Theater Automation Wow HD-800 CRT projector Page 3
The TAW HD-800 was easily set up for new scanning rates. I had both the DVDO iScan doubler and the Faroudja DVP3000 scaler on hand, and quickly assembled an O.K. Corral shoot-out. At 480p, scan lines were all too visible on my 49x87-inch, 1.3-gain Stewart StudioTek 130 screen. The fine-focus ability of the 8-inch CRTs made this picture too dim to watch, as the scan lines were drawn narrower than the black gaps between them. Played more efficiently on a smaller screen, it would be pretty amazing. I'd place my bets on the DVDO even over the reference DVP3000, especially for the difference in cost.
The iScan dropped out of the race when we moved on to a scanning rate of 720p (the DVDO only doubles, albeit nearly perfectly), and had fun spotting the differences between the two other processors. The HD-800 was fully able to resolve the outputs of both units, although I found myself playing the Faroudja most often. The most obvious discernible difference was with motion on video-based sources, especially from my old Sony Playstation, and here the Faroudja clearly pulled ahead. The Need for Speed racing game never looked so good; I kept setting track records, as I could see into the simulation better to judge upcoming curves. Nevertheless, as with the Crystalimage processor reviewed recently, I had to remind myself that the Focus Enhancements Quadscan cost a tenth the Faroudja's price.
I got adventurous and ran up the Faroudja's scanning frequency to 1080p, which I knew was more than the 8-inch CRT could resolve, electromagnetic focus or not. I just wanted to see how it would respond. Surfaces acquired even greater solidity, colors gained saturation, and the image sprang to life, even if it was slightly soft. The picture became fully 3-dimensional.
I then dropped down to 960p, or straight quadrupling, which proved to be the best setting yet. I grew quite fond of this setup—viewer involvement in the video presentation was effortless—and stayed with it for most of the critical evaluation. At this point, I simply devoured DVDs. My haphazard collection was not enough—I began renting, begging, and borrowing new material. This projector just got out of the way, letting me become convinced of the alternate reality being delivered into my viewing space.
Pat Megenity came to town, lugging his HTPC (home theater personal computer) on a western PCinema evangelical tour. We immediately inserted it in my system and spent a good deal of time trying to decide which output and refresh rates were optimal. We limited our choices to 720p at 60 and 72Hz and 960p at 60Hz, as 480 lines proved not enough for full efficiency. With A Bug's Life and Antz, 720/60 had the edge, as we would expect with 30fps video-based animation. The solid colors and abrupt transitions were rendered very well at 720 lines. All of our other demo material was film-based, and 960p seemed just a bit more convincing. When we found the occasional motion anomaly, we stepped back to 480/72 to see if the problem was traceable to the scaling—this setting removes scaling from the equation, allowing us to view the original 720x480 image. All told, the HTPC/HD-800 combination proved to be a valuable one for the movie-lover, even if provisions for non-DVD sources are some time away (like HD tuners and external video inputs that could be upscaled).
With a full white field, slight horizontal lines could be seen at the 1/4 and 1/8 points on the screen. According to TJN, this has been evident with other Christie Digital-based projectors, but rarely intrudes into normal viewing. I usually saw them in bright sky scenes, but that was about it. The Christie people told me that careful setup would eliminate them, but after about 10 attempts the lines were greatly minimized but still noticeable. (A tip from Joe Kane's previous right-hand man, Nicholas Grieco, was to avoid the projector's Interpolated Convergence' setup mode and use only the Random Access Convergence, but doing so gave me only slightly better results.) I settled for simply ignoring the lines. This was one of the few negative things I could dredge up about the HD-800.
It seems that with the advent of high-quality solid-state projectors costing between $10,000 and $20,000, good CRT projectors are becoming scarcer by the day. The Theater Automation Wow HD-800 joins the Runco 930/933 (which, magically, has continued in Runco's lineup almost a year after its announced demise) as the only CRT projectors for less than $20,000 that include electromagnetic focus. Other projectors perform as well as the TAW, but not at this price. And, for less than $20,000, TAW's package—which includes a 52x92-inch Draper Cineperm M1300 screen, a 30-foot HD-15-to-RGBHV interconnect, and the TAW-960P processor—is quite the bargain. Wow. (We don't often get the chance to say that.)