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Beyond RGB

Genoa introduces multiprimary colors to television sets


An Israeli-based startup says it can dramatically improve the color in television sets, and it has nothing to do with HDTV.

Promising images "as colorful and realistic as seen in the movie theater," Genoa Color Technologies has developed a process known as multiprimary color technology, which modulates existing video data and makes it possible for sets to display more than the typical three-color RGB scheme. This enhances color performance and improves brightness by more than 40 percent in television sets, the company said.

The color range of today's technology-red, green and blue-is limited when compared to what one sees in reality, with only about 55 percent of the visible color gamut seen on a typical set, said Simon Lewis, vice president of Genoa.

According to Lewis, the company's proprietary technology permits the addition of up to three additional primary colors-yellow, cyan and magenta via a chip that's installed inside a typical set-which restores some of the missing real-world colors to television screens.

The chips are designed to work in rear projection, front projection and LCD sets. TV set manufacturer Philips is planning to install Genoa chips in the next generation of its rear-projection sets in 2005. The two companies originally announced their partnership to develop the technology two years ago and demonstrated a prototype at the Society for Information Display (SID) convention in Baltimore in 2003.

Genoa has developed an algorithm that takes the typical in-band color received in a set and adds different color formats to it, a process that came to light after the company's work in the printing industry.

"Simply put, we change the number of primary colors in the display to get a better viewing experience," Lewis said.


Genoa happened on the idea while searching for a way to make the true color of hard copy documents translate accurately to a computer screen. Printed color images are printed in the CMYK range-for cyan, magenta, yellow and black-which isn't a direct match when compared with the RGB components of an electronic device like a computer or TV screen.

Consequently, images that are printed rarely resemble their electronic counterparts.

"The printing world works with a much larger color gamut," Lewis said, "so when working electronically, we wanted to see how we could make colors display differently by adding up to three of the colors from the CYMK range. We were able to enlarge the color gamut by means of adding color, and we were delighted to be able to do that and not lose any brightness."

The company says the chips increase brightness by approximately 40 percent, with the resultant images looking a bit like what one might see on film.

The technology doesn't require a change in broadcast format, nor does it require manufacturers to develop a new display format.

This is no plug-and-play device, however, and the chips are not compatible with existing sets. They are, however, compatible with the display technology itself and can be integrated into future models


Side-by-side tests of the technology reveal a clear color difference, with the multiprimary color chip sets offering a brighter screen with discernable color enhancements.

But one viewer, who examined the sets during a demonstration organized by Genoa in New York earlier this year, found some images to be somewhat oversaturated with color.

"The increased saturation [of color] did look good in some instances," he said. But one program, in which a high-diver dove off a tall cliff into the ocean "just looked wrong," he said. "The blues in the ocean and sky seemed more saturated than real life."

"That being said, however, I do think the technology has real promise," he said.

The company admits that for most viewers, adding a few primary colors may not seem too important-they may not even be aware of what they've been missing. But Genoa does believe there is a market for these ultra-bright, multiprimary color sets, and thinks that market is the average Joe, mass-market consumer.

Philips, the one publicly announced set manufacturer working with Genoa, plans to release a multiprimary color Liquid Crystal On Silicon (LCOS) rear-projection system sometime next year in an effort to "retain and further strengthen our leadership position in the projection display market," said Nick Isbouts, senior vice president of Philips Consumer Electronics.

Genoa will ship the first of its multiprimary color-enabling chips in the third quarter of 2004.

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.