Faroudja DILA1080pHD and DVP1080 D-ILA Video Projector and HD Digital Video Processor Page 3
I used two different screens with the Faroudja system. On my 78-inch wide, Stewart Filmscreen Studiotek 130 (a 1.3-gain white screen), the image was very bright (see "Testing"), though not unpleasantly so. The black levels did not appear as deep as the best DLP projectors I have used, but they were far better than satisfactory; I never saw any sign of the gray haze or fog that afflicts some digital projectors in dark scenes.
The DILA1080pHD has enough light output to support a larger screen, which will deepen blacks as it drops the average brightness of the image overall. This was the case on my 102-inch wide Screen Research acoustically transparent screen. But the Screen Research wasn't the best choice for the Faroudja. Such a large, low-gain screen soaks up a lot of lumens (the Screen Research's rated gain is 0.95, but my own measurements suggest it's lower than that). While some may carp about its size, my Studiotek provides a punch and three-dimensionality I'm not willing to give up for the sheer impact of a larger picture.
The Studiotek was also better at fully rendering all the detail the Faroudja could put out. There was a subtle loss of crispness with the Screen Research, likely due both to its woven texture (which isn't clearly visible) and the dimmer image it produced. A good compromise, which I have not yet tried, would be either a matte white screen with a gain of 1.0 or a slightly lower gain, gray screen such as Stewart's GrayHawk RS. But for those who must have an acoustically transparent screen, the picture on the Screen Research was not soft looking by any standard.
So Watch It, Already
What struck me first about the Faroudja was its color and detail. Flesh tones were right on the money, and even with a good DVD I saw a level of detail that I didn't anticipate. Long shots are limited by DVD's inherently limited resolution, but fine details in close-ups—the texture of skin, fine facial and arm hair—were amazingly sharp, yet natural. With the Detail control set no higher than 2 or 3, there was no sense of over-enhancement. Not every shot showed this level of crispness, but that merely reflects the projector's ability to tell it like it is. The Sony Qualia 004 (if memory serves) was a little less detailed than this—possibly a function of how it performed the upconversion to 1080p. I would love to see the Qualia driven by the DVP1080 (and a recently announced update for the Sony projector allows it to accept a 1080p/60fps input directly).
I found a lot to like, and little to complain about, on a wide range of DVDs. Charlotte Gray is a reference-quality disc I always seem to pull out first—one of the most film-like transfers I've ever seen. It's not the most strikingly sharp DVD in the shed, but on a good projector it never looks soft. On the Faroudja it looked stunning—crisp, bright, and full of detail and dimensionality. The colors were gorgeous and very natural, and fine details were all there—check out the rust on the gate in chapter 11, or the facial textures in chapter 5 (and note that the focus is softer on Cate Blanchett's close-ups than in the actor she shares the scene with). Greens, in common with most digital projectors, are overly vibrant, but this was rarely a distraction.
Gladiator has just been re-released in a 3-disc box set, with a new transfer that's, um, to die for. You can't get much closer to high definition from a DVD than you'll see here. With no visible edge enhancement and a projector of this quality to show it off, even your videophile friends will be fooled into thinking that this is high-def. Gladiator it isn't as colorful a film as Charlotte Gray, but it is sharp as a tack. More important for reference purposes, this is a relatively dark movie, with many scenes that drop into deep shadows. Despite a slightly high measured black level on the Stewart screen, I never found the quality of the blacks or the shadow detail here less than fully convincing.
And if you want to see blacks, try the new DVD of Sin City. It isn't really my kind of film, but I had little to complain about in how it looked on the Faroudja. Yes, the blacks occasionally looked a little crushed, and this was the only material I watched on the Faroudja in which some false contouring was obvious. But so much of this film was created on a computer that it's hard to assign blame to the display. The high-contrast look of Sin City—stark shades of black and white but with bright splashes of color thrown in—came through vividly.
We Want Our 1080p!?
Since DVDs are still on the first team for most of my day-to-day movie watching (and probably yours as well) the obvious conclusion here is that the Faroudja is right up there with the best home theater projectors for today's dominant program source.
But there is much more to the DILA1080pHD than its terrific way with DVDs. With so much hoopla going on about 1080p these days, yet so little true 1080p material available to the consumer, just how does it perform in upconverting both 1080i and 720p?
There are two selectable modes in which the DVP1080 converts 1080i to 1080p. In High Bandwidth mode it deinterlaces the 1080i source directly to 1080p with no scaling. In Enhanced mode, it first converts the 1080i to 1280x720p, and then scales that to the selected output rate. According to Faroudja, 1080i to 1080p deinterlacing is performed first, even in Enhanced mode, before the image is downconverted to 720p. I used the High Bandwidth mode for all of my 1080i viewing.
It took me a while to come to terms with the DILA1080pHD's high definition performance. Despite its high rated—and measured (see "Testing")—performance, it did not appear at first to measure up to the HD image I've seen from the best single-chip DLP projectors in my experience—all of them 1280x720 devices, no less. The Faroudja's blacks and shadow detail weren't as impressive as you'll get from the Yamaha DPX-1200, for example. The difference was subtle, however, and likely to be obvious only to those who have spent plenty of time with both projectors.
The Faroudja's color is superb, but because its greens are off the mark, the Yamaha looks slightly more natural. (Unlike most digital projectors, which also have non-standard color points, the Yamaha's color points can be precisely calibrated using its extensive color controls and appropriate test gear.) The Yamaha is definitely less bright (unless you open its iris all the way, which compromises its blacks), but also looks just a little crisper and sharper.
While the differences in the black levels and color between these two projectors are measurable, the difference in subjective sharpness may be an illusion. While most 1280x720 DLP projectors do not appear at all grainy from my normal seating distance, the Faroudja's picture is definitely smoother, a characteristic that will be even more evident on a larger screen than mine. The more I watched the Faroudja, the more I appreciated its fine-grained image.
The DILA1080pHD did appear more sensitive to differences in HD program material, not all of which is created equal. That, of course, may simply indicate that its higher resolution is simply showing it like it is, warts and all. While most of the film previews on one episode of HDNet's Nothing But Trailers looked excellent, not all of them did. Discovery HD Theater's Alien Planet (also available in a terrible, non-anamorphic DVD) looked nearly real, though subtle losses in shadow detail kept it a bit removed from the ideal "looking out the window" experience that's the ultimate goal of HDTV.
The above two programs were viewed from the hard drive in my Scientific Atlanta cable box. Material recorded off-the-air onto a Zenith hard-drive recorder looked even better—and more consistent from program to program. It also must be said that the 720p programming recorded on this drive looked every bit as good, and sometimes better, than the 1080i material.
There's no question that this Faroudja package deserves a place among the best home theater projectors available today. A great deal of effort has gone into wringing out the best that D-ILA technology has to offer, and it has paid off handsomely.
But recent developments in video have made better and better video performance more and more affordable. The competition for your projector dollars is becoming intense, and products matching or approaching the quality of the Faroudja are available now in a wide range of prices. The situation is similar to the one that exists super high-end audiophile arena. If your bank account can stand it, you can spend $45,000 for a pair of speakers. Or you can spend $25,000—or even $10,000. You might very well prefer the $45,000 speakers, but you could also put together an entire multichannel home theater system for that price, audio and video combined, that will floor almost anyone who experiences it. It all comes down to your preferences, how critical you are, and your pocketbook.
One thing is certain, however. The Faroudja DILA1080pHD and DVP1080 will blow you away.
Highs and Lows
• Excellent brightness, detail, and color with all sources
• Excellent deinterlacing and scaling
• Very expensive
• Fan noise
• No light modulation features, such as a variable lamp output or iris, to better match image brightness to a given screen