|DVDO by Anchor Bay iScan VP30 Video Processor|
|Home Theater Video Processors & Switchers Video Processors|
|Written by Kevin Miller|
|Friday, 01 September 2006|
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After playing with a number of different scan rate options, I settled on 1080p via the HDMI output, since the resolution of the new Sony KD-L46XBR2 LCD panel I tested with the VP30 has a native resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Video performance for standard-definition sources like cable TV, satellite and DVD is nothing short of outstanding. Color decoding is dead-on accurate, and you can select the correct decoding scheme depending on what source you are looking at: RGB, component or HDMI. I did some comparisons of the Sony’s internal DRC (Digital Reality Creation) video processing with their Cinemotion feature, which is supposed to be the 2:3 pull-down circuit necessary for the elimination of motion artifacts with film-based video material, namely DVD movies. Sony has long been notorious in our industry for inferior video processing, and my findings bore that out. The 2:3 pull-down in the Cinemotion scheme is noisy and actually quite poor. Two good tests for this are the HQV test DVD in the Film section of the single tests, which features a race car on a track driving by an empty set of bleachers. When 2:3 is not engaged or present, the individual seats are riddled with artifacts, which is what it looked like on the Sony without the DVDO hooked up. Some processing schemes will catch it a little bit slowly so you can see the artifacts initially, but then it suddenly cleans up right before your eyes, which means the 2:3 detection is slow. Not so with the DVDO. When I hooked up the DVDO and set levels for the DVD input, this sequence was rendered quite cleanly. It detected the presence of film-based material extremely quickly with no lag time whatsoever.
Another piece of program material that is an excellent test for 2:3, or the lack thereof, is the opening sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection. In this scene, you need to look at the railing on the bridge, the canoes near the garden and finally the rooftops. On the Sony, straight without processor, there were some visible motion artifacts throughout this scene. With the DVDO in line, it was rendered absolutely pristinely.
With component 480i running from my older Panasonic RP91 DVD player, the DVDO’s transcoding from component video to HDMI was quite good, unlike what you will find on a lot of the new upper-end A/V receivers. Some external video processors can deliver soft pictures. Not so with the DVDO. Chapter four of the excellent transfer of Training Day on DVD, in the sequence where the cops shake down the kids in the VW Bug, looked incredibly crisp, with great detail and awesome color saturation. A variety of scenes from Star Wars: Chapter Five – The Empire Strikes Back also looked excellent. Skin tones were exceptionally natural. All the images were rendered extremely smoothly and cleanly, with few if any visible artifacts. In short, DVD looked awesome on this system.
Many HDTVs today employ a similar processing scheme to that of the DVDO, called bobbing, which doesn’t properly de-interlace 1080i HDTV, thereby robbing the picture of resolution and detail. In fact, fully 50 percent of the HDTVs on the market today do not process 1080i HD signals properly. Initially, I thought HD material looked a bit soft on the DVDO, but I quickly realized this was due more to the broadcast than the DVDO’s field scaling technique of processing 1080i HD signals. I started off watching the Discovery HD channel, which is normally a good reference-quality channel on my New York Time Warner Cable system. Not so on this viewing. Apparently the program on at that particular time was not produced very well. Anyway, flipping over to INHD to watch some World Team Tennis, I quickly changed my mind, as the picture looked pretty sharp. It is known that the VP30’s field scaling isn’t the best way of processing 1080i interlaced HDTV signals, and that you lose resolution in the process. Nonetheless, I was pretty impressed at how sharp the picture was. HDNET, another reference-quality channel on my system, also looked pretty impressive, with really good detail and excellent color saturation. DVDO is definitely doing a better job than most in scaling 1080i HD, as HD pictures are not soft the way they are on many high-resolution consumer HDTVs. Still, I would route my HD content directly to the display in order to preserve all of the resolution in the signal, especially if it is a 1920 x 1080 resolution display.