This is really a lot of fun. It’s expensive, but fun.

The “it” we’re talking about is a digital projector.You plug in a computer, a VCR, a DVD player or even a video camera, and you canproject the picture onto any screen or wall. The one we tried worked well onthe ceiling, too.

These projectors are normally sold to the business market foruse in making presentations, but there’s no reason we all can’t have fun.

A lot of companies make these new high-power projectors, and they’re all pretty similar (there are more than 40 makers). They all sell for just over $1,000, and frankly, they’re worth it. We decided to work with one from Toshiba and connected it to a Toshiba laptop.

The most remarkable thing about these projectors is the brightness of the light. Remember the overhead projectors they used in school to show charts and other printed material? The room was darkened and a dim projection of something or other appeared on a pull-down movie screen.

The Toshiba TDP-S25U we ran produced a clear, sharply defined picture even in a brightly lit room. In fact, the room was clear glass on two sides and it was a sunny afternoon outside.

The incredible picture quality is because of a bulb that produces 1,800 lumens and a 2,000-to-1 contrast ratio. (A 100-watt bulb produces about the same amount of light, but it goes in all directions; a projector concentrates it on one spot.) We projected a Windows screen on an off-white plaster wall and could easily read every word. A remote control let us move away from the computer and still control everything.

Its use for a business or school presentation is obvious,but let’s move beyond that for a moment. Since the projector will take inputfrom a videotape, a DVD or a video camera (whether digital or not), it can beused like a wide-screen TV. Forget about those big boxes that weigh 300 poundsand stand nearly 6 feet high; the Toshiba projector weighs 6 1/2 pounds and isless than four inches thick.

You can watch a movie projected on a wall anywhere from three to 33 feet away from the projector. But it immediately became clear that this kind of device went way beyond watching movies or making presentations. For those with poor eyesight, the computer screen is no longer a limitation. You can use the Toshiba or similar unit to project text on the screen in letters a foot high if you want.

We worried about heat from the bulb causing burnout or other problems after a while, so we had a chat with Toshiba tech support. They said that some people leave the projector on all day, and that you could certainly leave it on continuously for four or five hours at a time with no problems; just let the cooling fan stay on when you turn off the light.

Then there are the options for artists. The famous British artist David Hockney recently created a furor among art historians by claiming that Renaissance painters used projection devices to achieve perspective in their works. Such devices were known from early in the 16th century. If projection is available to an artist, Hockney said, he will use it. Indeed, why not? Several modern painters achieve a photographic effect by using new projectors. And a photograph of any subject can be turned into a painted portrait by starting with the shading and outlines of a bright, sharp projection.

Many of these projectors can be purchased with so-called document cameras. These can be used to photograph either flat or three-dimensional objects, and the image then goes into the projector. An ordinary still camera will not work; it has to be either a video camera or a document camera. But if the images from an ordinary digital camera are put into the computer, then they can be displayed through the projector.

THE PRESENTER

As long as we’re on the subject of presentations, we found a nifty way to be there without being there.

It’s called PresenterNet, and it allows you to put an interactive presentation on the Web. You put a presentation on the PresenterNet Web site (www.presenternet.com) and log in. You then tell your audience to log in. From there on, everything’s a breeze.

You can click on any point to expand it or move to a branch presentation. So can the audience. You can ask your audience a question and they can answer. Both you and they can use a pencil tool to circle something on the screen or put in arrows or scratch out. Sales people love this thing, and it is also used by teachers.

BOOKS

“Max Pixel’s Adventures in Adobe Photoshop Elements 3,” (includes a CD) by Steve Caplin looks and reads like a comic book. This used guide is easy to follow and fun to go through. Includes good tips and examples to go with this popular program.

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