My First Look at Big Screens (Observations and Questions)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brent Hutto, Jul 18, 2002.

  1. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    We went to see Minority Report this past weekend in two different muliplexes (first hour in one, whole movie in another a few hours later, long story). For the first time since setting up a DVD player and surround sound at home, I noticed how narrow the screen on our 27" TV seems in comparison. (As an aside, I noticed this only because the dialog was muddy in the first theater and the picture was jittery in the second, making me think "Wow, I'd sure rather be watching this at home".)

    So inevitably, when I went by Circuit City at lunchtime to pick up a couple of DVD's I was drawn against my will to their display of bigger screens. This was literally the first time I've ever examined a TV larger than 32" for more than a minute. I thought I'd share my initial observations, although with God as my witness I am *not* going to buy a new TV! Well not before Christmas, at least ;-).

    Observation 1: Whether it's variability in quality from unit to unit or the setup differences in the store, there is a wide range of picture quality among similar TV's in the store. For instance, their 40" Sony XBR had a decent picture but not critically sharp The 36" XBR ten feet away had just about the sharpest picture I've ever seen on a TV screen, both showing video from the same source.

    Observation 1a: Man, that 36" XBR had a sharp, contrasty picture. Especially when I found the remote and took it off "Vivid" mode. I mean, that was a good-looking picture, you know?

    Observation 2: At least in this store, the 53" and 61" Sony rear-projection HDTV's were the cream of the mid-size crop. On some of the bigger screens, the differences were harder to discern. On the smaller 43" ones, the Sony and Hitachi had virtually identical pictures but sharpness and shadow richness on the 61" Sony was excellent and the 53" was very similar.

    Observation 2a: The Sony RPTV's looked cleaner when taken out of "Vivid" mode, but the tradeoff was that the 53" was a bit on the darkish side in "Pro" mode.

    Observation 2b: You really, really need to have your eye vertically centered on all of the RPTV's I saw. Even being six inches high or low (standing seven feet back from the screen) makes a huge difference.

    Observation 3: The width difference between a 43" RPTV and a 36" direct-view tube is not sufficient to be worth the price in sharpness and brightness. If you're going to make the (IMO) large tradeoff in viewability to get past the large end of the direct-view range, you really need to get that wraparound effect from a 25 degree or more picture width (note that this is all based on the screen-to-eyeball distance of around 77" in my home theater, which I tried to approximate in the store).

    Observation 4: A little over $2,200 gets a bigger screen for our home theater. That buys a 36" XBR or a 53" Sony RPTV, although there's a pricey stand to buy for any direct-view tube. Adding in a progressive-scan DVD player ($180 for a Panasonic), a few cables, tax and delivery gets to $3K+ right quickly.

    Observation 4a: I don't think either option is truly worth it. A 53" RPTV would just absolutely dominate our little 14-foot square TV-viewing room. And then you've got to get situated right in the sweet spot for it to look its best and at the end of the day it won't even be as sharp-looking as our plain-vanilla 27" Sony. OTOH, a 36" XBR would be an improvement in both size and sharpness (at least viewing DVD's) but we're still talking about a apparent width that's narrower than even the back row of a tiny multiplex theater. For three kilobucks, the width of the screen ought to increase by more than a mere 30% or so.

    Non-Observation: This store didn't have a Hitachi 36" tube on display. The picture on their 32" looked great and the curved screen is no big deal. I suppose it's possible that a 36" Hitachi TV on a generic stand of some sort would get us up to that size for more like $1,500. I'd have to figure out a way to sit a foot closer to the screen to get a nice theater-like viewing angle but it is a possibility if the picture quality is there.

    Questions: Why do some RPTV's have a swirling grain pattern superimposed on the picture? It looks almost like a dirty lens or mirror. Actually, it looks most like the grainy effect on the viewfinder of a cheap SLR camara. It was the worst on "widescreen" models. The source they were feeding seemed to some sort of high-definition 4:3 so maybe it was because most of them were set to either "stretch" or "zoom" mode. Sure was a crappy picture, especially if you get up too close to the screen. Second question, how long do the RGB tubes in an RPTV last, assuming a reasonable "contrast" setting? Maybe a few hundred hours? More than that?
     
  2. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Way more than that. More like in the thousands of hours.

    As to your other comments: It's hard to make heads or tails of what you see in a showroom. Even when you fiddle with the picture settings a bit, it is by eye--and even then, the showroom lighting makes it difficult to compare one set with another. And don't forget the horrible source material being used (usually a bad cable signal split who knows how many times).

    With RPTVs, you're always going to have a "sweetspot" issue to deal with; they do not look as good when they are viewed off-axis. But while direct-view sets may appear sharper and have a wider viewing angle, they do not resolve the detail that a good RPTV design can.
     
  3. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    From Jack:
    ...And don't forget the horrible source material being used (usually a bad cable signal split who knows how many times)...

    This store was running one of those HD-demo loops through all their HD sets, actually. But I know what you mean about the usual crummy, weak cable TV signal they pipe everywhere.

    From Jack:
    ...while direct-view sets may appear sharper and have a wider viewing angle, they do not resolve the detail that a good RPTV design can...

    If it's not too much of a RTFM question, I'd be interested in more detail on this issue. Let's say you send the output from a progressive-scan DVD player (playing an anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 movie) to a 53" Sony RPTV and a 36" XBR tube.

    Are you saying that the total information available to my eyeballs is greater and more accurate from the RPTV? By implication, that would mean that the greater apparent sharpness of the XBR is from being smaller, right?

    Moving from spatial frequencies to the time domain -- do the CRT's in the RPTV react as quickly to changes in the picture as the CRT in the XBR? To my eye, it sometimes seems not. I've always assumed it was because the rear-projector's tubes are being driven much harder (brighter) and the phosphors don't fade as quickly.
     
  4. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Brent,

    Direct view sets have shadow masks (wire grids in Sonys) inside the picture tubes, rptvs don't. Thus an rptv is actually capable of more resolution.

    The 36" direct view was sharper looking due to the smaller screen. If you look carefully for small details in the picture, you'll see more on the rptv.

    In the last 5 years I've had a 35" Sony XBR and 3 rptvs, never noticed any lag in phosphor decay on the rptvs, but I don't run them as bright as the stores do.

    When looking at sets in the store, you need to do more than just switch between the preset picture modes (VIVID, PRO, Movie, etc.). Sonys and most others will allow you to adjust the individual settings like contrast and color in each mode, and until you get this deep into adjustments you can't really compare one set's picture to another. Just switching picture modes only compares one mfg's presets to another's.

    I went from a 27" to 32" to 35" direct view but never felt like I was getting a really good home theater experience with widescreen movies until I went to my first rptv, a 53" analog 4/3 Hitachi. The picture just wasn't big enough from my 13' viewing distance.

    My present set is a 57" Sony widescreen HD-ready model, and with progressive scan dvd it's picture is as close to looking like a projected film image as I'm likely to get for under $3k. I really feel like I'm watching a Movie, not Video, is the only way I can express it.

    I am fortunate in that my room setup does allow for optimum viewing position as far as off-axis problems with rptvs.

    You will find also that the off-axis problem is very much more severe in the vertical plane than side to side.
     
  5. Steve_Tk

    Steve_Tk Cinematographer

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    First time I saw Shrek on a 51" Wide screen Sony I couldn't believe the details I was seeing. I noticed so many things that were just way too small for me to notice on a 27". Even when going home and putting shrek on the 27" again, I had to get really close to pick up on the same images, and couldn't quite focus on them or be able to tell what they were.

    The thing I noticed the most was Donkey's hair. He actually has individual hairs. On the 27" all I saw was his coat of hair, and when shrek screams at him I could barely tell his hair was moving. When seeing it on the WS set, I saw all his hair move, the individual strands, much better experience in my opinion.

    I think small TV's seem sharper because a WS image on them is 3 to 4 times smaller than a WS RPTV.
     
  6. Mark Fitzsimmons

    Mark Fitzsimmons Supporting Actor

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    Plain and simple, smaller sets appear sharper because they have the same amount of pixels (resolution) in a smaller area.

    When you increase the size of the image without an increase in resolution, one (or both) of these two things must happen. Individual pixels must be made larger, causing the image to appear pixelated, or the gap between pixels (dot pitch) must be increased.

    On my 36" Wega when I watch non anamorphic DVD's like pulp fiction for example, the scanning lines are extremely visible and you see horizontal black lines running across the picture between the pixels. Very distracting.

    My TV combats this by using its 16:9 enhanced mode, focussing the 480 horizontal scan lines onto a 16:9 area, unfortunatly this only works for anamorphic dvd's. HDTV's take a different approach, they use line doublers to mimick a high resolution image, they will draw each horizontal scanning line twice so gaps between them disappear. I'm sure you read this before, its called upconversion, 480p becomes 960i, etc.

    And thats all I have to say about that.
     
  7. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Brent, I've had my 57" Sony in the house for 5 days (I have the same model Steve Schaffer does). When looking at RPTVs at Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry's, etc., I noticed the same kinds of things you did re: questionable picture quality. I took the plunge anyway based mainly on the reports here on HTF and on the HT forums.
    Let me tell you from recent experience - you can not even begin to judge these sets in a showroom setting. Out of the box with DVDs through the component inputs the PQ of my Sony blew me away. Of course, the set stays in Pro mode, because SVM is disabled in that mode. I immediately turned the brightness & contrast down a couple of notches (the default in Pro mode is 50%). After an hour or so with Avia those controls went down even more.
    The DVD we watched the first night was A Beautiful Mind, and my friend and I were simply stunned at how amazing it looked. At times I felt we were looking through a window. The detail was phenomenal. I have often heard folks here at HTF talk about how "filmlike" and "three-dimensional" their displays look. Until Saturday I frankly had no idea what they were talking about. Now I know. [​IMG]
    Don't go by what you see in the department store showrooms. Figure out a way to look at one of these sets in a suitable viewing environment where it has been properly set up, whether it be a friend, co-worker, or a high-end dealer. I think you will be astonished. I know I will never go back to a direct-view set again.
     
  8. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

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    Yeah I Watch "A Beautiful Mind" tonight a very nice transfer
     
  9. Josh Lowe

    Josh Lowe Screenwriter

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    Don't put too much weight on picture quality of store display TVs. They split video sources so many times in so many ways in showrooms that even the best TV can look like garbage. Also, display models may be way out of calibration and poorly set up.
     
  10. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    I bought my Sony last fall. I had originally purchased an Hitachi 53UWX10B, partly because of good experience with a 4/3 analog Hitachi and partly because even with my best efforts based on calibrating several sets with AVIA the Hitachis in the stores seemed to me to look best.

    Had the Hitachi at home for 2 weeks and was frankly dissapointed to the point that I decided to return it for a refund from CC, go back to the analog Ultravision I'd known and loved for 2 years, and wait for HD-Ready Widescreen sets to be "perfected."

    Saw the Sony at CC when I went in to arrange the refund. It looked pretty good but not noticeably better than the Hitachis. On a whim I decided to exchange the Hitachi for the Sony rather than go back to the analog 4/3.

    Within 20 minutes of delivery I knew the Sony was a definite keeper and have since spent many hours revisiting my dvd collection--seeing detail and color I never saw before. I have progressive scan dvd as well as a Tosh HD-capable stb, and many dvds look remarkably close to what the same movie looks like in true HD on HBO or Showtime.

    This is not meant to try and sell anyone on a Sony, but to point out that what one sees in stores bears little or no resemblance to what you'll see at home.
     
  11. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    Big screen TVs (RPTVs) are a waste of money. No one can
    afford what it would cost to make optics to properly
    handle the light beam. You basically have products costing from $1500 to $30,000 that suffer from a myriad of optical aberrations. Not to mention the fact rear projection is a compromised, flawed concept compared to, CRTs and projectors. If someone is bound and determined to get a
    larger picture than current CRTs can provide, the only good
    solution is a projector (can be had for under $3000 now)
    or a plasma screen if you have the cash.
     
  12. Darcy Hunter

    Darcy Hunter Stunt Coordinator

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    Questions: Why do some RPTV's have a swirling grain pattern superimposed on the picture? It looks almost like a dirty lens or mirror.

    Brent

    Just to add a bit to the discussion, That swirling grain pattern you see is a combination of a few things, but mostly results from having the sharpness turned up all the way. You don't notice this effect as much with smaller direct-view sets or non-hi def TVs,(the increased size and resolution really bring this out). This effect is commonly known as "mosquito noise" because it looks like a bunch of small bugs flying around your screen. If you get a chance to see a big-screen HDTV properly set up, you would be amazed at the picture.
     
  13. Josh Lowe

    Josh Lowe Screenwriter

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  14. BruceSpielbauer

    BruceSpielbauer Second Unit

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    >>> Big screen TVs (RPTVs) are a waste of money. No one can
    afford what it would cost to make optics to properly
    handle the light beam. You basically have products costing from $1500 to $30,000 that suffer from a myriad of optical aberrations. > Not to mention the fact rear projection is a compromised, flawed concept compared to, CRTs and projectors. > If someone is bound and determined to get a
    larger picture than current CRTs can provide, the only good
    solution is a projector (can be had for under $3000 now)
    or a plasma screen if you have the cash.
     
  15. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    From Darcy:

    ...Just to add a bit to the discussion, That swirling grain pattern you see is a combination of a few things, but mostly results from having the sharpness turned up all the way. You don't notice this effect as much with smaller direct-view sets or non-hi def TVs,(the increased size and resolution really bring this out). This effect is commonly known as "mosquito noise" because it looks like a bunch of small bugs flying around your screen. If you get a chance to see a big-screen HDTV properly set up, you would be amazed at the picture.
    Thanks for the explanation, Darcy. I'm familiar with the how that effect looks on a direct-view tube. I guess I just didn't recognize it with the magnification turned way up, so to speak.

    It was obvious is the store that this effect wasn't innate to RPTV's. The same source material showed the swirlies on a couple of screens but looked rock-steady on a similar-sized screen 20 feet away. For some reason, the worst swirlies happened to be some 16:9 sets but that may be because someone had fooled around with the settings on those.
     
  16. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    I was in a different Circuit City today and spent a few minutes looking at TV's. Every time I look it's harder to imagine getting an RPTV. For starters, anything larger than the 43" Sony and Hitachi ones just won't work in our house. In the second place, even on the 43" Sony we'd want to move back from our current 6-1/2 foot viewing distance because when you get that close the picture starts looking a little grainy and unfocused.

    But the main reason is that the vertical viewing angle "sweet spot" is just too small. For watching a movie on DVD it's possible to keep your head at the correct level plus or minus a couple inches. But for general TV viewing, we tend to be all over the room and/or moving around, sometimes even sitting on the floor. That ain't gonna work with any RPTV I've seen.

    This is the second store where I've seen the 32" Hitachi HDTV monitor. That is an awfully nice-looking picture, running off an in-store HDTV loop. Even standing three or four feet from the screen it is very detailed and clean. Unfortunately, they don't have a display unit of the 36" one, on sale for $1,299.

    The 36" XBR WEGA once again had the class picture of the whole bunch. But it's $2,300 (plus a stand to put it on) and it is just an enormous, ugly behemoth. I know I'm comparing oranges to grapefruits, but that $999 Hitachi 32" did not suffer greatly from being compared side-by-side with the 36" XBR. And I tried to move back and forth from 5 feet to 6 feet to make them seem similar to the same size.
     

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