Can I Benefit From Playing 4K HDR Movies On My Non-HDR Projector?

Many people are replacing their older projectors with new 4K HDR products from the likes of JVC, Sony and Epson.  The odd thing is that most of these new projectors are not really that different in performance than the older units some people already own or that you can acquire in the used market.

HDR needs dramatic brightness to achieve the light levels necessary for this.  At this time only flat panels can do this properly.  A few of the newer projectors are brighter than previous models, but cannot reach 1000 nits or more like flat panels can.  Most installations in reality with these new projectors struggle to hit 100 nits.

The UHD standard also brings with it bolder colors.  Many older projectors can achieve bolder color spaces than Rec.709 with the proper settings.  My Sim2 Nero 3D-2 can get to 95% of the DCI color space saturation levels for example.

Only a few products on the market are really sharp enough to do 4K any justice.  These would include the JVC RS4500, Sony VPL-VW5000ES, BenQ 4K, Sim2 4K and Optoma 4K projectors while some 1080p projectors are as sharp or sharper than some of the UHD projectors on the market.  High quality DC4 DLP projectors are the sharpest of the 1080p projectors ever made and provide much higher ANSI contrast than 4K projectors on the market today.

I have had great success with creating custom user settings in some non-HDR projectors to enable them to work with UHD players to achieve much of the color benefits available from this format along with some of the extended dynamic range.  The image can also be sharper than a Blu-Ray even though your projector is 1080p because of fewer compression artifacts and no color sub-sampling from the down scaled 4:2:0 2160p source.   Color sub-sampling on blu-Rays provides only 540p resolution for color and 1080p resolution for black and white information.  UHD blu-rays have 1080p resolution for color and 2160p resolution for black and white.  The UHD disc will have more resolution only in black and white on a UHD display than a 1080p display that can display 4:4:4 color.  This has resulted in images that are very close to products being sold as 4K HDR products today.  Depending on the projector you own the picture may be better than some of 4K HDR projectors on the market.

The ability to play UHD discs also allows people with Atmos surround systems to take advantage of the Dolby Atmos audio format.  This format is frequently only available today on the 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc version of the Blu-Ray title.  Many people feel they have been tricked into upgrading for Atmos and then must upgrade to 4K to have the format available.  This is a way to avoid that expense.

The key to being able to do this is having a projector that has the ability to customize the gamma curve along with a significant level of control of the color space.  It also needs to be reasonably bright as installed.  Products from Epson, JVC and Sim2 are good candidates for this tweak.  You will need a 4K HDR UHD player of course to take advantage of this.  At this point all of the installations I have worked with have used Sony UHD and Panasonic players.  I use a Panasonic DMP-UB900 in my system for the best results.  Please contact me at if you are interested in this service.

W. Jeff Meier

ISF and THX Certified Home Theater Consultant

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.