoming the ‘norm’ for all DCP releases, rapidly replacing the older ‘Interop’ format.
It may be true that these older projectors might not be able to handle High Frame Rate releases or Dolby Atmos soundtracks or certain types of subtitles, but they will still be able to show all ‘standard’ features.
The announcement from Barco states that as of September there will no longer be spare parts sold by them for the Series One projectors. That will probably mean a strong second-hand market for replacement cards, power supplies, light engines etc will spring up on such places as eBay and other online marketplaces. It is fair to say, however, that as time goes on, the availability of some critical parts will become restricted and more expensive. Without a manufacturer to repair these parts or to check that they are fully operational, then reliability will start to become a concern.
At Sound Associates, we still have approx. 10-15 Series One projectors running in independent cinemas around the UK — and all of these are running very well and reliably.
The bigger concern owners of these projectors should have is the availability of replacement servers that will run with their Series One projectors. Dolby servers were withdrawn from sale many years ago and the Series One-compatible Doremi servers have also been withdrawn for over a year now.
At the present time only GDC has a solution that is compatible with Series One projectors: this involves taking one of its Series 2 Integrated Media Blocks and mounting this into an external frame that allows it to communicate with the Series One projector and still maintains all the necessary security requirements that the DCI regulations demand to protect the encrypted content from the Hollywood Studios.
What to do with your Series One?
Well, if your projectors are running reliably, then absolutely nothing, for now. That said, plans should be put in place. The projector, together with the server, is vital to the operation of a cinema, even if the projector itself is happy for the time-being, any future problems could potentially result in the cinema having to go off screen for several days while either spare parts or even a replacement projector can be found, delivered and installed.
Given the inevitable march of time, it is best to be prepared and for you to start thinking of possible replacement projectors. What would be the most suitable replacement? How would the projector be paid for? Should you pay cash, lease it, or pay on hire purchase? You should also consider what is involved in the physical replacement of the projector and server. Physical access, automation changes, projector base changes are all aspects that you will need to give some thought to — best to do so now, before you absolutely have to.
In summary, there is no need to panic, but it is almost inevitable that other manufacturers — Christie, NEC and Sony — will make announcements along similar lines, that they too will end support for early Series One projectors. It’s time to get informed about what’s on the market and plan ahead.
What does “end of life” entail?
Barco recently announced that it will be ending service for the Barco Series One projector range as of September 2020. This covers the DP1200, DP1500, DP2000 and DP3000 models.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Consequences of this end of service are that after 30 September, 2020:
- No DP-1200, DP-1500, DP-2000, DP-3000 nor specific spare parts, consumables or kits will be available
- No training will be given on these products
- No repairs will be done on DP-1200, DP-1500, DP-2000, DP-3000 specific parts
- No service actions will be done on these products
- Production tools will be removed