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My search ends....LONG!

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by Gordon @ Convergent AV, Dec 11, 2001.

  1. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    As regulars on the forum will know I’ve sort of now got a permanent installation in my home with a Sony 1270 crt. This unit really requires a video processor of some kind in order to give its best. So, just like most of you, I have been investigating which unit will meet my needs.

    My requirement was for superb de-interlacing, judder free if possible, good colour accuracy, fault free operation preferably by Pronto IR, aspect ratio control and variable output rates in case I change projection device. DVD replay would have to sound good to. Oh….and I don’t want to spend much more than £2000…I get some things at trade but video processors are not high margin products….and I’m Scottish!.

    I am lucky in that I get to see quite a lot of these things and in most cases I get to play with them for extended periods. My shortlist was down to an Arcam DV88 and Quadscan Elite or something else….

    When the Rock came out early in the year I went down to visit Neil Jenkins to have a look at one. During that visit he showed me a HTPC for the first time. Well, when I say showed what I mean is he pulled a pile of bits together, got it running and plugged it in. At that time there were issues with it but the potential seemed to be there. The Rock was pretty good too but still wasn’t what I was after.

    The event brought me in to contact with Jeff and Kryton. We were so busy though that all I really saw of it was the desktop……no films….or video through the capture card. The desktop looked groovy and I wondered whether dvd could look that sharp.

    A few months later and I was down in Milton Keynes area ISF-ing some devices so I popped back in to see Rock Plus at Neils. The + was more like what I was expecting. With auto PAL/NTSC recognition this is something I’d be happy with myself, if it wasn’t that I can’t afford one….

    Other units I considered were the Runco PFP, amazing de-interlacing on NTSC with incredibly accurate colour decoder but too expensive for me and not so hot at pal film based stuff or video. Vigatec with great de-interlacing all round be it video, film based Pal or Ntsc, multiple video inputs meaning no switching through amp but with lip sync induced problems that my home cinema amp can’t deal with.

    I’d used a Quadscan at home before and know it’s limitations. Not as good de-interlacing as others or video decoder accuracy but it does all work from IR and has aspect ratio control and I could afford it.

    Having seen all these and more I was still interested in looking at HTPC’s. As it transpired I was contacted by a chap near me to ISF his CRT projector. He was using a PC for dvd replay and a capture card and de-interlacer for video based stuff from Sky and Video. My first trip to see him was curtailed as we discovered some problems with his pc set up. Not being a computer tech I couldn’t resolve them. By my second visit my client had resolved most of the issues himself with some tips from MrD of this forum. By the time I was finished we had a pretty great picture from his DVD drive and even Sky was very watchable through dscaler. There were some minor issues but I’m sure these could be solved, mainly to do with video noise and gamma adjustment. It was still a PC though and I couldn’t imagine Melanie wanting one of these things in our living room, or having to use an ir keyboard to make things work.

    So when I saw a post from Neil (Jenz) saying he was working on a device based on PC architecture that would do everything I wanted, but which wasn’t going to be like a PC, my interest was sparked.

    So last weekend I drove the 350miles South to see how he was getting along as Christmas is coming and I need something soon…

    When I arrived the family had all been having a Sunday watching DVD’s and the projector was warmed up and ready for action. It’s a Barco808 in case you don’t know. We had on hand Neil’s Rock Plus fed by FMJ27 for comparisons to the PC based device he has been designing.

    I had been warned that the interface between the user and the machine wasn’t finished but everything else was virtually done. Neil immediately started it up and seemed to only be using a Pronto to control it….he did have to use the keyboard briefly for one or two things but the functionality seemed VERY close to being complete.

    Picture quality was my fundamental reason for visiting though so we needed to play a few things. Put on AVIA to check levels etc. After minor tweaking I was happy and we stuck on a few discs. Of course, Star Trek Insurrection had to go on…passed with flying colours. Judder was gone, detail in spokes of wheels of cart, canoes solid, no jaggies on roofs or bridges.

    Moulin Rouge, fantastic colours, great sound I had to really restrain myself from just watching the whole movie. Melanie and I have promised each other we’ll keep this film as our Xmas treat to watch on our new system.

    Tried some PAL stuff with MI2. Again very watchable and didn’t see anything to alarm me. Then we put on LEXX season 1.1 DVD. This has lots of CGI effects including a piece where a planet is revolving and there’s a city on its surface which looks sort of like a hi-tec conservatory. Lots of straight lines and solid surfaces. It’s a nightmare for de-interlacing. I’ve never seen anything play it without artefacts and this was no exception. Space ships flying around looked good though, just this one nasty bit…..

    It was becoming apparent to me that the picture quality was as good as anything I’d seen and that, in fact, detail was greater with this than with anything I had spent time with.

    Neil suggested sticking on my favourite “battle of carthage” from Gladiatior. This is where it all changed for me. I was staggered. It was astounding. From the walk up the dark to the arena and on to the pans around the crowds…amazing. The detail on tunics, faces, chainmail….I was hooked. Also no de-interlacing problems that usually crop up on this piece.

    We watched a bit of Starship Troopers and it was fantastic too. I really stopped looking for problems with DVD it was so good. We did a comparison of Desperado superbit with normal….BIG difference on this system. Superbit was MUCH, MUCH better. After watching the superbit disc the normal version looked so crappy.

    Next we put some video and TV through the composite feed to Dscaler. There was noise as before at the other chaps house but it was only particularly noticeable at times and even then it may be because of how quiet the background is on DVD. I’m confident this can be resolved. Neil’s TV feed to his VCR isn’t really the best as the room is for playing DVD’s so we couldn’t make too much of my time with these sources. I was very happy at the de-interlacing performance from Dscaler though.

    So I think I’ve made up my mind. DVD performance is startling from a picture quality point of view, better than any PC I’ve seen so far and all (bar the Interpolator) DVD/Scaler combo’s. I think it’s going to look great both aesthetically and in its performance. It’s functionality does everything I personally require and I think it’s going to be easy enough for Melanie to use once I’ve re-configured my Pronto. I’m going to get one of these things when it’s finished, which will hopefully be soon then I can find out about its audio performance!

    Really need to spend some time getting the 1270 ready in preparation.

    Hope some find this interesting.

    Gordon
     
  2. NickBull

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    Gordon,

    Very interesting. I'm happy with my pc but there are still issues I'm working on. I knew something was in the pipeline from Jenz but I couldn't wait as I needed my projector in quickly. If things go well and I upgrade my HTPC next year it is definately still a consideration, funds permitting. The old HTPC will then become the house PC!

    Do you think HTPC' are the way forward for users on a budget, to get good results, and then as the next step up (ie. Neils box). Even if PQ is slightly compromised on a budget version £600 has got to be a better investment than £4000 plus with a DVD player on top of that too!

    I don't suppose you could list a few of the really trickiest scenes on DVD that would allow people to get an idea of how good a job there PC's /Scalers are coping.

    Cheers

    Nick
     
  3. tryingtimes

    tryingtimes
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    Well done Jenz!
    It sounds like you've acheived what a lot of us are trying to do.
    Obviously with a financial interest that has allowed you to experiment a bit.
    We don't as yet know what price your unit(s) sell for.
    I am personally all for openess in this forum and a simple single post from you explaining your findings, product, price and business terms would be far preferable to the nod, nod, wink, wink that sometimes is forced to go on.

    I'm glad you've managed to find a good alternative to the Rock as the price in this country was becoming prohibitive (what's new!).
    I only wish you'd launched sooner and saved me a lot of grief :)

    Lets hope that my setup can reach the lofty heights that Gordon has described.

    Regards
    Alex
     
  4. Roland @ B4

    Roland @ B4
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    Put two perfectionists in a room.......... I guessing that session finished at 2am.

    I look forwards to seeing this box. I've heard a lot of it too.

    I guess DVD / Scaller seperates days are numbered.

    Of all the HCPC setups that I have come across, they require a lot of tinkering before their owners are happy, but the image produced is usually good. the problem like most scaller devices is they have contol over the out put gains and gammas which can mean that the poor old PJ is compensating for odd outputs.
     
  5. uncle eric

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    Thanks for the heads up Gordon. Looks like Neils done some great work there. Looking forward to seeing it at EVENT 2 perhaps?

    Eric
     
  6. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Nick:
    I’d like to point out that I’ve had no part in the development of this thing Neils done. My interest is as a prospective customer.

    Scenes to test de-interlacing. Film based stuff: Try Star Trek Insurrection opening scene up to the point the sluice gate opens. Opening credits feature red INSURRECTION, you can see weirdo jaggie effects in the red if the chroma bug is present. Also if the overlay of colour isn’t clean may be a sign of chroma delay errors. Once the image starts you’ll see a boy jumping out of a pile of hap. Look at the hay, is it delineated sharply? Does it look solid as the camera pans or is it bursting in to little rainbow effects and looking more like moving caterpillars? Then it cuts to a river with a bridge over it. As the camera pans you’ll see two canoes on stilts at the side of the river bank in top left corner, a cabbage path top right and a barrow with stuff on it being wheeled across the path. The camera continues to pan on it to the village where you see small tiled roofed pergola’s and domed and square sectioned roofed buildings. On this part of the scene you’re looking for scaling and de-interlacing artefacts along with judder problems. The canoes should be solid not have any twittery lines between them all through their presence on screen. The spokes on the wheel of the cart should be individually visible and not jaggie. The cabbage patch shouldn’t shimmer but should be obviously different colours of vegetation surrounded by wicker fencing. The bridge should have no jaggie edges or lines on it. The roofs should have no jaggies on them and shouldn’t look like they are pumping up and down as if someone is shoving them from above. The tiled pergolas should look like you can see individual tiles and there shouldn’t be moiré patterns on them. The pan should look smooth with no stutter or judder (although this bit is VERY hard to do with this scene) Put the scene on a-b repeat and watch it over and over. Likely places for faults are that the canoes will break up in parts, the bridge and roofs will have jaggies down the sides, tiles will have moiré, there will be judder and the cabbage patch will shimmer away.

    Gladiator: Battle of Carthage. Test of detail retrieval in bright and dark scenes along with de-interlacing. Gladiators are all in the dark below ground waiting to come out for battle. Look and see how much detail you can see in the dark here, on there faces, are they real… can you still see detail when the light from the opening to the arena comes in to view or does it wash away black detail. Once they get out look at the tops of their shields. These ridges should look solid with no jaggies. Also their chainmail as the camera whizzes around them. Is it solid or shimmering or even worse rainbowing…..Then when the red haired guy with the gold tunic comes out. Look at his tunic. It’s covered in fine detail with lots of different golden colours. Look at the broach holding his toga thing in place on his shoulder. It should be solid, no shimmering or jaggies. Then the camera pans down behind the emperor as he takes his seat with his sister and nephew. Look at the wooden ledge in front of them. There shouldn’t be any jaggie lines on this at all. Then there’s the silver brocaide on their blue and purple velvet coats. It shouldn’t shimmer and should be stable with obvious detail. Lastly look at all the ledges of the arena as the camera looks across the glads to the crowd. The ledges shouldn’t have any jaggies or appear to jump pixels or lines.

    Others to follow later….

    Gordon
     
  7. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Thought on HCPC

    I like many here have been persuaded by the quality that can be got from HCPC for a modest outlay. You get a big bang for your buck. Inspired by Kryton I built my own. I now have a sleek black quiet HCPC. It is capable of great quality and didn’t cost that much (currently a 633 Celeron but I may upgrade to a super P3 512k 1.2 Ghz).

    I also have a Tag DVD player.

    The best pictures I have seen to date have been from a SDI or a Tag feed a Snell and Wilcox interpolator. Information I have about the Interpolator seems to indicate that it is also based on a PC. Originally, I had thought the Rock was the first purpose designed scaler based on a PC architecture. (Richard A if I have got this wrong please say). It appears the S and W Interpolator was the first (and still the best). Unfortunately I cannot afford one.

    The Rock looked a stunning idea but now the price keeps on creeping higher and it is now a very long way from the original market, though I am not saying it is not worth the money it is not the $3k product it was pre launched at.

    I now have many months with the HCPC and I find them a frustrating media. Yes they work really well when they work but these guys are finiky to say the least. I have lost much hair over these things. I applaud the latest Neil effort. Ease of use is what I am after. As easy to use as say a Quadscan but with the quality of an interpolator.

    Your HCPC is only as good as the signal you can get into it. So for me, as well as the internal DVD drive, we need top quality S-video, Component, DVI (for the future) and SDI for the cottage industry fiddlers out there. My Jeff Falcon card works very well for S-video (though noise could be tweaked lower). I am desperate for a component input of quality ala Rock. For the future I need a DVI input to keep up to date with DVD player developments (like my Tag). If you can add this to what Gordon has already described and not do a Rock pricing then you may have a winner on your hands.

    Ease of use is the biggest drawback for HCPC, closely followed by quality inputs.

    HCPCs are currently crap for sound, I have yet to hear a good one. The closest I have got is using a jitter re-clocking box for the digital output, however this is MILES away from a Tag. For me the enjoyment is the balance of great sound, picture and the film. This is why we need great inputs to take advantage of a new ‘reliable’ HCPC. I want to feed a Tag player to a HCPC and get the best of both worlds.

    Can the new Neil machine deal with this, if so please get in contact I have money ready. Will it be Neil’s box or the Tag scaler?

    Any prices or delivery schedules yet?
     
  8. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Dominic,

    The issues you mention, sound and noise are the things that need to be addressed if you want the ultimate product......this is likely to cost though I'd think! I deliberately didn't talk about sound as I need to do that in the shop or at home. I had limited time and the unit Neil showed me didn't have their highest quality audio.

    We both know that DVD transports sound different......The time and money spent by TAG on DVD32R is such that I seriously doubt that any HTPC can compete. In fact I wonder if any can even compete with an FMJ27.......However, having seen what Neil's done with his product I believe he can make it as stable as other processors under £5000 and that any other video processor will have a battle on their hands de-interlacing and scaling wise. Processing of external sources may require some work to reduce noise through the capture device but Dscaler seems as good, if not better than alternatives and if John gets a projector and the chance to evaluate his code on a big screen then things can only get better....

    I can see my evaluation of Neil's work is going to get me in more hot water with some of the manufacturers we deal with at SS but I sincerley hope they understand it just means they have to work harder to get yours, and my money...

    Gordon
     
  9. Phil Hinton

    Phil Hinton
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    I was going to go the quadscan and new dvd player route till Gordon mentioned Neil's experiments and future product to me some weeks back.

    I am not one for technical PC jargon or trying to set things up, so i have avoided HTPC's.

    However if Neil has managed to do the wonders, and the price is reasonable, i.e. the same as a quad and player under the 2k mark, then i am a customer. And if the ease of use is there then all the better.

    So Neil, when do we get to see this machine, and any idea on prices(you can e-mail if you cant post here).

    I'm looking forward to hearing more, and have my fingers crossed that this is the holy grail we tight Scottish gits are looking for!
     
  10. RichardA

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    Nic,

    Sorry the Interpolator Gold is not based on PC technology - we tend not to do PC based stuff, it just isn't powerful enough for what we need to do!

    The Interpolator Gold is based on our own (developed with IBM) ASIC chip. This chip does all the donkey work of the de-interlacing, scaling, time base correction, synchronisation, colour correction, borders etc... with just some memory tacked directly on the side. And yes, chips are cheap - the engineers developing the algorithms that make them do what you want them to is what costs the money!

    I think where the confusion comes in is that the Interpolator as a product was originally designed to be partnered with a PC - the PC VGA signal was used as the sync generator that the Interpolator locked to and the PC acted as the control panel for the Interpolator - this meant we could use the PC to do what it's good at - generating pretty graphics - and use the hardware to do what it's good at - processing the video. It's worth remembering that Interpolator was first released in this form about 5 years ago when PC's were a pale shadow of what we have today (like 133 MHz pentiums were pretty new at the time)

    The Interpolator Gold today does not require a PC, in fact most demos of this unit outside of the USA are without the PC and only one UK and one Russian customer use the PC overlay option.

    And for those who get the US magazines, SGHT has a review of Interpolator as well as awarding it their Platinum award as the Best Processor in the world !

    Anyway I hope this is of interest,
     
  11. JohnAd

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    Gordon

    Yes DScaler should improve once I get to see all the artefacts on a big screen. One big problem that I know of at the moment is that it sometimes falls out of 2:2 pulldown on scenes with high detail :( I hope to be sorting this out sometime.

    Also it's worth pointing out that Connexant have a next generation version of the bt848 coming out very soon, this is supposed to have a 3-d comb filter and a 10bit a/d (it still will throw away the last 2 bits). I've been told cards based on this will be out very shortly and the guy's at Connexant have already made DScaler compatable with it as they use DScaler for thier Demos.

    John
     
  12. JohnAd

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    The other great test of all round deinterlacing ability is the good old montage of images on VE.

    This sequence is a deliberately mixed loads of video and film based material with the film cuts changing from one 3:2 pulldown sequence to another. Also there is some torture tests for video deinterlacing in there.

    Here's what to look for.

    All cuts:
    After each cut look for weave artefacts and notice how long it takes for the film mode detection to kick in. With even very good video deinterlacing you should see the stability and detail of the image jump up as it locks onto film mode.

    Film sequences

    Mostly you should see lots of nice well mastered film material with some very dark scenes at the start. There is one scene with a car by a beach that is noisy and scratched, check that this is handled OK.

    Video sequences (off the top of my head)

    The branch in water
    Look for jaggies on the branch and on the ripples

    Jumping Fish at weir
    Look at the water, water is hard to deinterlace does it look unnatural or OK

    Fountain
    Moving water, again pain for the deinterlacer, try and spot drops are they whole or do they have lines.

    Waving US Flag
    This is the have you got a Faroudja chip test :) anything else tends to have jagged boundaries between the red and the white.

    Rowing shot.
    This is more of a test for the background motion detection, the background should be very sharp, but look at the boat, there will be some shimmering but hopefully not too much.

    Alu Subway Train
    Look for weaves on the train

    Driving under the bridge.
    This one has all sorts of nasty hard to deinterlace stuff in it. Look at the central line in the road, the lamp posts, the windows on the square building when you come out from under the bridge.

    Rotating car
    Most of the detail should be very sharp, look for problems on the front grill.

    John
     
  13. NickBull

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    Gordon,

    I knew it was Neils project. It's just my command of the English language that makes what I say appear ambiguous.

    It's good to finaly get some insight into how the developement is going, esp from someone with the experience of seeing a lot of processors first hand and in a real position to make informed comment!

    Thanks for the info about insurection and Gladiator, I'll pop out and Buy insurection this lunchtime I think!

    Cheers

    Nick
     
  14. tryingtimes

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    Should Gladiator and Insurrection be R1 or doesn't it matter?
     
  15. lmccauley

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    OK, hands up those that have only ever seen the opening sequence from Insurrection...

    ... but seen it 20 or 30 times :rolleyes:

    On a more serious note, this sounds like an extremely interesting project. Circumstances mean that my plans for a projector are on hold for at least the next 6 months (and haven't actually developed since February when I visited Gordon). This might actually work in my favour, since this product may well be out by then :) .

    Cheers,
    Liam
     
  16. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    As John says Montage of Images on V.E. is good. It's designed to make video processors fall over. The new V.E. will not have this sequence so buy one now!

    Region 1 or Region 2: With R1 you'll be testing the 3:2 recognition and reconstruction ability and with R2 it'd be 2:2 recognition and reconstruction. I should point out I have only used Region1 of these discs.

    More later...very busy today...

    Gordon
     
  17. tryingtimes

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    Ever since the event I've always wanted Unbreakable and Insurrection but I've seen the movies once and I'm not really bothered about seeing them again!
     

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