Posted by Frank J Manrique on Today 10:14 AM:
[Thumbs up] T-2 On D-Theater HD: Is It Really All That's Cracked Up To Be???...
Attempting to obtain a JVC 3000 HD-VHS tape machine and software proved to be an odyssey of sorts, but a friend finally managed to hunt down a unit locally (at The Good Guys in Riverside). We paid a bit more than what a lot of you folks paid yours, but the T-2 tape was included in the deal, so at least we had ONE title to check out (no freebies were included in the box; only a redemption coupon for couple of rock concerts taped in HD).
This worked out just fine as T-2 is supposed to be the worst transfer among the currently available titles, and since we had some odd reels of T-2 on 35mm on hand (could not swing the 70mm odd reels for last night's session, rats!), we immediately set out to run direct comparisons between the three available formats: DVD (Special Edition), D-Theater, and theatrical 35mm.
The equipment we used was the now ubiquitous Hitachi 5500 LCoS display device (still needs to be professionally calibrated, but manages to provide a very compelling PQ nonetheless), a Radeon 7500 video card-equipped HT-PC (used the DVI signal path), the JVC 3000 machine, of course, and a Norelco Todd-AO AA2 35/70mm film projector equipped with Isco primary and scope attachment projection lenses.
Sound was relegated to a background status and in analog stereo (I think; didn?t have a long enough Toslink optical cable for the required digital sound interfacing, so must wait to be assessed at my place at a later date. Btw, I found the lack of a coax digital sound output jack upsetting for a $2K machine should definitely have included one. This was a serious oversight from the part of JVC as far as I am concerned) as the session took place late at night and two small boys and a 6 month-old baby were sleeping upstairs, so needed to keep the racket down to a minimum.
We began by playing the DVD first. Via DVI signal path, the T-2 SE DVD transfer proved to be a revelation; is a great transfer in its own right; it has never looked so good before. Yet its overall image is marred by an over enthused application edge enhancement. Very sharp looking too, but is it really?
Next we popped in the DH tape. Immediately we noticed that color density and contrast dynamics improved considerably over what we just witnessed and, of course, the higher resolution now began to reveal things that were blurred or even hidden by the lower rezed format.
While we noticed artifacts (mosquito noise, blocking, much compression, etc.) occurring with the DVD (one that was transferred from a newer HD master, newer than the one we were given on the D-VHS tape), the HD tape was blissfully devoid of such pesky visible problems.
And tried as we did, we couldn?t really see any edge enhancement screwing up the image with its obnoxious, deleterious effects either. Can you say film-like?
I read with great amusement that some of the Widescreen Review?s recent shindig participants complained that the T-2 HD tape looked soft by comparison to the DVD. Well, guess what. . .it ain?t so! Not by a long shot. . .This is why: low rez video, no matter how good it may appear processed even with mega-buck equipment (perhaps and possibly excepting the Teranex processor), always seems to have a hard-edge look to it. This phenomenon is often confused for, and is passed as sharpness when it reality is an artificial artifact (do away with it and see what soft really means).
The T-2 D-Theater tape picture quality possesses superb coloration density and contrast dynamics, a super-smooth, grain-free attribute that is extreme compelling in addition to magnificent natural sharpness, a sharpness that comes from well focused imaging, thus having much in common with FILM! Is very, very easy on the eyes, far and above from what we all too often visually sample from lower resolution video-processed images.
So in a nut shell, when it comes to electronically-reproduced images, well. . .there just is no substitution for higher resolution! The D-VHS T-2 trounced the DVD quite handily. . .
But how did the D-Theater tape compared to film? Extremely well, actually. . .but am getting ahead of my self. . .
Discounting for a moment the fact that the theatrical print has different color timing than what is produced by the Hitachi LCoS display, which cause coloration to look on the cool side of the spectrum, both share almost identical density and depth; both look very rich while at the same time exhibiting a plethora of different shadings within the same color scheme, easily besting the DVD version in this respect as well.
Incredibly too is the fact that the D-VHS tape also exhibited contrast dynamics that really weren?t too far off from those of film, though in reality being not quite as dynamic in absolute terms. Yet this allows shadow detailing to be easily resolved because of its overall higher resolution, bettering the DVD performance by leaps and bounds in this regard also.
Oh, yes. . .nearly omitted to mention that the reproduction of blacks is far superior to that of the DVD, which should come as no surprise; blacks are reproduced with superb richness of depth; they are simply stunning!
I wish we had the 70mm version available as well because of its yet higher resolution over the 35mm version (up converting to 70mm yields better imaging due to the fact that 70mm is of much larger gauge and is generations closer to the camera negative, whilst 35mm is generations away from it; this does exact a degree of picture quality losses) would have given us better underpinnings as an additional tool with which to judge the HD video tape?s contents.
Even so, T-2?s ultra-smooth, ultra-clean, grain-free HD appearance is quite beautiful to behold (something that E-Cinema fans find so enthralling and appealing at the movies, I reckon), which when directly compared to the 35mm film version makes a powerfully compelling case in almost preferring the former over the latter (am I being a heretic here? Naw, not really; just fair). . .but only if we?re willing to sacrifice the higher degree of resolution that is still in the realm of, and in film?s definite favor
Am happy as a pig on slop because after some 20 years awaiting for its arrival, true HD has finally come home to roost in the form of a format that is now the delivering purveyor of a video signal with higher resolution attributes that are unlike we have experienced before.
And barring all the current politics and paranoia running rampant within the movie studios circles, I welcome the D-Theater format as the next step to take in our quest to enhance the picture quality in our home theaters for the here and now (I?ll just wait for an optical HD format to show up in its own good time).
Yet I see an immediate potential problem: the lack of movie titles becoming available with more frequency and from all studios might cause many HT fans to shy away from a format that promise the delivery of truly exceptionally stunning images (if T-2 is supposed to be the worse transfer among the other titles currently available, then I can?t hardly wait to visually sample even better picture quality!).
To close this little tirade, I?ll just add that this tape format has my full, enthusiastic support. . .