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Outboard Video Processors (scalers/deinterlacers,etc.) ** From My Perspective **

CEDIA 2005-2007

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#1 of 16 RAF

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Posted September 18 2006 - 05:57 PM

A lot has been said about the ability of a device to accept 1080p input for the past year or so and CEDIA delivered on the manufacturers' promise to provide 1080p input on their new 1080p sets. While a 1080p display must, of course, be able to construct the 1080p image from lesser sources if there is no 1080p input using its internal scaling/deinterlacing, etc. I've always taken the position that the best way to do this is to use an external device for the scaling, etc. In this way you always have the ability to upgrade your scaler/deinterlacer without having to upgrade your display. In fact that's a major reason I chose the HP MD5880n over the Sony SXRD RPM last year and I've not been sorry. The reason is that in the short span of a year my current scaler, a DVDO iScan VP30 has undergone two (!) major upgrades and more are promised. First, early in 2006, DVDO introduced a daughterboard for the VP30 which greatly enhanced deinterlacing of 480i source material (I installed it and it performs as advertised) and now at CEDIA they were demonstrating the VP50 which not only enhances 1080i deinterlacing in state of the art fashion but also will add many other features such as PREP (reinterlacing "forced" progressive sources so that they can be handled properly) and many other things. My point here is that without outboard scaling these upgrades could not be accomplished if your display must use its internal scaling.

Now along come new, inexpensive 3 chip FPs with 1080p input and the use of outboard processors becomes even more attractive. While I'm most familiar with the iScan line, there are also other companies which offer scaling/deinterlacing products that can accomplish the same goal for those who want to extract the last drop of performance out of their displays. Here's a place to discuss what I saw at CEDIA in this regard.
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#2 of 16 Alon Goldberg

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Posted September 18 2006 - 06:17 PM

Products features HQV Processing at CEDIA 2006: http://news.ecoustic....81/269118.html

#3 of 16 Robert Crawford

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Posted September 18 2006 - 11:32 PM

RAF,
What did you find out about the VP50 and if there are other brands that competes with it option and price-wise?



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#4 of 16 Adam Gregorich

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Posted September 19 2006 - 07:47 AM

The VP50 is a beautiful piece. It is even more upgradable than the VP30. The 50 adds deinterlacing support for 1080i sources and they demonstrated (not in production units yet) that will take 480P sources, rip them back to 480i and then upconvert them from there. This is for people who have DSS and cable boxes that only output 480P. I think it is very competitive for what it does.

#5 of 16 Robert Crawford

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Posted September 20 2006 - 02:21 PM

I'm thinking hard about the VP-50. RAF, what else did you find out about it?

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#6 of 16 RAF

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Posted September 20 2006 - 03:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Crawford
I'm thinking hard about the VP-50. RAF, what else did you find out about it?

The whole purpose of this thread was to introduce the concept of outboard processors to those who consider themselves to be HT "Prosumers" but who only think of connecting sources like players and HDTV boxes, etc. to a display, perhaps through an A/V receiver or similar. Scaling and deinterlacing is necessary in order for any digital display to be able to handle anything other than its native resolution. For example, if you have a 720p display, then if it wasn't for scaling/deinterlacing then your display could only handle 720p input. That would eliminate an awful lot of sources! But the display will take your 480i, or 480p or 1080i, or anything else (within reason) signal and "process it" to provide 720p output. The same goes for any other display with any other resolution. And here's where the fun begins.

Not all scalers/deinterlacers are created equal. Some do the job better than others. In general, an outboard video processor will handle the task much better and, even if the internal processor in your TV is a good one at the time you buy it, it will quickly become last year's technology as soon as improvements are made in processing. This is exactly why, when I was looking for a 1080p RPM last year I insisted that the set have 1080p input (and my only choices were the HP that you and I both own and the Brilian - which is more expensive and from a small company.) I liked a lot of the other sets (like the Sony SXRD units) but in 2005 the only inputs were 1080i compatible so you HAD to use the internal Sony deinterlacing circuits to achieve the 1080p picture.

I chose to purchase a DVDO iScan VP30 and have not been sorry. Not only does it act as a video switcher, with four HDMI inputs (you can add even more with an accessory box) but it's touted as an "anything in - anything out" product. With its customization menu you can actually choose output resolutions that are not standard by dialing in your parameters for specific needs. For example, 720p plasmas are usually not exactly 720p (1280 x 720) but can vary according to the manufacturer. It might really be something like 1024 x 768 or maybe 1366 x 768 (depending on the size and/or the manufacturer). By placing the VP30 (or any other capable video processor) between the source and the display you can actually feed the display its native resolution so you have a pixel-for-pixel image. This eliminates a lot of the artifacts that some digital sets exhibit and assures maximum performance of your set. Of course, an outboard processor won't rescue a poor source or a poor display, but you get the picture (pun intended.)

With a 1080p input capable display, everything is left up to the external processor and if processing changes, you display isn't suddenly obsolete. And this can happen quicker than one might imagine. In less than a year there have been two major improvements to the DVDO processors (and I'm sure the same can be said for other manufacturers since this is all about keeping up with the Joneses). In February, DVDO announced that it had come up with some improved chips to deinterlace 480i (their "102" modification board) and it was offered to current owners for $199 (list is $499). This is a gross oversimplification of the additional features of this deinterlacing card and you can learn more by checking out the DVDO site here. My point here is that I was able to upgrade without buying a complete new unit. And then right before CEDIA DVDO announced its new iScan VP50 which adds its excellent deinterlacing algorithms found on the deinterlacing card to 1080i. Since current HD-DVD is 1080i and you own a 1080p capable set the improvement in the picture will be immediate. We saw demonstrations of the de-interlacing in action and it was impressive, to say the least.

And the VP50 doesn't stop there. As Adam mentioned, there soon will be a new feature (upgradable via a firmware update using USB/RS-232) that DVDO calls PReP. This will take 480p signals (forced on a lot of us from SD from set top boxes) and re-interlace them to 480i. Then the DVDO circuitry, which does such a great job changing 480i to 1080p can do its stuff. It's almost like this box can correct the "mistakes" made by cheap interlacers in $49 set top boxes. And that's just the beginning regarding the VP50. Look here for a lot more on this product (I suspect you already have, but I place the link here for others who may not be familiar with this.) I have one on order and the trade in policy on my VP30 is amazingly liberal.

Video processing is finding its way into other products as well as displays. Most of us are familiar with "upscaling" DVD players and some of you have probably noticed an increasing number of A/V receivers that feature video processors built in. The problem with all this is the same as with the displays. As video processing improves the player or the receiver with the "older" video processor is no longer state of the art. By concentrating the processing in a single box, not only can you have a handle on the advance of technology but you can save considerable money on your players and your receiver. Incidentally, the "ideal" SD DVD player would be one that outputs 480i since that's what's on an SD-DVD. (The Oppo 970 does this). And the ideal HD player (be it HD-DVD or Blu-ray) would be one that outputs 1080p since that's what's on the HD disc. (Some first generation players don't do this). If anything other than what's on the disc comes out of the box then something inside has altered the video signal - and that could present a bit of a visual problem. "Straight-Through" access to the video stored on the disc would be a much better way of handling the video if one owns a separate video processor.

In summary, with a display capable of bypassing its internal video processor (like my HP MD5880n which is a 1080p set accepting 1080p from the outside or the new Sony Pearl and many other products shown this year at CEDIA) a product like the VP20, VP30, VP50 or processors from other manufacturers can be added to a person's system without obsoleting your display. If I had purchased last year's Sony SXRD RPM I would be stuck- TWICE! (Note: The Ruby projector also accepted 1080p native input so it would have been fine in this regard. Along with the HP and the Brilian these were the only products at CEDIA 2005 so equipped. This year the floor teemed with 1080p inputs!)

So what's the bottom line? My recommendations to anyone considering any digital display from this point forward is to make sure that your display can accept the native resolution that it displays (e.g. a 1080p set with 1080p input). Then, if you want to add an external Video Processor you have that option. If you are stuck with having to go through the internal processor of the display (do the math - it won't be as good as an external processor) there is a good chance that the electronics of the display will undo some of the magic done by the external processor. Am I suggesting that everyone buy a display with an external processor? In a perfect world (where money was no object), yes. But in the real world, I realize that this would be a budget buster - or at least stretch things to the limit. But if you take my recommendation and make sure your new digital display can bypass the internal scaling you are at least in a position to add an outboard video processor should you wish later on. (Prices do come down faster than you think as quality goes up.) There is absolutely nothing wrong with most reputable manufacturers' internal video processing when the sets are released but as improvements come along the newer sets will probably look better. And a lot of this has to do with improving the video processing. With the outboard processor option you can stay ahead of the curve - both in displays and in processing.

One last comment: The Sony "Pearl" lists for $5000. The DVDO VP-50 lists for $3000. In the first place, these are list prices and street is probably considerably less. But for a maximum of $8000 (minus any discount) you can get one superb picture today that you could only dream about just last year. And since this is a "component" approach to things, you can improve one item without getting rid of the other. And while I have been concentrating on the Sony "Pearl" and the DVDO iScan VP50 because I am familiar with these products I don't mean to imply that these are the only solutions. There are other displays (FP, RPM, Plasmas, etc.) out there that you can use, as well as Video Processors from other manufacturers (Lumagen, et. al.) A little Googling can go a long way.

And whenever you look at the top of the line projectors from the "heavy hitters" (like Runco and similar) you notice that their top of the line models always come with external video processing. Now maybe you understand why.

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#7 of 16 Adam Gregorich

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Posted September 21 2006 - 05:04 AM

Quote:
With its customization menu you can actually choose output resolutions that are not standard by dialing in your parameters for specific needs. For example, 720p plasmas are usually not exactly 720p (1280 x 720) but can vary according to the manufacturer. It might really be something like 1024 x 768 or maybe 1366 x 768 (depending on the size and/or the manufacturer). By placing the VP30 (or any other capable video processor) between the source and the display you can actually feed the display its native resolution so you have a pixel-for-pixel image. This eliminates a lot of the artifacts that some digital sets exhibit and assures maximum performance of your set. Of course, an outboard processor won't rescue a poor source or a poor display, but you get the picture (pun intended.)

You also have full adjustment on all inputs too, so you can compensate for any problems on the source side.

#8 of 16 RAF

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Posted September 21 2006 - 09:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich
You also have full adjustment on all inputs too, so you can compensate for any problems on the source side.

Yes, that's why I characterized it as an "anything in - anything out" product. While that might be an oversimplification, the amount of control over what enters and what exits the video processor is extremely flexible for just about any possible situation. Thanks for the clarification.
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#9 of 16 Hartwig Hanser

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Posted September 21 2006 - 09:00 PM

Quote: The Sony "Pearl" lists for $5000. The DVDO VP-50 lists for $3000. In the first place, these are list prices and street is probably considerably less. But for a maximum of $8000 (minus any discount) you can get one superb picture today that you could only dream about just last year. End of quote


just another thought: For half of this ($4000) you get the Mitsubishi HC5000 which offers also 1080p/24 input and has HQV processing built in. I am eagerly awaiting the first real reviews. IF the HQV processing does its job as expected, you will probably not need an outboard processor since the internal processing should be superb.

#10 of 16 Robert Crawford

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Posted September 22 2006 - 12:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartwig Hanser
Quote: The Sony "Pearl" lists for $5000. The DVDO VP-50 lists for $3000. In the first place, these are list prices and street is probably considerably less. But for a maximum of $8000 (minus any discount) you can get one superb picture today that you could only dream about just last year. End of quote


just another thought: For half of this ($4000) you get the Mitsubishi HC5000 which offers also 1080p/24 input and has HQV processing built in. I am eagerly awaiting the first real reviews. IF the HQV processing does its job as expected, you will probably not need an outboard processor since the internal processing should be superb.
Will whatever processing built in be as good as having an outboard processor? I would think that the internal unit wouldn't be as good to what's been built into an outside unit with its main function being video processing.

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#11 of 16 RAF

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Posted September 22 2006 - 03:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartwig Hanser
just another thought: For half of this ($4000) you get the Mitsubishi HC5000 which offers also 1080p/24 input and has HQV processing built in. I am eagerly awaiting the first real reviews. IF the HQV processing does its job as expected, you will probably not need an outboard processor since the internal processing should be superb.

While this is certainly another option for those who wish to go this way I would contend that there is no way that a $4000 projector can provide the same capabilities of a $3000 outboard video processor based on economic considerations alone. I'm always leery of any product that claims to perform as well as external devices when those devices cost about 75% of the product. The VP50 (and similar units from other companies) does so much more than the built-in video processing in any projector. And even if the internal processing is "superb" as you predict, you are talking about today. As I mentioned, there have been two significant upgrades in the DVDO VP30 et. al. in the last year (first a better 480i interlacing algorithm and now the introduction of the VP50 with so many new features, like PReP and much more to follow via firmware upgrades) so that today's "superb" processors become tomorrow's "adequate" processors in a very short time frame. Besides, there's a lot more to video processing than accepting a signal and turning it into the native resolution of the display. External Video Processors can actually re-interlace progressive signals that were poorly deinterlaced (like on cheap set top boxes), adjust for audio time delays, and a whole host of other things that are not usually found on display internal processors. And, at least in the case of products from DVDO, the upgrade path is quite seamless as the technology advances.

That said, I have no doubt that the HC5000 is a fine projector and it would be fairer to compare it to the "Pearl" directly since the VPL-VW50 also accepts native 1080p/24 and does internal video processing as well. I would suspect that both units could be had for within $500 of each other (rumor has it that "street" on the Pearl in power buys will be somewhere around $4300 although specifics are vague at this point) and both don't need external video processing to create their pictures. Personally, I much prefer an LCoS picture to an LCD picture but others might have differing opinions. The nice thing about any display that will accept its native resolution at its inputs is that you can choose to add an external video processor if you want to, or you can just let it stand on its own merits. Lots of people will purchase these and other projectors without ever using an external video processor and that's fine. But if the bug hits you, and your budget permits, you always have the option of adding external processing to take advantage of advances in the technology. I'm presenting outboard processing as an option for your consideration, not something that I consider mandatory for all consumers. The fact that one is considering a 1080p display shows a bit of familiarity with the current state of display technologies. My purpose here is to let you know ways that you can extract every last drop of video out of the display you are considering. With a display that can't handle its output resolution directly (like a 1080p display with 1080i maximum inputs) you are always locked into using the internal processing of the display as part of the video chain.

Different strokes for different folks.
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#12 of 16 Theogenes

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Posted September 30 2006 - 11:55 AM

Don't know if anyone is still reading this, but I've read over this thread a time or two, and I was wondering what the general consensus is on HTPCs. I have been trying to research and learn more about video upscalers and have been pretty impressed with DVDO and Lumagen so far, but I've (very briefly) looked over a couple of HTPC threads as well, and now I'm trying to figure out which would be better. It seems like this would be taking one of the big DVDO advantages, upgradability, and taking it to the nth degree. Plus the ability to possibly build in a DVD burner, HDD recorder, etc, which would be great (for me at least). And finally, it seems like one could build an adequate (-to-pretty-good?) scaler for the same money or less. I understand that it will be difficult with an HTPC to keep up with the very latest in scaling technology, but that is not something that is of overwhelming importance to some newbies like myself.

So what's the verdict? HTPC: challenger to the formerly exclusive world of video scalers, or hopelessly behind haphazard attempt to slap together a scaling solution? Any thoughts?
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#13 of 16 David Ruiz

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Posted September 30 2006 - 02:25 PM

I was wondering the same thing a Theogenes. I used to read endless coments from people on how HTPCs were ultimate in scaling because of their versitility and their upgradablility (easy to change from one software to another). Wouldn't it be WAY cheaper to use a HTPC than something like the DVDO? If someone has a HTPC already, I don't see why they shouldn't use it.

Are products like the DVDO much, much better than HTPCs at scaling?

#14 of 16 Adam Gregorich

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Posted September 30 2006 - 04:28 PM

Excellent questions. I don't know how the quality of the two compare, but I'll give some other observations. With a HTPC you can "scale" sources native to the HTPC: Anything you have recorded over a DVR/tuner, and anything playing on the optical drive. You can't scale sources external to the HTPC, things like cable box, DSS receiver, gaming system. DVDO offers a generous upgrade program. How many video card manufactures do that? Most scalers can adjust the settings for each input to get the most out of your sources.

If you only had a DVD player in your theater a HTPC might be a good way to go. After Vista HTPCs will be able to have cablecards so that would be a second source. If you have more sources then that an external scaler would be the only way to go.

#15 of 16 Theogenes

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Posted October 01 2006 - 02:31 PM

So you couldn't use it to scale sources like cable boxes? That pretty much kills it for me. That was the primary reason I was considering one. If Vista will be able to scale cable, that might work. Will be able to scale coax only, or component, etc? Any idea how good the scaling will be? And how long 'til Vista becomes available? I'm trying to gauge whether it's worth waiting or not. I would reeeeeeeeeeeeeally like to avoid paying $2000 for a decent DVDO or Lumagen unit. Oh, and if I can't avoid buying a unit, does anybody have any particular suggestions? Either of good DVDO or Lumagen units, or maybe another brand altogether? Thanks for the help so far!!
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#16 of 16 shingdaz

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Posted April 20 2007 - 11:40 AM

Great breifing on the DVDO scaler...but I'm just wondering about it's settings?

Can the setting of the unit be cusomized for each input source?...example...Cable box ~ HD DVD ~ Game system?...or does it actually convert all signals from each channel / source and display them on one output channel together?

If I wanted to watch one source from the unit...does it have a remote to switch what source channel input I desire?

In general does this unit function properly when using same SAME SOURCE OUTPUT SETTINGS?...or will one of my sources video quality be reduced due to other sources settings necessities? ex. setting fps to 24fps...will this affect my cable boxes output...even if set @ 480i?...where this particular output willimprove my HD DVD video content?

Can this unit remove sidebars associated with 720p output?...I feel side~bars reduce the wide feild panorma display characteristics of a widescreen LCD TV...can it remove them while still keeping a 720p resolution?...I mean...what is the purpose of 720p output when in actuallity your only using half your monitors video output with sidebars on top and bottom?....which really leaves you with about 500p resolution if you do t he math...sinse I understand that 32" monitors have 720 pixels vertically...add the sidbars a nd you use less pxiels...right?


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