Theater Automation Wow HD-800 CRT projector Page 2
One of my few complaints is with the remote control. In order to switch the projector on, the Power button must be pressed and held for one second—a feature for the professional market that ensures that the projector isn't accidentally turned off during an important demonstration. Unfortunately for home-theater enthusiasts, this "press and hold" function is impossible to program into the average learning remote, let alone into a macro string of commands in a more advanced control device like the Philips Pronto. (Though I'm sure one of the Pronto programming wizards who frequent the RemoteCentral.com website could probably work something out.) The HD-800's auto-power feature allows it to be switched on when AC arrives at the plug, so an externally triggered AC outlet could solve this problem. Luckily, as with most products originally designed for the professional market, the projector can also be controlled with RS-232 commands; custom installers well versed in computer or Panja-type control systems could have complete control of this unit.
Setup and Installation
Phil Tuttobene and one of Christie Digital's knowledgeable and trusty field techs, Billy DeWolf, set up the Theater Automation Wow HD-800 in my new studio. For the past few years I've been setting up projectors residentially, and have occasionally chided my customers for not blocking out sunshine so I could see all the colors for convergence (especially blue, which is the most easily washed out by ambient light) and take proper gray-scale measurements. Now it was my turn—but, as I'd just moved from Michigan, I wasn't ready for the onslaught of California daylight. It took some effort to kill the wash from my western wall of windows; I just hope my neighbors don't mind the black spray-paint on the glass.
I watched Phil and Bill's setup work closely, so that I could learn how to get the most out of this projector. Even after many years of professionally installing and calibrating various video projectors, I hadn't had any time on the Electrohome/Christie Digital chassis. Although every chassis is unique, the principles for proper setup are the same. Each manufacturer's engineering team has its own approach to designing menus and ranges of adjustments. The installer simply needs to figure out where they're at.
The TAW includes a Scheimpflug focus adjustment, which basically tilts the lens in relation to the tube-face for improved edge-to-edge focus. Some manufacturers don't even include this adjustment; Dwin, for instance. Sony, on the other hand, has engineered a gearing system that simplifies the process and makes it much more precise. (This adjustment is named for the German bomb-sight designer who discovered that tilting the bomb-sight lens allowed for better viewfinder focus.) The Christie/TAW design is well-implemented and relatively easy to adjust.
While Scheimpflug allows some correction of slightly off-center placement (all projectors must be centered and perpendicular to the screen surface), I was disturbed by the absence of vertical tilt and horizontal keystone adjustments in the menu of the TAW. The tilt adjustment affects the angular appearance of the image, while the keystone adjustment alters the angle of the edges with respect to the centerline—without it, the picture looks like a trapezoid.
While proper leveling of the chassis can fix the tilt (easy if the projector is floor-mounted but nearly impossible once it's bolted to a ceiling), the lack of a horizontal keystone adjustment is a glaring mistake. Tuttobene insisted that the latest software from Christie would correct it. When the projector was first set up, it exhibited minor horizontal keystoning, which I was able to fix with careful adjustment of the "point convergence." ("Point convergence" is the movement of individual intersections of the internal crosshatch test pattern.) This is a tedious process, so the software update would be welcome.
We initially ran the HD-800 at 720p, fully expecting the 8-inch tubes to be at their most efficient at the NTSC "tripled" frequency. The projector held black very well, maintaining the depth of shadows and dark colors regardless of the overall illumination of the scene. On the black stretch test on Video Essentials (title 10, chapter 5), the PLUGE pattern remained consistent with every background illumination. The needle pulse pattern (title 17, chapter 4) was as straight as an arrow, indicating a solid power supply. And finally, the gray-scale did look neutral on title 18, chapter 1, with only a slight bump toward blue in the near-white upper grays.
The image was involving through the Focus Enhancements Quadscan processor that Phil sent along with the HD-800. He is marketing this unit with his own model number, the TAW-960P, obviously indicating his recommended scanning rate for the HD-800: 960 progressive. With solid surfaces and color rendition, the image truly looked good. I had used the Focus Enhancements Quadscan before and was prepared for its mix of fine performance and idiosyncrasies. The FE's occasional glitch, requiring reboot and the somewhat worthless remote control, were not enough to keep me from enjoying the combination. I simply couldn't keep up the list of all the movies I enjoyed over the next two weeks. This combination was fine for marathon viewing sessions, and didn't disappoint.