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Review of DVDO iScan VP50

Discussion in 'Video Scalers & Video Processing' started by StooMonster, Sep 17, 2006.

  1. StooMonster

    StooMonster Active Member

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    Introduction

    DVDO surprised everyone when they introduced the ABT102 for the VP30, bringing best-in-class SD deinterlacing to the market for an unbeatable price under the new VRS brand. Dale Adams had developed a ‘giant killer’ with the only limitation that it was limited to SD.

    This is a review of Anchor Bay Technology’s DVDO iScan VP50 video processor, which utilises VRS (Video Reference Series) technologies. This much anticipated video processor brings the same best-in-class VRS deinterlacing algorithms to the world of HD, plus progressive source input cadence detection, 1080p processing, and the ability to update all processing algorithms through firmware updates.
  2. StooMonster

    StooMonster Active Member

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    Hardware

    Exterior of VP50 is identical to VP30 – in fact the beta units were supplied in VP30 branded cases – with the same inputs and outputs. That’s twelve video inputs, nine audio inputs, one analogue video output, one HDMI output, and two digital audio outputs.

    Apart from the badge on the front, the only noticeable exterior difference is the larger power supply: the VP50 needs more juice than its smaller brothers.

    Power consumption usually results in need for extra cooling, and VP50 is no different. The largest FPGA has a fan fitted, but there’s no need to panic: it’s a very quite one, and it only comes on when required (which is never for SD). The fan is barely audible when your ear is right next to case; it’s not like Toshiba HD-A1 or Sky HD’s noise levels.

    SDI module is the same SDI-602A DVDO Extension Module part that fits in all other iScan products, so you can remove old one from VP30 if you’re trading it in. It’s slightly challenging to fit the SDI module in VP50 as SDI output socket is opposite the largest FPGA (with fan) and you have to bend the cable around the heat sinks.

    At the time of launch SDI is limited to SD-SDI, but an HD-SDI card has been announced and should be available before too long.
  3. StooMonster

    StooMonster Active Member

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    Software

    Menu system is as per other VPx0 products, but with a couple of extra features and options. Like other VPx0 products the menus can be on-screen when Test Patterns are active, which is handy when calibration VP50 to display.

    The GUI on the front-panel reflects the onscreen menus, but is very useful for setting up screen when you might not see anything.

    Test patterns are numerous, and (for the moment) the same as other VPx0 models.
  4. StooMonster

    StooMonster Active Member

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    Features

    All round performance of VP50 is excellent, the VRS Technologies prove best-in-class again in SD and now in HD too.

    Cadence Detection
    VRS has one of the best cadence detection algorithms on the market – even compared to professional equipment – just run the ABT VRS Benchmark DVD through competitors’ products and you’ll see many of them fail at anything other than 60Hz 3:2 pulldown!

    VRS was designed to detect a number of problem cases which trip up many other deinterlacers. Examples of this are cross fades between out-of-phase 3:2 pulldown signals, cross-fades between 3:2 and 2:2 pulldown, multiple source types on the screen at one time, difficult or unusual cadences, etc. VRS accurately identifies these and all sorts of strange cadence patterns, so even if you are a fan of anime you should be happy.

    ABT have always been good at supporting their 50Hz customers, and the VRS chips are no exception. 2:2 pulldown is accurately locked, and is in a different league when compared to most competitors’ products (even those who claim their “film lock is great”).

    VRS’s highly accurate cadence detection is not limited to SD sources, it works just as well with HD sources.

    One of the very groovy new features of VRS is Progressive Source Input Cadence Detection. This is the ability to do cadence detection on progressive frames. For example, you might be watching ‘24’ on Fox at 720p60 where the 24fps signal is being broadcast in a repeated 3:2 sequence, the VP50 can extract the 24fps signal thus removing the 36 duplicate frames and enable you to utilise RightRight to output at 48 or 72Hz.

    On downside the ‘Star Wars title crawl bug’ is still evident, however, as this is caused by detection logic for cross-fades between out-of-phase 3:2/2:2 pulldown scenes I’d rather have cross-fade tracking capability than perfect ‘title crawl’ for ninety seconds of six movies. However, I was under the impression that Dale had developed a fix for this, perhaps it’s waiting to be turned on and will be done so in future firmware updates.

    480i/576i (SD) Deinterlacing
    SD film deinterlacing requires cadence detection to identify fields to pulldown and weave fields together, and as VRS excels at cadence detection the film locks are excellent. Combined with an SDI DVD player the picture quality is probably the best you can get for SD.

    SD video deinterlacing is performed by a 10-bit Motion, Edge & Source-Adaptive Deinterlacer which makes video look as good as film; the edge adaptive processing really makes video look sharp. The results are just as superb as ABT102 was, my 576i broadcast source (Sky HD) looks great and with high bit-rate channels looks similar to 720p50 video – see my other reviews for more comments.

    SD mixed mode deinterlacing (e.g. video titles over film) works just as well as before. New channels like Bloomberg that mix all sorts of content together look smooth and judder free.

    SD video game deinterlacing has the same modes and performance as ABT102.

    1080i (HD) Deinterlacing
    HD film deinterlacing requires exactly the same quality of cadence detection as SD so the deinterlacer knows which fields to weave together. As with SD the VRS cadence detection is all but spotless, and means that HD movies look superb. I’ve deinterlaced 1080i60 from my Toshiba HD-XA1 to both 1080p60 and 1080p24 (that my Pioneer 50-inch 1080p plasma accepts) and the results are jaw droppingly good. I’ve also run 1080i50 encoded 25p sources such as BBC HD’s ‘Blue Planet’, ‘Bleak House’, and just about everything they transmit (for those outside the UK it’s very high bit-rate H.264/AVC stuff) as well as a few 1080i50 movies (with the old 4% speedup).

    HD video deinterlacing is very impressive indeed. As with SD it utilises a 10-bit Motion, Edge & Source-Adaptive Deinterlacer which makes 1080i video look as good as 1080p film. I’ve been comparing VP50 against Lumagen Vision Pro HDP on 1080i50 video sources (Sky HD’s National Geographic HD and Discovery HD channels as well as Sky Sports HD) and VP50 clearly outperforms it: firstly it does not get false positives on 2:2 pulldown and comb, secondly the edge adaptive processing means the picture quality is razor sharp ... American Chopper has never looked as good, and neither has the Premiership Football or England playing in European Cup qualifiers.

    If you want to best 1080p picture for sport, VP50 is a requirement in your setup.

    HD mixed mode works just as well, combinations of film/video that are broadcast in trailers and channel idents are error free and sharp.

    HD video game deinterlacing has the same modes and performance as ABT102, but now works with 1080i.

    RightRate
    Framerate conversion has been expanded from VP20 and VP30; there are more options, refresh rates supported, and resolutions up to and including 1080p.

    1:1 Lock or “Genlock” supports 24Hz, 25Hz, 48Hz, 50Hz, 60Hz, 72Hz, and 75Hz over all resolutions including 1080p; as well as the highly adjustable programmable rates in between.

    1080p inputs and outputs have wide coverage of RightRate options, especially when combined with Progressive Source Input Cadence Detection. For example, you can take 1080p60 from Blu-ray player and output as 1080p24.

    Scaling
    The VRS scaling work well, it’s one of the best solutions on the market. Lumagen fans will tell you that they have 'overshoot supression processing' to remove overshoot and ringing, and this does result in ‘ringing’ free scaling. VP50 doesn’t have such technology, but still has better scaling than most.

    Colour
    Accuracy is reference quality, which is why VP50 will be the first video processor to pass THX certification.

    Correction is done via ‘Gamma Correction’ option, which lets you change the individual gamma curve on Red, Green, and Blue.

    Output is at 10-bit depth over analogue and YCbCr 4:2:2 digital, and is 8-bit depth over all other digital signals (RGB and YCbCr 4:4:4).

    Audio
    Has all the same features as VPx0 range, but with bug fixes. The audio problems in the VPx0 range have been worked on by DVDO and the beta testers for months. The beta testers have been running macros that constantly extract audio data from VP50 in order to identify root causes of audio issues. All the audio bug fixes in VP50 should be making their way to VP30 and VP20 in the near future.

    Known-issues
    There’s a couple of outstanding minor issues, but I expect these will be resolved in the next couple of weeks.
  5. StooMonster

    StooMonster Active Member

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    Up-and-coming Features

    There are a couple of new things that we know are ‘coming soon’.

    PReP (Progressive ReProcessing)
    Announced and demoed at CEDIA 2006, PReP is a patented algorithm that takes 480p, 576p, 1080p signals as input, re-interlaces them and then performances VRS cadence detection and deinterlacing.

    PReP extracts the original interlaced signal from one that has been deinterlaced by an inferior deinterlacer, and then puts the results through the VRS deinterlacer. Thus getting superior results: perfect cadence locks, diagonal edge processing for video sources (SD & HD).

    PReP transforms any and every HDMI DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray player into one that can output 480i/576i over HDMI. In Europe where HDTV services are only outputting 576p for SD, this enables VP50 owners to extract the 576i signal and use VRS for deinterlacing.

    Hopefully we will see this feature soon.

    EDID settings
    With some experimentation I recently discovered that many HDMI devices that output 480p/576p can be tricked into outputting 480i/576i over HDMI. This involves a couple of edits to the EDID that video processor presents to these devices.

    This trick will work on all VPx0 range, and has been promised by DVDO for a long time; especially to VPx0 owners in Europe who want to get 576i over HDMI from their set-top-boxes (especially the vocal crowd of Sky HD customers in UK).

    Hopefully we will see this feature very soon.

    Other new features
    Not only can the firmware be updated, but all the processing in VP50. Maybe we’ll see things like Noise Reduction in the future? (Pure speculation on my part, no insider knowledge.)
  6. StooMonster

    StooMonster Active Member

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    Conclusion
    How does the Anchor Bay Technology VRS compare to Gennum VXP and Realta HQV is a question I will leave others to answer; but I am willing to bet that VRS trounces the competition on some benchmarks, even if they are slightly better at others.

    Considering the price differential between VRS and the other two, this is an outstanding achievement.

    VP50 is the best price/performance 1080p video processor on the market. Period.

    Availability
    Ships this week I believe, hence beta-testers (like me) being allowed to post comments to the world.

    Finally
    This review covers things I am interested in, not every single last detail of VP50. Therefore if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

    StooMonster
    • Thanks Thanks x 15
  7. VirusKiller

    VirusKiller Member

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    Wow. A serious contender for £2k... Thanks for putting this together Stoo... :smashin:
  8. Welwynnick

    Welwynnick Active Member

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    Holding my breath - could this finally mean the end of the one-make forum?

    Gasp.

    Nick ;)
  9. choddo2006

    choddo2006 Active Member

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    :) Sounds exactly what I was hoping for ... ever since the bombshell of 1080i sport on SkyHD tore asunder all my carefully laid plans :D

    Can't wait to get my hands on the thing now. Thanks for the write-up.
  10. poggs

    poggs Member

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    Thanks for the top review. I am swithering with paying the upgrade from vp30+abt to the vp50 as its only an improvement for hd sources. Now, I have a pioneer 50mxe11 and its 1280x768 resolution. When you say the best 1080p picture for sport, does than transpose to 768p as well? i am finding the difference between HD and SD since the introduction of the ABT102 card to be not really that massive. Will the VP50 re-introduce a quality gap between SD and HD again? Or is it just that Sky are being stingy with the bit rate?
  11. choddo2006

    choddo2006 Active Member

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    Stoo confirmed in an avs thread that the improvement on 768p screens from 1080i sources is marked (as I think should be expected)
  12. StooMonster

    StooMonster Active Member

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    What I meant was, if you have Sky Sports HD in 1080i then VP50 will provide the best picture quality in deinterlacing it (at least compared to other equipment I have at my disposal).

    Deinterlacing 1080i > 1080p and then scaling that to 768p is the highest quality solution, it look superb.

    You might find the difference between HD and SD isn't that massive because of the way VP30 handles 1080i -- it doesn't really deinterlace it, it "field scales".

    Key thing on VP50 is PReP will extact the 576i from 576p that Sky HD outputs over HDMI for SD; although the EDID fix shouldn't be too far away and that will work for all VPx0 products.

    StooMonster
  13. Victor04

    Victor04 Member

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    Do you think we shall have in a near future also a cheaper VP40 like the VP20 ?
    Thanks

    Victor
    Italy
  14. ailean

    ailean Member

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    DVDO have stated there wouldn't be a VP40, I think they just plan to have a three model range VP20, VP30 and VP50. But you never know.
  15. fcooke

    fcooke Member

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    Excellent posting. Shows the value of this forum. :clap:

    I was wavering given the cost of this and lack of an independent review but will now order. My biggest worry about spending £2k on the new 46" Sharp LCD was poor quality SD as there is so little HD material in the short term.

    Nice to have the 4 HDMI input to plug in my PS3 as well - ahem....
  16. choddo2006

    choddo2006 Active Member

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    Will the Sharp accept native res & not do any processing on it? You've probably checked but thought I should mention it if you're going to burn a total of 4K, you want it to work right :)
  17. fcooke

    fcooke Member

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    Sharp's specs are appalling. Hopefully not a precursor to the lcd itself. It appears in different guises in different Sharp websites and for a while hinted it wasn't 1080p........ Great marketing.

    http://www.sharp.co.uk/Product.aspx?ID=1110

    I will ask Media Factory to check.

    Thanks for advice:D
  18. choddo2006

    choddo2006 Active Member

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  19. alwyn

    alwyn Member

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    Stoomaster,
    My question to you is this,will I see a considerable improvement in standard definition PQ. on a panel such as the Pioneer 5000ex using the vp50? I should add,that my present sd qaulity is excelent.
    Thank you
  20. alwyn

    alwyn Member

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    Stoomaster does you lack of responce to this question mean that the vp 50 does not make any improvement to a panel such as the 5000ex mentioned,you have the same panel so the answer is quite easy to give and you did invite questions.
  21. choddo2006

    choddo2006 Active Member

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    No, I suspect it means he doesn't spend his life pressing F5 on here ;) I'd be amazed, nay stunned, if SD wasn't improved to some extent by the vp50 compared to the 5000's internal processing. Interesting question given that at 6K it ought to have some pretty decent electronics in there.
  22. Paul_G

    Paul_G Member

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    I would also be interested in the answer to that question. I am looking to buy a similar spec plasma in the future when there are more available, but I could buy a VP50 or similar in the meantime. If it doesn't make too much difference however I don't think I will bother.
  23. alwyn

    alwyn Member

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    It sounds as if you havent seen a pioneer 5000ex pictures qaulity,so how can you judge if the vp50 will be of any benifit or not?
  24. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes Active Member

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    This Pioneer is a mixed bag. It has some of the best deinterlacing around but also is less able at some the other tasks a VP can perform. It 'performance' will depend on what you need to do with the VP box / panel combination.
  25. madshi

    madshi Member

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    How good is its video mode deinterlacing? Does it have edge diagonal processing which can compete with ABT/Gennum/Realta/DCDi? And how good is PAL cadence detection?
  26. Paul_G

    Paul_G Member

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    Ok for me I'm just a non-techie home user who wants a high quality plasma display for:
    1. Sky HD
    2. Sky SD
    3. TAG DVD32R
    4. In the future HD DVD (Blue-ray or whatever)
    Will a 2k VP be money well spent for any or all of the above? Will only a well tuned eye notice the difference? Do I need to spend more than 2k?
  27. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes Active Member

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    deinterlacing wise I think it is up there with 'the best', not sure what they use though. I have only seen it twice and neither for a long time but my 'gut hunch' is they have nothing to fear deinterlacing wise from the latest VP, but this is for deinterlacing only. PAL Cadence seemed good. The VP will win through with other 'toys'. A snap judgement though and we really need to ask owners here for an informed judgement.
  28. alwyn

    alwyn Member

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    Still no reply from the beta tester and pioneer 5000ex owner"STOOMASTER"
    Is there any real improvement in sd tv by using the vp50 with the pioneer 5000ex or simular 1920x1080p tv?
    Perhaps there isent any improvement and you just dont want to say so in case dvdo are upset.You did say in one of your very numerious posts on the us forum, avs ,that the 5000ex which you owned was a very good deinterlacer in its own right,so perhaps thats the answer to the question.
  29. ailean

    ailean Member

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    He could be spending time with stoomonster jr or just too busy playing with a new vp50 firmware with Prep. :D

    There's life beyond forums, but not as we know it. :rolleyes:
  30. choddo2006

    choddo2006 Active Member

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    I can't which is why I didn't say that I could. I think it was pretty clear from the tone of my post that I was speculating.

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