Beginner (again) question

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Sebastien Richard, Jul 16, 2010.

  1. Sebastien Richard

    Sebastien Richard Auditioning

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    Hello all,

    the last time I touched my home theater was in 2001 when I hooked it up, so I am a bit behind the times.


    I have gotten (for free) a 51" Sony Wega rear projection TV (KP-51WS520) that needed some minor repair. I have repaited it and hooked it up in my living room and have noticed the following:


    1- connected to my digital cable box (non-HD) via the coax, the picture is a bit grainy. Nothing horrendous, but not as good as my old tube was. Normal? Would using the component video output of the cable box improve things?


    2- connected via composite video to my DVD player, a "wide screen" DVD still plays with bars at top/bottom, regardless of which wide mode I use. Is there a setting on the DVD or TV that would remedy this? Also the picture is just not that great - slightly better than cable via coax, but still not as good as my old tube.



    Now, I suspect that if I got a HD cable box and hooked it up via HDMI that I could watch HD programming and be more impressed, but for "regular" definition programming, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed in the picture quality. It is a BIGGER picture (previous TV was a 4:3 32" Toshiba tube, going dark after 5 years... GRRR! ) but not as good as I am used to.

    btw, we are sitting about 8 feet away from the screen.


    Anything I can do to improve my experience?



    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    First of all, welcome (back) to the HTF! [​IMG]


    Now, to your questions:




    Two things:

    1) A larger, higher-definition screen will quite literally magnify any weaknesses in the source signal. Things that "looked" OK on a 32" standard-res TV suddenly become unwatchable when rescaled on a much larger screen.

    2) Even HD content will often look "grainy" on a TV that still on the factory settings or which has been adjusted "by eye". You really need to buy (or rent) a consumer calibration disc like Avia Guide to Home Theater or Digital Video Essentials and adjust to image before you can get the best out of your set. TVs ship from the factory with settings pushed to the max to make the image "pop" in the middle of a wall of TVs under harsh sales floor lighting. These are far from the settings needed to meet industry specs, and the conditions you see a set under in a store are far from what you'll experience at home. (Which is why comparing TVs at Costco or Best Buy is next to useless.)

    Using the component video output on both your cable box and DVD player will give you a better signal than coax (connection quality from worst to last runs coax, composite, s-video, component and HDMI - with the caveat that depending on the circumstances there may be little or no difference between composite and s-video on the one hand, and component and HDMI on the other.) So you should do this in any case, and definitely do this with the DVD player before you attempt to calibrate the set. If you upgrade to the HD cable box, use the HDMI connection. (Your TV has both an HDMI and a DVI connection. HDMI carries both digital video and digital audio, DVI is video-only. You can use the DVI input for digital video even if you later add an HDMI-only device, by using an adapter cable.)




    In a word, "No". How a film displays on your set depends on the aspect ratio of that individual film. There is no single "widescreen" ratio. Your old TV is what is called "4:3". That is, the screen was four units wide by 3 units high. Your new set is 16:9. Movies ratios are usually expressed as "x.xx:1", the width expressed as a decimal number to a constant height of 1. That makes for easier comparisons of image width. In movie terms you old set was 1.33:1 and your new set approximately 1.78:1. "Widescreen" movies can be anything from 1.66:1 - narrower than your television - to 2.76:1, much wider than the proportions of your TV.


    Just as with your old 1.33:1 TV, you can only fit a wider image on the screen by adapting it in some way - the two shapes simply don't match. You can pan and scan a wider film, crop it, zoom it or - if you want to preserve the original aspect ratio - you can letterbox it.


    Most films being produced today are either 1.85:1 (romantic comedies, "small" dramas, think When Harry Met Sally) or 2.35:1 (action films, epics, think Star Wars or The Matrix) 1.85:1 is only slightly wider than your TV's 1.78:1, and most TVs have a slight degree of "overscan", so 1.85:1 will often be mastered at 1.78:1, and will pretty much allways appear to be 1.78:1. But wider aspect ratios like 2.35:1 will exhibt "black bars". It is unavoidable without distorting or defacing the original image. For the same reason standard def TV and older movies will display with black columns on the left and right, to maintain the correct, original aspect ratio. (OAR)

    Here at the Home Theater Forum we are committed to the presentation of film and television in the OAR intended by the original film makers, and we strongly discourage, cropping, zooming, panning or otherwise distorting films to make them fit the arbitrary shape of a TV screen. The 16:9 (1.78:1) ratio was selected for HDTV precisely because it was the best compromise between the many competing aspect ratios and the "center point" from which other material could be displayed with using the greatest amound of screen real estate and with the least matting.

    Original material shot for HDTV, is exactly 1.78:1, just as old TV material was exactly 1.33:1. (That ratio was selected for early TV because it was the closest to the standard Academy ratio for 35mm film - 1.37:1 - that could be engineered "conveniently"


    Regards,


    Joe
     
  3. Sebastien Richard

    Sebastien Richard Auditioning

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    Joe,

    thanks! That's a lot of information, some of it I was familiar with but I certainly needed a good refresher - as I mentioned, I'm a bit rusty.


    I did use the composite video cables between the DVD player and the TV. One thing that makes me wonder about settings, is that when I put the TV display in "normal" mode (no zoom, stretch or other distortion) it gave me two gray bars on the side, and then displayed a 4:3 image, letterboxed to reflect the "wide screen" format (it was a Harry Potter movie that happened to be in the DVD player) - so that tells me the TV thought it was receiving a 4:3 signal from the DVD. Is there a setting on DVD players (this is a few years old Sony DVD 5-disk changer, progessive-scan capable) that will make it output a "widescreen" signal, for the lack of a better word?


    Using one of the TV's zoom modes, I got a picture that pretty well fit the screen with small letter box bars, as you describe, but the picture quality seemed to suffer, as well as the images being a bit distorted, so I am left to believe that something is not setup properly.


    Thanks.
     
  4. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Just to make sure we're both on the same page with terminology - a composite video cable is a single cable that carries all video information, color and brightness - typically a 75 ohm cable (slightly heavier wire than a typical red/white audio cable) with a yellow connector. Component video uses three 75 ohm cables, whose RCA connectors are red, green and blue, corresponding to the color information they carry and the color of the jacks they connect to.




    Yes, and I can't believe I didn't think of this. You have to "tell" the DVD player what kind of TV it is connected to - 4:3 (1.33:1) or 16:9 (1.78:1) Most DVD players still default to the 4:3 setting. (You may also see a "4:3 Letterbox" setting. Just ignore it. It is there for an item in the DVD spec that no one ever implemented and which is irrelevant to your new 16:9 set anyway.) Can't tell you where exactly this setting will be in the menus for your player, but it will be there somewhere.


    Since your player is set to 4:3, it is taking the anamorphic widescreen image stored on most widescreen DVDs and scaling and letterboxing it "on the fly" inside the player, so that it can output a watchable image to a standard 4:3 TV. When set to 16:9, the player sends the raw anamorphic image (which looks like it is "squeezed" from the sides and leaves everything looking tall and skinny) and lets the TV "stretch" it to full width, which gives you a higher-resoultion image on a widescreen TV. (This was even true back in the old analog days, because a 1.85:1 movie could user nearly all of the 480 horizontal lines of a DVD image, while even a 2.35:1 movie would have more lines devoted to picture content than it would if encoded as 4:3 letterbox on the disc. My first widescreen TV was an analog Toshiba and my first anamorphic widescreen movie was The Fugitive - on laserdisc!)

    Now - in the early days of DVD a lot of studios didn't think that anamorphic widescreen was a feature that people would care about, and others were just cheap. It was easier to port an existing letterboxed laserdisc master to DVD than to go back to the original source material and create a new master from scratch. Most of these releases were eventually revisited, but there are still a few out there. (Two of my favorite films, The Rocketeer and Streets of Fire among them.) You may still run across such discs, and in order to properly display them on your TV you'll need to use one of the zoom modes.

    Regards,


    Joe
     
  5. Sebastien Richard

    Sebastien Richard Auditioning

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    Excellent! Thanks.


    and, oops, yes, I meant "component" the three separate video cables -- I always get component/composite confused. Sorry about that.


    Great, things to tinker with when I get home tonight...
     
  6. Andrew Pierce

    Andrew Pierce Stunt Coordinator

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    [EDIT -- Joeseph already covered what I posted, nothing here to see, move along]
     

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