Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Epson Home Cinema 1080UB Calibration

This projector is one of the heavy hitters in the hot sub-$3000 1080p projector market. I wrote about the Panasonic AE1000U recently and the AE2000U just found its way into my own theater, review to follow. This unit like the others in its class uses the latest C2Fine LCD panels from Epson. These panels offer superb black levels and a tack-sharp image as their top features. This unit did not disappoint in either area.

The menu system is quite large and covers every possible calibration control required. There are cuts and gains for grayscale, color management, 9-point gamma, lamp brightness, iris on/off, position and overscan and a very useful multi-level sharpness control.

I began with basic level adjustments. This projector really does render superb blacks. Pluge patterns were fully resolved with the setup level on 0 IRE. This allows passing below black and above white signals which are present in most DVD and Blu-ray content. I was able to fine-tune the color gamut using the excellent color management system which offers Hue, Saturation and Brightness for all six colors. Once I had made adjustments to cyan and magenta, the gamut and color decoding were right on the money.

Next I turned my attention to gamma and grayscale. As automatic irises play havoc with gamma measurements, I turned it off temporarily. My approach is to achieve a correct curve without the iris then turn it on viewing actual content to check black level detail. The 9-point gamma adjustment was really handy as I couldn’t achieve 2.2 even with the control set on 2.4! I lowered every point with the most adjustment in the low and mid areas. I finally settled on 2.12. Any higher and black would start to crush. The net effect was positive after I re-engaged the iris. Blacks were very inky with great shadow detail. The image really popped. This is one of the real justifications for a precise and thorough calibration. Without test equipment, it would be impossible to find the best balance between good black levels and a correct gamma curve.

Grayscale was a snap to adjust with a full set of cuts and gains available. Tracking was excellent, within 100k and under 0.5 DeltaC*. I checked the grayscale with both windows and full fields. This projector had excellent panel alignment and color uniformity. There was no perceptible variation across the screen.

With the proliferation of Blu-ray players outputting 24p and a compatible display such as this one, it pays to spend time with some motion patterns to ensure you’ve got everything set up correctly. This projector has excellent video processing so I wanted to take advantage of its inverse-telecine de-interlacing ability. This means setting the SD DVD player to output 1080i. The projector correctly discards the extra fields created by 3:2 pulldown and makes 24p from 60i. The end result is judder-free motion from standard DVD. Blu-ray output is obviously set to 1080p/24. Unless you have a really good SD DVD player or an outboard video processor, I recommend sending a compatible display 1080i whenever possible.

My customary post-calibration reality check was quite enjoyable. In fact, it stretched to about an hour of watching scenes from different movies! Switching back and forth between Blu-ray and DVD versions of The Fifth Element really showed off the projector’s excellent image and excellent video processing. The Blu-ray was obviously superior but the DVD looked great too. Even though Blu-ray has won the war, we’ll be watching DVDs for a few years to come. It pays to consider this when purchasing any display or player. This particular system had an Oppo 981 for DVD. I recommend this or the more expensive Denon 2930CI. None of the currently available Blu-ray players can upconvert DVD as well as the Oppo or Denon units. A projector like this deserves the best sources available. For anyone considering a new projector, you won’t be disappointed with the Epson 1080UB. With superior projectors costing at least 3 times as much, you’ll have plenty of cash left over for a calibration and some quality source components.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the view!


D.P. Dalton said...

3 questions:

1. Did you calibrate the Epson Home 1080 UB of the Pro 1080 UB? I'm told that the Pro has two ISF memories that the Home does not.

2. Do you know whether Epson provides for an ISF certified tech all the same access to menus, settings, etc. on the Home 1080 UB as are available to him/her on the Pro 1080 UB? (Essentially, does the Pro just provide those two extra memory spaces for storing the ISF day/night settings or does the Pro model provide access to more calibration tools than are made available on the Home model?)

3. If I buy one or the other of these now, how long should I wait before having it ISF calibrated? I remember that I would have had to wait for 100 hours or so for a 61" Samsung DLP RPTV, but is that the same for an LCD projector? If so, why?


Chris Eberle said...

1. I calibrated the Home version. The Pro does indeed have 2 extra ISF memories for day and night modes.

2. The available adjustments are exactly the same for both projectors. The only advantages to the Pro version are the included spare bulb and an extra year warranty. Aside from this they are identical.

3. I would recommend at least 50 hours before any front projector calibration. RPTV bulbs run a bit cooler (lower wattage) so they take a bit longer to settle in. The burn-in time is to allow the bulbs color spectrum to stabilize. The color of light coming from any bulb will change a bit the first 50 hours or so. Waiting means the calibration will be more accurate and will last the life of the bulb. It also assures you that there is nothing wrong with the display. You want to be sure you're keeping it before investing in calibration.

Noli said...

Hi there. I saw this pj at a friends and the contrast was amazing. However, there seemed to be a level of 'black crush' where someone in a black jacket would just look like they were wearing part of a black hole rather than showing the folds and creases on the jacket. Did you experience any of this with this pj and how is it best to get rid of it?

Also, for 1080/24, is the 2:2 (48Hz) pull down on the Epson worse than the 4:4 (96Hz) pull down on the Panasonic AE2000 for example or does it make no difference?


Chris Eberle said...

There are 2 ways to fix the black crush: set the HDMI level to "expand" to see below-black information or turn up the brightness. It's also best to set black level with a pluge pattern that includes a below-black bar. Some content will have crushed blacks even if your display is set correctly. Never base adjustments on content, only on known reference test patterns.

I don't see any difference between the Epsons 48hz and the Panasonic's 96hz. Since LCD pixels never turn off, there won't be any flicker. And since film is 24fps, the LCD panels won't increase the blur that's already present in the original material.

Noli said...

Thanks appreciate it!