How bad is the Oppo 981 macro-blocking?

Discussion in 'Blu-ray & DVD Players & Recorders' started by PseudoRandom, Sep 17, 2007.

  1. PseudoRandom

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    For some time I've been intending to buy the Oppo 981 as it sounds ideal for my application. However, time and again we hear it falls down on the generic macro-blocking "issue" suffered by Faroudja chipsets. But I don't understand:

    Oppo are selling this as a serious player, and most public reviews are extremely complementary about the picture quality. Some high-end scalers use (or used) Faroudja scaling, and the Oppo is said to suffer less with this problem than some other Faroudja implementations. So it can't be terrible can it?

    Yet some people have sent them back as "unwatchable" due to the problem! :eek:


    OK, I've read the speculation that it varies depending on the display being used, but please just think about that for a moment. What can the display do beyond having different brightness, gamma or sharpness settings that would materially affect this? Is it as simple as someone having the black level set differently? (I've seen macro-blocking on a CRT from a PS2 playing a DVD if you turn up the brightness too high.)


    If someone could post a photo of the Oppo showing the problem on their setup, I'm sure I'd not be the only person to find it extremely helpful in judging whether to buy one. :thumbsup:
     
  2. Bolander

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    I was concerned about this potential problem with my DLP projector when considering buying a 981-HD. I raised it with Oppo US and got the following reply:

    "DLP technology is particularly susceptible to macroblocking, due to the
    low bit-depth and contrast and brightness ratios. DLP displays
    primarily use 8-bit processing and an 8-bit PWM scheme on the DMD
    mirrors, and out of box, most DLPs do not fully utilize their entire
    range of digital bits (steps between black and white). For this reason,
    without proper calibration using professional grade calibration discs
    such as AVIA or DVE, DLP displays will enhance macroblocking and
    false-contouring errors.

    Because DLP displays are macroblock enhancing, we would not recommend
    the use of the OPDV971H or DV-981HD on DLP displays, as the OPDV971H
    and DV-981HD will macroblock enhance as well. We would recommend the
    DV-970HD for DLP displays as it will produce a very good picture and
    will not produce macroblocking errors."

    Nonetheless I decided to risk it and fortunately have not experienced the problem. I suspect it may be more likely to occur with rear projection sets rather than front projection but it would be interesting to hear other people's experiences.
     
  3. PseudoRandom

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    @Bolander

    Thanks, that is a very interesting piece of information.

    I can see where they're coming from - effectively quantisation issues would exaggerate small variations in shade. I wonder if this would this mean that something like the Sony D3000 LCDTV range, with a 10-bit panel, should be relatively immune?


    You mention you do not experience the problem with your DLP. May I ask if you have, as Oppo suggest, calibrated your display and that is the reason you don't suffer the problem? Would you say you have good shadow detail on your set-up, or a bit of plunge to black that could hide darker macro-blocking noise?


    EDIT: I should add that I would not wish to buy a 970 as it does not apparently support 2:2 pull-down. As I watch almost exclusively PAL standard-def discs I wanted the superior scaling and de-interlacing.
     
  4. tricky1974

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    I had a Oppo 981 and some movies where just unwatchable
    on my panasonic 32lxd700 i was really surprised how bad the macro-blocking
    was as i also have a panny s97 and it never give anywhere near as bad
    but in the end i did a deal and traded my oppo for a tosh hd-e1 alot more
    jaggies on sd disc's but it plays hd too:thumbsup: and i now just use my
    PS3 for sd disc's maybe you could consider a tosh HD-XE1 but i guess it
    depends on how badly you need region free
     
  5. PseudoRandom

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    Can you describe what this looked like? For example, was it blocky noise in the darker colours, or in any flat colour, or near edges, or only visible under certain conditions, or...?

    The 32LXD700 was one of the TV's I was considering buying!

    I'm not particularly fussed about region-free. However, the "jaggies on sd discs" would bother me considerably. I had hoped the DCDi would look similar to a friend's edge-interpolating scaler in his projector, which does wonders for SD material.
     
  6. TommyVecetti

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    If you're unlucky in that it shows on your display you can usually get rid of it by fixing the black levels properly with a calibration disc.
     
  7. Bolander

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    As Tommy Vecetti said the important thing is to calibrate the display so as to fix the black level correctly. I used Digital Video Essentials to do this, but some DVDs include the THX Optimiser which can also be used to set the black level. Apart from avoiding macroblocking this should also ensure the best shadow detail.
     
  8. PseudoRandom

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    So, you both sound pretty convinced any problems are in the black level, implying the macro-blocking noise is in dark areas only?

    Yes, I used the THX one to set up my CRT, and I thought it improved the picture in general noticeably. Some people here have suggested the THX one is "wrong" in some way though. What do you think?

    Does the Digital Video Essentials disc provide anything over and above the simple THX one? Is it worth the investment for a relatively casual set-up (i.e. semi-decent TV in the living room vs. expensive projector and external scaler)?
     
  9. Bolander

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    I haven't used the THX Optimiser, so I can't say how it compares with Digital Video Essentials for setting the black level. DVE has a wide range of test signals which I've found particularly useful for my CRT set (though most of these need access to the set's service menu) as well as my projector. I personally wouldn't be without it, but for adjusting the normal controls of a CRT set it is probably overkill.
     
  10. David Mackenzie

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    I don't use the upscaling modes of any of these players (my TV does that part acceptably) so I almost never see the problem. IMO, the Deinterlacing of these players is what's special. I'd assume that the "upscaling" part is there for marketability.
     
  11. TommyVecetti

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    Well the upscaling on players like Denon or OPPO are there because nine times out of ten they will out perform the displays upscaling capabilities. Certainly the case for my Denon player.
     
  12. PseudoRandom

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    Hm, I tend to agree, but I'm not entirely sure...

    Certainly the de-interlacing is the "hard" part that many solutions get wrong, plus the Oppo is finely tuned to give good chroma alignment and other nice things. However, some things I've read sort of imply that the "DCDi" features include an edge-interpolation scaling feature. In other words, it doesn't just do cubic interpolation across pixels, it actually tries to add (guess) detail in edges to give the illusion of more resolution. (As I mentioned earlier, some other scalers appear to do this.)

    Of course there's the issue of it scaling to, say, 720p and then the TV scaling it to 768, which may not give as much benefit as you'd like. But presumably scaling (and edge-interpolating) to 1080 then the TV scaling down to 768 would give maximum edge detail (if you haven't got a 1080 TV).

    IF that is what is actually happening! :devil: I know you, Lyris, have good experience and knowledge of AV technology. What is your understanding of this interpolating thing and its applicability to DCDi?
     
  13. badbob

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    :mad:
    Had bloke from Martin Dawes, again just turned up with thumb up his ass, said no update...not going to do it..

    So anyone know of NW engineer that'll do the firmware/edid update?:rolleyes:
     
  14. David Mackenzie

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    I've always known Faroudja DCDi as the jagginess-avoidal stage, which'd make it part of the Deinterlacing process. But you're right, I have noticed smoothed diagonal lines even in still pictures, and it could well be the same/a very similar DCDi algorithm at work.
     
  15. Timbo21

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    PseudoRandom,

    Bad calibration can emphasize MB, but on the flip side, good calibration doesn't get rid of it. MB will show up in any particularly large area of colour. It isn't just reserved for dark areas. Mackroblocking is a real :censored:. I spent £700 on a Denon 3910, which suffered from it, and in the end I got completely fed up with it and went and got an Arcam. The explanation from Oppo sounds like quite a poor explanation IMO, especially since it shows up on flat panel TV's also.


    I believe most have targeted the deinterlacing as being the main cause; more so than the actual scaling. The only way I could get rid of it from my Denon 3910 was by using 576 interlaced. When I used 576p it returned. Many posters said the 3910 did not suffer too badly. Well, it did! As you can imagine, when you've payed £700 for a player, and it suffers from MB, you are quite upset, and you try desperately to persuade yourself it's okay :rolleyes:.

    Mackroblocking is a real killer, especially on large screens, so I would seriously think twice before getting a faroudja based player, especially if you intend to use it's deinterlacing.

    T.
     
  16. PseudoRandom

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    Any large area... So is it the plainness of the area that allows the MB to be visible whereas busier areas mask the MB noise?

    How large and plain an area does it need to be? Animations only, or would a video of a blue sky do it?

    Seems reasonable: There is nothing for the chip to do if you output in the native format of the DVD.

    This is exactly the sort of comment that prompted me to start this thread. How is it that Denon could persuade AV enthusiasts to part with £700 when other players cost a tenth of that if the MB is a killer? IIRC one of the Crystalio scalers has (had?) a Faroudja scaling option and they are far from cheap! Oppo are selling the 981 to an enthusiast market instead of the mainstream at a third the price... I just don't understand! :suicide:


    Does anyone have any photos of the problem :lease:
     
  17. David Mackenzie

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    Timbo, that's interesting, I find that the problem is there with the Deinterlacing activated, but enabling the Upscaling takes it to a new level.

    As for whether or not it's just on areas of flat colour: no it's not. 2D animation will show it up very easily, but it's also there in dark scenes. I was just watching "Se7en" and "Zodiac" on SD DVD and movies like those really show the problem up: in dark areas, you can see green-tinted blocks that stick out amongst grey-tinted ones.

    Pictures of the problem on a Panasonic DVD-S97 (same chip) running at 720p with the contrast boosted. Forgive my overlaid captions:

    http://www.lyris-lite.net/fu_archives/mb_mulan.jpg

    http://www.lyris-lite.net/fu_archives/mb_poca.jpg

    I don't think that any Faroudja-based device will have the problem. It's just the FLI2300 chip that's in so many upscaling players.
     
  18. Timbo21

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    It's quite funny you've posted this, since I was going to start a thread about faroudja and MB on the video processor & scalers forum. I want to know if it's always there on all video systems the faroudja appears in.

    The whole Denon 3910 thing was quite a weird one. It got 5 stars for sound and picture by all the high street mags. They all said cd playback was very good, but I found it dreadful. Even Alvin Gold who is a long standing hifi reviewer gave it top marks as a cd player :confused:. There have been many much older dvd players that perform way better on cd. Most reviewers didn't recognise the MB issue. They just said it was unforgiving on poor dvd transfers. I remember being so excited at the prospect of watching Lord Of The Rings on my lovely new home cinema; but to my dismay, the opening sequence of 'The Fellowship Of the Ring' - which really sets the mood - was full of horrible MBing, and this is not a 'bad transfer'. When I got the Arcam, it was completely free of it. Not a peep.

    TBH photos are not the best way to check for MB, since the really annoying part is that the blocks are dancing:arty:, and a photo will show them stationary, which isn't half as bad.

    Personally, if you want great deinterlacing for around £200 go and get yourself a 2nd hand Denon 2900. It has Silicon Images Sil504 chip, which performs excellently for films and you won't get any MB's (Sil504 is used in Lumagen's excellent video processors). It's meant to have excellent audio as well (better than 3910 & quite possibly 3930 as well). They are often for sale in the classifieds. Doesn't have upscaling, but good mpeg decoding and deinterlacing is much more worthwhile IMO. Try not to be discouraged by buying 2nd hand. If you can source one where you feel they've looked after it, then it's well worth it (IMHO).

    T.
     
  19. Timbo21

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    Yes, I think adding upscaling will definitely enhance it.

    I think it's with the FLI2310 as well. That's what was in the 3910 IIRC.
     
  20. PseudoRandom

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    Urgh!

    Lyris, thanks for the examples. It looks pretty poor even allowing for boosted contrast. Yet, many people don't see any problem at all - weird!

    I don't suppose the future Oppo model with the ABT chip will get anywhere near the UK any time soon. :rolleyes:
     
  21. PseudoRandom

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    I'm glad I'm not the only one! And thank you for the useful information in your post. I'll check out 2nd-hand Denons (and Arcams!) :thumbsup:

    I may be tying myself in knots over nothing actually. Having gone through random samples of my DVD collection, I think most, if not all, are 2:2 film mode (even TV shows, except the titles.) All are PAL. If I'm understanding everything correctly, I'd get minimal benefit from a fancy de-interlacer (most of which seem to focus on the difficulties of extracting 3:2 NTSC anyway) and would be better looking for a player with primary features of good chroma decoding/alignment, reliability and responsiveness.
     
  22. TommyVecetti

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    The Denon 1940 uses FLi2301 chipset, which is probably why I haven't seen any macroblocking.
     
  23. Timbo21

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    Hmm, not sure you're right there. 2:2 often is tricky to get right, and many don't. The 3910 certainly didn't. It often dropped lock, which resulted in very visible problems. I remember scenes in films that would judder and comb.

    Good deinterlacing is at the very heart of a good picture, so it is prudent to get the best you can. Poor deinterlacers will drop lock occasionally on film material and go into video mode, which will give you combing and jaggie artefacts, and this is on 2:2 PAL I'm talking about.

    For me priorities are:
    1) Good mpeg decoder. If it's not decoded well in the first place, then you've got no chance.
    2) Good processing. Mainly deinterlacing. If the deinterlacer can't effectively weave back together the film frames that have been split into two seperate fields and stored on the DVD, then you can get the aforementioned problems.
    3) General quality of electronics
    4) Quality of upscaling. If there is any.

    Anyway, good luck. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error before you find the player you're looking for. I guess the Oppos may not show MB in some setups. This is what I've often heard, but unfortunately you don't know until you try it in your own system.

    T.
     
  24. PseudoRandom

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    Interesting... I played around with some DVDs in WinDVD which allows me to force certain types of de-interlacing. Forcing Weave plays 2:2 film perfectly as you'd expect. (It's just a progressive picture spread across two frames after all.) I find it odd that a player would have trouble with this if marked properly in the stream.

    I suppose the key is "if marked properly", where many aren't (according to some sources). However, while the de-interlacing might then be tempted to fall back to Bob, I can't see why that would introduce combing unless it started doing some fancy motion-compensation as if to offset alternate frames. Or I suppose it could somehow get hold of the wrong pair of frames which clearly would screw it up nicely!

    Agree entirely. Of all the artifacts I've seen on run of the mill players, the ones I've noticed most are chroma offset errors and occasional CUE problems. While I sometimes see what I feel may be unnecessary fall-back to Bob in a fast pan, it is usually only visible on certain types of image.

    If you're grouping reliability, responsiveness, tolerance of scratched discs, etc in here, I agree again.


    Thanks. One of the difficult aspects is that so many "mainstream" players are not known how well they perform other than at a subjective level. HomeTheatreHiFi have studied some, but of course not all, models. And even then it's alarming how many "high-end" players make a poor showing in those tests.
     
  25. Timbo21

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    Yes, there are all sorts of variables, like the ability of the player to detect the markers, and of course if some editing has been done, which may throw the deinterlacing off, and whether the markers are all there. One of the important things is how quickly it can recover when it's thrown off. When it does drop to bob video deinterlacing in these instances you get combing/feathering etc., and if it can't recover quickly, then you start to notice it, especially on a projector. The 3910 I had always dropped lock on 'Revenge Of The Sith' in the scene where Anakin & Obi Wan enter the bridge area to rescue Chancellor Palpatine and the camera pans down, where we get the first shot of the Chancellor. It would judder and comb, losing half the resolution as it dropped to video, and this was for a good couple of seconds, which just takes away from the viewing experince. Similar situation for certain scenes in the Incredibles. Some deinterlacers can force film mode, and I believe this works well on things like the ABT deinterlacing found in DVDO video processors, but they're expensive.
     
  26. Timbo21

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    Well good electronics are also about keeping video noise to a minimum, delivering what's on disk without adding halos to images, good digital to analogue conversion if using component, keeping the HDMI signal as pure as possible, and not messing it up with bad procesing.
     
  27. Avalan

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    Isn't this a posterization rather than a macroblocking issue ? Sure you see blockiness but that's simply because you see strong transitions from one color to the next, rather than a smooth transition.
    It's exactly what I see on my Samsung LE32R41 and which eventually made me change it for a Panasonic plasma. In some dark scenes this problem was just so terrible that it was not watchable. I remember the scene in Saw, where the guy visits the Asian prostitute... the wall in the back is red and the pixels were just dancing around. It was horrible.
    I don't think this has anything to do with the player.
     
  28. badbob

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    Also because of lower bitrates? For films that have constantly high bitrate macro blocking isn't a issue, they look fantastic.
     
  29. David Mackenzie

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    I don't think so. It doesn't do it when I play the same discs on an Xbox 360 (of course that has much worse problems of its own)...
     
  30. PseudoRandom

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    This is really interesting! :devil:

    So we get back to the "what difference is there in displays to make the same player change from unwatchable to perfectly ok"?

    Everyone seems convinced that the FLI-23xx chipsets suffer from macroblocking enhancement, so it isn't just the display. The FLI-22xx doesn't seem to get these reports, nor do the Silicon Optix or ABT solutions.

    However, a depressingly large range of lesser-spec'd players fail 2:2 cadence, which is exactly what I watch most of. However, I have seen comments to the effect of the (rare) 2:2 NTSC performance may be poor, but 2:2 PAL will be fine. I'm not too clear how that can be, but I've not yet found a European web-site that looks at this stuff in detail, only US ones.

    There is a huge range of players that use the FLI-23xx, some of them eye-wateringly expensive when released. Were/are they really as bad as the pics from Lyris suggest?
     

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