InFocus ScreenPlay 777 DLP projector Page 2

TrueLife includes the Faroudja processing and deinterlacing used in the 777. It provides adjustments for Chroma Detail, Luma Detail, and Chroma Delay. Progressive sources, of course, including high definition, bypass the deinterlacer.

For conversion to the native 720p resolution of the projector, 1080i material undergoes an interesting process. Consider each 1080i frame as two 540p fields. Each of these 540p fields is converted to the 720p native resolution of the 777. These upscaled fields are then displayed sequentially. One could, I suppose, make the argument that this potentially reduces or eliminates the temporal (motion) problems inherent in 1080i material. One could also make the argument that it eliminates any spatial (static) resolution advantages that 1080i has over 720p—or indeed over even native 720p sources. But since both 720p and 1080i material looked superb on the 777 (more on this a bit further on), I haven't yet considered the implications of the process too deeply.

There's also selectable Cross Color Suppression (for composite sources), plus a Film Mode setting (for 3:2 pulldown). The latter offers a 48Hz setting—unique in our experience among DLP projectors—that simply plays each frame twice rather than employing 3:2 pulldown. This marginally smooths out the motion in exchange for some visible flicker and, typically, slightly lower resolution, the latter because the 48Hz mode works only with 480i, standard-definition component sources; you have to give up the benefits of the DVI input to use it, and it doesn't operate on high- definition material.

The Color Space control sets the correct color space for different sources—SD, HD, or computer. I left it on Auto. The Color Temperature control offers three options, which can be recalibrated. The Color Gamut control provides four choices: SMPTE C, REC 709, EBU, and Maximum. I used SMPTE C for most of my viewing. I did try switching between SMPTE C and Maximum, and much of the time saw little or no change.

The InFocus is outdone in features by a number of top-rank single-chip DLPs we've reviewed, but it still gives you most of the controls you need. The one glaring omission in the standard video controls is the lack of a conventional sharpness adjustment. The Chroma Detail and Luma Detail controls in the TrueLife menu are useful only with standard-definition interlaced component inputs. The TrueLife Luma Detail control was already at 0 and was adjustable in the positive direction only. To be fair, I never felt the need to perform a sharpness adjustment on the 777 in my time with it, though with one or two instances of marginally oversharpened program material I would have taken it down a notch or two, given the option.

Setup and Performance
The ScreenPlay 777 was as easy to set up and operate as a one-chip DLP projector. Position it the right distance from the screen, square it up, zoom and shift the lens to fit the screen, and focus. Adjust the video controls properly and you're there. The performance observations given here, as noted earlier, were made with the Gamma set to Film and the Color Gamut set to SMPTE C. I used the DVI input for most of my DVD viewing, and a mixture of DVI and component for high-definition. The projector was set up to throw an 86-inch-wide image onto a 96-inch-wide Stewart FireHawk screen. The full width of this screen was a bit overpowering from my normal 12-foot viewing distance, and 80% of my serious viewing is still of DVDs—at this distance, a DVD image starts to deteriorate noticeably when it's made wider than 86 inches.

With this setup and screen size, the InFocus put out a searing 33.5 footlamberts (fL) on-axis at a Contrast control setting of 56 (out of 100)—the highest it would go without crushing white levels below 100 IRE. The downside of this substantial output was that the video black level off the screen—as dark as the image would go—was 0.019fL. To put this in perspective, we have measured video black levels at or slightly below 0.005fL on the best HD2+ one-chip DLP projectors. True, those projectors rarely put out anywhere near 33.5fL, even on a smaller (80 inches wide) FireHawk screen, typically producing only about half that output. But my experience suggests that in establishing a quality video image, the level of absolute black is just as significant as the peak light level—provided the latter is at least adequate.

A high peak output can also be uncomfortable on a large screen. The SMPTE standard calls for an optimum brightness in a movie theater of 12fL with a clear film in the projector gate. Granted, this standard was set with the financial and technical limitations of commercial theaters in mind; for home use, I prefer slightly more than that—something on the order of 14–16fL. But at far higher levels, the eyes strain at scenes that mix dark levels with very bright highlights, or at fast transitions from a dark interior scene to bright sunlight. And the brighter the image, the more it exaggerates any flaws in the program material, from digital artifacts to noise.

On the upside, a bright image lets you watch the projected image in moderate room lighting. This is important to some buyers, despite the fact that a projected video image will always look more 2-dimensional and washed-out with any room lighting than it does in a totally darkened room—it's the nature of the beast. The black level you see on the screen can never be darker than what the screen looks like with the projector turned off. Turn on the room lights and the black level goes up. Video projectors do not project black.

I can't deny that the InFocus did produce an impressive image with its inherently high output. The high quality of restoration performed on the films in the new Star Wars Trilogy boxed set was clearly evident. The images were crisply defined—the 777 clearly has first-rate optics—shadow detail was good, and there was no grain or noise. Absolute blacks were respectable, though clearly less than the state of the art. On dark scenes, it was easy to see the slight gray haze that's overlaid on the image of many digital video displays with high black levels—a haze I don't see from most lower-output, one-chip HD2+ DLP projectors.

And with transfers slightly less pristine than Star Wars, such as the boxed set of Season 7 of Stargate SG-1 (actually a fairly good transfer for a TV series), grain was very evident. This couldn't be blamed on the 777, of course—for this grain to have been coming from the projector, I would have had to have seen it on every DVD I watched, which I definitely did not. But it points out the problems inherent in a large, bright image and relatively limited source resolution.

Within the limits of digital-projection technology, there are several ways to minimize this problem. Two of them—an adjustable lamp and a lens iris—are under the manufacturer's control, and InFocus has chosen not to provide them. Another two are using a larger screen or a neutral-density filter over the lens to reduce the light output.