During the initial setup, I noticed that the auto iris was very slow to respond to the average picture level on the screen, so I set it to Open. I generally prefer a non-dynamic iris in any event, and this setting helped maximize the peak white level. Another setup oddity was that the projector didn’t pass “belowblack” from the HD signal generator or the Digital Video Essentials DVD, but it did pass this information from the HQV Benchmark DVD. I can’t explain this discrepancy, but I thought it important to mention.
As expected, the projector’s HQV processing aced the HQV Benchmark DVD tests, including detail, low-angle diagonals, and the waving flag. Three types of noise reduction are available: Temporal Recursive (TRNR) to address random noise, Mosquito (MNR) to reduce noise from MPEG encoding, and Block Artifact Removal (BAR) to minimize—what else—artifacts that appear as big blocks in the picture.
TRNR did a great job of reducing general noise, while MNR had less of an effect on mosquito noise. In both cases, cranking them up caused no degradation in the picture. There were no block artifacts in the test material, so I didn’t really need to call BAR into action.
The processor picked up 3:2 pulldown very quickly, at both 480i and 1080i. Continuing with some HD DVD tests, I found resolution to be good at the highest frequencies, though somewhat rolled off, especially the color pattern in the vertical direction.
Moving on to movies, detail in the hay bales at the beginning of Star Trek: Insurrection was excellent. The color was also great, with natural skin tones and realistic blue sky and water. The green foliage was perhaps a bit oversaturated, but not bad. Shadow detail in the duck-blind observation post and nighttime scenes in the village was mediocre, but the black of space was deep and rich, and the black letterbox bars “disappeared” nicely.
Much the same was true in Pirates of the Caribbean, with superb detail in facial features (like young Elizabeth’s freckles), brick buildings, and ship rigging. There was nary a hint of jaggies to be seen in waving flags and the color was excellent, especially the red British uniforms and blue ocean. The only drawback was the so-so shadow detail in dark scenes, like the ones shot in the dungeon.
HD DVDs looked fantastic for the most part. In The Chronicles of Riddick, there was no contouring in the UV sun at the beginning or the world-destroying explosions set off by the Necromongers. Detail was exquisite, clearly defining each snowflake in the opening chase scene, the chipped paint in the bounty hunter’s space ship, and the stubble of a day’s growth of beard. The black of space was inky, though the shadow detail not so great in the nighttime attack of Helion Prime.
The Phantom of the Opera is another wonderfully detailed movie on HD DVD, which was faithfully reproduced by the HC5000. The busy backstage, Baroque theater decor, and jewels worn by Christine in her debut performance were beautifully rendered. Color was likewise gorgeous, with natural skin tones, rich reds and blues of the opera costumes, and sparkling gold and silver of the Masquerade scene. Once again, shadow detail was the only thing lacking in certain scenes.
There’s quite a lot to like about the HC5000. It’s got a great feature set, and its performance is top-notch, except for shadow detail and a relatively low peak white level. But these shortcomings can be easily forgiven in light of the otherwise beautiful picture it presents, especially on relatively small screens. I could happily live with the HC5000, and I bet you could, too. TPV