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My scaler experience (LumagenHDP & Crystalio 2300)

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by ihan, Mar 9, 2005.

  1. ihan

    ihan
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    Hi all,

    I demoed a Crystalio 2300 for a weekend a couple of weeks ago; many thanks to Liam at progressive-av for allowing me to demo the unit. At the time I owned a Lumagen HDP (for 2 months), so I was able to compare the two units.

    DVD Player: Arcam DV79 interlaced component output (Crystalio) & 4:2:2 interlaced HDMI output (Lumagen)

    The Crystalio was using interlaced component input (for DVD), RGBs input (for sky) and RGBHV output.

    The Lumagen used interlaced 4:2:2 DVI input (for DVD) and RGBs input (for sky), the output was RGBHV.

    Both units were set up pixel for pixel at both 50 (PAL) & 60 (NTSC) Hz.

    Video Deinterlacing
    ------------------
    IMO, the Crystalio has far superior video deinterlacing. The white lines on a football pitch broke up with fast movement on the Lumagen, but remained solid on the crystalio. The PAL video deinterlacing in the Crystalio is the best I have ever seen. IMO, the video mode deinterlacing of the Lumagen was worse than that of my Panasonic TH50PHD7 panel. The Lumagen's video de-interlacing is fine with a stationary object, but moving objects exhibit quite visible 'jaggies'.

    Film deinterlacing
    ----------------
    The Lumagen may have had a very slight performance advantage with film deinterlacing, it was extremely difficult to tell the difference. Both units produce fantastic film deinterlacing quality, much better than the capabilities of the Pansonic panel (which doesn't appear to have a film deinterlacing mode).

    Crystalio Issues (why I didn't buy it)
    ----------------------------------
    Unfortunately, with NTSC discs, the Crystalio exhibited 'blocking' artifacts that were not present with the DVD player connected directly to the plasma panel (via component). I would warn any potential Crystalio customer to do a conclusive test with NTSC material and see if they can see the same problem. The test disc I used was Region 1 'Training Day' which has fantastic picture quality. For this reason, I decided not buy the Crystalio. IMO, for 2k a product has to be near perfect, and the Crystalio comes close but fails because of NTSC issues. In addition, the Crystalio contains a fan which is clearly audible at my 9ft viewing/listening position.

    Summary
    ---------
    To sum up, the ideal scaler does not exist. If I could somehow combine the film deinterlacing quality of the Lumagen with the PAL video deinterlacing capabilities of the Crystalio (minus the irritating fan), I would be in scaler heaven. However, back in the real world, over 1k is a large investment. How much improvement you see with a scaler will depend upon your existing equipment. As a result, I would highly recommend that you obtain a home demonstration of a scaler prior to purchase. In my system, there was an improvement, but I didn't think it was large enough to warrant the expenditure, so I sold my scaler.

    Many thanks for the assitance of these people (in no particular order); Gordon (Convergent-AV), Patrick (Lumagen), Liam (Progressive-AV) & Henry (CRT projectors).

    Best Regards,
    Ian
     
  2. MavAV

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    Just to add my pennie's worth, although the majority of my DVD collection is Region 2 (including Training Day) I have not noticed any 'blocking' artifacts when watching Region 1 DVD's using the Crystalio and my DV29 via SDI.
     
  3. ihan

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    Hi MavAV,

    Henry of CRTprojectors assured me there was no 'macro-blocking' associated with the Crystalio. Prior to demo this was a major concern of mine because it has a Faroudja chipset. I had seen a similar blocking problem with a Denon 3910 DVD player, but I was told that uses a 2310 chipset, whereas the Crystalio uses the 2300.

    So the official statement is that the Crystalio does not suffer from 'macro-blocking'. I am pleased that you have seen no such adverse effects with your unit.

    However, the fact remains that with the Crystalio 2300 unit I was loaned and my equipment (none of which is defective), additional digital artefacts were visible that simply were not there if the dvd player was connected directly to the display (same display input).

    I discussed the situatiuon with Liam & Henry, and they said it could be a source issue (my dependable Arcam DV79 - which certainly doesn't macroblock), so I tried a cheap & cheerful Pioneer 444 via RGBs. That was exactly the same.

    In the end we couldn't resolve the issue, so everyone ended up disappointed. Liam & Henry were disappointed because I hadn't bought the unit and I was disappointed because I thought the Crystalio would be the scaler for me.

    BTW, it is surprising how many people don't see 'macro-blocking' with the Denon 3910, and believe it is a good dvd player.

    Regards,
    Ian
     
  4. X3ELS

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    Hi Ian

    Very interesting thread and a well done comparison, couple of questions though...

    1. What software were you running on the Lumagen as recent software releases have made BIG improvements to its pal deinterlacing abilities.

    2. As i am sure you are well aware Lumagen are actively working on PAL as we speak and i am confident that very soon it will be at the level of the Crystalio. Only time will tell :)
     
  5. ihan

    ihan
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    Hi Elliot,

    The last version of firmware I tested in the Lumagen was 022405. This was the firmware with the upgraded PAL deinterlacing. The main improvement I saw was reduced combing; the overall video de-interlacing quality seemed unchanged.

    To my knowledge (someone correct me if I'm wrong), the PAL video deinterlacing is performed by the SIL504, and this is the factor that limits the performance. Further Lumagen PAL deinterlacing upgrades will only be possible if the developers decide to use some of their own FPGA space. However, to my knowledge, it has not yet been decided whether this will happen or not. Perhaps Gordon or Patrick will be able to comment further on SD PAL deinterlacing development.

    Regards,
    Ian
     
  6. loonatic

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    I have a demo Crystalio at the moment to compare with my ProHDP and can say that so far the video deinterlacing is in a different class to that of the Lumagen, even with the latest firmware, from my SDI modded Sky+ box...I accept that they are still working on PAL but it has been well over a year now hasn't it ?

    I do find that the Crystalio is not as flexible in terms of configuration, as the Lumagen model of input and output memories is extremely good meaing that I can connect both my output devices to the Lumagen and with a single keypress have it set for either.

    I also find that the little LCD display on the Crystalio is no replacement for an OSD but also accept that perhaps in their goal of ultimate PQ that the addition of the OSD my have compromised this...still makes it a bit of a bugger to set-up.

    Also the lack of any internal test patterns makes it hard to validate if you've acheived a 1:1 pixel mapping which is a doddle on the Lumagen...I tried the Pixel Magic DVD but without an SDI DVD player - which I've still not got around to - it is next to useless IMHO.

    The Crystalio remote is also very sluggish though I have the same issue with the Lumagen which is solved bu using my programmable remote so perhaps the same would work fo the Lumagen.

    All that said I have only had it running for about a day so it's early days and more playing time is required.

    Cheers, Lee
     
  7. cj

    cj
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    I thought the "does the Crystalio introduce macroblocking" had been put to bed over at the AVS forums 10 months ago, and it was concluded that it didn't. And being an American site I'm inclined to believe them. My own DVD collection is 99% NTSC and I've had a Crystalio for about a year now and can't say I've ever noticed this effect either. That's not to say that you (Ian) didn't see this as you obviously have a completely different setup to me and others.

    Here's the thread if you're interested: -

    Crystalio & Macroblocking (?)

    Wise words in your summary - try before you buy with all your sources.
     
  8. ihan

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    Hi cj,

    I had read the thread; Henry sent me the URL prior to demonstration.

    Neither Henry, Liam or myself could explain why I was seeing the problems with the Crystalio in circuit with NTSC material.

    In order to prove to myself that it wasn't just me that could see the problem, I played the same source with the crystalio in circuit and then within 2 minutes, replayed the source with it out of circuit. A friend of mine and my girlfriend were clearly able to see the difference, so we are not exactly talking about a subtle change. The blocking was most visible on backgrounds that are smooth and flat (e.g. painted walls), where the colour changes should be subtle.

    I was certain to use the same cables and the same plasma input.

    Regards,
    Ian
     
  9. cj

    cj
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    Well I'm not about to try and explain it either - you obviously have a very unique setup :)

    BTW I'm not trying to justify my purchase - if I thought for one second there was a superior scaler out there at the same price point I would simply buy it right away and relegate the Crystalio to the bedroom :) I've enjoyed mine for nearly a year now - a year is a long time in any electronics arena and it's a testament to the Crystalio that it's still up there at this price bracket. And as you say when it comes to PAL there's still no contest.
     
  10. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Hi Guys,

    Lee: The first beta units of Lumagen hit UK 1st week in June so not over 12 months...but nearer 9, still more than I'd like.

    IanH: The SIL504 works in conjunction with another SIL chipset called a co-processor. In the development of the original Vision series the guys at Lumagen worked out that some of the issues with the fails in Secrets Tests on SIL504 based units were caused by the communications going on between both chips. Lumagen chose to do the co-processing in ther own FPGA in new units. Ultimately I believe the de-interlacing is limited by the 504 but the ability to work out when to use the appropriate algorithm is not. At least that is my understanding. Much has been written about the 504 and Faroudja processors strenghts. This thread bears out much of it.

    Cheers,

    Gordon
     
  11. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Would there be any point in comparing either of these scalers to an Iscan HD+ ?
     
  12. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Certainly would Nicholas. It's always worth a look.

    Incidentally this months FORTHCOMING HCC should have review of HDP Pro, Iscan HD+, Crystallio and Cinemateq...should be interesting.
     
  13. ihan

    ihan
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    Hi NicolasB,

    From a personal perspective, I think it would be a useful comparison. I would be happy to post my findings here. I always attempt to maintain an unbiased and non-personal opinion :). However, as you know, the findings on my equipment would not be relevant for everyone else's kit.

    However, I have not, as yet, found a dealer who wishes to lend me an Iscan for a couple of days. If a dealer is happy to supply me with a demo unit, then please get in touch.

    I can understand why dealers are reluctant, because having bought & sold a Lumagen & demoed a Crystalio, what is the likelyhood of me buying an Iscan? Unfortunately, the dealer incurs significant delivery & return costs when 'shipping' demo units.

    Regards,
    Ian
     
  14. Thunder

    Thunder
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    I had a Crystalio on my Barco to compare with my Lumagen and on NTSC film material as stated above I think there is little or nothing to seperate them :) I dont have Sky so couldnt comment. As I understood it Gordon I thought the guys at Lumagen were working on bypassing the 504 to enable 10bit deinterlacing using their own mathematics :thumbsup:
     
  15. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Thunder: No you misunderstood me. They are working on code to control the SIL504 better and they are working on code to do film detection of 1080i source material and also more accurate scaling with a sharpening feature.

    Gordon
     
  16. Liam @ Prog AV

    Liam @ Prog AV
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    I have a suspicion that the Crystalio "blocking" has something to do with Panasonic plasmas only. Ians 42PHD7 clearly suffered an issue, but only with 60Hz material (RGBHV) - spotless otherwise. The same unit is now on Lee's 50MXE1 with no blocking whatsover, and we have also supplied an identical one to an NEC 50XR4 that may very well be featured a few posts above (Marek?) which to my knowledge also does not exhibit any blocking issues.

    Ian dare I say the worst is feared and the only processing solution for you is one that involves a new plasma screen? The 42" NEC XR3 will play with 75Hz and 60Hz native resolution (with some forcing) and offers the kind of high contrast image the Panasonic does, with less low end black but superior colour and light output. As surprising as it sounds, dealers (well us anyway) don't see it as a loss if a bit of kit proves unsuccessful on demo. For me that's the end of any Crystalio going with a Panasonic screen just in case, which is worth losing a bit of shipping to not have any nasty surprises in a bigger install later on!! The reason for no iScan demo's is iScan/DVDO/Owl won't be doing you a demo directly, you'll need to find a dealer who keeps their own demo unit and is local, or is willing to ship.

    Anyone have a Crystalio and Panasonic plasma combo? Would be interested to know if you can bring out blocking on NTSC or not.
     
  17. MavAV

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    Guilty as charged.
    Marek.
     
  18. TomTom

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    Hi everyone,

    Maybe I can clear this up once and for all. I'm the guy that started that thread over at AVS. I was surprised to find it referred to on my first time visiting this forum. Incidentally, I'm here to get some info on the DVI input on the Crystalio.

    I can say unequivocally that the conclusion on the AVS thread is 100% wrong. The Crystalio most definitely does have macroblocking...every device with an FLI23XX chip (be that the 2300, 2301 or 2310) is afflicted with macroblocking to some degree - (this was confirmed to me by an AV reviewer who PM'd me over at AVS). I would have actually corrected the conclusion on AVS but the thread was already closed (and I actually visited it just three times in the last 10 months!) :blush:

    How do I know? I was persuaded by the arguments there to bite the bullet and buy one. Well, imagine the buyer's remorse once I got it hooked up to my HD6! The exact same artefacting I had seen on my friend's Denon 5900 (another FLI23XX machine). The macroblocking was there regardless of input (although I managed to tweak the panel to reduce the effect somewhat).

    I tried it with a DLP projector, and I saw the macroblocking there too, though not as severe as it was via the Plasma. I agree that the problem is especially bad with Panasonic plasmas (my guess is it's down to the way they handle contrast), but the macroblocking is there whether the display is forgiving or not.

    Other than the MB problem, and my current problem (with the DVI port on my unit not handling HDCP sources well), the Crystalio is truly excellent - I wasn't able to send my unit back last year (the one-month trial period passed while I was away on business :( ) so I've been living with it for a while, and it's really good via DVI and RGBHV.

    I hope that helps in some way. :)

    TT

    p.s. This is a great forum, I'm bookmarking it! :smashin:
    p.p.s. Why do you guys call it 'Home Cinema'?? :rotfl:
     
  19. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Because we speak English as opposed to the repulsive, bastardised corruption of a once-noble language that is "spoken" west of the Atlantic Ocean. :devil: :devil: :devil:
     
  20. Liam @ Prog AV

    Liam @ Prog AV
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    What was the DLP projector? I'm inclined to think there may be more than just Panasonic displays that use a processing technique that is driving up black detail noise, or whatever that is bringing up this blocking. I only say because on other displays it simply is not evident, so cannot be a gauranteed thing the Crystalio does on every display it touches.

    My purely speculative thinking-out-loud is going along the lines that the Crystalio affects low end noise in a video stream, and certain plasmas and DLPs are incorrectly picking out this detail as picture information. Just the same as them showing arteficial picture noise if set to pick up blacker-than-black information when the technology itself cannot handle it. The Panasonic may only suffer on NTSC as PAL uses 100hz mode which halves the amount of sub-fields used to create an image (down to 7 from 14), so some shadow detail (including any noise) is lost. Pre darkchip2 DLPs don't tend to be able to produce lower than black detail accurately without showing noise, which may be the reason for the Crystalio and the DLP not getting on well. Grayscale setup should change what is and isn't seen. This is only my thinking-out-loud though, I could be barking up the wrong Bush.

    Buyer beware, ensure your Crystalio is going onto a tried and tested display.
     
  21. Liam @ Prog AV

    Liam @ Prog AV
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    Oh yeah:

    Theatre/Theater: A building, room, or outdoor structure for the presentation of plays, films, or other dramatic performances.

    Cinema: A movie theater

    Essentially one is a sub-set of the other, but surely Home Theater/Theatre could suggest you have a stage with curtains and spot lights setup in your basement!!!

    LOL!
     
  22. Bernard Barnett

    Bernard Barnett
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    True but they spell it better than we do. I spend quite a lot of time on the AVS forums and on the whole their standard of spelling is far superior to what you find here.
     
  23. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    If British spelling is really worse than american spelling, then, given the typical level of american spelling proficiency, this fact depresses me so much that I think I'm going to hang myself. :(

    :offtopic:

    Okay, okay. :)
     
  24. TomTom

    TomTom
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    NicB,

    Harsh, dude, HARSH! :mad:

    Bernie,

    Maybe I should just take the complement (backhanded though it may be), but in the interest of fairness, remember that AVS has a spellchecker that you guys here don't. Maybe that has a tiny bit to do with it :)!

    TT
     
  25. Liam @ Prog AV

    Liam @ Prog AV
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    Yeah there's a spell checker here too, jsut cat'n eb bothred too us it!!!
     
  26. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I shall defer suicide for a little longer, then. :D
     
  27. cj

    cj
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    Sigh - here we go again. We're not disputing you don't have macroblocking, simply that it's not down to the Crystalio.

    Some quotes for you: -

    Alan Gouger owns AVS, oferlaor is the Video Processor admin (who I believe is very experienced with scalers and is a long term Lumagen owner?). Now I don't believe everything I read, but my money's on them :)

    Out of interest, why didn't you start a new thread over on AVS with your "100%" conclusion above?
     
  28. scrowe

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    The problem is though, if you pair a Lumagen, Crystalio and IScan with a certain display device, and the only combination that exhibits a macroblocking problem is the Crystalio, then what conclusion can you draw?

    Surely, it would be correct to say that the Crystalio has compatibility problems with some displays that can introduce macroblocking?

    If it's not the Crystalio at fault, surely you would see the same effect with other video processors, not just the Crystalio?
     
  29. Liam @ Prog AV

    Liam @ Prog AV
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    It's this blanket statement "Crystalio most definitely does have macroblocking" that is wholly untrue. It has already been stated that it is a compatibility issue, the problem with posts like TomToms is it is needlessly scaring people away from a perfect product.

    There have also been problems of people reading these almost scaremongering posts, looking at their plasmas or DLPs very closely, and then confusing macroblocking with things like posterisation or dithering! It has been very difficult to filter through those that do and don't, and those that do all have Panasonic plasmas... It's a shame, but it's the only conclusion I can see for now. I am also still dubious as to whether certain DVD players mpeg decoders might be highlighting MB on the disc where other players aren't, but so far have not seen any correlation except that the Panny has no joy with the Crystalio.
     
  30. TomTom

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    Hey Hey,

    It's the fault of the Crystalio insofar as it employs a Genesis/Faroudja FLI23XX generation chip for deinterlacing. That is the culprit here.

    It is a matter of record that this entire chip family exhibits macroblocking, though it is masked in many cases by the display being used, and by the host device (DVD player, scaler, etc.). That is a fact. It is known to the manfuacturer, who have been working on a solution since the problem was first 'discovered' in the Denon 5900, which was the first 'high-profile' consumer device to use these chips. No solution has been found either by Genesis/Faroudja or by Denon. By the way, I read the Denon thread, and 'Jeffy' was mistaken - the conclusion - the end conclusion - was indeed that the Faroudja was at fault.

    I am surprised this is news to anyone. It wasn't hard for me to find it out, how hard can it be? Denon aren't hiding it (I spoke to their chief technician in New Jersey). Faroudja ain't hiding it (Kris from Secrets stated they were looking for a fix in 2003, which was never found).

    If 10 months ago Ofer Laor, Alan Gouger or anyone else never saw it, that's good for them, but imacroblocking is a known shortcoming of these deinterlacer chips. I'm sure on the majority of displays, the problem won't be as severe as it is on Panasonic plasmas, maybe even negligible. Nevertheless, it is a real problem that is down to a major component of the Crystalio, that is known to produce this particular effect - macroblocking, not dithering, mosquito noise or posterisation. My previous scaler, a Centerstage CS-2 when fed the exact same source, outputting the exact same resolution did not exhibit macroblocking, neither does the iScan HD, which I tried for a month.

    I don't mind being disagreed with, but I didn't come here to 'scaremonger' or to get 'sighed' at, I wanted to share some information to help people who are in the same situation I was in 10 months ago. It seems this forum is just as negative as AVS is. That was why I never bothered to visit it more often in the last year.

    I don't wish to get into hostilities here either, ....so I won't.

    TT
     

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