Dumb question number 1

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Father John A, Oct 7, 2002.

  1. Father John A

    Father John A Stunt Coordinator

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    Though I have read quite a few articles on Anamorphic DVD I am at a loss concerning the "squeeze". What is this and why is it important on a new set.

    Thanks for your patience.

    Fr. John
     
  2. Jim FC

    Jim FC Stunt Coordinator

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    Fr John,
    To make a long story short, the "squeeze" you have read about is a method certain 4:3 ratio TVs use to improve the video quality of widescreen DVD images. An NTSC (non-high definition) TV can display about 500 lines of resolution from the top of the screen to the bottom. If you are watching a widescreen movie, up to 1/3 of the TV's 500 lines are used to draw the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, which means that the lines left for the image itself are not many, and the picture you actually see is pretty low-res.

    An anamorphic (or "enhanced for widescreen") DVD is encoded in such a way that it contains 500 lines of information for the image itself, not including the black bars. Because a widescreen TV does not have to bother with drawing the black bars, it can use all 500 of these lines to create a much more detailed image on the screen. What the squeeze does is to allow a 4:3 ratio TV to do the same thing: to waste no lines of resolution on the black bars, in order to get the highest possible picture quality in the image itself.

    Most Sony Wega TVs have this feature built into the setup menu, and if you watch a lot of widescreen DVDs it is a very cool feature and one worth spending a bit more money to get, IMO. Hope this helps!
     
  3. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    To amplify a bit on the answer given by Jim FC, a 4:3 TV that does the squeeze properly will display images intended for 16:9 televisions with virtually equal picture quality to the an actual 16:9 set. So you can set your DVD player, for instance, on 16:9 output even though you have a 4:3 TV. In my opinion this pretty much eliminates any advantages of a widescreen TV, at least as far as picture quality is concerned (although widescreen sets still have other desirable qualities like looking cool and trendy).

    However, some manufacturers cheat a little and use one form or another of "fake squeeze" where they simply discard 1/4 of the scan lines rather than resizing the raster area to accomplish the "real squeeze". Hitachi direct-view sets do this, for one example. Any mention you see of "810 lines" on an HD-ready set is a giveaway. Other sets are limited to only doing the squeeze on 1080i HDTV programming, which means they can't do the squeeze on DVD's. Some current-model Panasonic sets have this restriction.

    I seem to recall that you're on a tight budget. If you get a non-HD-ready TV, for DVD viewing you will get a big advantage from finding a set that does the squeeze. Unfortunately, very few analog models other than Sony WEGA's do the squeeze automatically. But there are some analog sets which can be tricked into doing the squeeze by using service menus.
     
  4. Father John A

    Father John A Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you both for the VERY informative follow-ups.

    I guess I am fortunate on a number of fronts. First, I will most likely buy Sony as I am a Sony fan, so this is good for the squeeze obviously. Second, I will be watching mostly DVDs so this will be a nice feature.

    You are correct in mentioning my budget. I have determined though that I either need to increase somewhat or buckle up and wait another year or so. My fear is that a year from now I may really regret buying now because 40" widescreens may be closer to my budget and more abundant.

    If I do buy now, I am leaning towards a 36" 4:3 as I have read several posts concerning the small percentage of screen realestate lost between it and a 34" 16:9. I am not however looking forward to the behemoth wieght and dimensions.

    One other question, how do you all test the sets in the store? I have pretty much determined that this is impossible. Considering the poor viewing areas in the stores, the fact that the sets are NEVER adjusted properly and the umpteen times the signal they are using has been split, most of the sets look really bad. I have even noticed that the Sony's seems to look among the worst though I know this can't be.

    Fr. John
     
  5. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    Here's how I did my shopping, which was at several Best Buy and Circuit City stores back in August. I used the pseudo-HD demo feed that they had running to form general impressions of the different sets. I would get the remote and try to at least get them off of so-called Torch Mode that they are typically shipped with from the factory. On the Sony's this involves choosing the "Pro" or "Movie" setting. On some of the other brands there would be a "Movie" or "Theater" or "Cinema" or similar setting. I think you can tell a lot from a decent in-store feed once you get the TV to some sort of fairly neutral setting like this.

    When I narrowed it down to a couple of models (Hitachi, Panasonic and Sony 36" direct-views in my case) I insisted that the sales person hook up a DVD player. It's sort of a pain to do this the way they have them displayed and takes patience from you and the sales rep but that's the only way to really tell what the picture will be like. Set the DVD player to 16:9 output and be sure you're using a DVD labelled "Enhanced for 16:9 television" (or similar). This will let you find out if the set is doing the squeeze and how it looks in that mode. Bringing your own favorite DVD is probably a good idea, too.

    In my case, I liked the picture on one of the Panasonics better than the Sonys when the DVD player was in 4:3 mode. However, switching it to 16:9 demonstrated that this particular model (36HX42) didn't do the squeeze on 480i or 480p material. The enhanced 16:9 picture on a Sony 36XBR450 compared to the unenhanced 4:3 picture on the Panasonic wasn't even close. The difference between the enhanced picture and non-enhanced was waaaay larger than my slight preference for the punchier Panasonic picture tube when both were displaying unenhanced DVD images.

    So I ended up with a 36XBR800, the replacement for the discontinued 36XBR450. I didn't want to buy a TV that had been on display for several months and they really weren't willing to cut the price much anyway. I think the one you really ought to seek out is the 36HS500 (or 35HS?00, can't recall for sure) which is a somewhat less expensive alternative with every bit the picture quality of the 36XBR800. If the new HS-series had been available when I bought my XBR I probably would have saved the $300 or whatever the difference is.
     
  6. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    Let me make one other comment about the impossibility of thoroughly evaluating a TV in the store. Circuit City, in my experience, really does deliver on their promise of easy returns within 30 days or whatever. If the TV disappoints you after it's been in your home for a few evenings they really will come pick it up and let you get a different model or even give you a refund. You might be out the $30 delivery charge in that case, I'm not sure.
     
  7. Jan Strnad

    Jan Strnad Screenwriter

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    Father John,

    If you can wait, you'll be way ahead of the game. With TV-as-we-know-it scheduled to be switched off in 2006 and replaced with God-knows-exactly-what (perhaps you could ask Him and get back to us), the longer you can wait, the better, and the more and more-affordable choices you'll have. It's a kind of tough time to buy a TV right now, since we're in transition.

    Jan
     
  8. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Here's the simplified answer to your original question.

    A so-called "anamorphic" widescreen DVD is simply encoded to output its 480 lines of resolution into a 16:9 shape (or window). Whereas a standard 4:3 DVD is encoded to put out an image of 480 lines into the 4:3 shape. Neither type possesses more resolution than the other; they are merely encoded to output an image in one shape or the other.

    The problem arises when one wants to watch a 16:9-encoded DVD on a 4:3 television or monitor. Without the so-called "squeeze," one must tell his or her DVD player to output the image of the widescreen-encoded DVD into a format known as "4:3 letterbox." This means the player must scale the image to its correct proportions internally, by using every third line of resolution to draw the black bars above and below the picture information. The result is a net loss of 33 percent in terms of active picture resolution, since so many lines have been used to make the black bars.

    A way around this problem is to collapse the 4:3 television's scanning line raster into a 16:9 shape. Your standard-shaped television has then become a de facto 16:9 monitor. Because of that, you can then tell the DVD player it is outputting to a 16:9 television. As a result, all 480 lines of resolution are visible within this 16:9 window, with the black bars above and below the picture being nothing more than dead, unused space.

    This is a good compromise for this transitional era before widescreen monitors prevail.
     
  9. jeff lam

    jeff lam Screenwriter

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    If you watch mostly DVD's, I would suggest the 16x9 set. The 34XBR800 is just about the same price as the 36XBR800.
     
  10. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I agree with Jeff's recommendation and reasoning.
     
  11. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    At my local Circuit City, last time I was in there, the 34XBR800 was something like $200-$300 more than the 36XBR800 which in turn was about $300 more than the 36HS500.

    I'd submit that to someone on a budget the 36HS500 is the one to choose, considering that any DVD that can be displayed on the 34XBR800 can also be displayed with (at least nearly) equal picture quality.

    A difference of $500 ain't chicken feed.
     
  12. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Interesting point. If I am correct, the HS-series WEGAs do not employ 2:3 pulldown circuitry. This situation can be amerliorated with a prog-scan DVD player that does emply 2:3 pulldown.
     
  13. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    No, the 36HS500 has Cinemotion including the reverse pulldown. What the 36HS500 lacks is the "DRC Multifunction V1" which is the two-parameter adjustable DRC that was introduced in the 36XBR800 (the 36XBR450 did not have it). That's probably what you were recalling.

    There's also that wide-band video amplifier and some warranty differences but the adjustable DRC is the biggie, performance-wise.
     
  14. jeff lam

    jeff lam Screenwriter

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    Brent,
    Have you had a chance to play around with the adjustable DRC on your 36XBR? I was trying to figure out the differences between the HS and XBR. The HS has 3 choices, but the XBR has "advanced video settings". Is this the adjustable DRC? I didn't really want to play around with it in the store.
     
  15. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    Yes, I've played around with it. It's basically a two-parameter sharpness control except instead of controlling a high-frequency boost (like the "Sharpness" setting) it controls how much detail the DRC puts in when it interpolates (horizontally, vertically and in the time domain, BTW) the NTSC signal to convert it to 1080i for display. I'm not clear on what the difference is in the two parameters, labelled "Clarity" and "Reality".

    The "Reality" is that with my crummy analog cable feed and Dish Network's overcompressed satellite programming the DRC works best when set at or close to (0,0) on the adjustable scale. That is the lowest apparent "sharpness" setting. Moving this down to (0,0) helps a lot with noisy analog cable and nothing helps much with overcompressed DBS.
     
  16. Father John A

    Father John A Stunt Coordinator

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    Wow, what an informative thread!

    OK now what is the DRC setting? I do not consider myself a newbie at all this but since it has been soemtime (11 years) since I had to buy a tube I am finding myself a little behind.

    Also, can anyone recommend a good source for all the terminology? Searching through the HTF threads would be very cumbersome.

    I am, by the way, leaning towards waiting another year. I hope it doesnt turn into more though, for as I said in another thread, my current trinitron has a short in the video in which requires frequent wigglin'.

    I am intrigued by the 36HS500 though, the XBR's are out of my range.
     
  17. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    DRC is Sony's fancy name for the upconversion process that most (if not all) HD-ready televisions have to do to accept a lower-resolution signal (from DVD or off-the-air analog television) and display it in the native 1080-line resolution of the TV. I think it is supposed to mean "Digital Reality Creation" but it's basically a process of interpolating between the information (typically 480 lines) in the low-resolution signal to create a nice-looking 1080-line version.

    Sony's upconversion has the reputation of not dealing entirely gracefully with poor-quality analog TV signals. Not only does a poor signal look worse when you magnify it onto a 36" or bigger screen, the DRC actually tends to exaggerate how bad it looks. Or maybe it's that other vendors' upconversions are better at covering up how bad it is. Anyway, the 36XBR800 (but not the 36HS500) has two adjustable settings on the DRC to give some possibility of tweaking it on a given low-quality feed until it looks better than it would on the default DRC setting.

    Either version of the DRC, along with Sony's "Cinemotion" feature which reverses the 3:2 pulldown used to encode films onto DVD, does a spectacular job on DVD programs. The whole adjustable bit has to do with dealing with poorer-quality signals than those coming from a DVD.
     

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