SID 2009: More Color!

“Tim the Toolman” may have only wanted more power, but for HDTV fanatics, what we really want is more color. An extended color performance allows sets to provide more lifelike hues and create a wider range of shades of color. But almost all LCD HDTVs are limited to the red, green, and blue light produced by their sub-pixels. These three “primary” colors can be mixed in theory to provide just about any shade you can imagine, but the fact is that the color filters used have some limitations.

This prototype LCD panel from Sharp uses five different color filters, adding cyan and magenta to the normal red, green, and blue.

At SID 2009, Sharp demonstrated an impressive prototype panel. The 60″ LCD had 1080p resolution, but also had color response greater than 100% of the NTSC requirements. A typical RGB LCD covers only about 75%. How did they do this? In addition to the standard RGB sub-pixels, the Sharp engineers added cyan and yellow sub-pixels. These additional colors provide a broader palette for mixing colors on the screen.

“Five primary” displays are not new. They have been demonstrated in the past with DLP and LCoS front and rear projection models. But this is the first time I remember seeing RGBCY incorporated in an LCD screen. This is an interesting technology demonstration, but it’s not clear that it will become a commercially viable option. The color was definitely good, but I don’t expect that most users would be able to tell the difference, perhaps even when side by side with an RGB model. Also, adding the two extra colors means that each pixel must have five sub-pixels, which in turn increases production costs. Still, there may come a time when it costs so little more to add this feature to LCD TV panels that it will become commonplace. Until then, we’ll just have to be satisfied with drooling over the prototype.