Laser Light Engines Raises $9 Million to Develop D-Cinema Tech

Hollywood is eyeing laser projection as a way to increase screen brightness.

Laser Light Engines revealed that it has raised $9 million in venture funding, with an additional $6 million anticipated from new investors. The Salem, NH-based, privately-owned company develops laser-driven color modules and illumination engines for applications including digital cinema projection.

The company has now raised $27 million in private funding since its 2008 launch, and did its first public demonstration of its developing technology at the NAB Show in April. “This new funding will allow us to accelerate commercialization of LLE's breakthrough laser illumination technology,” said John O'Hara, LLE's CEO.

O'Hara said the company's latest round of funding comes from both existing and new investors, and will be used to support product rollouts, as well as strengthen the company's engineering, sales and manufacturing. The company did not reveal the names of its investors in this round of financing; in a earlier round, investors included Imax, Braemar Energy Ventures and Harris & Harris Group.

The issue of upping the screen brightness in d-cinema theaters—particularly for 3D, where the projection systems and required glasses can eat up a noticeable amount of light—has been getting louder.

A number of vendors are recommending developing laser illuminated projection technology to make the screens brighter. Proponents say laser light offers additional advantages, including lower operating costs, reduced power consumption compared to the xenon lamps currently in use, and increased system life spans.

Last week at the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, projector maker Christie demonstrated laser projection and used the technology to screen Martin Scorsese’s Hugo from Paramount. Christie also showed comparisions between today’s typical light levels and laser projection light levels, using clips from DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in Boots, Paramount’s Transformers 3 and Hugo.

Christie said it intends to have its first laser-based projection systems available for large d-cinema screens in roughly 18 months, though it expects widespread cinema adoption to be five or more years away. The return on investment for theater owners will however remain elusive in short-term, warned Don Shaw, Christie’s senior director of product management.

LLE also said on Tuesday that Dick Post -- a senior research scientist at MIT in the ’80s and now an investor in technology companies -- has joined its board of directors.