Video Displays as Virtual Reality: Observations...

Discussion in 'Displays' started by Rich H, Sep 10, 2003.

  1. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    Hi folks,

    These are some notes from a whacked out AV nut - myself - in the quest to examine images from various technologies.

    Yesterday I was comparing display technologies (as I'm often wont to do) and I have some observations I'd like to share regarding the realism I perceive from the various technologies.

    First, though, a word about Picture quality. Most often in Home Theater circles, and in fact in the AV world in general, we see "film-like" being held as the standard or pinnacle of picture quality. If a display is said to produce a "smooth, film-like" image that inevitably means high complement. There is no mystery why CRT RPTVs and Front Projectors are often held as image standards, given that display type has the ability to mimic the look of film (along with other virtues).

    But another standard of picture quality may be "realism" - how closely a display can re-create the impression of looking at real objects in real light. I find myself totally fascinated by this area of picture quality, and always find myself comparing the realism of display images - especially to real life, as opposed to film. (Hi-Def images are obviously great for this).

    To *my* perception, plasma has displayed the collection of image qualities that most mimic the look of real life objects. I believe it's the fact it's an emissive display rather than reflected that helps.. Reflective technologies (RPTVs/fps) always look like "reflected" images to my eyes.
    While, through their larger size they can create a sense of envelopment, like a holograph the images appear dimensional without appearing solid. They don't have the intensity and density of real objects reflecting real light.

    Whereas the plasma being emissive does have the intensity. Combined with the even illumination - no tell tale shifts of brightness from any movement - perfect focus that can lead to truly life-like sharpness, perfect geometry etc. I have found great sources on plasmas look more like viewing real-life through a window than from any other technology. (LCDs are just starting to catch up...more on that). (BTW, as a reference I've watched all manner of high-def/DVD material in controlled lighting conditions, on top of the line ISF'd RPTV displays from: Pioneer Elite/Hitachi/Toshiba/Mitsubishi/Sony and others).

    Case in point: Yesterday I was watching Hi-Def in a local AV store on a Sony RPTV that was in it's own room (lights down) and was actually nicely calibrated. I watched and watched the familiar Hi-Def loops and luxuriated in the image - it was smooth, even, detailed, colorful, dimensional...all sorts of great adjectives. Although I found the "window effect" was harder to feel from this display, I started really appreciating the image, enough to wonder "Hmmm, this is pretty damned good."

    Then I walked out to see the Fujitsu P50 50" plasma with the same Hi-Def material. Holy mackerel. Slap in the face.
    There was a reality to the image that just escaped the Sony CRT RPTV. I adjusted the settings a little (the Fuji wasn't calibrated out of factory settings). Beside the plasma were potted plants, some potted trees, and some silver pedestal super-modern speakers - very Bang And Olufsen-like.

    When Hi-Def images of plants and trees came on the display - very much like the real ones near the plasma - I compared the image to the real plants. It was just uncanny how the plasma re-created the density, texture "thereness" and light quality of real leaves. There was exceedingly little difference between the real leaves nearby, and the leaves on screen...it looked more like I was looking at plants beside the plasma, to looking at plants placed behind glass (the window effect) (Excepting, of course, the loss of dimension).

    When some silver mechanical objects and poles came on screen, I compared them to the real silver, metallic speakers and their stands beside the plasma. Again, uncanny. The brilliance texture, contrast, and reflectivity of the metal on screen was an amazing match for the real metal objects beside the screen. (And I'm not talking about contrast via blazing picture settings, I'm talking an exceedingly real natural brilliance). The Sony RPTV (nor any RPTV I've yet seen) just didn't do this effect.

    That has been true pretty much every time I've done such comoparisons (which is, frankly, an unhealthy number of times for my sanity). My own Panasonic 4UY 42" plasma continually has me marvelling at how similar the image effect is when compared to real life objects.

    I've seen LCD RPVTs get close (as long as the picture was perfectly suited to hide the display's weaknesses) to this effect. Same with some DLPs. But I still find too many artificial cues in those technologies to maintain the illusion, and I find neither DLP nor LCD seem to have the natural light quality of the best plasmas (LCDs/DLPs, even when properly calibrated, both strike me has having a Neon Sign quality).

    One technology that is snapping at plasma's heals on this count I've seen is the new Sony XBR 30" LCD. It still has way too many flaws for me to totally ignore ("blacks" that glow blue, scaling artifacts, picture noise, motion lag).
    But on *just* the right shots there is a reach-in-and-touch it density to the image, like a veil has been lifted and an actor's face has become solid, that is amazing. Although, along with the other picture problems noted, I find in every LCD's a slightly glassy or metallic quality to the upper gray scale (like high-lights on an object), and a similar sheen throughout the image.

    Although I own a plasma myself, I am in no way immune to the picture quality offered by other technologies and enjoy each for what it can offer. And I understand all the reasons why people choose the other types...so this post has nothing to do with a "my display is better than your display" attitude. I'm just sharing my observations that, in trying to be as objective as possible, my search for the most life-like image keeps landing back on the best plasmas.

    I don't expect others to share my view or experience, and I'd enjoy what other people have to say on this "virtual reality" aspect of image quality.

    Whaddya think?

    Rich h.
     
  2. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    >Peeks head in, whistles, listens to echo< >"Hello"...echo..<

    Jeeze, now I know how my semiotics teacher felt :)

    If anyone has read this: What is the most realistic image you've ever seen on a display, and what type of display was it?

    Thanks,
     
  3. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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    I've been drawn to plasma myself for a few reasons:
    1) The window-effect you described
    2) No washing out at angles or bad lighting (RPTV problem)
    3) Bigger than CRT TVs



    Our local CC has a 50" Pioneer, 50" Panny, and a Sampo, I think, set up for DVDs via component and a progressive DVD player (I think a Denon DVD player/HT combo, actually??). If only I had the money for a 50" HD set. I hear Fujitsu is king of the plasma hill, but I've never seen one.

    The Panny 6UY is in my future, maybe, tax time?
     
  4. Steve_L_B

    Steve_L_B Stunt Coordinator

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    Rich,
    I've had my Panny 42" ED plasma for about six months now and I totally agree with your observations. The eyes and brain are interesting in that they can easily adjust and be fooled by subtle picture quality differences that often only become apparent in side-by-side or near simultaneous comparisons. But IMHO, the defacto evidence supporting what you stated is that everyone that has visited and seen my plasma is awestruck over how good it looks. This includes friends with large high quality direct view sets and some with RPTVs. Several have remarked that some of the images make them feel like they are looking through a window and most are also suprised to learn how little one these costs these days (
     
  5. steve kleinvehn

    steve kleinvehn Auditioning

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    I have been told that the lifespan of a plasma screen is around 5 years. We have a 50" in the office and after only a year there are now 4 dead pixels. It seems a bit crazy to buy a $3,000 television that will only last 5 years....
     
  6. Steve_L_B

    Steve_L_B Stunt Coordinator

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    This is a bit off topic, but it is rare for pixels to die or stick during the plasma's life. They are usually dead or stuck as delivered new. Most manufacturers of flat panel displays (including LCD manufacturers) allow a certain number of dead and stuck pixels. FYI, at this time, it is common for Pioneer plasmas to have a few malfunctioning pixels and rare for Panasonic plasmas to have any.

    Lifespan is different. The useful lifespan of plasma displays (as measured by their half brightness or 50% phosphor ignition point) is purported to be in the 20,000 to 30,000 hour range. This is approximately equivalent to 7 to 10 years if watched eight hours a day. Longer if you have more moderate viewing habits. This is on par with most other display technologies.

    -Steve
     
  7. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    Steve,

    Yep, yep, yep...

    I have friends who own high-end CRT tube sets (Loewe, Sony, Toshiba etc.) and some of these guys actually tried to convince me *not* to go plasma because they were convinced plasma meant poor picture quality. To a man they have been blown-away by the image of the Panny plasma...they've done a 180 spin on their opinions and all see a plasma in their future. Another pal has a nice front projector and, although his image is bigger he finds the plasma so "psychedelically realistic" that he lusts after it too.
    "My projector is great, but it just doesn't do this!"

    Another telling moment was a photographer friend, who eschews studio photography for images taken in natural light. He saw some DVD movies (and HD) on the plasma and, four months later when I bumped into him he said he still hadn't gotten the impact out of his mind because, as he put it, it was the very first time he'd ever seen a display recreate the experience of "real, natural light, lighting real objects." He said it was such an unexpected effect, the way his brain kept telling him "yes, that IS how that object looks in that light." Which is exactly my reaction.

    But it's interesting...some people seem immune to the charms of these qualities, preferring instead an image that mimics film as much as possible. Lifes a box of chocolates, I guess....

    I'm still interested in other people's experience of displays that have caused them to think "Wow that looks real."
     

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