|Madrigal MPD-1 HD-ILA Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors HD-ILA Projectors|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Monday, 01 April 2002|
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The most striking thing about the Madrigal Imaging MPD-1 is its outrageous brightness. You can absolutely light up a huge screen in a way that is practically impossible with even the best CRT projectors. I have a 4:3 screen, measuring 100 inches diagonal, and my MPD-1 makes a picture so bright I couldn’t believe it. My former reference Sony 1252 seven-inch CRT was literally a joke in comparison. The D-ILA has as much if not more presence and pop as a nine-inch CRT. Without question, brightness is the D-ILA’s best attribute. Where D-ILA’s have a hard time compared to CRTs is in terms of contrast. The dark areas lack the detail and resolution that you’ll see on a CRT. At first, this made DVDs look lousy, but through proper tuning and then high-end professional setup, I was able to get the contrast to a measured level of 540:1, which is quite good for a digital projector by today’s standards.
The color reproduction on the MPD-1 is excellent, especially on HDTV sources. I mentioned in my review of the Proceed PMDT DVD Transport that on the Imax transfer of the documentary "Mission To Mir," my system was able to reproduce bright orange colors found on the safety equipment built into the launch pad of the Soyuz rocket with color so lively that they seemed to be the product of HDTV rather than 480p.
Digital projectors have a limited amount of pixels to allocate for video reproduction (1365 x 1024 in the case of D-ILA), so during visually complicated passages like the tree section of the test sequence of the original Video Essentials DVD, if you look very closely, you can see the picture pixilate. Movement also can cause some digital artifacts, but I found that the Faroudja Native Rate Scaler, specifically set up for D-ILA, did a great job of smoothing those issues out.
For real-world video testing, I watched lots of Philadelphia Flyers hockey games, recorded and in fact compressed on my Sony Sat T60 TiVo PVR. The word "stunning" doesn’t do justice in describing how good the picture looks. The ice was wonderfully bright, while the players were crisply three-dimensional. On closeups, you can see details as refined as the stitching where the trainers sewed the players' names on the back of their jerseys. Really, I expected TiVo to look like garbage, but it didn’t on the MPD-1. Instead, it had the pop and life that you would expect from a DVD.
I used the HDTV pass-through of my Faroudja for HDTV from DirecTV and local L.A.-based terrestrial programming. I had the most success with the content from the satellite, including NHL hockey games on HDNET and many movies on HBO. I got suckered into watching a bunch of old fart actors in "Space Cowboys" on HBO (channel 509) simply based on how devastatingly good the picture looked. The shots of Earth from outside the planetary atmosphere were nothing short of breathtaking. There is a frequently-repeated PBS documentary about Italy that features the most incredible helicopter shots of seaside cliffs, swordfishing boats, the Coliseum, and more. The resolution is jaw-dropping. You can see physical details on people standing in crowds of 10,000 in shots taken 1,000 feet above the Coliseum.
DVDs had the widest range of results on the MPD-1. "The Sopranos: Second Season" (HBO Home Video) really struggled on the dark scenes. During day shots, the MPD-1 kicked butt, with only nine-inch CRTs capable of keeping up with the Madrigal's performance. However, when Tony headed over to the visually darkened Bada Bing strip club, the background details got lost in the mix, unlike the results with the HDTV broadcast. When Christopher was grinding up Richie Aprea in the meat grinder before the meat-packing employers got into work, it was hard to see the specific details of Richie’s bodily parts being jammed into the grinder – perhaps for the better. With a brighter source, like "The Simpsons First Season" (Fox), the characters showed good color resolution and lots of visual energy or pop. "South Park" episodes also looked great. "Super Speedway," another transfer from Imax 70-millimeter film, showed the MPD-1 off to its best advantage, with really smooth-looking action scenes. At the end of the film, when Mario Andretti takes the Lamborghini F1 race car out for its first test drive after its restoration, the racer's skin tones look real while the foliage on the trees makes for a color palate that tests the MPD-1 to the max. With the Faroudja in the loop, the trees and leaves blowing up from the road do not suffer from as many motion artifacts as the Video Essentials test sequence mentioned earlier.
I had the chance to use both the $1,500 Proceed PVP internal 480p video processor found in the Proceed PMDT transport and the $4,500 Faroudja Native Rate scaler specifically designed for the D-ILA format. You don’t need to use a video processor with a D-ILA in principle, but these computers help to address flaws inherent in the digital video genre. For a number of reasons, I chose the Faroudja as my reference. Its DCDI technology made a noticeable difference on motion artifacts and its HDTV pass-through allows you to hook HDTV into your projector without video processing via component video connectors. My Proceed AVP preamp doesn’t have component video switching or HDTV pass-through, although the updated version called the AVP2 promises such functionality.
Video processors for fixed-pixel projectors have an entirely different set of goals to accomplish than line doublers, triplers or quadruplers for CRTs. Honestly, the results aren’t as dramatic as the effect when you used to plug a trusty old Faroudja LD 100 into a CRT projector. On the other hand, the improvements the Faroudja and the PVP made were significant enough for me to justify the investment.