Of the numerous boutique video processor chips out there (Faroudja, Anchor Bay Technologies and Gennum are only three examples), perhaps the best known ones originated from Silicon Optix, under the HQV (Hollywood Quality Video) moniker, including their Realta and Reon variants. Found in TVs, Blu-ray players, DVD players, A/V receivers and surround processors and in some outboard video processors, the HQV chips were widely praised for their video upconversion and deinterlacing prowess.
The Realta chip came first, a floating point gate (FPG) affair boasting a processing power spec’d at a whopping one trillion processing operations per second. That chip is still found in select upper-end AVR, A/V processor and a few Blu-ray player models. The more widely employed (and lower cost for equipment makers to buy and implement) Reon chip embodied many, but not all, of the Realta’s features, and is still found in numerous current models of players, processors, AVRs and A/V processors. One of the feature differences between the two chips is the noise reduction function—the Reon does MPEG noise reduction for standard definition streams, but not for high def streams. The upper-end Realta chip has sufficient extra muscle to do MPEG noise reduction for higher bitrate HD video data streams as well as to handle other HD video processing tasks.
Back in the fall of 2008, Silicon Optix divested themselves of the HQV business, spinning off the HQV Reon segment to chipmaker IDT (the Realta business went to a different firm), and IDT set about creating an updated HQV chip with better performance, a broader feature set, a lower cost to purchase as well as implement, and announced the availability of their new Vida chip to component makers last year. Although no new Vida-related product announcements were made at the recent 2010 CES show, IDT hinted that announcements of new products equipped with the HQV Vida chip should be just around the corner.
Select A/V reviewers (including me) were afforded a sneak peak of the upcoming Vida chip at the January 2009 CES, and three of us (myself included) were invited this past fall to help IDT tweak beta copies of their new HQV Benchmark 2.0 DVD and Blu-ray test discs, which have now just become available. I should point out that we weren’t compensated for the effort (ok – we did have a nice lunch together in LA on their dime), as they had asked us nicely if we would assist them, and we did so accordingly.
The HQV Benchmark version 1.0 DVD and Blu-ray discs were widely used by reviewers and enthusiasts to check video processing capabilities. More importantly, the discs allowed comparisons between the video upconversion and deinterlacing performance of SD and HD disc players vis-à-vis the same functionality as provided in HD displays, so qualified installer/technicians could see which of the two performed better, and configure them accordingly. The new Benchmark 2.0 discs should prove useful in much the same way, but with an expanded range of test patterns and moving and still images, as well as greatly improved textual and visual cues that show users what to look for in evaluating the performance of a source device (disc player) and a display (user instructions, or lack thereof, had been a problem with the earlier 1.0 versions).
The overview provides a pretty in-depth look at the challenges of various video processing functions, and includes split-screen and windowed images to highlight various image artifacts that a video processor must handle.
The setup section includes both test patterns and high resolution images to help with basic picture control adjustments, along with instructions as to how to set your player and display to evaluate either the player’s or the display’s video processor.
Grouped into four sections, the tests themselves cover video conversion, noise and artifact reduction, scaling and enhancements and lastly adaptive enhancements. There’s audio commentary available as well to explain each test, and to indicate what users should look for when running the tests.
Overall, the new HQV Benchmark 2.0 is a significantly improved product compared to its predecessor, and will appeal to video enthusiasts looking to achieve the best picture quality possible. The Blu-ray version is priced at $24.99, and the DVD is at $19.99, and both are available for purchase directly from the HQV website: www.hqv.com. The discs are also available on amazon.com, with a price discount if you order both disc types.