Sony VPL-VW1000ES 4K SXRD 3D Projector: Take 2 Page 2
In other words, everything was firewalled to produce the brightest possible 3D image on the 10-foot StudioTek screen. I performed my measurements using 2D patterns from a Blu-ray test disc played back on an Oppo BDP-95 player (with the projector in its 2D-to-3D conversion mode). These results were later verified with native-3D patterns from our VideoForge test pattern generator. The 3D glasses were positioned over our Minolta LS-100 light meter.
The peak brightness levels I measured were comparable to those I’d obtained before, averaging about 2.1 ft-L over multiple readings. This means the 3D brightness level was about 8 percent of the level possible in 2D in High lamp mode (even though the default 3D settings pushed the projector harder than the 2D settings). The results did not differ significantly in any of the three picture modes.
The visible results confirmed these measurements; 3D was not very rewarding with this setup. After five or ten minutes, I was ready to return to the VPL-VW1000’s gloriously bright, vivid 2D. But while 2D and 4K are the Sony’s calling card, most buyers are likely to expect a satisfying 3D image at this price.
The Screen Difference
One option here would be to reduce the size of the image when watching 3D, an approach made easy by using the projector’s lens-memory feature. But reducing the image to 80 inches wide only increased the measured output to 3.5 ft-L, and I doubt if many viewers would be willing to go smaller than that, or even that small, on so expensive a projector.
The obvious solution is a higher-gain screen. And by a fortunate coincidence, we had a couple of these on hand that were being tested for their compatibility with 3D projection (see “Screen Play,” page 40). I tried the Sony on the higher gain of the two: a Da-Lite High Power with a specified gain of 2.4—almost twice that of the StudioTek. The smaller size of the Da-Lite (92 inches wide versus the 118-inch-wide StudioTek) offered a further advantage.
While we didn’t magically see a brilliant 15-16 ft-L from the VPL-VW1000 in 3D, things nevertheless began to cook. The peak brightness measurement increased to 6 ft-L, easily brighter than you’ll see on any theatrical 3D screen short of a twin-projector IMAX or equivalent presentation. I also determined that if our Da-Lite High Power with its 2.4 gain was equivalent in size to a 118-inch screen, the brightness would be about 4.5 ft-L on the larger screen. I obtained this reading by positioning the Da-Lite screen immediately in front of the StudioTek, with the projector still set up to fill the latter and none of its settings changed. I then measured the center-screen brightness from the Da-Lite. In other words, the reading was the same as it would have been if the Da-Lite were a full 118 inches wide.
It’s virtually certain that the same people who complain about too-dim theatrical 3D won’t be entirely happy even at these brightness levels. But while I’m as curmudgeonly as any video purist, I found them satisfying—even at the 4.5 ft-L figure. Colors popped more than before, detail was more readily visible, and black levels were impressive. In short, 3D was fun again.
There was still the usual conundrum of choosing between a dim image with increased depth of 3D or a much brighter, if somewhat flatter, 2D. Just how much are we willing to sacrifice for that 3D effect? This is an unavoidable choice with all current 3D displays. I like 3D for some films, but wouldn’t want everything to be in 3D. It can be a distraction on many films, not to mention those glasses. A maximum of about 10 percent of my total viewing for 3D seems about the right ratio for me personally, although with the limited 3D source material currently available, it’s actually far less than that. At that level, I find 3D at 5-6 ft-L an acceptable compromise. It’s certainly more sensible than spending three to four times as much on a 3D projector that can go significantly brighter, but performs no better on 2D than the Sony, and, in the bargain, won’t offer 4K.
The main disadvantage of this higher-gain option alone is that the resulting image will be uncomfortably bright for 2D. You can turn this down with the VPL-VW1000’s manual iris, but you cannot use the manual iris together with the dynamic-iris feature. You’ll also have the off-axis disadvantages common to higher gain screens (again, see “Screen Play, page 40), but now in 2D as well as 3D.
A better alternative is two separate screens. You can position a smaller (I suggest no larger than 96 inches wide), fixed-frame High Power or other high-gain screen behind a larger (say 10 feet wide), retractable, lower-gain screen. Or you can look into having two dissimilar, retractable screens in one case. Da-Lite offers just such an animal. Yes, the extra screen will add to the cost of the system, but it’s relatively small as a percentage of the total in an installation built around a $25,000 projector. As noted above, the Sony’s lens memory will make switching between the two screens quick and painless.
It may also be useful to see how this compares with other 3D projectors, and I did have two on hand: the JVC DLA-X70 and the Sony VPL-VW95ES. On the 118-inch StudioTek screen, the JVC maxed out at 15.4 ft-L in 2D and dropped to a hair under 2 ft-L in 3D. The VPL-VW95 peaked at 15.7 ft-L in 2D and just under 2.4 in 3D. This wasn’t terribly surprising, as we know of no current 3D projector that’s likely to do much better than the VPL-VW1000ES’s 2.1 ft-L on a 118-inch-wide, 1.3-gain screen—unless your budget has six figures in it.
But, while the light loss for both the JVC and VPL-VW95ES going from 2D to 3D was less than that in the VPL-VW1000, the final visual result was little different. One possible explanation for the higher percentage of 3D-brightness loss in the VPL- VW1000 is that Sony has adjusted the projector and glasses to minimize any possibility of 3D crosstalk—the visible ghosting that has been the object of complaints about many first-generation 3D projectors. Not that any of those are brightness champs, either. With active shutter glasses, a black blanking period is used to minimize crosstalk when the 3D image alternates from one eye to the other. The brightness lost from 2D to 3D is always a combination of the projector, the glasses, and how they are programmed to operate together. In the VPL-VW1000, Sony employs a newly developed digital method to drive the active glasses, a technique claimed to eliminate crosstalk. I can’t speak to the total elimination of crosstalk from any available 3D source, but I can say that I saw no sign of it on the 3D Blu-rays I watched that have shown it on other 3D displays.
(Oddly, on the VPL-VW95 there were some readings among the dozens I made that jumped to around 6 ft-L. This threw me at first, but I speculate that it was due to the 3D glasses breaking lock. The measurements were made from about 20 feet from the screen, which meant a round trip for the sync signal of about 40 feet, because the signal has to bounce off the screen and return about the same distance. This was not a problem with the JVC; with its external sync transmitter, I could aim it directly at the glasses. Similarly, the VPL-VW1000’s measurements were very stable over many readings; presumably, that projector has a more potent onboard transmitter than the VPL-VW95 does.)
One issue mentioned earlier remains to be settled: the use of an external device to perform the 4K upconversion with today’s less-than-4K source material, rather than using the upconversion built into the VPL-VW1000. I’m not convinced that there’s a real need for this, but some of you might be thinking along those lines.
In the original review, we reported that the VPL-VW1000 would not respond properly to the only such external device available to the consumer—the 4K upconverter built into the Integra DHC-80.3 preamp (and several other Integra and Onkyo audio components). Sony took responsibility for this shortcoming, and said the problem would be cleared up in our production sample.
So was it? Yes, the Integra’s 4K output was received and displayed properly by the Sony projector, although it took a few seconds to lock in each time. But was it a good-quality 4K? Yes, but unfortunately for the Integra, which uses a Qdeo chip for this upscaling, the Sony’s own upconversion processing produced a clearly sharper picture. But we’re in early adopter territory here, and the DHC-80.3 is the first outboard, 4K upconverter we’ve seen. It may be useful on the smaller 4K displays likely to come down the pike, but on a 10-foot-wide screen, it was a step down from the processing of the VPL-VW1000.
If you’re shopping in this price range for a new projector, the Sony VPL-VW1000 should definitely be on your short list. If 3D is not an important target on your radar, that’s all you need to know. If you’re big on 3D, you need to accept the fact that most home-theater projectors today, including this one, really won’t light up a really big, low-gain screen with a bright 3D image. But if the VPL-VW1000 were my choice, I’d definitely be a two screen kinda guy—a big, modest-gain or 1.0-gain screen for 2D and a smaller, high-gain screen for those less-frequent 3D showings. If I had the spare change, the VPL-VW1000 and two such screens would definitely be at the top of my list.