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Steve's Blog - As the director intended?

Discussion in 'News' started by Steve Withers, Jan 8, 2011.

  1. Steve Withers

    Steve Withers Assistant Editor

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    Day two of CES kicked off with a return to the Panasonic stand and another promotional event in conjunction with Twentieth Century Fox; this time it was a director's panel. The directors in question were Michael Mann, Oliver Stone and Baz Luhrman and they were at CES to discuss the Blu-ray format and how it provides the best possible presentation of their films in the home. There was a moderator on hand to ask questions and we were shown clips from some of their films, ‘Last Of The Mohicans' in the case of Michael Mann, ‘Wall Street' and ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' for Oliver Stone and Baz Luhrman's ‘Romeo & Juliet' and ‘Moulin Rouge'.

    Obviously the primary reason for the event was to promote Fox's recent release of those movies on Blu-ray but it also provided a wonderful opportunity to gain a fascinating insight into how these notable directors perceive the format and their thoughts on the future of home entertainment. Baz Luhrman was especially good value as he is clearly a huge fan of Blu-ray and discussed how he spent 1,000 hours colour correcting the Blu-rays of both ‘Moulin Rouge' and ‘Romeo & Juliet' in order to better reflect the three strip Technicolor look he was trying to achieve when he made those films. He also talked about the higher resolution of Blu-ray revealing things in older movies that were previously invisible such as the wires on the flying monkeys in ‘The Wizard Of Oz'. He even pointed out the differing black levels on the two Panasonic displays showing the clips as well as criticizing the excessive use of DNR on some releases.

    Oliver Stone had some interesting comments about director commentaries as well as his thoughts on Blu-ray probably being the last ever physical medium available for film collecting. Finally Michael Mann had a wonderful anecdote about interviewing Stanley Kubrick just before 2001 was released and asking where the best seats in the cinema were to watch the film. Kubrick told him there were only four good seats and if they weren't available don't bother watching the film; now with Blu-ray you will always be in those best seats. It was a very enjoyable panel and I strongly recommend that you check out Phil's exclusive video of the event.

    As with all the other manufacturers, Sony's primary marketing drive for TVs in 2011 will centre around 3D, internet TV, larger displays and image refinement on their new models. Sony is in fact launching 27 new models in 2011 ranging from the entry level EX series to the flagship HX9, although exact dates for the UK have yet to be determined. Certainly as you would expect from Sony the look and design of the displays was very attractive and sleek and includes the Monolithic design that was introduced last year. The displays will also include features that are now fairly standard such as internet TV, edge LED back lighting and localized dimming as well as two new features, X Reality Pro Engine and Intelligent LED.

    The first new feature is called the X Reality Pro Engine and this uses a combination of super bit mapping and a database of look up tables to enhance both low resolution images from the internet and also high resolution images as well. By using super bit mapping, the X Reality Pro Engine can process the image at a very high bit rate and then using look up tables based on thousands of high definition images that create a database of how the image should look, the display enhances the images further. Whilst I don't see a problem in trying to clean up the terrible image quality that you often get from the internet, the idea that you can use a look up table based on a database of a few thousand images to determine the correct way that an image should look seems silly to me. I mean there are an infinite number of ways that images can look and you can't just decide that a certain one is correct. It really just sounds like a jazzed up version of existing sharpness or edge enhancement controls on other displays and in actual viewing I found I preferred the before image which had a more natural look when compared to the sharp lines of the processed image. I'm sure the guys on the director's panel wouldn't be too happy to be told by Sony that the images they have carefully created should conform to their database and look up tables.

    The second feature is Sony's Intelligent LED which is essentially an extension of the familiar localized dimming that is seen on many displays already. The idea behind Intelligent LED is to actively adjust the LEDs depending on the content that is being displayed, so rather than just dimming the blocks where the image is dark the Intelligent LED actually boosts the brightness of other blocks where the image is white. This creates a far greater intra-frame contrast ratio resulting in very dark blacks and very bright whites within the same frame. There was no question that the blacks looked very good and the whites were much brighter in the side by side comparison between two displays, one with the function on and the other with it off. However there was a definite glow or halo around bright objects against a black background as well as a loss of detail and I found myself preferring the image on the display with the function turned off, even though the blacks weren't quite as good. Ultimately the only way to really get deep blacks and bright whites without any halos is to be able to actively dim each pixel individually and it can only be a matter of time before this happens. Once again whilst I suspect Baz would have been impressed by the deep blacks he may not have appreciated the glowing whites as much.

    From my perspective the most interesting products on the Sony stand were the advanced prototypes on display which included autostereoscopic (glasses free) 3D displays, 3D headsets and a portable glasses free 3D Blu-ray player. There were three glasses free3D displays on show, a 24” OLED, a 40” 2k panel and a 50” 4k panel and I must say I was surprised at how effective the 3D was on these displays which gave a real sense of depth without the need for glasses and at a reasonable resolution. Of course it only worked when you were facing directly in front of the screen and as soon as you moved to the side the 3D effect began to fall apart. The 3D effect wasn't as in your face as current displays and was quite subtle which resulted in a lot of people at the show saying they couldn't see the 3D but it was there and I guess glasses free 3D isn't too far away. The glasses free 3D Blu-ray player uses similar technology on a 10” screen and once again it did work but it is still dependent on your viewing angle, of course on a portable player that is less of an issue than on a large display. The 3D headsets were very cool and use two high definition OLED screens, one for each eye, resulting in an incredibly immersive experience that is completely free of any crosstalk. I have to say I was very impressed with these headsets and as long as you don't mind looking like an extra on Star Trek they would be fantastic for gaming.

    Overall the Sony stand was as slick and professional as we have come to expect from them, with plenty of 3D products on display including 3D camcorders, 3D cameras and 3D laptops. There was also a very large 3D screen that was showing various Sony content using RealD passive 3D which was sensible because that allowed all the people on the stand to look at the 3D content using the glasses being handed out (or the glasses they got from the LG stand) but interesting as Sony only use active shutter glasses on their displays.

    I'll be returning to the Panasonic stand tomorrow to take a closer look at their 2011 line up as well as meeting up with the guys from THX, so stay tuned.
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    Last edited: Jan 11, 2011
  2. boxrick

    boxrick Active Member

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    I love how in your interviews you bring up the negative points of technologies, Phil seems a little bit more hesitant to do so. Id love you to interview our friend from Panasonic or even Sharp! About all this stupid image processing and enhancement and give them a real grilling.

    Quad pixel technology, what a load of hogwash.

    Great roundup!
  3. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Active Member

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    I have watched most of the videos so far and apart from cringing at the vertically challenged Darth Vader it looks like a great show. :D

    One question I have, aimed at both Steve and Phil is whether you will be focusing primarily on display technology? I guess this is where there is most interest on the forums and obviously I haven't been to the shows and maybe this is the majority of what is being displayed but it would be great to see and hear from more on Audio and Hi-Fi manufacturers and see some of their new products, processors, EQ devices, speakers, subwoofers etc?

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    Adam :)
  4. Steve Withers

    Steve Withers Assistant Editor

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    Hi Adam, the main focus is displays because that is the area that generates the most interest on the forums but we do try and cover other things as well. Unfortunately CES is a huge show and there's only two of us covering it, so we tend to concentrate on areas where there is technological development.
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  5. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Active Member

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    Perhaps next year you can take Nick & Russell? ;)

    Thanks,

    Adam :)

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