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Just got my projector - blocky DVD playback from PC

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by meoq, Oct 23, 2004.

  1. meoq

    meoq
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    Hey everyone,

    I just took delivery of my first project yesterday - a Hitachi PJ-TX100. I'm pleased as punch, but seem to have run into a problem with DVD playback via my PC.

    I have my ATi 9700 Pro connected to the PJ using a DVI-D to DVI-D cable. When I was using the resolution I was using before (1024x768), DVD playback using PowerDVD seemed to be fine - a clean sharp image. Of course, I wanted to try to making it even better by setting my resolution to 1280x720, the PJ's native resolution. I downloaded powerstrip to do this, since my graphics card didn't seem to be seeing that the resolution was available on the PJ. I set the resolution, and immediately noticed much greater clarity in windows with text etc. But seemingly since I installed powerstrip and tweaked the settings, DVD-playback has been blocky - there are "jaggies" on straight edges and things look quite pixellated. I tried changing the resolution back to 1024x768, but that the problem persisted. I then uninstalled powerstrip and updating my graphics card drivers to 4.10. My graphics card then did notice the PJ's own available resolutions, and I was able to switch to 1280x720 using its own control panel rather than any extra software. But dvd playback is still blocky...outside of that, in windows, things are perfectly sharp.

    So, I'm not sure if I tweaked the wrong setting in powerstrip and it is persisting even after removing powerstrip from my system, or what, but I'm at a little bit of a loss as to what to do next. Any suggestions?

    Many thanks.. :thumbsup:

    edit - I just checked if the same problem showed up while playing back on my monitor, and it does. Here's a pic from crouching tiger to illustrate the problem (it's a screen grab from my PC). Note the pixellation around the moon etc.:

    [​IMG]

    update:

    I've uninstalled my powerdvd 4.x and installed a trial version of powerdvd 5; the image seems to have improved. Where I could see jaggies on swords and the like before, I can't see them now. Here's a pic from the same scene with this new version:

    [​IMG]

    Does seem smoother. On another movie (Tomb raider) I didn't see that big a difference, though. I think I'll try reinstalling my old version of powerdvd and seeing what happens. Is it the case that some dvd playback software really is that bad?
     
  2. theritz

    theritz
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    meoq,

    dvd playback with powerdvd (4 r 5) should be fine - you should not be seeing "blockiness" etc..... very strange. Have you tried turning Hardware acceleration on or off ?


    Sean.
     
  3. theritz

    theritz
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    Also,

    How long is the DVI cable, what quality is it ? Have you tried using a regular VGA cable ?

    S.
     
  4. meoq

    meoq
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    Hey theritz, thanks for your reply.

    The DVI cable is 2 metres long. I bought it in Maplin's - it's a "Profigold by Bandridge" cable, was pricey enough (€65) so I figured it was good quality.

    I tried enabling and disabling Hardware acceleration in PowerDVD 4.x with no change. PowerDVD 5 doesn't seem to have that option. I also tried turning down hardware acceleration for the graphics card in the control panel, with no change.

    I just popped in the DVD on which I first noticed this (U2's "Elevation" video on the Tomb Raider dvd), and with PowerDVD 5 it is a lot smoother. I don't know if it's quite as smooth as it should be - though that may just me being overly critical now that I'm looking out for it. I have noticed some flicker now, though too.

    edit - do you think the second crouching tiger pic is about the quality one should expect? I hope it's not just me, but to me there seems to be a difference between the first and second pic (first pic was PowerDVD 4.x with all its blockiness)

    (I am now outputting 1280x720 at 50hz as recommended by someone on AVSForum).

    Unfortunately, I don't have a dedicated DVD player handy to compare. The small artifacts I'm seeing now may simply be inherent in the DVD medium (?) It's like tiny shimmering blocks in the background...notice them more with things like sky etc. They are really tiny though, from any reasonable distance you can't really see it.

    Thanks again for your help. Trying to track down my original PowerDVD 4.x cd to reinstall it to see if it'll go back to normal. When I first hooked everything up I didn't notice any of these problems...

    edit - after watching a bit more, I think those persisting "tiny shimmering" artifacts are indeed "meant" to be there..it looks like that tiny shimmer you get with film, I guess. The flickering is still there though, not persistant, but occasional and noticeable. It'll be interesting to see if PowerDVD 4 will revert to this same quality..now where the heck is the CD?! :laugh:

    edit 2 - hmm, not so sure about this remaining "artifact" at all. I've attached a pic so maybe someone can tell me if it's normal or not:

    [​IMG]

    This is from Tomb Raider. You can see (hopefully) there's kind of a noise present, especially in the wallpaper in the background. It just doesn't look very clean to my eyes. Is that "noise" supposed to be there? Just a limit of the DVD format? Here's a link to the full screen capture:

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v140/gofreak/eba082f5.jpg

    This "noise" shimmers aswell..it's not static. Hmm..I'm rather perplexed :confused:
     
  5. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    Does the shimmering stop when you pause the DVD? I know with DLPs like my Sharp you can get what's caused 'mosquito dithering', which shows as a sort of 'shimmering' even when displaying a still picture, I don't think it afflicts LCDs but don't really know.

    Certainly that cable shouldn't be a problem.
     
  6. Gary Lightfoot

    Gary Lightfoot
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    Have you set the brightness and contrast using a test disk such as Avia or Video esentials? Having the black level too high will give a very blocky and noisy image, as will using an incorrect gamma setting (game or video instead of movie for instance).

    Gary.
     
  7. meoq

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    I should have mentioned, sorry - I see this "noisy" shimmering on my computer monitor aswell, or perhaps more so because it's clearer at the moment (viewing my PJ in a non-blacked out room temporarily).

    I think i'm probably being too pernickety - the level of noise visible is represented well in that tomb raider shot in my last post. Does that look normal to others?

    Also, the shimmering does stop when I pause.
     
  8. KraGorn

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    Er, yes, if you're seeing it on the monitor then it's nothing to do with the projector :). Since the monitor is smaller then it's harder to see artifacts etc. .. and since the 'noise' stops when the playback is paused then it shows it's probably a noisy DVD or a poor MPEG decoder.

    PowerDVD isn't usually the preferred player on HCPCs, TheaterTek and WinDVD I think are generally considered better at MPEG decoding, you may want to take a look at those too.
     
  9. meoq

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    I just got TheaterTek, and first impressions were that the image seemed better. But there is one scene in Tomb Raider that really shows this "noise" up very badly. A scene with lots of sky and a bleeding sunset. Are DVDs really supposed to be like that? Here's a direct screengrab from the movie, you can see what i mean fairly clearly:

    http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~peterk/tombraider.jpg

    Here's another with the bleeding sun I was talking about:

    http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~peterk/tombraider2.jpg

    Now, the funny thing is, this doesn't look too bad in the screen grab or on my monitor. But it does actually look a lot blockier with the PJ - just around where the sun is bleeding into the buildings etc. The blockiness is there on the monitor, but it just seems so much more visible on the PJ, especially in motion. I'm thinking the different colouring on the PJ is highlighting it, perhaps coupled with the larger screen..?
     
  10. Gary Lightfoot

    Gary Lightfoot
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    I'm using PowerDVD 5, and don't have any issues with it. In fact, I tried TT and it wasn't any better, but it had other issues that I didn't like so got a refund. It must depend upon the overall set-up I guess. I've always found WinDVD to be very noisy image wise, especialy with backgound images which should be solid.

    I'm not familair with the pj, but sometimes poor scaling or uncalibrated levels will produce similar artefacts to what you're seeing. If you increase the brightness on the PC, can you replicate the artefacts? As Kragorn says though, if it's on the monitor as well as the pj, it's likely to be the PC. The first image does seem to show a lower re3s image.

    Do you have the other monitor active at the same time as the pj and sharing the image? I've found that depending on the drivers and set-up, haveing simultaneous produces a poor image on both displays. If that's the case, try it on the pj only.

    Gary.
     
  11. meoq

    meoq
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    I've just tried FFDShow for the first time, with TheaterTek, and wow: the "noise" is all but gone. I replayed that same tomb raider scene, with the bleeding sun, and the shimmering with the buildings is just completely gone. I took another shot of the "skyline" pic from above, and I think it's noticeably cleaner, especially in motion.

    http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~peterk/tomb5.jpg

    (actually, comparing the pics it doesn't look to be that different at all, but trust me, in motion there is no percievable shimmering like before or anything)

    I'm using FFDShow to apply an unsharpen mask and to resize the image to the pj's native resolution. I first popped in the original tomb raider, and I got probably my first real "wow" moment with the PJ :clap: I thought maybe it was just a placebo effect after turning on FFDShow, but playing that other particular scene in the second tomb raider confirms that it is indeed sprucing up the image in a major way. So I think I'm happy for now..I'll definitely be experimenting with FFDShow a lot more..

    Just as I was on the verge of giving up and ordering a dedicated player..;)

    edit - also, I did have the PC monitor turned off while watching this time..so perhaps it was making a difference also. I'll replay the scene again with both the pj and monitor on to see if that makes a difference.

    edit 2 - just tried it with both displays on, and it was still the same, minimal shimmering etc. So it must all be the work of FFDShow. I made a screengrab this time of the bleeding sun scene:

    http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~peterk/tomb6.jpg

    I think maybe the difference is more noticeable with that one, though again, it's all in the motion. It actually looks like that on my PJ now, whereas before it was all blocky and shimmery in that upper left hand corner. Pleased as punch!
     
  12. KraGorn

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    Glad to hear you've finally got a setup your happy with :) .. the quality of DVD transfers varies markedly and the worse they are the more they can show up defficiences in the decoding chain.

    As you found, having both monitors on shouldn't cause any problems, if it did it would be a defective video card. The main function people use FFDSHOW for is resizing, in which it's capable of far bettwe results than the video card which is used in lieu of anything else.
     
  13. Gary Lightfoot

    Gary Lightfoot
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    That's not necesarily true.

    With an old Radeon VE a few years ago, I had both monitor and projector working simultaneously, and both showing the overlay playing DVDs. The image was perfect on both.

    I later changed the drivers, and couldn't get both working and give a good picture - it was grainy and suffered from tearing. I had to resort to using alt F5 to switch between them in order to get a good quality picture on one or the other. I now have a 9600 non pro, but haven't tried them both at the same time. I do however get some strange resolutions on the projector and sometimes some crashes if I boot the pc with both monitor and pj connected and switched on. Newer drivers may have fixed the problem, but I haven't tried to find out.

    Gary.
     
  14. meoq

    meoq
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    Well now, amn't I a little bit embarrassed.. :blush:

    Turns out the "improvement" wasn't down to FFDShow at all, rather simply getting TheaterTek to display the film in the correct aspect ratio resulted in the great reduction in noise. FFDShow wasn't actually working at all.

    I have subsequently managed to get FFDShow working with TheaterTek, and there was another leap in PQ :laugh: I have it resizing properly now to 1280x720 and i'm applying a denoise filter. The result is a fairly dramatic difference.

    Compare this (before FFDShow):

    http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~peterk/tomb5.jpg

    to this (after FFDShow):

    http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~peterk/tombfiltered.jpg

    The JPEG compression has introduced further artifacting, so it looks even better than that. I'm highly impressed by this little piece of software! Can't wait till it gets dark so I can watch it properly on the big screen (still don't have any light control in my room :rolleyes: )
     
  15. KraGorn

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    You do surprise me, I really didn't see any scope for a software screw-up, I'd have expected the driver simply to have activated the video card's output circuitry on both the sockets, being fed the same basic signal from the video renedering stages.

    Hmm, one lives and learns. :)
     
  16. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    Now, don't forget to actually WATCH a movie and not just tinker with the controls. :D
     
  17. meoq

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    Haha, indeed. My room isn't totally finished though, so I figure now is as good a time as any to tinker and tweak. I have to wait until it gets dark (no light control currently), and I'm projecting onto a browny grey wall (with surprising results!), so nothing is yet optimal ;) I will watch a movie tonight though, once it gets sufficiently dull :thumbsup:
     
  18. Gary Lightfoot

    Gary Lightfoot
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    Meoq: glad you got things sorted. :)

    Kragorn: I was quite surprised too. It never occured to me that something as simple as a driver upgrade could break something so simple. :)

    I haven't tried both displays running in a while now, but as things are working well, and looking great, I don't want to temp fate by changing something - just in case!

    Gary.
     
  19. meoq

    meoq
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    Ughh...I hate to say it, but I think I'm back to square one (almost). I wasn't able to test my earlier findings on my PJ during the day, but certain issues came to light when watching movies on the big screen tonight. I popped in Minority Report - my, what a grainy picture. Then I popped in The Two Towers..better, but something seemed off. I fiddled with the ffdshow settings for a bit, and couldn't find anything that seemed quite right. Then I noticed a massive artifact on Arwen's cheek ( :laugh: ) that I knew I wasn't imagining, so I went a took a screen capture of it. Then I turned off ffdshow, replayed the scene, and took a screen capture of the same bit, and compared it to the first one. It's now obvious that ffdshow is completely messing up my colours..it's almost like it is reducing the colour depth, which would certainly be highlighting if not actually creating grain in my movies. Have a look for yourself:

    (No FFDShow - the original image):

    http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~peterk/lotrorig.jpg

    (With FFDShow - notice the completely different colours, and the artifacts on Arwen's cheek):

    http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~peterk/lotrffdshow.jpg


    Needless to say, the artifacting in the second pic is even worse in darker scenes..it just looks horrible.

    I had a look on the forums and on AVSForum, and no one seems to be mentioning similar problems. I tried different colour output spaces in ffdshow, but none match the original, and all have the artifacting. Lol, I feel like i'm running around in circles.

    Sorry to be crying wolf re. solving my problems! :oops:
     
  20. SeaneyC

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    TBH i played about with FFDshow loads, and at the end of the day, i just ended up turning it off! Too many complicated settings for me, and the PQ difference wasn't night and day, unlike many other things i could have spent my time doing!
    I found the jump from PowerDVD to Sonic Decoders to be night and day however (i'm pretty sure the latest TT still uses the sonic decoders)

    Am also in the market for a TX1000 however, so your findings will be pretty interesting, i will be driving it with my athlon xp radeon9600 HTPC.

    I found this thread the other day, have a look at FunkMonkey's settings, see if that helps you at all.

    http://www.avforums.com/frame.html?.../showthread.php?t=152774&highlight=tx100+htpc
     
  21. meoq

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    Thanks for that thread link SeaneyC! I'll definitely give those settings a go, although I should say that the problems I'm having aren't related to the PJ at all - these artifacts etc. show up on my PC monitor too, so it is a purely software problem (I think!). I'll definitely try those PJ settings, though..or certainly I will once I've sorted out my dvd playback issues and have my "proper" screen installed.
     
  22. KraGorn

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    I noticed the same thing last night watching The Butterfly Effect, at one point the main character is collecting some A4-sized pages together, the paper was rendered with the same type of blocking as that artifact you note.

    I beginning to reach the same conclusion as SeaneyC, while I'm sure some knowledgeable users are able to twiddle and tweak FFDSHOW to produce a superior picture, I struggle to see much difference and must of the time it feels like a placebo effect. ;)
     
  23. meoq

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    Yeah, I'm beginning to wonder if its worth it. The main reason I'd be using my PC at all for this would be for resizing though. If I can't get this to work out, I may aswell get a refund on TheaterTek and buy a Yamakawa 375 ;) Or would a PC with TheaterTek running on its own, with 1:1 pixel mapping be better anyway?

    Also, the artifacting isn't so bad at all when I'm not trying to run FFDShow..something goes very wrong with the colour when I run FFDShow. I'm hoping it's an easy fix, since FFDShow could potentially be very good.

    I think :rolleyes:

    edit - just to update: think I found out why the PQ degrades so badly under FFDShow - FFDShow forces TheaterTek to use software decoding without any hardware acceleration. I tested it without FFDshow, using hardware acceleration and not using it, and the results were the same. So I guess that's the problem..however the solution still eludes me. Kinda surprising, since I had heard that software decoding was actually better than hardware, and my machine is certainly fast enough (2.53Ghz).
     

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