|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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DVDO burst onto the home theater scene in the late 1990s with a 480p video processor, shocking manufacturers and consumers alike with a $599 list price point. The surprise was not so much the low price, but the fact that it produced awesome pictures for so little money. Only a few years before that, good 480p video processing, or what we used to call “line doubling,” from Faroudja’s venerable LD-100 carried a list price of $15,000. Since then, the company has continued to put out head-turning video processing products that remain the best bang for the buck in the home theater industry. Enter the VP30 with a list price of $1,999, with a virtual plethora of useful features and near state-of-the-art video performance.
Many of you might be wondering why I would need a video processor anyway. There are a number of different reasons you might want a product like the DVDO VP30. One is obviously to improve video performance over what your HDTV display can do. Superior video processing that produces a cleaner and smoother, more artifact-free picture is one area a good processor will improve your display’s performance, and good color decoding is another. Many TVs and projectors today have inaccurate color decoding that accentuate or “push” red, for example. A video processor like the DVDO overrides the TV’s color decoding, and if it is superior to your TV, then you will get richer, deeper color saturation as a result. Also, a good external video processor will help clean up noisy standard-definition sources from cable and/or satellite TV.
Another added benefit of a good video processor is source-switching, which gives you control over the picture for each input individually. So if you have a multitude of video sources, you simply route them all through the processor. One video cable connects the processor to the display. A good processor like the DVDO will give you control over contrast, brightness, color, tint, sharpness and possibly grayscale for each source separately, so you can get the most accurate picture from all of your video sources.
The VP30 is a standard one-rack-high A/V component with an all-black anodized finish. The remote control is a well-designed unit, with much of the functionality of the device accessible via direct access keys, including all inputs, aspect ratios and scan rate outputs, to mention just a few. While all the keys glow in the dark, I would have preferred a real back-light feature that more fully illuminates the remote, especially considering that this product will often be used in a darkened home theater environment. The internal menu system or GUI (Graphical User Interface) is a vertically arrayed design, relatively easy and intuitive to navigate.
Looking at the back of the unit, it is clear that the VP30 offers extremely comprehensive connectivity. There are no less than four HDMI inputs, which is more than any HDTV on the market will give you. Two component video inputs, two S-Video and two composite video inputs help round out the most important connections. A set of RGBHV inputs (all BNC connectors) can also double as a third component video input. A number of inputs for digital audio, both coaxial and optical, are also on board. You then have the choice of a digital output to the display via HDMI or an analog output via component video. DVDO’s generous connectivity options ensure that even the most sophisticated home theater systems with a multitude of HD and SD video sources will be accommodated.
Not too many video processors give you the set-up flexibility that the feature-packed VP30 does. An AV Lip-sync feature addresses an industry-wide problem with lip sync errors. This is a particularly acute problem from Satellite and Cable HD set-top boxes, especially when using the digital HDMI outputs. In fact, there are now lip sync delay boxes on the market, ranging from about $250 to $350, to solve this problem. A Y/C delay feature gives you the ability to adjust the video signal so that color and black and white signals reach the screen at the same time. A plethora of different scan rates or resolutions are on tap, with the VP30 starting with 480p and moving on up to 1080p. A variety of Active Aspect ratios including: 1.33:1, 1.66: 1, 1.85:1, and 2.35:1 are available, so you can address the actual aspect ratio of a movie. For example, “Training Day” is a 2:35 aspect ratio film, and of course the VP 30 has a 2:35 setting. It also has a Custom setting that allows you to create an aspect ratio ranging from 1:01:1 to 3.00:1 for the occasional odd aspect ratio on DVD like “Ben Hur,” which is Cinemascope 2:66:1 ratio. An overscan feature allows you to overscan the picture to eliminate compression lines from cable or satellite boxes.
During the course of my review, I upgraded my review sample with the new de-interlacer board and software. This added a couple of items to the already massive features list of the processor. A slew of new test patterns were added, including full color fields for all the primary and secondary colors, which is a useful addition for tweakers like me. Different gamma curve choices were also added that might help you address poor gamma on a given display. I would like to see DVDO actually give us grayscale controls, so that a professional could fine-tune the grayscale of a display with the processor’s controls. A company representative did confirm that RGB grayscale controls will be added to the next generation of the VP30 and its step-up model, the VP50, which will be available shortly. The upgrade also changed the video processing algorithm from the Silicon Image 504 to the ABT 102, which looks at five fields simultaneously, has improved 2:3 pull-down and does a better job with bad film edits. A Border feature allows you to adjust the black bars at the top and bottom of a widescreen movie to gray in a variety of shades. This can be a useful feature to reduce or eliminate image retention on plasma TVs. This is just a sampling of the most important features of the VP30.