Back in the old days of black & white
TV (1950's), video processing was probably not even in the lexicon of
television engineers. If it had been, it would have simply referred to
analog adjustments of brightness and contrast. That's all there was at
Even with color TV, not much changed.
The amount of color (saturation) and its hue (tint - reddish or
greenish) were added. Perhaps the term "Video Processing" was not
even needed. Why complicate such a simple thing with fancy words?
OK, fast forward to the 1990's. We
all purchased our nice little DVD players and were mouths agape at the
wonderful picture. So, was "Video Processing" on your mind yet? Nope,
not even then.
Well, it sure was on Yves Faroudja's
mind. He was definitely a pioneer in the field of video processing, or
in other words, going the extra mile in manipulating the video signal to
deliver the best picture possible.
I remember seeing his "Line Doublers"
at CES after CES, closing in on the turn of the century. They were really
expensive ($25,000), but egad, what an image we saw on those big
projection screens in the exhibitor's booth. They took the basic 480
interlaced NTSC signal and filled in between the interlaced lines to
deliver a 480 progressive image. Then he figured out a way to add even
more lines by interpolation, and came up with line quadrupling.
At the time, I thought, "Yeah, it's a
very cool gadget, but who can afford one?"
Now, it's 2006. We have HDTVs all
over the place. You probably have one yourself, but if not, you will
soon, because that's all that will be on the store shelves in the next
couple of years. HDTV programming is now plentiful, although I can't
wait for The History Channel, AMC, CNN, and a few of my other favorite
channels to go HD.
In watching your new HDTV, you still
have brightness, contrast, color, and tint. The difference is that it is
all done digitally now, and the reason Video Processing has entered the
lexicon, is that the potential for the HD picture to be terrific
is undermined by technical limitations of the displays, and the need to
compress the signal so that 999 channels can fit into the cable TV or
This is why you might actually have
been a little disappointed when viewing an HD program on display at the
TV store, not to mention the possibility that somebody forgot to set the
aspect ratio correctly.
The good news is that all new HDTVs
have some sort of video processing built-in. They have to. They can't
operate without it. So, it is there.
The bad news is that your brand new
$5,000 HDTV probably does all the video processing on a $5 chipset. That
doesn't mean it's bad video processing. It just means it isn't what it
could be. The chassis is fine, the display panel is fine, the
controls operate fine. But the video processing is not fine. That's just the
way it is folks. The TV companies are in business to sell TVs. If
everyone agreed to pay $1,000 more than they had planned for that new
HDTV, the companies would be delighted to put in some superb video
processing. But, consumers won't agree to do that. We all want that new
TV for as cheap as we can get it. So, the video processing, because many
of us are content with less than superb quality, suffers. The picture is
"good enough", and they are selling TVs.
Fortunately, there are enough of us
videophiles out there, that engineers in small companies have seen fit
to build outboard video processors which will give us a much better
image than with the stock processor in the TV.
And, even though they are not as
expensive as before, yes, they still cost a chunk. That's
because they are not mass produced, and they need their own chassis,
power supply, and remote control commands. Even the Faroudja processors
have come down in price - and they still are superb. You can get a
Meridian/Faroudja three-panel 1080p projector and a processor
for what used to be the cost of the processor alone.
Well then, how much better is the
picture with one of these outboard processors, and what else will it do
besides brightness, contrast, color, and tint? The answers are, "A whole
lot better," and "A whole lot more," respectively.
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Go to Part II.