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DVDO iScan VP30 High Definition Video Processor

Part III

February, 2006

Ofer LaOr

 

One of the best features in the VP30's scaler is one that most people might never notice unless specifically told about. This is the powerful combination of output memories (display profiles) and input memories.

Display profiles let you specify four complete output profiles. The power of this concept can be understood better when you think about the possibilities that this feature can offer. You can essentially have two displays (a plasma and a projector) with two different output aspect ratios, native rate timings, etc. – but both connected to the unit. Switching between them is as simple as switching output profiles. As you can also switch between these automatically based on input, you can easily set things up so that your plasma can automatically show your satellite TV programs, but the projector shows DVD movies (unless you manually switch it around!).

Another use is automatically generating different timings for NTSC/PAL (and likely HDTV) for European users. Often, native rate timings differ between 50 Hz and 60 Hz (in many cases, you can't get native rate timing in 50 Hz, so you may have to use different resolution for that type of signal).

The iScan series of scalers was always great at frame rate conversions. In fact, I find it hard to imagine better frame rate conversions, even in tough conversions like 50 Hz to 59.94 Hz (necessary in some devices to retain native rate). Even nicer, the VP30 easily retains cadence locks and provides 2x and 3x cadence (genlocked multiples) such as 48 Hz and 72 Hz for NTSC, and 75 Hz for PAL. This creates a judder-free image (assuming your display is capable of showing these without introducing judder on its own). Genlock, short for generator locking device, lets a display or video recorder accept two video signals at the same time, such as the VGA output from a computer and a video camera. It locks one set of signals while it processes the second one. So, the two signals can be overlaid, one on the other.

As the iScan VP30 is intended to be a hub for a home theater (HT) system, it provides audio switching capabilities with audio lip sync delay control. The lip sync delay control automatically determines the lip sync delay added by the video processing, saving you the trouble of having to calibrate this on your preamp or A/V receiver. Having the same device switch both audio and video is also a big headache remover when automating your HT system.

Audio inputs include two sets of coax/optical S/PDIF (digital) inputs and a single analog stereo input (missing in previous versions). These can forward their audio through either optical/coax outputs or even through the HDMI output. Although some problems were reported with this conversion, the unit is supposed to allow HDMI inputs that contain audio (PCM or DD/DTS only) to be routed out of the S/PDIF optical and coax outputs. I have not tested this extensively, but reports indicate that this feature may need more work to finalize. HDMI is not implemented correctly by all who put it in their components, and many devices often fail to conform to standard. HDMI Licensing, L.L.C. is working to get everyone up to spec.

One of the most important features of the VP30 is selecting input aspect ratios. The VP30 offers quite a few built-in aspect ratios that conform to most of the popular formats. 4:3 images on 16:9 devices remain a problematic issue, as plasmas are still prone to burn-in and cannot have sidebars. NLS stretching (where the edges are stretched more than the center, so you can fill the 16:9 screen with a 4:3 image, see all of the image, and not have it look terribly distorted) and custom 4:3 programmability are still items that need to be added to the unit, as well as a possibility for wobbling the 4:3 display area around the screen.

In addition to the 27 built-in test patterns, the VP30 offers 4 custom aspect ratios that can be scrolled or toggled manually (I wish they had discrete buttons on the remote, for easier access). These can stretch, mask, and crop in every conceivable way, and are very handy for people like me who like to tweak.

The overscan control ionly allows for global (zoom like) control. This feature has been carried over from the original iScan HD and it doesn’t do a great job at removing non-symmetrical underscans from various sources. In particular, PAL overscan control typically needs tweaking. ABT will hopefully resolve this in a future firmware release that can be downloaded to your computer and transferred to the VP3- via RS-232. This would let you adjust the overscan individually at the top, bottom, left, and right edges of the image.

The remote is great, providing discrete access to almost every aspect of the unit, including inputs, discrete on/off, and specific menu categories. I wish every feature (e.g., discrete custom aspect ratio and output profile selection) was available on the VP30 remote, but due to lack of space, these will be made available for Pronto remotes through a CCF download file.

Like the iScan HD+, the VP30 does not do full 1080i de-interlacing, although it will do bob/weave for 1080i. While there is no other product in this price range that will do proper 1080i de-interlacing, complete with video mode and 3:2/2:2 cadence detection, this is still a needed function for people receiving HDTV.

As I mentioned, native rate is quite important, and the iScan VP30 provides a slew of valuable test patterns to check for native rate, geometry, overscan, display judder (very, very important!), as well as grayscale and color calibrations.

Disclaimer: Some of my suggested test pattern designs made their way into the iScan HD/HD+/VP30 products.

More neat features I hope will be in a future firmware update, are gamma control and grayscale calibration. Coupled with the internal test patterns, this would be a fantastic addition to the iScan line of products.

Conclusions

The VP30 Video Processor is certainly a major step up from the iScan HD+. While still missing some features to reach perfection, the VP30 rates very high on the value and performance scale. It's easy to set up, and produces substantial improvement in what you see on your display.
 

- Ofer LaOr -

Mr. LaOr is Editor of Hometheater.Co.Il, a Hi-Fi magazine published in Israel. He is also the moderator for the AVS Forum Video Processing section.
 

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