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Marantz VP-12S3 DLP Video Projector Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 July 2004
Article Index
Marantz VP-12S3 DLP Video Projector
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A variety of video sources were used throughout my assessment of the Marantz VP-12S3, each chosen to evaluate specific projector attributes. Expressly for this review, I viewed DVDs through the V Inc. Bravo D1, utilizing its DVI output, and the Underwood Hi-Fi modified Denon 2900 using its component outputs. For high-definition material, I auditioned a variety of pre-recorded D-Theater and D-VHS tapes that were played through a JVC HM-DH30000U high-definition D-VHS player. I used both the JVC’s component output and its FireWire output fed into a Samsung SIR-T165 high-definition tuner, with the tuner’s DVI output sending a digital signal to the projector. This maintained a direct digital signal from JVC to the VP-12S3.

My first selection, “Winged Migration” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment), was a stunningly gorgeous work of art. This documentary chronicles the migratory cycles of a multitude of birds around the globe. Although the concept may seem rather mundane, viewing this DVD was truly fascinating. Filled with spectacular cinematography, much of it shot from a variety of small ultra-light planes, director Jacques Perrin takes us on a fascinating worldwide documentary which took over four years to complete. Many aerial shots of the flying birds are so unbelievable that they often seemed surreal. The projector did an excellent job recreating numerous panoramic shots, displaying an admirable ability to display a convincing depth of field. This was especially evident when viewing sequences such as a flock of trumpeter swans flying over a river in a Southeast Asian rainforest, and majestic aerial shots of the Great Wall of China on a foggy day. Small facets, such as close-ups of delicate feathers, tall grass rustling in the wind and small insects soon to become prey were impeccably presented in the minutest detail by the VP-12S3. Color saturation and accuracy were brilliant, especially when viewing an insightful scene displaying brightly colored parrots along the Amazon River, with a broad, saturated mix of blue, red and green content without any trace of red push or color exaggeration. Another good example of the projector’s ability to faithfully reproduce colors was experienced while watching the gripping epic “Gettysburg” (Warner Home Video). Various landscape scenes depicting sprawling green pastures, heavily wooded forest and the surrounding rocky terrain were convincingly recreated. Black levels were excellent and the uniforms were accurately displayed, showing the varying gradations of light to dark gray with excellent shadow detail. The long-shot battle scenes, especially Pickett's charge, give you the feeling you are actually there; the cinematography and direction captures the moment perfectly. Overall, the video transfer looked excellent, though some low-light scenes looked slightly grainy.

As good as standard 480p material appeared, the results with high-definition sources were nothing short of spectacular. The differences in image detail and resolution were staggering, with absolutely none of the edge enhancement seen in DVDs. Color saturation and purity were vastly improved, while blacks seemed much richer and more natural when using the VP-12S3 for high definition.

The first high-definition test of the VP-12S3 was a 1080i D-VHS tape of the modern day classic “Pulp Fiction” (Miramax Entertainment). Various close-up shots of skin and hair revealed a wealth of detail, allowing for very realistic and believable image. Small nuances that would be lost in lower-definition video formats and projectors were clearly discernable, such as threads and minor flaws in clothing, an assortment of grass and landscape details, and the subtle yet varying grain of a wood fence. One particular scene that demonstrated the color accuracy of the 12S3 involved Vincent Vega’s (John Travolta) parked car resting on the lawn. The lifelike green grass contrasted with the vibrant yet not overly saturated red convertible. Typical MPEG-2 compression artifacts were virtually nonexistent. Even in the darkest scenes, the Marantz had an impressive sense of depth and a three-dimensional quality which was readily apparent throughout this high-definition feature.

Though low in theatrical content, the D-Theater issue of “U-571” (Universal Studios) provided a spectacular high-definition, letterboxed widescreen source for assessing the VP-12S3. The movie is a fictional interpretation of the capture of the German Navy Enigma coding device that allowed communication with their U-boat fleet during World War II. The video quality of D-Theater material is quite astonishing, displaying images that have an appreciably higher resolution than DVD, and approaches the quality of the original film. As with “Pulp Fiction,” colors were vivid and blacks were deep, creating a superior sense of depth and space. Detail was razor sharp, again devoid of any compression artifacts. Bright fireballs during the spectacular explosion scenes were realistic, providing a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. I had a chance to compare D-Theater version to a DVD counterpart, which was noticeably softer in terms of overall image quality. In addition, colors also appeared less saturated, lacking in depth, with a reduction in purity and fidelity on the DVD. This comparison clearly illustrated the qualitative and quantifiable differences between DVD and high-definition sources.


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