Thefacts of light
Xenon produces DCI brightness and color better than laser phosphor.
Fact 01

Achieving and maintaining DCI-specified on-screen brightness and color is integral for the quality of the movie presentation and enjoyment of the audience. The native color gamut of Xenon lamps is very close to the DCI-P3 specification and does not require much image processing and light filtering. This means content shown using a Xenon projector is bright, colorful and true-to-life. Additionally, once a Xenon lamp falls below presentation quality, a simple lamp change will restore the projector to original brightness.

Laser phosphor cinema projectors, on the other hand, produce a native color gamut lacking in red and green. For laser phosphor projectors to achieve DCI-P3 color, a substantial amount of processing and light filtering is required, severely affecting light output and color performance. This results in a dim, sub-par visual presentation that audiences notice and a need for regular maintenance and re-calibration. We explore this more in Fact 5.

DCI P3 color: the cinematic standard

Watch this video and find out how Xenon and laser phosphor stack -up when it comes to meeting the DCI standard for color.

Brightness over 30,000 hours

The graph below compares brightness drop-off of the different illumination platforms over 30,000 hours (around 8 years for a typical cinema projector). After little over a year, laser phosphor drops below the DCI specification for brightness. RGB pure laser has a much slower drop-off, maintaining 80% brightness after 30,000 hours. Xenon, meanwhile, can maintain brightness throughout the life span of the projector with simple, efficient lamp changes.

Color gamut comparison

Bright, bold and vibrant colors can bring a movie to life! Although Xenon lamps and laser phosphor can both achieve DCI P3, laser phosphor requires more aggressive filtering and color correction to produce the colors needed for cinema. One of the major benefits of RGB pure laser is its ability to produce a wide color gamut, replicating Rec. 2020, which exceeds the DCI spec. Take a look at the charts to see how each illumination platform compares when it comes to producing colors.

Illumination type Color gamut Notes
RGB pure laser Rec. 709, DCI P3 and up to Rec. 2020 The only projection technology to approach full Rec. 2020
Xenon lamps
Some laser phosphor
DCI P3 Achieved with a Yellow Notch Filter (YNF)
Laser phosphor requires more aggressive filtering and color correction
Some laser phosphor Rec. 709 For non-cinema applications only
Spectrum comparison: Xenon light and day light

What makes Xenon so well-suited for cinema? The native light spectrum of a Xenon lamp closely replicates the day light spectrum. Because of this, it can accurately reproduce the natural colors audiences are used to seeing for a realistic and true-to-life experience.


Christie® Xenolite short arc Xenon lamps
Engineered for superior performance in all cinema applications

Spectral response curves

This series of graphs shows each illumination platform’s efficiency in producing the DCI specified white balance. The easier a projector can achieve DCI white without filtering, the more optically efficient the system is.

Laser phosphor
RGB pure laser
Xenon produces a balanced spectrum of color requiring minimal filtering to achieve DCI white.