In the last couple of years, I noted
that, even though I had a top notch DVD player and digital projector, I
was running into problems getting the picture quality I wanted. The
image was good, but not terrific. It wasn't the player or the display
particularly. It was just a bunch of little things that were bothering
I figured that, perhaps, with one of
the handful of outboard digital video processors that were now
available, I might be able to rid myself of those little problems.
So, for this article, I obtained a
DVDO iScan VP30 ($1,999) and Lumagen VisionHDP ($1,499). We reviewed the
VP30 in February of 2006, and the
in March (the VisionHDP processor in this article is one model below the
The VP30 has HDMI inputs and outputs,
while the VisionHDP has DVI connections. Both units will transcode
component video into HDMI or DVI output respectively.
In testing projectors and flat panel
displays, I have found that there really is not enough control over the
image between the menus in the DVD player and the display, in order to
really optimize the image. We are talking about more than brightness,
contrast, color (saturation), and tint. What I am referring to are such
things as matching the original image signal to the display, pixel for
pixel, overscan, underscan, gamma, aspect ratio, and other things that
we all never even thought about before DVD players, 480p, 720p, 1080i,
and large screen images were in our day-to-day activities.
Now that we have such great picture
quality from DVD movies and high definition satellite programming, and
with HD finally becoming comonplace, all of the factors I
mentioned in the preceding paragraph make a difference. That's not to
say it is critical for us to be able to control them, but if we go to
the trouble of installing a home theater, spending many thousands of
dollars on the display, SSP, amplifiers, and speakers, why not go the
full mile and get that last little bit of picture quality which is there
for the taking?
I have to say up front that I am not
an expert in the video arena. Our gurus, Kris Deering, Darin Perrigo,
Steve Smallcombe, and Ofer LaOr, really know this stuff, but I am just an average home
theater aficionado when it comes to fine tuning the image. As a result,
I wanted to see if video processors were easy to configure for a top
notch video picture. And what do you know, it was easy.
I won't be going into the details of
all the features that these two processors have, as that is the domain
of product reviews. Here, I just want to discuss how they solved certain
problems that I had encountered in my video setup.
With one of the projectors I tested,
the DVD player would not output the proper aspect ratio via HDMI when I
was watching classic movies in 4:3. The image was stretched side to
side. The projector could not collapse the stretched image back down to
its proper ratio. Of course, I could have used component video, but
digital signals are the way to go when you want the best image at the
end of the line. Digital . . . all . . . the . . . way.
The video processors allow me to fix
that problem before it reaches the projector.
Look at the Input Aspect Ratio
controls on the DVDO for example, as shown below. The first two menus
are from the Input Aspect Ratio, and the third one is from the Output
Setup. Between all of these selections, there is no way I was going to
have to deal with a final picture that was incorrectly stretched sideways, or
vertically, or compressed in two directions, or whatever.
Click Here to Go to Part III.