|Faroudja NRS Video Processor|
|Home Theater Video Processors & Switchers Video Processors|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Saturday, 01 June 2002|
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The name Faroudja is the first that comes to mind when I think about high-performance video, specifically on the subject of line doublers, tripplers , quadruplers and, more recently, scalers. Now that high-end video has pretty much moved to the digital domain, Faroudja has created a new line of video-enhancing products in their Native Rate Series (thus the "NRS" name), which address many of the problems with the picture on a modern digital video system from a completely different angle.
Simplistically, standard video information is "interlaced," which means that each frame is split into two halves. Only half of the information is ever shown on the screen every 60th of a second (known as 480i). The line doubler "deinterlaces" the signal by putting the two halves back together again so you get the whole frame every 60th of a second (known as 480p). This reduces flicker, line stair stepping and other yucky motion artifacts. This "progressive" signal is then sent to the scaler stage to calculate new information to increase the scan rate. Other circuits are also applied to improve color and edge detail. Faroudja has over 60 patents that they use to accomplish all this. In my case, I use a Madrigal Imaging D-ILA projector, so my Faroudja NRS was special-ordered to have an output resolution of 1360 x 1024 pixels – the exact amount my projector needs. This principle is called "scaling" and can involve complicated mathematical processes which the NRS does better than other processors.
The Faroudja NRS as I reviewed it cost $4,995, but it is $3,995 for a unit set-up for a different resolution video monitor like a plasma or rear-projection HDTV. The NRS has a host of inputs, including Composite, S-Video, Component (BNC) and an HDTV pass-through via a computer connection. The HDTV connection is specifically cool from a system control perspective, because not all AV preamps have the bandwidth to successfully pass such a dynamic video signal. The Faroudja can pass the HDTV signal, although it doesn’t mess with it too much – i.e., the "pass-through" concept. Without the Faroudja NRS or a very new AV preamp capable of accepting a component in HDTV signal, you would need some sort of aftermarket HDTV switcher, like ones made by Extron, in the line between your system and your projector or monitor, but these are not nearly as easy to control.
The NRS controls aspect ratios neatly by managing everything from 4:3 to letterbox to anamorphic along with anamorphic-plus, which is useful for an anamorphic image in a wide-angle screen from a 4:3 projector. Outputs from the NRS include RGB, YprPb on (5) BNCs or D-15. The video adjustments on the NRS are hidden in menus accessible from the front page. These include brightness, contrast, color, tint, noise reduction, detail, Image shift and pattern generator. Faroudja offers a simple remote that can be used in some systems to switch inputs and or aspect ratios, but it has been suggested to me that the NRS is best controlled by RS232 systems like Crestron or AMX because of the complexity of the processor and the small size of the LCD display.
Unless you are really savvy in the world of video and video set-up, I recommend that you have a professional video guru tune your digital video system so that you can guarantee that you are getting the most out of what will be a large investment. I first enlisted the help of Nicolas Grieco, who was mentored by Joe Kane and consulted with Madrigal Imaging on the MPD eight- and nine-inch CRT projectors, to help get my system up and rolling. Nick and I then agreed to bring in a second guru in. William Phelps, based in San Jose, California, agreed take my D-ILA to the next level in terms of contrast through his unique modifications and creative set-up for digital projectors. Both Grieco and Phelps used the Faroudja as the tool to adjust the video settings despite the fact that the projector has nearly all of the same settings in its menu. They both said that the Faroudja’s controls were more accurate, but both complained about how touchy the physical controls on the NRS menus were.
Ultimately, Phelps programmed a host of settings in one of the presets in the Faroudja NRS, which gained the most contrast we could squeeze from my projector. I then used that setting as a middle point and made changes while watching TV and movies to adjust it to my tastes, just like I did with my old Faroudja LD100 line doubler. The most frequent changes I made were in bumping up the brightness or perhaps the contrast on DVDs that looked dark. The most evident disadvantage of the D-ILA technology is that it struggles to make dark pictures look as resolute and crisp as daytime shots. These quick fixes on the Faroudja proved to be lifesavers.
The NRS uses Faroudja’s DCDi technology, which stands for Directional Correlational Deinterlacing. What it does is solve nasty noise and artifact problems on digital video sources for live sports and fast action movies. It removes jagged edges that are created by video cameras. For a diehard hockey fan like me, this technology is a good part of what makes the NRS worth the investment. Other technologies included in the NRS are Faroudja’s True Life Enhancer, which is a patented detail processing circuit that goes in after the NRS is done scaling the video to its specific native rate. Faroudja says it reduces the "ringing" effect that videophiles often complain about with plasmas and digital projectors. The NRS also has a patented 3/2 pull down circuit, which reduces motion artifacts from film-based material.