Feature Article

The Value of Using an Outboard Video Processor with All Home Theater Video Displays

Part II

September, 2006

John E. Johnson, Jr.


The Processors

In the last couple of years, I noted that, even though I had a top notch DVD player and digital projector, I was running into problems getting the picture quality I wanted. The image was good, but not terrific. It wasn't the player or the display particularly. It was just a bunch of little things that were bothering me.

I figured that, perhaps, with one of the handful of outboard digital video processors that were now available, I might be able to rid myself of those little problems.

So, for this article, I obtained a DVDO iScan VP30 ($1,999) and Lumagen VisionHDP ($1,499). We reviewed the VP30 in February of 2006, and the VisionPro HDP in March (the VisionHDP processor in this article is one model below the VisionPro HDP).



The VP30 has HDMI inputs and outputs, while the VisionHDP has DVI connections. Both units will transcode component video into HDMI or DVI output respectively.

In testing projectors and flat panel displays, I have found that there really is not enough control over the image between the menus in the DVD player and the display, in order to really optimize the image. We are talking about more than brightness, contrast, color (saturation), and tint. What I am referring to are such things as matching the original image signal to the display, pixel for pixel, overscan, underscan, gamma, aspect ratio, and other things that we all never even thought about before DVD players, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and large screen images were in our day-to-day activities.

Now that we have such great picture quality from DVD movies and high definition satellite programming, and with HD finally becoming comonplace, all of the factors I mentioned in the preceding paragraph make a difference. That's not to say it is critical for us to be able to control them, but if we go to the trouble of installing a home theater, spending many thousands of dollars on the display, SSP, amplifiers, and speakers, why not go the full mile and get that last little bit of picture quality which is there for the taking?

I have to say up front that I am not an expert in the video arena. Our gurus, Kris Deering, Darin Perrigo, Steve Smallcombe, and Ofer LaOr, really know this stuff, but I am just an average home theater aficionado when it comes to fine tuning the image. As a result, I wanted to see if video processors were easy to configure for a top notch video picture. And what do you know, it was easy.

I won't be going into the details of all the features that these two processors have, as that is the domain of product reviews. Here, I just want to discuss how they solved certain problems that I had encountered in my video setup.

The Issues

With one of the projectors I tested, the DVD player would not output the proper aspect ratio via HDMI when I was watching classic movies in 4:3. The image was stretched side to side. The projector could not collapse the stretched image back down to its proper ratio. Of course, I could have used component video, but digital signals are the way to go when you want the best image at the end of the line. Digital . . . all . . . the . . . way.

The video processors allow me to fix that problem before it reaches the projector.

Look at the Input Aspect Ratio controls on the DVDO for example, as shown below. The first two menus are from the Input Aspect Ratio, and the third one is from the Output Setup. Between all of these selections, there is no way I was going to have to deal with a final picture that was incorrectly stretched sideways, or vertically, or compressed in two directions, or whatever.

Click Here to Go to Part III.

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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