|JVC HM-DH40000U D-VHS Player|
|Home Theater Accessories Accessories|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 01 March 2005|
Page 2 of 3
D-VHS is an exciting new twist on an old technology. Much like many new technologies, Hollywood stuck its toes ever so slightly in the water and then pulled out. As best I could see, there were about 100 to 150 films released in D-VHS format. That offering makes SACD and DVD-Audio look like a rousing success. In their defense, Hollywood movie studios are looking to sell millions of units of a movie and are scared to death of allowing HD versions of their movies to leave the safety of the lot. On the other hand, with few releases on the market, it is hard to hope that D-VHS will ever become a hit with any audience other than the hardcore home theater enthusiast.
HD Content on D-VHS
As soon as I ordered my deck, I went to a number of websites to buy D-VHS tapes. Amazon and some of the other biggies don’t have the ability to understand the difference between D-VHS and regular VHS in many cases. The site I liked best was www.DVDempire.com, which has a separate section for D-VHS tapes. I bought about a dozen. A few titles listed are either no longer listed or never made it to market. “Moulin Rouge” is the most notable film that never hit the streets. I watched the film in HD on HBO about a year back, and it was likely the most impressive demonstration of HD and home theater I have ever watched. In NTSC, I can sit glued to my screen for Nicole Kidman but in HDTV, “Moulin Rouge” is an epic. As soon as the movie is released, I will buy it.
My search for content on D-VHS took me to eBay.com, where many out-of-date releases can be bought at above-retail prices. The tape I was looking for was a JVC demo tape that I saw demoed at a private residence in Beverly Hills on the new $30,000 Sony Qualia projector. I found a copy, had to pay $85 for it and did so gladly. The content, maybe an hour in total, is absolutely stunning. In native HD, there are scenes from Japanese temples that are frighteningly vivid and sharp. One scene, when a woman dressed in traditional Japanese garb is sweeping the dock of the temple, looked insanely good on my D-ILA HDTV projector. With the extra resolution, you could see the actual differences in the decking of the dock, despite the shot’s somewhat low light. Most HDTV projectors, especially early first-generation D-ILA projectors like the one I currently own, aren’t all that good at reproducing the kind of contrast you expect from a 34-inch HDTV Sony CRT tube set or even a nine-inch CRT projector. However, inject some rocket fuel like this JVC demo tape in D-VHS and prepare to be wowed. Other scenes on the tape show close-up shots of koi fish in a pond, yet motion artifacts are seemingly invisible. Daylight shots of modern skyscrapers are also impressive. Even when panning relatively fast, the architectural elements of the buildings stay solid and artifact-free, meaning that they never look glitchy or jagged, the way you sometimes see on traditional NTSC and even some HDTV feeds.
Movies on D-VHS are a blast and make you wish every movie you owned was on this format. I recently watched the World War II thriller “U-571” on D-VHS. The added resolution helped on the later scenes, which historically have caused my projector to struggle. You can see, as Harvey Keitel’s character takes the stolen German U-boat to a dangerously low 200 meters, the beads of water forming on the gauges of the boat even in a dimly-lit scene. “U-571” is a famous demo movie for bass in a home theater and the D-VHS format is no slouch. Every bit as impressive is the 5.1 surround track on the depth charge scene that starts the film. The soundtrack encompasses you and your woofer will rock your theater with energy at levels you may have never experienced before. If you play just this one scene of the movie for your friends as a demo of your new home theater, you will leave them speechless. It is that impressive.
Another example of a dark film that shines on D-VHS is the cult favorite “Glengarry Glen Ross.” As legend has it, the all-star cast of the movie, including Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin, all did the film for union scale pay. The film is a gloomy look into the cutthroat world of real estate sales. Adapted from a David Mamet play, the film is dark and heavy in dialogue, yet rich in content. Sneak in the back door of any top electronics store for a sales meeting and you might hear the manager quoting Baldwin’s character by saying “Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers only.” It is a dramatic film, to say the least. On D-VHS, you get to see all of the subtle details that can get lost in the 480i versions of the film. The sound of the rain (which seems to fall for much of the film) is more symbolic to me when the video is resolute enough to reproduce the raindrops on the windows with such detail. Skin tones look more vivid, in direct comparison to the DVD version of the film. For fans of the film, it is like being able to get closer to the art, tying the entire emotional experience together in a way that makes a DVD look like a child’s toy.