Avia Pro Page 2

There are other tests I haven't seen anywhere else. Chroma Upsample Error checks for the so-called "chroma bug" in DVD players. Layer Change checks how long it takes a player to switch between the layers of a DVD (though the suggested use of a stopwatch won't be very accurate because it depends on your reaction time). The Uniformity test not only tests for color shift in various parts of the image, but also for dead or stuck pixels and recovery lag, a particular problem with LCD panels.

Rainbow Dither not only tests for motion dither in the image at various velocities (visible particularly in camera pans as false contouring or banding), but it also shows up the color-separation artifacts (rainbows) that afflict many, if not most, displays that use a color wheel (primarily single-chip DLPs). And the Motion Transitions pattern checks not only for a deinterlacer's performance on bad edits and film-to-video and video-to-film transitions, but also for lip-sync errors caused by video-processing delays.

I still haven't covered everything on this DVD, but it should be obvious that it's the most complete assortment of video performance tests you're likely to see anywhere. And the documentation provided for this disc is a gold mine of information. It won't tell you everything you might need to know to get the most out of the test patterns, but it comes mighty close, and far closer than the materials provided with other test DVDs. Now, too much documentation might leave the average consumer confused by what Avia Pro offers. But the knowledgeable videophile, whether amateur or professional, will feel like throwing a party after taking it all in.

One Down, Five to Go
The other discs in the package are less likely to bring out the noisemakers and funny hats, but only in comparison with the 16:9 disc. I'll touch on them only briefly here. The Avia Pro Video 4:3 and Genesis Test Pattern DVDs provide many of the patterns found on the 16:9 disc, plus a number of patterns contributed by Genesis Microchip, the parent company of Faroudja. The Genesis disc includes Cross Color suppression, a waving flag, and a pendulum test (the last two to check for deinterlacing artifacts).

The CEA disc provides audio and video tests to gauge (with the appropriate test gear) a DVD player's compliance with CEA-established standards; the documentation provided seems to be right out of the CEA standard and is more than a little dry, but it does provide useful information. This disc provides only a few patterns that expand usefully on the 16:9 disc, but one includes a large moving Zone Plate pattern with smaller red, green, and blue zone plates at its side. The four plates move around the screen together at a steadily increasing rate, and both film- and video-sourced patterns (the former with 3:2 pulldown) are provided.

The SMPTE disc includes a variety of still and moving images to test for color, motion artifacts, and other characteristics of real video material. The shortcomings here are that the material is all 4:3, mostly video-sourced, and lacks any truly dark, low-contrast scenes that would be useful in evaluating shadow detail. DVE is also a little shy on dark scenes (the low-level scenes on the older Video Essentials DVD are more useful), but the quality of DVE's other video images is noticeably superior to those on the SMPTE disc.

The RPG CD-ROM, from the acoustic-treatment company of the same name, includes two particularly useful computer programs: Room Sizer and Room Optimizer. These provide guidance on optimum room size and the best places to position listeners and speakers.

I'll be diving more deeply into the tests on these discs, particularly the video tests, as we incorporate some of them into future reviews of DVD players and video displays.

The only thing missing from the Avia Pro set is high-definition material. That will have to wait for the release of a viable consumer optical-disc format for HD. (The thought of trying to access a specific test pattern on a D-VHS tape from among the thousands available in this set is too frightening to contemplate.) Until then, with that one exception, the Avia Pro suite is one of a kind, and an indispensable tool for the professional or the dedicated amateur videophile.