DreamVision StarLight1 LCOS Projector
Broaden Your Horizons
If you’ve investigated the subject of constant-height projection, you know that it can be a complicated, slightly intimidating business. We covered the ground rather thoroughly in “Beating the Black Bars” (HT, October 2008). Constant-height display generally involves placing a so-called anamorphic lens in front of a projector’s native lens when viewing true widescreen films—that is, films with an aspect ratio of around 2.35:1 (often called scope films). Such a setup also employs a 2.35:1 screen. For material with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 or less, the lens is normally moved out of the way and the image is projected onto the 2.35:1 screen with black bars on each side. This is sometimes called windowboxing.
DreamVision uses a variation on this theme. It leaves the anamorphic lens in place at all times and processes both scope and conventional sources to produce a properly proportioned image with all program material. This eliminates the need for an expensive mechanism to move the anamorphic lens out of the way when it isn’t needed.
There are three projectors in the StarLight line. All of them are based on the 2010 range of JVC LCOS projectors, and the performance and basic features appear to be the same for the equivalent StarLight/JVC models. But the aesthetics are different. The StarLight1 has a larger, curvier case (available in black or white), a more deeply recessed lens, and no automated lens cover.
The StarLight1 offers motorized zoom, focus, and shift (left-right and up-down). The available throw distances from this lens on a 100-inch-diagonal 16:9 screen (87 inches wide), from the screen to the front of the lens, are approximately 9.9 to 20 feet.
The projector offers the usual set of inputs, including two HDMI 1.3 connections. They are located on the side. This might be awkward for some installations, but it lets you place the projector nearly flush with the back wall of the room if needed.
There are eight Picture Modes, a wide range of Gamma settings, and eight Color Temperature selections, including three Cusom options that offer individual Gain (high) and Offset (low) adjustments for red, green, and blue. Unlike the more upscale StarLight models, the StarLight1 lacks a color management system that can move the locations of the red, green, and blue color points to achieve an accurate color gamut.
To address a complex subject as briefly as possible for new readers, white balance and color gamut are two different issues. Both must be correct to achieve truly accurate colors.
There are two forms of Sharpness controls: Sharpness and Detail Enhancement. I found that they both worked best when they weren’t working at all—at or near their minimum values—although their effects were relatively subtle at lower settings. Three multistep noise-reduction controls and a three-position Color Transient Improvement (CTI) control (said to reduce color smear) are active only with standard-definition sources. I left all of these adjustments off as well.
The StarLight1 offers 120-hertz operation with frame interpolation in a feature that DreamVision calls Crystal Motion Drive. This process is popular in many modern displays under a variety of names. It produces smoother motion that pleases some viewers. But while it can be helpful on video-based sources, it produces a too-fluid look on movies that others, like me, don’t like at all.
With Crystal Motion Drive off (which is where I left it), the StarLight1 simply repeats a 24-fps source three times for a refresh rate of 96 Hz. It repeats a 60-fps source once for a 120-Hz refresh.
Considering its origin, I wasn’t surprised to find that the StarLight1 has exceptional blacks without the use of any form of dynamic iris. Nor does it achieve these blacks by sacrificing peak light output. This is a very bright projector in its High Lamp Power mode, and it’s brighter than most even in its Normal setting. If needed, you can taper off the peak brightness level with one of three fixed Lens Aperture (iris) settings. Setting 3 is wide open. In setting 2, I measured a 25-percent light reduction, and in 1 (minimum), the brightness dropped a total of 45 percent from a fully open iris. I’d prefer a wider range of aperture adjustments (the other StarLight models offer 16). But the combination of two lamp settings, Normal and High, and three Lens Aperture positions should satisfy most users on most screens.