Pioneer, Artifacts, Screens

To Buy or Not to Buy
I have been saving to buy a new 50-inch Pioneer plasma this summer. Now Pioneer is getting out of the plasma business completely. Should I still buy? I'm worried about the possible warranty issues and getting repairs in the future.

Jamie Stabl

I would go for it. Pioneer isn't quitting the business until March 2010, and even after that, I have little doubt the company will continue to honor the warranty and provide service for its plasmas. You'll also be glad you waited, since the prices will probably drop over the next few months, and you'll be getting the best flat-panel picture I've ever seen. Just be sure to adjust the picture controls with a setup disc like Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics.

Polka Dots & Artifacts
I own a Sony BDP-S550 Blu-ray player, which is hooked up to a Sony 46-inch XBR TV. Overall, the Blu-ray picture is fantastic. However, I do notice artifacts from time to time. For example, in the movie Wanted, the polka dots on the blouse of the main character's evil boss flicker. Also, there are portions of The Dark Knight in which the buildings in the background flicker. Is this a limitation of the Blu-ray technology, the machine itself, or the settings on my TV? I know other people have reported similar problems, and there are several explanations—limitations of film-based media, limitations of LCD TVs, incorrect TV settings, etc. Are there things that can be done to eliminate or minimize these problems?

Dale Shahin

It's not a limitation of Blu-ray technology, film-based media, or LCD TVs in general. It's probably the settings in your TV. The first thing that comes to mind is overscan scaling, in which the TV slightly enlarges and then crops the image, which can cause the effects you describe in areas of fine detail.

I assume your Sony TV is a recent 1080p model, so make sure the Wide Mode is set to Full and the Display Area is set to Full Pixel. This maps each pixel in a 1080p signal to the corresponding pixel on the screen, eliminating overscan scaling. If your TV is not 1080p, there might be nothing you can do to eliminate these artifacts. (BTW, this is why I always recommend getting a 1080p set if possible, even if you can't theoretically see any difference in detail between 1080p and 720p at the distance you're sitting from the screen.)

Are you sending a 1080i signal from the player? If so, the problem could be the TV's deinterlacer, so try sending 1080p/24 if the TV can accept it or 1080p/60 if not.

Another possibility is the way the movies are encoded on the disc. The Dark Knight was encoded using VC-1, which is prone to causing a bit of moiré distortion in cityscape buildings. I don't know how Wanted was encoded, but if it was VC-1, that could be the problem in that case.

Screen Dreams
My wife and I have finally decided to build a home theater. We've settled on a front-projection system, but I'm hung up on the screen more than anything else. I'm certainly going with Stewart. I've seen some demos of Stewart and Da-Lite, and I prefer the Stewart screen. We'd really like to get a CineCurve at 108 inches wide, but it has a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Won't this require an anamorphic lens on my projector? Is something like that really necessary? My wife hates the black bars, as I do. Then again, I don't want to have to go looking for movies that are 2.35-2.40 aspect ratio.

Jon Woll

Like all 2.40:1 screens, the CineCurve is designed to be used with an anamorphic lens. The screen's curvature compensates for geometric distortions that occur with such a lens, so if you don't want to include one in your budget, I wouldn't get a CineCurve.

On the other hand, if you get a 16:9 (1.78:1) screen and no anamorphic lens, movies will have black bars on the top and bottom because the aspect ratio of most movies is 1.85:1 or 2.35:1. You can get a screen with motorized masking on the top and bottom to mask off the black-bar areas, but this type of screen is pretty expensive—though probably not as much as an anamorphic lens and CineCurve screen. BTW, the CineCurve can be bought with motorized side masking for watching 2.4:1, 1.85:1, 1.78:1, and 1.33:1 images all with constant height, but this is very expensive. We had a 120-inch version in our studio for a while, and its list price was in the $20,000 range.

Finally, I wouldn't dismiss Da-Lite so quickly. Have you seen the new Affinity screen? It was designed with the help of video guru Joe Kane. Currently, this screen is available with a 0.9 gain, and a version with 1.3 gain is nearing completion. I've seen demos on the 0.9-gain version, and they looked amazing. I'm not down on Stewart at all, but the Da-Lite Affinity is definitely worth consideration.

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John's picture

RE: Polka Dots & ArtifactsI bet you dimes to donuts, the flicker he is talking about is due to motion interpolation (or lack there of).I know when my friend was watching The Dark Knight, the buildings in the opening show with the grid pattern went to hell in a hand basket, since the TV could just not understand how it was moving.And the dots... I've seen stars and other objects like that also smear and separate such as in Baraka.

Adam's picture

Just a point on the Dark Knight. I've seen this opening seen on multiple displays between myself, family and friends (42" Pioneer 720p, Pioneer Elite 50" 720p, Pioneer Kuro 50" 720p Pioneer Elite Pro-111FD 1080p, Pioneer Elite Pro-101FD 1080p, Sony XBR-6, Samsung 52" 750 1080p), and no matter what screen I watch it on, there is always moire and slight distortion in the opening IMAX shot of the film. I'm guessing this is due to the IMAX film stock being changed to 1.75:1 aspect ratios.

David Vaughn's picture

Adam and John,Yes, there is moire in the opening sequence of The Dark Knight, but it's very brief. 1080p/24 output with 1:1 mapping diminishes it greatly, but if any additional scaling is happening in your display or player, it may exacerbate the phenomenon. I think Adam's theory is very plausible, since the IMAX footage was changed from the OAR (original aspect ratio) from the source print.David

Nathan's picture

If Jon is apprehensive about spending money on an anamorphic lens, perhaps he might go for something like the Panasonic AE3000. The widescreen preset zoom feature has a lot of people excited, including myself.

Jim Tippit's picture

Actually this is more a comment about the Pioneer PDP-6020FD than Pioneer stopping production and probably belongs in a letter to the editor. The pioneer has one of the most compelling pictures I've ever seen and I'm not in the lest sorry I purchase the set. There is however a firmware/engineering flaw I accidentally discovered. I use the TV almost excessively to watch SD/HD media via my Panasonic Blue-Ray player. However I watch cable TV direct (NO cable box) on occasion and discovered the TV will NOT tune clear QUAM cable channels. I am greatly surprised the reviews of this TV by various magazines did not discover or report this problem. There is a firmware update on Pioneer's web site but it does not fix the problem. Pioneer sent me another firmware update, not yet made public, and it too was useless.Apparently the firmware situation has been pushed up the engineering food chain all the way to Japan. I only know of one other person owning the exact same TV and he has the same problem.

Tom Nader's picture

I am currently running a 50" 1080i Elite from 3 years ago and cant decide if moving to the new 60" Elite 1080p is worth time money or not. Give the improvements in the Elite models over the last three years and 1080p, is it worth it? Tom