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My DVDO iScan VP50 upconverter is making me fall in love with laserdiscs all over again! (1 Viewer)

MatthewA

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The Peter Pan thread got me thinking. I have a few laserdiscs lying around, so I should try to find a way to watch them. My AV receiver (STR-DH820) has an odd quirk: it can output 1080p video via HDMI from a 480i component source — in this case, a Pioneer CLD-D406 laserdisc player. But since it is native 16x9, it automatically squashes the 4x3 source to that ratio, and neither the receiver nor the projector (Epson Home Cinema 3020) can change it. What did I do about it? I bought myself an upconverter. The DVD iScan VP50, to be exact. Why? For the aspect ratio adjustment options. And because even the few samples I watched of the film looked better with it than without it. I also went back and tracked down the original pre-restoration Pinocchio laserdisc from 1985. I first saw the film on VHS with that same transfer, and despite all the work to clean it up since then, it was something else to see it again as I first saw it, with the cel dust visible and a much warmer color scheme with the shadows not artificially brightened so much*. In a perverse way, despite those imperfections and the fact that picture and sound are both analog, it felt like a movie again.

But what about DVD and Blu-ray? Is there a point to using it to watch those? Oh, yes, very much so if, like I do, you have a constant image height projection screen and want to get the most out of 2.35:1 movies. The "active aspect ratio" button lets you control the size and shape of the picture to your liking. It's supposed to make it look better on projectors with anamorphic lens attachments, but even without one (it's way out of my price range, sadly) Blu-rays of widescreen movies can still look great. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Criterion roadshow edition) and Grease (40th anniversary Blu-ray that came with the 4k UHD) looked and sounded spectacular with this setup. Even material based on standard-definition videotape can look good: I sampled Motown 25 on laserdisc and Diff'rent Strokes on DVD**, and they looked as good as a TV broadcast of the era. I use a PS4 for DVD and Blu-ray. The internal upconverter is pretty good in and of itself, but I just thought they, too, looked better with it.

Now I'm tempted to see if VHS and Beta can be brought back to a presentable state this way. I'm not expecting miracles there. But after all these years, I finally found the secret to the perfect marriage of analog and digital: an external upconverter.

*Despite the absence of RKO or Buena Vista logo and the music that accompanied it, which would return on later releases.

**If Gary Coleman had gotten his way and season 7 had been the show's end, it would have ended with Arnold and an epileptic street performer suggesting Sam that they go see a different movie than Pinocchio for a change. They should be lucky it was that he was obsessed with.
 

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