VPL-HW50ES Detail Enhancement - Reality Creation
Reality Creation is Sony's name for their "detail and sharpness" enhancement. There's all kinds of talk about 4K going around, so let me reassure you right off. No matter what you do, this is a 2K projector. So, for that matter are the competing JVC's which call their e-Shift 4K. Here's the purist test before we get into Sony's impressive latest iteration of Reality Creation:
A true 4K projector can:
1. Accept a 4K signal
2. It must be able to reproduce it accurately at the 4K level, or it's not 4K.
3. Start with a 4K source (a 9 megapixel or greater digital photograph is 4K resolution). For our purposes, we will create a 4K test pattern. 99.9% of the image can be anything, we're concerned with one small area, where we place in our 4K image exactly 4 pixels (2x2).
Top left pixel white, top right, is red
Lower left is green, lower right is blue (which color in which spot is not important).
With a true 4K projector, when you project, you will get exactly what you started with - four very discrete pixels: One each, white, red, green, and blue. No 2K system, by Sony, JVC, or even a $50K projector with 2K panels can do that. End of conversation.
Everything else is detail/sharpness enhancement of 2K. You can call some of these 4K, or 8K, or 25K, but they still are 2K resolution. The rest is hype. Once you get past the hype, then it comes down to what the image looks like, and on that note, let's discuss Sony's latest iteration of Reality Creation.
So what's going on here? It started with the VPL-VW1000ES, which is a true 4K projector. Sony, they say, wanted to address an issue. They point out that many movies today are filmed at 4K or even higher. But, by the time they get to Blu-ray, they are reduced to 2K (remember, movie film is way higher res than 2K - for example parts of The Dark Knight were 8K).
Sony is using very smart technology. They believe that can take the 2K Blu-ray content (when it started originally as 4K), and "upvert" it back to 4K. By using facial recognition, object libraries, etc., they could get fairly close to recreating the original 4K. This isn't the same, but also isn't much different than, say, taking 2D content and letting today's projectors convert to simulated 3D.
In the case of the VPL-VW1000ES, the projector does all that, and then outputs the result of its efforts at 4K on to your screen..
In the case of this projector, however, which lacks 4K panels, Sony instead, still goes to figure out what the original 4K would look like, and then essentially the projector reprocesses that back to 2K, improved over the original 2K.
It works! The 4K Sony projector is rather dazzling, but this VPL-HW50ES is accomplishing an equally impressive feat considering it is a 2K projector. When I say equally impressive, I don't mean it rivals the 4K projector, but it does make a significant difference compared to not using Reality Creation on this HW50 projector.
The end result of this is a detail enhancement scheme which so far, creates the sharpest, most detailed, yet still rather correct looking images I've seen from a 2K projector. OK, true, we're no longer trying to reproduce the source (Blu-ray or HDTV) perfectly, but rather, to improve the picture by essentially improving what is found on the Blu-ray disc or other source.
In the old days we were happy to "faithfully create the source material" - theoretically "maintaining the director's intent". (That's an argument for not using CFI, as one example).
Today, though Sony and others are saying, "not good enough". We want to recreate the original, attempting to put back anything lost. Or, at the very least, we recognize that 1080p (or 1080i) just isn't very sharp on a very large screen.
I will say this. If people "need" 2K resolution on 32" inch LCDTV's then they probably also "need" 8K if filling an 8 or 10 foot wide screen, and viewing from the same 10 feet back. No question - your standard 1080p just doesn't have enough information to be razor sharp, and it should be.
So it comes down to ("natural" ethics issues notwithstanding): If you have the option of a dramatically sharper looking image, one closer to real, in the regard of detail, crispness, sharpness, by turning on a dynamic enhancement feature, should you, will you? Everyone's got them: Sony's Reality Creation, Epson's Super-Resolution, etc.
After extensive viewing of material with Reality Creation on (at the lowest default setting of 20 out of 100), and comparing that to RC turned off, the image looks much better to me, when on in almost all cases. Much better!
I've played with detail enhancement features for several years now. Most cannot add much "sharpness" without also revealing some level of minor artifacts - which can be annoying.
The Sony seems to offer the best yet. I spent over an hour playing with Reality Creation, and Epson's Super-Resolution, side by side (HW50ES, and HC5010). No question, even on the low default of 20, the Sony makes everything look sharper than the Epson even with its Super-Resolution up at maximum of 5. Mind you I would not use Super-Res at 5, because in many scenes its "over the top", and easily noticeable. (3 is good, 4 usually is fine). With RC, however, at 20, almost everything looks great, and sharp, (15 is even safer). Rarely at 20 did I see anything over the top. An exception is a shot of Pippen from Lord of the Rings.
Here for your consideration is the same image twice: RC off for the first one, , RC on (at 20) for the second. As usual, click for larger images. I have lots of such images, and more, but the rest will be on the Performance page under the Sharpness category.
OK, in these images above, having RC (Reality Creation) on, seems to be doing a very good job in terms of the clouds detail, the detail in the grass, and in Pippen's cloak and shirt, and of course, his hair.
Now for the "BUT". Because anytime you use dynamic features there's always the possibility that something won't look right.
So, take a close look at Pippen's 5 o'clock shadow (plus dirt on his face), and especially look at his neck. With RC off, that looks pretty natural (if a touch soft), but with Reality Creation turned on in the upper image, the 5 o'clock shadow no longer looks natural. Rather, it's exactly what I call being a bit "over the top".
This scene really wasn't a serious problem when watching the film, but at the time I was watching LOTR, I wasn't specifically paying attention to RC, rather just doing my normal photo shoot. I just sort of immediately noticed, "that's definitely over the top". And stopped to investigate.
The good news with Reality Creation is that with the 20 setting, almost all the time, the overall result is very positive. OK, a lot more images and discussion later.
I also found that reality creation helps with those old fashioned standard DVDs and low-def TV. My experience though was that the 20 setting was too much there. I settled on a setting of 10 for DVD rather than Blu-ray, as the best option.
Bottom line on Reality Creation on the Sony VPL-HW50ES. I like it, I've had it on (at 20, for most of my viewing - because I like it). I've also watched at 25, 35, and 50 settings, and did some testing even at 75. 25 is very similar. By 35, though too many objects in different content become a little "over the top", so I might choose using 35 for certain content, but overall, not very often. I did not get around to playing with RC when viewing any animation. I would suspect that you can crank RC higher for animation than normal movie viewing.