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Runco DTV-991 CRT Projector Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 April 1998
ImageThe Runco DTV-991 projector incorporates three 8" liquid-cooled CRT tubes for a super bright, high-resolution picture. The companion SC-4200, video processor, contains both a line quadrupler and a line doubler. Together this dynamic duo projects extraordinary video images with any type of source material.

Taking a drive down to Genesis Audio Video in Lake Forest, California (just south of Irvine) I was treated to a demonstration of the Runco combination in Genesis' new home theater room. Featuring Snell's THX speaker system, the room was powered by Proceed amplifiers and accompanied by the Proceed PAV preamp and DSD digital processor incorporating both Dolby Digital and DTS decoders.

The Runco DTV-991
Due to its 75 kHz horizontal scanning capability, the DTV-991 handles any video media including the newly adopted High Definition format and PC graphics. Several different aspect ratios and temperature settings can be programmed into its 100 memory locations. At Genesis Audio Video, they calibrated convergence for three different aspect ratios; 1.33:1, 1:85.1 and 1.78:1 Anamorphic (common to DVD and HDTV). Each was placed in memory for use with either the line doubler or the line quadrupler. These six separate settings (one pair for each aspect ratio) were smartly assigned to a single page of a Crestron touch screen remote control system.

The ability to color correct all three color tubes (red, green and blue) with the Runco DTV-991's proprietary AccuChroma color filter makes it possible for a qualified technician to achieve a perfect color balance. The DTV-991's Contrast Modulation adjusts the contrast level at different points to obtain a uniform white level across the entire screen. All calibrations require a qualified technician with the proper equipment, tools and most importantly, certification.
While the stated literature says the DTV-991 has an adjustable picture size from 60 to 300 inches (based on 4:3 aspect ratio), the factory doesn't recommend going beyond 100 inches. You'll end up overdriving the projector trying to get enough light on such a large screen. Additionally, the picture itself starts to suffer. The color tubes will burn out quicker and you risk the possibility of burning phosphors, which ruins color fidelity.

The DTV-991 provides RGB, composite and S-Video inputs. It does come with its own remote control, however most of the DTV-991's functions will likely be programmed into your touch screen remote system for superior integration and complete system control.

The SC-4200 Video Processor
Once you decide to move to this level of video performance, it's necessary to compliment the projector with a video processor. In this case, the processor is the Runco SC-4200, born out of a joint venture between Runco and Faroudja Labs. It contains both a line quadrupler (1050 lines per progressive scan) and a line doubler (525 lines per progressive scan).

Why do you need a doubler and a quadrupler in the same video system? Some sources, such as Laserdiscs and DSS programming benefit from the quadrupler while DVD sources tend to look much sharper with increased detail with only a line doubler inserted in the signal. This is why Genesis Audio Video calibrated each aspect ratio for use with either process.

The SC-4200 also incorporates two new Faroudja technologies. The Adaptive two-dimensional comb filter eliminates hanging dots (dot crawl) and cross color artifacts. The two-dimensional Spatial Detail Spectrum Expansion circuit maximizes picture resolution. Using information from three discreet video input lines, this circuit detects and emphasis small picture details without enhancing noise. This prevents hard edges, particularly around faces. Of course, the SC-4200 accepts component, composite and S-Video signals.

The Viewing Test
For my evaluation, I started out with Jurassic Park (Universal) using my promotional DTS-encoded DVD because it is such an extraordinary video transfer. When T-Rex feeds on the goat, then turns his head toward the car, it is so sharp you can see the droplets of water from the rain glistening off his nose. Moreover, shadow detail isn't lost in high contrast scenes. Skin tones are superb, revealing extreme details in facial features with a glass-like smoothness to the skin. Depth of field and resolution were astounding.

The Fifth Element (Columbia, Dolby Digital, DVD), is a movie intentionally shot with deep, super rich colors and is the perfect demo to show off the exceptional color accuracy of the DTV-991. On a projector this good, it becomes apparent that this movie is one of the better transfers to DVD, with substantial resolution, color saturation and remarkable depth of field.

During this demo, it became obvious that not all DVD's are created equal. The transfer can vary from one disc to the next, translating into less than a perfect picture. After the remarkable and stunning results from the previous DVD samples, The River Wild DVD (Universal) was a serious let down. Colors were pale, edges were over enhanced, facial details were soft, and depth of field was almost non-existent. This poor quality, however, was the result of a badly transferred DVD, not the projector as I received similar results on my reference video system at home with the same DVD.

The last sample used was the DTS-encoded Laserdisc of Casper (Universal). This may not be your favorite movie, nor is it mine, but it is one of the best transfers to Laserdisc available. However, even quadrupled, details in facial features were less distinct and skin tones, while excellent, didn't seem to radiate as they did on DVD. Color saturation was even and accurate, yet, noticeably flatter. Now this isn't to say there wasn't good depth of field. Actually, depth of field was very good, but it just didn't pop as magnificently as the DVD's we played earlier. Some blooming in super bright reds and yellows was mildly apparent, but if I had any qualms about DVD (in general) being a superior format to Laserdisc, all lingering doubts were eliminated during this demonstration.

The Runco DTV-991 and SC-4200 combo is a winner. Once properly calibrated for all the various media you will be using, this system will function seamlessly and flawlessly no matter what you view. However, like a good quality stereo system, a high quality video system will reveal even the most minute flaws of your video software.

The Downside
The high cost of the Runco DTV-991 and SC 4200 ($50,000 USD) is the most obvious downside to this truly high-end projector system. Super high performance video systems like the Runco DTV-991 and SC-4200 are not normally bought off the showroom floor and installed by do-it-yourselfer. A system of this magnitude absolutely must be installed by a properly qualified and Runco trained video technician, who could charge up to $400 to $750 a day. It is unlikely that the unit will require any major repairs for many years, like a tube replacement, but you may want to have your Runco specialist stop by once or twice a year, before your Super Bowl or Academy Awards party to professionally tune up your picture to ensure you receive 100 percent of the performance you invested in.

The Runco DTV-991 and SC-4200 combination MUST be on your short list of video systems whether your you have the budget to invest in it or not. An audition could be an almost `religious experience' for you. Rich colors, accurate skin tones, great depth of field, dark black tones... this Runco system does it all. At $50,000 it is a value for those who have or are designing a system that is priced near the lofty $100,000 plateau.

There are a few solutions that are more high end then the DTV-991/SC-4200 combo, for example: the Runco's top-of-the line 9 inch CRT, DTV-1000 ($48,000) and the Vidikron Vision One/Faroudja VP-400A combo ($75,000). These big gun video systems are capable of state-of-the-art video reproduction on even larger screens, yet even in most big dollar home theaters the Runco DTV-991 and SC-4200 package is going to make no excuses for its performance on screens 100 inches in diameter and smaller. Yes, $50,000 is a serious investment for a video playback no matter how many millions you have in the bank, but make no mistake the Runco DTV-991 and SC-4200 system is capable of transporting you to other worlds in a way that makes you believe your actually there. Forget the cineplex for a Friday night date, fire up your Runco and take a trip to "The Rock," "Jurassic Park" or wherever else your imagination may take you.

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