- Written by Chris Eberle
- Published on 18 May 2009
Prices for digital projectors have fallen in the last few years to the point where a real cinema experience in the home is now within reach of the masses. For a little more money than a big flat panel TV, you can have a 100-inch screen with a 1080p projector that will give your movie nights a whole new meaning. All the major display manufacturers have rolled out models to compete for your home theater dollar. Into this fray, DreamVision has cast its latest offering, the Dream’E. The Dream’E is an LCoS design utilizing a three-chip light engine. LCoS (also known as D-ILA and SXRD) is similar to LCD except the light from the bulb is reflected off the individual color chips rather than shined through them. The advantage to this is increased contrast and light output.
- Design: Three-panel, 0.6" LCoS
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080 Pixels
- CR: 15,000:1 with Manual Iris
- Inputs – 2 HDMI 1.3, 1 component, 1 S-video, 1 Composite Video, 1 VGA (S-D15)
- Compatible Input Signals: 480i/p, 720p, 1080i/60, 1080p60/24
- Lens Shift: ± 60% Vertical, ± 30% Horizontal
- Optical Zoom: 1.5X (1.75-2.53:1 throw ratio)
- Silicon Optix Reon HQV Processing, Detail Enhancement, and Noise Reduction
- Anamorphic Lens Capability
- Fan Noise: < 20 dB
- Dimensions: 7.6" H x 20.5" W x 20.7” D
- Weight: 37.5 Pounds
- MSRP $5,295, in Black or White Case Colors
- MSRP $5,825, in Red, Yellow, or Custom Case Colors
- Distributed in the US by Audio Plus Services – Audioplusservices
It’s obvious as soon as you unpack the Dream’E that it is a well-made piece of equipment. The case is made of very hard and thick plastic and finished in a high-gloss automotive-style finish. My sample was white but it comes in black, red, yellow, or custom colors as well. There are three large rubber feet which are independently adjustable. This is very nice as it allows you to level the projector perfectly if you use a shelf. I prefer shelf mounting because it’s easier to get the image geometry exactly right. Three different power cords are included which conform to US and foreign power outlets. The case has large intake vents on either side of the lens with an exhaust at the rear. DreamVision recommends at least four inches of clearance in back to allow heat to escape.
There are buttons on the rear of the projector to turn on the power, toggle between inputs and navigate the on-screen menus. There are also indicator lights for power, temperature fan and status. The remote is backlit and contains all the necessary controls to select inputs, picture modes, and overscan. You can also blank the image, change the aspect ratio, toggle the Detail Enhancement, and adjust the iris. Menu navigation and discrete power on/off controls round out the control set. There are infrared receivers on the front and rear of the projector housing making the Dream’E very responsive to the remote.
DreamVision is one of only a few manufacturers to offer add-on anamorphic lens kits for its projector. It’s nice to have this option rather than going with a third-party solution. DreamVision’s kits include a fixed setup where the lens stays in place permanently or a sled mount where the lens can be moved in and out of the light path via remote control. Of particular note – DreamVision is the only projector company I know of to offer a turn-key anamorphic lens solution for under $10,000. The total system price with a Panamorph lens is $9595. A Schneider lens/Dream 4 Scaler package is also available at a system price of $19,290.
The Dream’E has a well-organized menu system with nearly everything needed for flexible setup and calibration. Additional controls for color luminance, custom 7-point gamma and noise reduction settings are in a separate, hidden installer menu which can be accessed by your DreamVision dealer.
The Picture menu contains the mode selection (Standard, Dynamic, Theater and three User modes) and controls for Brightness, Contrast, Color, Hue, Sharpness and Color Temp. Color Temp has three presets plus a User selection that allows changes to gain and bias for all primaries. There are also four Gamma presets plus a fifth option that can be adjusted in the hidden installer menu. An Advanced Picture Settings sub-menu has the controls for the manual iris (10-100%) and the Blue-only Mode.
The Input Signal menu allows changes to the aspect ratio (Standard, Full Screen, Cinemascope, Converted 16:9 and Virtual Wide). The Cinemascope and Converted 16:9 modes are for use with DreamVision’s optional anamorphic lens kits. I was not able to test this feature due to my lack of a 2.35:1 screen. You can also turn Overscan (2.5%) on or off. Additional controls include Black Level Setup (0 or 7.5IRE), Black and White Level adjustment, timing adjustments for PC signals and options for Level and Color Space for HDMI signals. Leaving these set to Auto will work for nearly all modern source components.
The System Setup menu has options for Language, Power-off Timer, LED Illumination, Startup Screen, Background Color, Lamp Output level, OSD Style and OSD Timer.
The Initial Setup menu lets you change the projector’s orientation (Front Table, Front Ceiling, Rear Table and Rear Ceiling), Keystone Adjustment (horizontal and vertical), Lamp Timer Warning, System Reset, Alignment (a one-pixel convergence feature which I did use), Lamp Timer Reset and Trigger control.
Finally, there is an Information screen that tells you the Input Source, Input Resolution, Frequency, Output Resolution and Lamp Hours.
Installation and Calibration
The projector is quite large so you will need a beefy ceiling mount or well-braced shelf to support its 37 pounds. DreamVision offers a suitably matched ceiling mount for $495. For my installation I used a shelf mounted on the wall above my seating position. There is a generous amount of horizontal and vertical lens shift available, +/- 60% vertical and +/- 30% horizontal. The controls are located under the lens. They have a very precise feel which makes centering the image on the screen a snap. Zoom and focus are also mechanical and equally precise. I would have preferred a power operated focus control. It’s more difficult to achieve perfection when you have to walk back and forth from screen to projector. It might be good to have a helper when setting the focus. I recommend taking the time to get this right because this is one sharp projector! There are no internal test patterns for setting focus and image position. You will have to provide a signal from a disc player or pattern generator. The lens is obviously of very high quality.
My theater utilizes a Carada brilliant-white screen with a gain of 1.4. With a projector this bright, I would recommend a high-contrast gray screen with a gain below 1.0. There is more than enough light available and the gray screen will improve contrast and provide deeper black levels. You can tailor the light output easily with the manual iris control.
When setting the geometry, I avoided the keystone control. There is no need for it in my theater and it will impact image quality. If you really have to use it, DreamVision has thoughtfully included both horizontal and vertical adjustments. There are five screen aspect modes available, Normal, Full Screen, Cinemascope, Converted 16:9, and Virtual Wide (for SD signals only). Normal is a 1:1 mode with five to seven pixels blanked on each side. I saw no artifacts introduced by turning overscan on. With the vast majority of Blu-ray and DVD content though, there is no need to use overscan so I left it off. I did check the convergence with the Alignment control in the Initial Setup menu. Adjusting this brings up a convergence grid so you can align Red and Blue to Green in both directions. I made one adjustment and achieved a perfect grid.
A full set of calibration controls are included in the user menu. The controls for the Selective Color and Custom Gamma are in a separate installer menu. This menu can be accessed by your DreamVision dealer/installer. Changes to the Selective Color and User Color Temp should only be made with a color analyzer and the proper test patterns. Out of the box, the projector measured well in the Theater mode. With calibration, I was able to improve the grayscale tracking to a very precise level. The Selective Color system allowed me to achieve nearly perfect luminance with all six colors. I was unable to change the positions of the primaries but they were quite close with the exception of green. This projector has a blue-only mode which makes it very easy to adjust color and tint. The Theater mode defaults to a Color setting of 60 (10 clicks over center). I adjusted it to the center setting of 50 and the color bar pattern rendered perfectly. Hue (Tint) was perfect at the factory default.
There are three color temperature presets plus a User mode. Engaging this brings up a full set of gain and bias controls. As I said, grayscale was excellent after calibration. There are also five gamma settings available. Gamma 4 (the Theater mode default) measured pretty close to 2.2. Gamma 5 is a custom setting that can be adjusted over seven points in the aforementioned installer menu. As the gamma was excellent in the preset mode, I did not adjust it.
Resident Evil: Degeneration (Blu-ray)
This movie is entirely CGI. As such, it puts this projector in a very good light. Sharpness and detail were simply superb. Every minute element was rendered perfectly. Color depth and saturation were both excellent. The image had a three-dimensional quality that literally jumped off the screen. Shadow detail was good, about on par with other projectors in this price range. Brighter scenes were the real forte. The adjustments I made to the color luminance really shone.
Babylon A.D. (Blu-ray)
This movie had a lot of dark scenes and muted tones throughout. It was a real test of the projector’s ability to render fine low-level detail and the Dream’E passed this test quite handily. Every bit of Vin Diesel’s beard stubble was apparent in both dark and bright scenes. Despite the film’s drab color palette, dimensionality was preserved extremely well. There were no artifacts or moiré in images containing smoke or blue skies. Some digital projectors have trouble with fine color gradations but not the Dream’E.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (remake) (Blu-ray)
This movie’s color ranges from bluish monotones to nicely saturated and natural depending on the action. Flesh tones in the natural scenes were extremely lifelike. The Dream’E has excellent dynamic range especially at the bright end of images and this movie really accentuated that quality. Details like the swarms of robot insects late in the film or the finely textured skin of the GORT robot popped out nicely.
Measurements and Analysis
EyeOne Pro spectrophotometer, Calman Pro 3.3 analysis software, Accupel HDG-3000 signal generator, Avia Pro DVD, Spears & Munsil Benchmark Blu-ray.
All measurements were taken off the screen (Carada Brilliant White, gain 1.4) from the seating position (10 feet back). The screen’s color neutrality was verified by a baseline measurement from the lens. There was no change in color readings.
The lamp was run in Economy mode with an iris setting of 40% in the Theater picture mode.
Below is shown the uncalibrated color gamut in Theater mode. The squares are where the measurements should be, and the circles are where the measurements occurred.
Not too bad, but there is room for improvement.
Here is the luminance chart. The black bars are where the colors should be, and the colored bars are where they were measured.
Again, not bad, but there is some work to be done with green, blue, cyan, and magenta.
Below is the gamut following calibration. It's perfect. It is not often that a projector can be calibrated to line up with a gamut that exactly matches the standard. This projector is GREAT!
With the adjustments I made to grayscale and to color luminance, we have perfect color representation despite the small inaccuracy in the green primary. No problems with green were seen in any actual content. Note that this gamut chart is rendered showing the measured primaries rather than Rec 709. This is done to show that there is no color decoder error present. This was also verified with the Blue-only mode.
Here are the calibrated color luminances.
Again, excellent performance courtesy of the Dream’Es fine set of adjustments.
The uncalibrated gamma tracking in Theater mode is shown below.
Here it is post-calibration using the Gamma 4 preset.
Even though I did not adjust the gamma in the installer menu, the grayscale calibration improved the gamma to near perfection.
Now for the uncalibrated grayscale tracking.
This is the Medium color temp setting. You can see that green is dominant. This was observed in grayscale step patterns.
After calibration, the tracking was much better. In fact, terrific.
To reiterate, this is excellent performance. Delta E (color error) averaged 1.1 from bottom to top. A Delta E below 3 is invisible to the naked eye. Because of this projector’s solid screen uniformity, I was able to dial in the grayscale using only window patterns.
Video processing was tested using various motion patterns. Both moving zone plates and actual content were observed. These clips came from the Spears & Munsil Benchmark Blu-ray disc. The Dream’E uses the Silicon Optix Reon solution. As such, scaling and deinterlacing of 480i and 1080i material was excellent with all tests passed. 1080p/24 content was a different story. I noticed judder during both test patterns and movie content. When I asked DreamVision about this they informed me the output refresh rate of the projector is locked at 60fps. This means 24p input signals are converted to 60fps before display. They told me this is done for greater compatibility. It is true a poorly mastered disc can cause problems when incorrect flags or bad edits cause the cadence to change from film to video mode. When this happens a display running at a multiple of 24fps will judder quite severely. However the Blu-ray content I’ve watched over the past year has displayed perfectly on my reference projector which runs at 96fps with a 24p input signal. Perhaps DreamVision would consider adding the capability of 72 or 96fps with a firmware update.
The Dream’E sports a high-quality all-glass lens. No chromatic aberration was observed in any test patterns. Grid patterns were rendered perfectly, with no distortion or color fringing.
This projector is capable of a lot of light output. It is well-suited for large screens and long throw distances. The manual iris makes it easy to tailor the peak brightness to a comfortable level. In the Theater mode at default settings, I measured over 38 foot-lamberts peak brightness. This was much too bright for my completely dark room. Turning the iris from 80% to 40% put the peak level at a more comfortable 13 foot-lamberts, just perfect from my ten-foot seating position.
My overall experience with the Dream’E was quite excellent. With so many projectors competing at this price point, the Dream’E sets itself apart by offering superb color rendition, excellent grayscale accuracy and top-notch scaling performance. Add to this its prodigious light output and you have a projector that would be worthy of any high-end home theater. The vast array of calibration controls available makes it easy for your installer to dial it in perfectly to standard. It’s sleek and sexy design means you don’t have to hide it in a soffit or bookshelf if you don’t want. And the excellent build quality means it will last through many years of enjoyable viewing. All in all I’d say DreamVision has created a winning display here and the juggernaut of manufacturers from the Far East had better watch their backs!