Anamorphic downconversion, digital video essentials, my recent foray into videophile land, frustrati

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by cg, Sep 18, 2004.

  1. cg

    cg Guest

    This is going to be a rather long rant/post, so I guess I should start
    right out with my question:

    Is there a player that has good anamorphic downconversion, as well as
    fast navigation and layer switching?

    I've bought two players and had to return them now because the anamorphic
    downconversion was so incredibly bad (and I have a regular ol' 4:3 tv
    that needs downconverting, of course). Depressingly, distressingly bad.
    How I got to this point is a rather involved tale, but I think you might
    find it interesting.

    I was never much of a videophile before, I've always been a big movie
    buff, but I had an old crappy television set with only RF input, and the
    Playstation2 was fine for all my dvd needs.

    Well, my good friend Carlos recently bought a DLP projector, and he had
    his old rear projection for sale. We have a long history of him buying
    stuff (furniture, audio equipment, you name it) and selling it to me when
    he upgrades. On the video front, he knows quite a bit about image quality
    and tv settings and so forth, so I had no qualms about buying his GE rear
    projection. I'm pretty happy with it so far, having gone from a really
    awful 26 inch CRT directview, for 300 bucks I bought his 46 incher and it
    is in very good shape, and the image quality is truly great for a
    projection system. Carlos doesn't buy crap (he's a virgo, in case you're
    into that sort of thing, and he is the most virgo virgo I have ever met).

    Anyhow, I'm sure you won't be surprised to find out that I quickly
    decided that the playstation2 was no longer adequate for my needs, and I
    had to buy a standalone dvd player. I figured the new ones would all be
    pretty much the same and I could just go out and buy a cheap Sony and be
    happy. So I did. I paid 90 bucks for it, brought it home and played my
    Monsters Inc disc on it and was pleased with the quality as compared to
    the playstation2.

    So Carlos says he wants to come over and calibrate my system, using his
    Digital Video essentials disc. I quickly fell in love with the disc and
    made a mental note to purchase my own copy as soon as I got around to it.

    So he calibrated my colors, contrast, brightness, and sound levels using
    the test patterns and sound calibration programs on the disc, and I asked
    him "So what do you think of the DVD player?"

    He got this diplomatic look on his face, and he said, "Welllll...... it
    doesn't have the best scalar I've ever seen".

    It's all been downhill for me from there folks. I asked him what the hell
    he meant by that, and he explained anamorphic downconversion to me. I was
    a little thrown for a loop that my dvd player would actually be scaling
    down the image on the disk as a matter of course. I was pretty ignorant
    of the whole thing, and I was happier for it.

    But, I'm a software engineer (as is Carlos), and I quickly understood the
    concept. The source material has a different aspect ratio of the display,
    so to show a movie in widescreen mode, the player has to drop 33% of the
    horizontal lines. Okay, great. So why was my player "not the best
    scalar" he'd ever seen?

    He showed me the video montage in 16:9 mode with everything vertically
    stretched, and then he contrasted it with the downconverted image. The
    downconverted image had all sorts of artifacts on the skyscraper montage
    with all the windows, and on the ferris wheel montage the sky actually
    crept into the spokes of the ferris wheel! I had to agree that it was
    pretty bad.

    He recommended that I take it back and try out another one. Well, instead
    I resigned myself to using the playstation2 for awhile, which has a
    pretty crappy mpeg decoder, but at least it doesn't add a bunch of scaly
    artifacts around edges. I traded my DVD player in on some cabling (yikes
    that stuff is expensive!) and bought a new Kenwood receiver (which I'm
    VERY happy with) because it was time for a receiver upgrade and I needed
    an s-video switcher anyway.

    As soon as I had the money for it, I went out and got myself a pioneer
    DVD player (the 578-a) because Carlos said that he had pretty good luck
    with his.

    Well, the anamorphic downsampler was even worse! Now instead of just
    getting some jaggies, angled lines in camera pans actually WIGGLE LIKE A
    SNAKE! It looks so amazingly awful on some sequences, I have to wonder
    what sort of crack the manufacturer was smoking when they designed the
    damn thing.

    Went over to Carlos's house with my Pioneer, and we compared it to his
    Sony, using his old 4:3 set, and the Sony looks great. Doesn't have the
    problem with the wiggly angled lines, doesn't have the problem where my
    pioneer seems to be doing too much antialiasing and letting the sky bleed
    into the ferris wheel imagae, it just scales it and it looks pretty darn
    good. Turned out his old Pioneer had much the same problems that my new
    one does, just less pronounced, but it doesn't matter because he runs it
    in 16:9 mode and lets his projector do the downconvert. Let me tell you,
    it does an amazing job! On the anamorphic test pattern on the DVE disc,
    the concentric circle test looks just great!

    So, now I have to return my Pioneer that's scary bad. I'm wary of buying
    another Sony given the poor anamorphic downconversion quality of my first
    purchase, and I'm getting a little weary of buying stuff and taking it

    One thing we noted is that his old Sony player didn't have support for
    progressive scan. Neither of us see why that should make a difference
    when you're running in interlace mode, but it was something that occurred
    to us.

    Anyway, I can't just buy an old player, either, because I'm very pleased
    with the INSANE speed of the pioneer when it came to chapter skipping and
    layer switching. Both were practically instantaneous, and I can't go back
    to waiting several seconds for them.

    So, I need a dvd player with a good anamorphic downsampler, and fast
    navigation/layer switches. I'd like for it to support progressive scan,
    for future display upgrade purposes, but since my future display will
    probably have the on-the-fly upconversion feature, this isn't wildly

    I'm desperately hoping that all the new players on the market aren't
    skimping out on the 4:3 anamorphic mode like my last to purchase

    Please help!!!!! Anybody?
    cg, Sep 18, 2004
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  2. cg

    Rutgar Guest

    Either buy a 16:9 TV, or a good video scaler.

    - Rutgar
    Rutgar, Sep 18, 2004
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  3. cg

    cg Guest


    There exist dvd players that have what I want. As I said, his Sony did a pretty great job. I feel sure someone out there knows of something I could get
    that's good.

    As per your TV suggestion, that's not gonna happen. Not for awhile at least.

    As per your scaler suggestion, are you telling me that there are standalone video scaler boxes?

    I really don't like that idea either. What I want exists, and I will find it.
    cg, Sep 18, 2004
  4. cg

    Rutgar Guest

    CG, yes they do make stand-alone video scaler boxes. For example:

    But, these are generally made for "up converting", not "down
    converting". In other words, most people prefer to scale a "crappy"
    picture up to a "good" picture. Not scale a "good" picture down to a
    "crappy" picture (which is what you're trying to do).

    Your biggest problem is you're expecting the DVD players to do
    somethng they're not really intended to do. Most people depend on
    their TV's built-in scaler to convert and scale to "it's" native
    resolution. Not the other way around. Since your RPTV is an older
    analog, 4:3 set, it doesn't have that capability. Unless someone
    else here has a solution for you, I think you're stuck unless you're
    willing to go out and buy a newer decent digital TV. If you think
    about it, why do you think your friend wanted to get rid of it?

    - Rutgar
    Rutgar, Sep 18, 2004
  5. cg

    cg Guest

    Look, I don't wanna get into a flame war with you. DVD players are
    definitely intended to downconvert DVD images. Most people have standard
    televisions just like me.

    Furthermore, I have seen it done correctly. Hell, the sony playstation does
    a better job of it than my brand new pioneer does!

    When you say "Most people depend on their TV's built-in scalar..." etc,
    what world do you live in? Most people have a standard 4:3 set just like
    me. Maybe you mean "most videophiles", in which case we're in perfect

    Look, it doesn't have to be perfect, I just want something decent. My
    friend's old Sony does a really great job of downconverting. Unfortunately,
    that model is not available, and even if it was, the navigation and layer
    switching is painfully slow by today's standards.

    Don't tell me that players aren't intended to do it, or that it can't be
    done. I've SEEN it done correctly. You're not helping me by telling me to
    go buy a new television set, you're just stroking your own ego.

    Hopefully someone on this group knows what they are talking about and can
    recommend something decent.
    cg, Sep 18, 2004
  6. before I got 16:9 capability, my Pioneer606D did a decent downconversion

    But really, the only way to really research it is to go to a store that
    allows you to test out DVD players downconverted.

    Take a DVD that has a THX calibrater that can show a test 16:9 screen
    with a the circle and box.

    When it shows the downcoverted 16:9 circle and box, observe how smooth
    (or unsmooth)the circle looks. The better the circle looks, the better
    the downconversion.
    Michael Rogers, Sep 18, 2004
  7. No. There is no such thing as "good anamorphic downconversion." Can't
    you at least afford to buy a 4:3 aspect ratio TV, which has the ability
    to vertically compress anamorphic images (a 16:9 mode)?

    Down-conversion is a destructive process which tears away one of every
    four horizontal scan lines from an anamorphic image and then pastes
    together the remaining 75% of the original picture information. There is
    no DVD player that can repair the damage caused by this ruinous

    Sure, some players do a better job of patching up the down-converted
    image, but all down-converted images look lousy. Some just look lousier
    than others.
    No, the player has to drop 25% of the horizontal lines in order to
    down-convert the image:

    A down-converted image has 25% fewer horizontal lines than the original
    anamorphic image.

    A compressed anamorphic image has 33% more horizontal lines than an
    equivalent non-anamorphic picture.

    An anamorphic image -- one which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs -- has 33%
    more horizontal scan lines than a non-enhanced image. If a DVD player is
    set to the 16:9 mode and playing an anamorphic DVD, the resulting image
    would appear to be vertically elongated by 33% on a conventional 4:3
    aspect ratio TV.

    The compromise 4:3 DVD player setting removes 1 of every 4 scan lines
    from an anamorphic image. This dumbing down of anamorphic images is
    called down-conversion and it is handled differently by different
    players. Some players complete the down-conversion process with a lot of
    picture disruption and others disrupt the picture even more. Either way,
    down-conversion is a terrible compromise which leaves the viewer with a
    picture which is at least 25% less detailed. When down-conversion
    artifacts and picture blurring are added to this less detailed image,
    the picture is further degraded.

    A 4:3 aspect ratio TV with a 16:9 mode has the ability to compress
    vertically elongated images by 25%, thereby achieving a picture which is
    33% more detailed. This is how the math works:

    For every 4 scan lines present in an anamorphic widescreen image, there
    are only 3 scan lines in the same non-anamorphic widescreen image and
    the remaining scan lines are used to create black bars. (For that
    matter, the down-conversion process of a DVD player removes 1 out of
    every 4 scan lines from an anamorphic picture.) It is now possible to
    assign values to the two resolutions:

    Anamorphic = 4

    Non-anamorphic = 3

    There is 1 scan line separating anamorphic DVDs from non-anamorphic
    DVDs. It is the relationship of this single scan line to anamorphic and
    non-anamorphic images that establishes the percentage of difference
    between them.

    An anamorphic image (with an assigned value of 4) is 33% greater than a
    non-anamorphic image (with an assigned value of 3). This would mean that
    anamorphic DVDs have 33% more resolution than non anamorphic DVDs.

    A non-anamorphic image (with an assigned value of 3) is 25% less than an
    anamorphic image (with an assigned value of 4). This would mean that
    non-anamorphic DVDs have 25% less resolution than anamorphic DVDs.

    In order to take advantage of the increased resolution offered by
    anamorphic DVDs, a 4:3 aspect ratio TV must be able to vertically
    compress an anamorphic image through the use of a 16:9 mode.

    For everything that you ever wanted to know about anamorphic images,
    visit the following websites:
    One-Shot Scot, Sep 19, 2004
  8. Sony players generally do have the best downconversion at any given
    price point (as you've discovered by comparing it to a similarly
    priced Pioneer). Earlier players such as your friend's were more
    expensive at the time which would explain the superior quality.

    My suggestion would be to look at Sony's more upmarket DVD players as
    these are much more likely to offer the kind of quality you require.
    The upmarket players more closely approximate the kind of quality your
    friend's player had (being at a similar price point, probably).

    The other thing to bear in mind is that a few years ago, the
    downconversion circuitry was more of a priority than now, because TV
    sets that offered vertical compression/and or widescreen sets were not
    as prolific as they are today (although you are absolutely correct
    that this is more of a market perception and in reality, most people
    still have 'regular' TV sets). I remember that the advertising for
    those players announced, 'Best downconversion ever!'. Nowadays, this
    is not as much a marketing point as it was perceived to be then, so
    there is less thought given to it, but presumably the better, more
    upscale Sony players would still do a nice job of downconversion.

    Michael Barry, Sep 19, 2004
  9. While it is possible that some rare DVD players simply drop every fourth
    line, I don't know of any. Almost all use a scalar or filter to drop 1/4
    of the information, not every fourth line. Scaling 4 lines to three
    isn't all that hard. Many of the reported "downconversion problems" are
    really "lower resolution problems". Jagged diagonals, when downcoverted,
    are more obvious jagged diagonal, etc.

    Matthew L. Martin, Sep 19, 2004
  10. cg

    Rutgar Guest

    So, you're saying that your Sony Playstation is a better DVD player
    than your Pioneer?
    I guess if you consider most people with digital TV's "videophiles",
    well then yes.
    And watch an old analog RPTV is just painful, by today's standards.

    You car will go in reverse. But you wouldn't want to drive it to work
    that way.
    I'm not trying to get into a flame war with you. You asked a
    question, and I answered it. Don't get upset with me just because
    you didn't like the answer.

    Again, I think you must ask yourself, why do you think your friend
    wanted to get rid of his old set by selling it to you? The sad truth
    is, you're putting a suit on a pig, and then complaining that it still
    looks like a pig.

    - Rutgar
    Rutgar, Sep 19, 2004
  11. cg

    cg Guest

    In terms of downconversion? Yes, absolutely, no question about it. On the
    pioneer, angled lines actually wave like flags. I'm not talking jaggies,
    I'm talking salute the flag waving here. That is utter crap, and I could
    write a better algorithm than that in my sleep.

    However, the mpeg decoder in the playstation 2 is really crappy, and
    besides I want fast navigation and layer switching. Why do I have to keep
    repeating myself?

    You're making a basic mistake in logic. I didn't say that everyone who
    had an HDTV was a videophile. I said most videophiles have HDTVs.

    On the contrary, you did not answer my question. I asked which players
    did a good job with the downconversion. You told me to buy a new tv. Can
    you honestly say you answered my question?

    You continued by saying that no players do a good job with it and that
    I'm wasting my time. On the contrary, I've seen players do a perfectly
    good job, it's just that the ones I've bought lately haven't done it.
    You're just using this thread as an excuse to tout the virtues of HDTV,
    something that's not in dispute in the first place.
    Because he built a home theater room in his new house.

    My tv is fine. I will eventually upgrade to an HDTV, but I don't have the
    money right now (plus I don't want to deal with finding one that allows
    me to turn off sharpness, SVM, and all that crap). Why do you have to be
    such a jerk about it?
    It's my pig, and I don't see why I should have to settle for a cheap
    suit! You want me to sell the pig and buy a cow. I don't want a cow! Stop
    cg, Sep 19, 2004
  12. cg

    cg Guest

    I'm a little scared to do this after having tried the Sony low end, which was pretty awful, but I will take your suggestion
    into consideration. Another fear that I have is that an upscale device will cheap out on the downconvert because Sony figures
    that anyone who buys their high-end dvd player won't be doing that anyway.

    Thanks for offering helpful advice though, and not telling me just to go buy a new TV. :)
    Yeah, that's the impression I'm getting. I just am a little surprised that Sony would take a backstep, because my friend's
    old player performed way better than my new one. It wasn't that upscale either, it's a 5-disc changer and he paid $150 for it
    a few years ago. My brand new 1-disc model that I paid $90 for was nowhere near as good.

    But again, thanks for the suggestion.

    cg, Sep 19, 2004
  13. I have an older Pioneer which I remember had better downconversion than
    what you describe. Now, ever since being used to 16:9 ANY downconversion
    sticks out like a sore thumb to me, so my view is now kinda tainted. But
    at the time, the downconversion looked fine.

    Michael Rogers, Sep 19, 2004
  14. cg

    Rutgar Guest

    I'm not being a jerk. I gave you sound advice. It's not my fault
    you choose to ignore it. If you know so much why did you ask in the
    first place? If you insist on sticking with an old, out-dated,
    piece-of-shit analog TV, then don't complain that it isn't up to your
    standards. In fact, while you're at it, why don't you just forget
    the DVD player, and stick with VHS. That sounds like more your speed

    Sheesh! Try to help someone out... oh yeah, I forgot. This IS the
    usenet. Silly me.

    - Rutgar
    Rutgar, Sep 19, 2004
  15. <<I'm not being a jerk. I gave you sound advice. It's not my fault
    you choose to ignore it. If you know so much why did you ask in the
    first place? If you insist on sticking with an old, out-dated,
    piece-of-shit analog TV, then don't complain that it isn't up to your
    standards. In fact, while you're at it, why don't you just forget the
    DVD player, and stick with VHS. That sounds like more your speed

    <<Sheesh! Try to help someone out... oh yeah, I forgot. This IS the
    usenet. Silly me. - Rutgar>>

    This takes me back quite a few years ago when people would ask me,
    "What's a good 8-track tape player to get for my car?"

    I would tell them there was no such thing as a good 8-track tape player.
    I feel the same is true with "good down-conversion." There is no such
    thing as good down-conversion.
    One-Shot Scot, Sep 20, 2004
  16. cg

    cg Guest

    You wouldn't say that if you saw my friend's DLP.

    Anyway, be that as it may, there are some players that are definitely
    better than others when it comes to downconversion.

    It's no big secret that a progressive scan, high definition television is
    going to be better than my "standard TV". Why does everyone feel the
    overwhelming urge to point out the obvious?

    MPEG is an interpretive standard, and to make matters worse, anamorphic
    downconversion is left up to the players. Some of them do a pretty good job
    of it, some of them do a horrible job of it. I thought someone here might
    be able/willing to point me in the right direction, but apparently everyone
    just wants to dump on my television instead.

    I have a lot of reasons for not wanting to buy a new set right now. I made
    that clear from the start. Why bother replying if your only purpose is to
    answer a question I didn't ask and already knew the answer to?

    Of course an HDTV would be better. I already knew that, and at least 3
    other people have helpfully pointed that out in this very thread. However,
    if you know anything about DVD players, you know that the quality of
    anamorphic downconversion is quite variable, and the quality of the
    conversion can greatly enhance or detract from the DVD experience for those
    of us lowly bastards who still have 4:3 television sets.

    I wish I could take some screenshots of the crack-pipe smoking engineering
    in some of the players I've tried so far, and comparative screenshots of a
    player that does it right. Maybe you'd see that shopping around for a good
    player is not as much an exercise in futility as you say it is.

    Your attitude makes me want to set up a website to do just that, because it
    is a common attitude, and folks like me could use the help from someone who
    knows what a difference a good player can make and won't just tell them to
    go get a new damn TV.

    In other news, I returned the pioneer and bought a Samsung 841. It's
    definitely got the best downconversion I've seen so far in the players I've
    purchased and returned, but it's not quite as good as some I've seen (like
    my friend's old, cheap Sony), the MPEG decoder is very mediocre, and
    navigation is painfully slow. Looks like it's going back to the store.

    cg, Sep 20, 2004
  17. <<Your attitude makes me want to set up a website to do just that,
    because it is a common attitude, and folks like me could use the help
    from someone who knows what a difference a good player can make and
    won't just tell them to go get a new damn TV.>>

    If your do set up such a website, yours will be the only one devoted to
    anamorphic down-conversion. In the last few years, the rating of a
    player's down-conversion capability has been all but eliminated from
    reviews. As you have seen, nobody on this newsgroup cares about
    down-conversion because so few of us require it. Manufacturers are not
    concerned with down-conversion and they throw in a cheap version of it
    only to satisfy the backward compatibility required to meet the DVD
    specification. Or, when down-conversion is good, the rest of the player
    is crap as you have seen with the Samsung 841. My opinion is that you
    will never find a player that has good overall features AND good

    The look of a down-converted image is purely subjective: some will
    consider a particular down-converted image to look marvelous, while
    others will think the same image looks like crap. As I have said before,
    ALL down-converted images look lousy to me.

    So, the ball is in your court. If you are able to find a cheap,
    full-featured DVD player that also does good down-conversion, post your
    findings to this newsgroup. My guess is that there is no such thing.

    Search the web for down-conversion ratings and you will find only dated,
    meaningless reviews like these:

    "Sony has traditionally introduced new technology with a bang. Their
    first DVD player, the DVP-S7000, was considerably better than the
    competition with its smooth scan capability, excellent down-conversion
    for 4:3 displays and component video outputs."

    "Then I figured it out - 2nd and 3rd generation players handle the
    anamorphic down-conversion for 4x3 TVs better than 1st generation
    players did. Gone were the slight artifacts on vertical movement - the
    subtle jitter on rolling credits for example - that I'd seen on my 3006.
    OK, it wasn't that big a deal. After years of editing and directing, I
    have a pretty well trained eye for video quality, and I hadn't really
    been bothered by the artifacts on my old player. The point is, I was
    impressed with the DV-414."

    "Anamorphic DVD down-conversion is always a hot topic for owners of
    standard 4:3 television screens. The shimmering and waving artifacts
    from line removal can be very distracting when watching your favorite
    movie. Again, the Shinco excels in keeping a sharp and finely tuned
    picture performing this daunting task."
    One-Shot Scot, Sep 20, 2004
  18. cg

    Yazandtony Guest

    Uhhh...did we need to know all of that stuff, especially about your friend
    Carlos, just to ask us for some help about downconverting? Really now!
    Yazandtony, Sep 20, 2004
  19. Your friend has a 4:3 DLP?

    Matthew L. Martin, Sep 21, 2004
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