Epson MovieMate 30s, 33s Projector - Handling of Fleshtones
Epson has consistantly provided extremely good color balance on their many home theater projectors, over the years. This new MovieMate 30s / 33s is no exception.
I like to start off with "flesh tones" because, if there's anything that will tend to call attention to color balance problems, it is flesh tones that just don't look right. I'll start you off with the usual suspects - images from Lord of the Rings, and The Fifth Element, both, from standard DVD. All images shown on this page, are shot with the MovieMate 30s in Theater Black preset mode, unless otherwise noted.
Considering the MovieMate 30s/33s, doesn't offer much in the way of color controls (just simple tint and saturation), it's a good thing they did a great job on color "out of the box". Overall, the handling of flesh tones is very pleasing, and compares favorably with not just other "all-in-one" projectors, but with more expensive stand alone projectors, too.
Epson MovieMate 30s, 33s - Overall Color Handling.
With four preset modes, Theater Black does the best job on movies, while Theater, interestingly produces a cooler overall color temperature balance, more suitable for HDTV, and sports, etc.
The Dynamic mode, who's equivilent on most projectors, typically is very cool, turns out to be the warmest (lowest color temperature) of the four presets, in fact very close to the ideal 6500K for movies. That said, Dynamic does push the green quite a bit as is typical of projector presets designed for dealing with maximum ambient light. Epson cranks out the most lumens in Dynamic, but with the strong greens, it is best saved for your lights on viewing.
Lastly the Living Room mode, as you would expect, has a cool color temperature right around 8000K, ideal for HDTV, TV, sports, etc., combining good brightness with well balanced color.
Immediately below are a number of images from standard DVD, and also a couple of HD-DVD's to give you an overall idea of the richness of the picture that this Epson MovieMate produces.
Click to enlarge most of these images. The first three are from AeonFlux, off of HD-DVD. My HD-DVD player was interfaced to the Epson via the computer/component video input on the side.
Dropping back to standard DVD (using the Epson's internal DVD player, from Starship Troopers:
Let's look at the Epson with some ambient light. The first image here shows the lighting in my family room. The picture captures the level of brightness in the room, pretty well (OK, maybe the room isn't quite that bright). The image on the screen, being significantly brighter than the room, is overexposed, so the image below, has the exposure adjusted to do the best job of properly exposing the image on the screen, but it makes the rest of the room look dark:
I then turned off the light in the back of the room, that you can see, allowing just light coming in from the adjacent kitchen, which opens into the familiy room. The image below gives you an idea of the kitchen lighting, and how much light is spilling into the family room. The image directly below it, again, has the exposure adjusted to show you best, how the image on the screen looks when watching under this lighting.
Yes, it's the same frame, same lighting.
One last image here, for your consideration. Taken the next day, you'll note that the windows and door all have shutters. You can see a fair amount of sunlight is entering the room, from not having the shutters fully closed. The image on the screen, from The Da Vinci Code, captures a jet landing. Take my word for it, please, that while the Epson did pretty well with that nice bright scene, with this much ambient light dark scenes were pretty weak! So with this much ambient lighting, watching American Idol, or Boston Legal, sports, or the news, should work fine, but not dark scenes in movies!
OK, a last image or three, showing general color handling:
MovieMate 30s, 33s, Black Levels and Shadow Details
Black levels are definitely not the strength of the MovieMate. First clue is the, by today's standards, the low contrast ratio of 1000:1. We live in a world where, at least for home theater projectors, 2000:1 is about the lowest you would normally read about, or even 2500:1. The Epson, being LCD based, starts off with lower contrast (and higher black levels) than you would get from a competing DLP all-in-one projectors. Unlike Epson's higher end stand alone home theater projectors, though, Epson doesn't add the usual electronic magic, in the form of dynamic irises, dimming lamps, etc. to enhance black levels and contrast. As a result, blacks just aren't that black.
But then the MovieMate, isn't the ideal projector for a movie fanatic, looking for best image quality, it's an all-in-one, good for movies, TV, sports, gaming, etc. If you are looking for the best Movie imagery, look elsewhere.
Still, black levels are decent. Star fields in my favorite sci-fi movies have plenty of stars even if not as many as better suited projectors. Here are a couple of images you can use for comparison: