New Panny players and (disappointing) aspect ratio scaling

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by ManW_TheUncool, May 12, 2003.

  1. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    While a few posts have been made about the new Panny players, I have not seen any reports about their aspect ratio scaling capabilities beyond what's mentioned in the player manual, so I figured I might as well put in my $.02 on that subject since that's been a key consideration for my player shopping since getting my 16x9 RPTV 6 months ago.

    Well, I almost went w/ the RP91, but decided to give the Panny S35 a shot afterall---bought it on Friday. I just couldn't justify paying 3x the price for slightly better deinterlacing and barebones DVD-A support w/out giving the S35 a shot first.

    Anyway, I've thrown a handful of DVDs at the new S35 so far, and the PQ through my Panny 53" RPTV is certainly better than the old interlaced Tosh using the TV's deinterlacer. Yes, I did notice a tiny bit of combing-type artifacts caused by bad flags and bad edits, but the player seems to recover so fast that I find it tolerable and not always noticeable w/ the DVDs I've tried so far. Perhaps, somebody can provide a list of the worst offenders for bad flags and edits so I can see how bad it can get. FWIW, The Red Violin looks a bit blurry most of the time and might well be caused by constantly bad flags throughout the movie. Anyway, I have another 10 days before I need to return it (and maybe switch for the Philips 963sa or just go w/ the RP91 afterall).

    Now, I can confirm that this player indeed offers aspect ratio scaling. In fact, I really like the scope of the offering -- seems like it's much better than the RP91's choices (from what little I know) since it offers extremely flexible variable zooming. In 4x3 shrink (or Auto) mode, you can easily zoom letterbox DVDs w/ steps of 1.25x, 1.33x, etc. If you want, you can also choose to adjust your zoom by .01x increments after you start zooming. And yes, the zoom/scaling does not affect the positioning of subtitles, which is great for foreign films. Also, I really love the GUI in general for on-the-fly adjustments via the multi-step display bar. You can adjust almost anything this way, including choosing between 480i and the 3 different 480p modes, adjusting video calibration settings, adjusting subtitles, etc.

    Now, the bad news. [​IMG] Yes, it offers scaling, but I must say that I'm very disappointed w/ the quality of the scaling/zooming. Maybe I was expecting too much, but the PQ for scaled images look awful to me. I tried it w/ parts of Titanic, True Lies and OUATIC (Hong Kong movie) and also tried the plain zoom w/ 16x9 DVDs. It looks to me like the player applies the zoom (regardless of 4x3 shrink) BEFORE it deinterlaces the image(!!!) because of how blurry and full of motion artifacts the zoom/scaled images look. I also verified this hypothesis by outputting at 480i w/ zoom to my TV's deinterlacer and got similar results. Good quality zoom/scaling of the deinterlaced image should not look like this. In most cases, it definitely looked worse than my TV's analog zoom mode, which unfortunately yields noticeable scan line gaps and was why I've been hunting for a player w/ scaling.

    So now, I think I'm back to square one. [​IMG] I got a player that offers the features (and nice GUI to boot!!) that I wanted for much less than my original price range. But like so many others, it has a showstopping flaw. [​IMG] I'm tempted to just keep it because the PQ is quite good beyond the tiny amounts of deinterlacing artifacts (so far) and the unacceptable scaling/zooming quality. The 4x3 shrink itself works nicely enough so I don't have to deal w/ my TV's grey side bars, and maybe I can live w/ the smaller 4x3 shrink, windowboxed image (w/out zoom) for letterbox DVDs instead of using my TV's analog zoom. But then again, I could also just get the Panny RP91 for useable scaling or even the Philips 963sa for Faroudja-based deinterlacing and nice CD and SACD support--I prefer SACD over DVD-A due to the music selection.

    But I just have to ask again, why hasn't any player makers come up w/ a truly good DVD-V player for
     
  2. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    Man,

    Sorry about your dilemma with the S35. Although I am a RP91 owner, I'm a poor feedback candidate for you, as I have yet to use the player's scaling feature. I have only watched 1 widescreen non-anamorphic DVD so far (The Thing), and I used my projector's letterbox mode (as opposed to the usual 16x9 mode for anamorphic DVDs) to scale it, which looked fine to me (at 80" wide). I should try the Panny scaling just to compare. Note that I use my projector's de-interlacer, as I think it's just as good if not better than the RP91's prog output.

    As for the RP91's DVD-A performance, my guess is there's room for improvement.

    Doug
     
  3. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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  4. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    That's disappointing news, Man. Based on your description of the S35's scaling performance, I would say that it is vastly inferior to the RP-91 in this area. The better quality non-anamorphic transfers, such as Titanic, The Abyss and Planet Of The Apes (original version) all look as good as most quality anamorphic titles on my setup -- RP-91 attached to a Toshiba 56H80 ISF-calibrated 16x9 display. Also, it appears that the S35 combs at least as much as the RP-91, if not worse, from your description. I do not recall having the issues you experienced when playing The Red Violin (but it has been awhile since I watched that disc).

    I plan on hanging onto my RP-91 until somebody makes a player with an improved deinterlacer, scaling comparable to the RP-91, no chroma bug and DVD-Audio support.
     
  5. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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  6. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Hey, Doug. Surprised to get a quick response from you since I haven't seen you around here lately.

    Anyway, how's your new FP setup treating you? [​IMG] I'm actually thinking maybe I should convince my in-laws to go w/ a cheap FP setup since my father-in-law can use the much bigger screen size due to his extremely bad eye sight -- he's pretty much legally blind. [​IMG]

    Anyway, I thought you're using the JVC 600(?) for your main player now, no? Or did you switch back to the RP91?

    Oh, if you do try out the RP91's scaling, make sure you use the player's deinterlacing, not the projector's. Otherwise, you'd probably get the same bad results I got w/ the S35. I would appreciate your opinions on the scaled PQ very much since this is one PQ subject that's rarely addressed.

    For comparison, let me clarify on the bad PQ of the S35's scaling. The excessively blurry image I see is most pronounced in small details on large scope camera shots as well as sharp outlines of objects, particularly when there is some vertical panning or slight camera bob. Often, it looks like a halo/ghosting effect, but mostly, the overall experience is an excessively blurry image. The Titanic DVD should provide an excellent source for checking scaling PQ since it has good PQ for a non-16x9 DVD w/ lots of such scenes.

    _Man_
     
  7. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

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    Hey, The JVC's scale and zoom tremendously. "Titanic" zoomed on my 16x9 Mits. looks practically anamorphic...!

    [​IMG] D
     
  8. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    But I thought the JVC's cannot do scale/zoom in small enough steps for improperly flagged DVDs like Titanic. From what I understand, the manual scale/zoom of the JVC's start at 2x, which yields too much cropping. For OAR viewing, one would need to scale/zoom at somewhere between 1.2-1.33x. Anything significantly higher than 1.33x will yield excessive cropping. This is why I ruled out the JVC after trying to sort through all the mixed info about their players.

    If I am wrong, please correct me, and I will be very happy to exchange the Panny S35 for a JVC tomorrow(!). Also, please let me know which model JVC you're talking about--it seems possible that the new N50 model has different scale/zoom steps than the older models.

    Thanks.

    _Man_
     
  9. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

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    Hey Man, yes x2 seems drastic, but the player in 16x9 normal mode windowboxes (which is exceellent for true 4x3 pics. as well..) any 4x3 image.. So it's 2x that.
    You DO lose a bit off the sides, not alot, yet the pic. is excellent. And when the disc is propely flagged like "The Thing" "Poseidon Adventure"... it auto-scales perfectly.

    where in NYC are you...?

    [​IMG] D
     
  10. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    I'm glad someone else mentionned the JVC.

    I have a Panny CP72 (Faroudja chip and no scaling) and a JVC 80bk. The de-interlacing on the Panny is better only on video based material and a few problem discs. The scaling on my JVC works only on properly flagged non-anamorphic dvds.

    The Abyss is non-anamorphic but properly flagged, and looks as good as an anamorphic disc when played on the JVC, much better than when played on the Panny and zoomed by the tv due as originally mentionned to the raster expansion used by the tv when zooming--scanlines become visible though not as bad as on an analog set.

    Titanic and Dusk til Dawn are non-anamorphic and not properly flagged.
    I can force scaling by using Zoom on the player, but have to do a chicken dance with the remote buttons to make the zoom icon disappear. I beleive this icon goes away by itself on newer JVCs. The PQ is very slightly less good than the scaling done on a properly flagged disc like Abyss, and there's a little extra overscan, but it's still very noticeably better than the set's zoom.

    Interesting that Red Violin was brought up by the original poster. The description of how it looks on the new Panny is exactly how it looks on my JVC, but my CP-72 with the Faroudja chip makes it look perfect.

    To sum up, if one wants better scaling than the new inexpensive Pannys and doesn't want to spend the price of the RP-91 or wants a multi-disc changer the JVCs are worth a try if one doesn't mind the poorer de-interlacing on video based material or problem discs like The Piano.

    If one can afford the RP-91, and a single disc machine is enough, it might still be the best scaling machine available. Also, unlike the JVC, the RP-91 can be manually told to do correct scaling for improperly flagged non-anamorphic discs avoiding the overscan of the Zoom workaround necessary on the JVC.
     
  11. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Steve,

    Thanks again for more input on aspect ratio scaling. Actually, I thought to try The Red Violin because of one or two posts you made a long time ago. [​IMG] IIRC, it was one of a very few DVDs that caused your old JVC's prog-scan LED to blink constantly, suggesting bad/alternating flags throughout.

    Yeah, I think 2x zoom is just too much cropping for me. So it looks like I will probably have to go w/ the RP91. It's actually not that expensive anymore at ~$300, but for the higher price, I would've liked better deinterlacing. Still, there seems to be no better alternatives right now. Had hoped the Philips 963sa w/ SACD and new Faroudja chip would be perfect, but alas, they too came up lame on the scaling features.

    Dave,

    I actually moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn, but still work in downtown Manhattan -- the building that's back-to-back w/ the Millenium Hotel along Broadway and right next to where the Ground Zero viewing platform/deck was.

    _Man_
     
  12. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

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    Still searching for the Holy Grail... SAGE mixed with proper scaling...

    [​IMG] D
     
  13. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Yeah, you'd think somebody would come out w/ a player that uses the new Faroudja chip properly for aspect ratio scaling, not just 4x3 shrink or 720p/1080i upconversion. But so far, neither Samsung nor Philips has done it w/ their offerings. [​IMG]

    _Man_
     
  14. TanD

    TanD Stunt Coordinator

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    How about a Denon 4800, it is a RP91 but with much better sound quality in a changer form. If you look around you will find it cheap but a bit more than the RP91.
     
  15. Dzung Pham

    Dzung Pham Second Unit

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  16. JohnnyG

    JohnnyG Screenwriter

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    I wonder if the S55 does a better job?
     
  17. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Dzung,

    Thanks for the suggestion, but I've considered that one already and decided I couldn't justify the price just for what little it offers. I was semi-serious about the $1K price tag, but at that price I need it to do more than what the Iscan Ultra does--heck, it can't even keep subtitles on screen when zoomed, AFAIK.

    FWIW, my original price range for a player was $400-500, and then (after doing my taxes) I decided I was willing to splurge and get the Denon 2900 IF it offered full aspect ratio control. So no, I don't want a DVD-V only player for $1K, but I'm willing to spend the $$$ on a universal player that does the DVD-V just right--I'm not even asking for DVI. Seems like this shouldn't be too much to ask. Certainly, both the Samsung 931 and the Philips 963sa have all the right parts for what I need (plus SACD w/ the Philips) w/in my original price range. So why can't somebody just get it right for something between $400-$1000???

    JohnnyG,

    I doubt the S55 would look any different than the S35 given the minimal price difference. But then again, who knows.

    I'll repeat this again though. I really like the GUI of the S35. It's just a shame that Panasonic skimped on their PQ so much despite offering so many bells and whistles for such a low price.

    _Man_
     
  18. MikeSRC

    MikeSRC Second Unit

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    With all the Panny players using the same all-in-one chip, I don't see there being any difference in PQ among them, in any mode.
     
  19. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

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  20. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Dave,

    I saw it. But you asked so many questions in that post that I didn't get a chance to reply yet. [​IMG]

    Scott,

    I don't know how I missed your 2 posts yesterday, but your comments about the RP91 is really pushing me over the edge here. [​IMG] In fact, I think I will order one tomorrow from Mike now that he's confirmed that the Samsung 931 won't do the scaling we want via component out. Probably the only thing that will stop me now is if I get much better feedback on the Bravo's analog output and possible scaling capability (not DVI). Still, it'd be tough to choose a 1st-time player maker over the RP91 unless they offer top notch deinterlacing.

    At the moment, I'm actually toying w/ the idea of going w/ a 2-player setup pairing the RP91 w/ the Philips 963sa since I decided I was willing to splurge (and had considered the Denon 2900 at one point). I'd probably need a component video switcher anyway since I want to add an X-box for occasional gaming. And all the enthusiasm bubbling over in the MC audio threads is really rubbing off me now although I'm not prepared for the kind of upgrades needed for good MC music playback. Still, for the short term, hi-rez 2-channel playback from both formats would be really nice for me.

    _Man_
     

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