Greetings - It's Christmas Day, but a reviewer's work is never done. (beware, this blog is long and rambling)
I realize most people reading this have read the three previous blogs on the 6500 UB. Let me say this. My first blog, I was blown away, the 6500 UB has great black levels, very good (not exceptional dark shadow detail), and, at least very good depth, in any mode. Overall, a dazzling projector!
The second blog discussed interpolation as I started logging some serious hours on the UB, and I started focusing on the jerkiness, and over-the-top depth in some frame interpolation, or 4:4 modes. I could almost hear a sigh of frustration from all of my readers, perhaps even panic from those that thought, "finally here is the right projector" (based on the first blog).
The 3rd blog - yesterday, life is good again, after just a little work with 24 fps turned off, the Epson now provides very good depth, the abnormal jerkiness in gone, and as they say: "We have a winner" - if everything continues to check out.
This blog - well just about everything does check out, and we definitely have a winner here, with the Home Cinema 6500 UB. I will point out one situation below with an issue, but it seems to be an anomaly, and probably not the Epson's fault, but the content being dished out in HDTV for just one movie.
OK, I'll start with a summary of 24fps viewing:
If you feed the 6500 UB 24fps content (in my case, Blu-ray played on my PS3, with 24fps turned on, on the PS3), this are the issues. After that, I'll get into handling 30/60 fps source material (from HDTV, from my PS3, once the 24fps option is turned off (on the PS3):
1. 4:4 turned on, frame interpolation showing off: Visible and significant jerkiness, somewhat increased depth to the image. The jerkiness in the image is enough to make setting not reasonable option.
2. 4:4 turned off, frame interpolation On (doesn't seem to matter whether the interpolation setting is low Normal or high), image has incredible depth, but jerkiness is massive, generally unwatchable. The look definitely is more like live digital video (think new cameraman running around).
3. 4:4 On, Frame interpolation on, but grayed out in menu (to get that combination you must turn off 4:4, set frame interpolation, set 4:4 back to on - which will gray out the box. The manual gives no indication of what is supposedly happening with this combination. End result, same as #2 - great depth and tonnage of jerkiness.
Bottom line: Not much luck with 24 fps, except straight up - not using 4:4 or frame interpolation, in which case it performs just like you would expect with any (non-frame interpolation) projector being fed a 24fps source.
30/60 source material:
I blogged after some brief viewing yesterday with the PS3 having the 24fps option turned off, forcing the traditional 30/60 operation.
Let's start by saying "wow, what a difference". There's still more to sort out, believe me, but here's the scoop so far.
1. Frame interpolation turned on (I haven't been able to discern much difference between the low, normal and high settings, but I've been concentrating on the Normal setting, figuring that Epson intends that to be the best overall: Depth is increased, the jerkiness is virtually gone. There are moments where you see a little, but that, I'm guessing, has to be expected from any frame interpolation scheme. The amount of such unevenness is small, and while watching much of The Dark Knight, it was never a problem. It's well less than normal 3:2 pull-down (not to mention infrequent, while 3:2 judder is constant), and, I'd say smoother overall, than straight 24fps.
Again, there are moments, where you do see motion artifacts but I find them essentially unnoticeable when just watching. When looking for them, you can find them. (You have no idea how many times I've watched the same scenes from Dark Knight and Casino Royale, in the last 48 hours.)
There's more, though. At that point last night, I thought I had this completely solved, but not quite, I learned today. after watching some football today (and a little NBA), on regular and HDTV, but then I kicked on Groundhog Day on HDTV, and, well, now I'm seeing a bit of a problem, again. Not bad, but there is a little jerkiness, such as when Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell are walking in the snow at night, in front of a picket fence. There it's easy to spot. Thing is, turn off frame interpolation, and you see about the same amount of jerkiness due to the usual 3:2 pulldown. It may well be that there are limits to the complexity that creative frame interpolation can handle. Afterall, a slow pan against a lot of picket fence, has to require a ton of intelligent processing. Ultimately though, I suspect it this problem is coming from the content.
Thing is, I didn't ever notice that with the blu-ray movies. So there are still things to sort out! And after screwing around with Groundhog Day, I switched to an HDNet program called World's Coastlines...
Not only is the scenery absolutely gorgeous, but the image is smooth as anything I've seen coming from HDTV, on all kinds of scenes, and speeds of panning. So, I'm not exactly sure why Groundhog day on HDTV was worse than movies like Casino Royale and Dark Knight on Blu-ray, or the great content on World's Coastlines... So, as I mentioned above, I'm beginning to think that the Groundhog Day broadcast may have been processed more than once, before getting to my cable box, because, nothing else I've thrown at the Epson today has exhibited anything like what I saw on Groundhog Day, in terms of artifacts.
So, not all the answers, but, it certainly looks like The way to do frame interpolation with the Epson is definitely to not feed it 24fps.
Regular 24fps works just as expected, btw, when frame interpolation and/or 4:4 are not used.
Bottom line: My recommendation - feed the 6500 UB, 30/60 if you want to use frame interpolation. If not, feed 24fps, with everything off. Both are doing pretty much exactly what you are looking for!
It's going to take a lot of viewing, and sorting to figure out what really can be expected of good frame interpolation, but I do believe the Epson has it, as long as you are not using 24fps.
Sports on HDTV look great, with frame interpolation on, it's doing exactly what we want it to do. Generally I'm sticking to the Normal setting, but I really haven't been able to tell what differences exist between the three modes.
Regarding my reviewing of previous frame interpolation projectors:
When I reviewed the PT-AE3000, I mostly stared at the same scene of dogfighting in Top Gun, to see the effect of frame interpolation on the fast moving jets. There you can see the difference, but I wasn't looking around for interpolation generated artifacts. Same for the Z3000. It wasn't until I started with the Epson, with 24fps, and the issues, that I started to focus on what's happening beyond following a single fast moving object. And boy have things gotten interesting, and challenging. (I believe, however, I would have spotted any problem the size of the Epson's with 24fps and frame interpolation with either.)
Some either emailed me, or posted a comment earlier asking how Epson handles firmware upgrades, if necessary. I don't actually know if they can be downloaded, and installed, but will find out when epson reopens in a week.
Last word! I'm hoping not to blog again on this topic. My real goal is to complete the 6500 UB review and publish no later than Sunday night. Actually, this time, I just might make it though it's a busy weekend, with family and bowl games.
I will still reserve final judgement on the Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB, until I finish the review. But for those of you trying to decide now, here's where I stand:
Despite the 24fps issues with frame interpolation, this is my choice of the under $3000 projectors. For my taste, and special features on the Panasonic notwithstanding, I definitely favor the Epson. While I haven't done my side by sides with the Sony HW10, again, my money is still on the Epson. It may not be the ultimate in film-like but it is spectacular. Last year I said, that if someone took away my JVC RS1, and I had to buy a less expensive projector it would be the 1080 UB. That's even more true with the 6500 UB. I can definitely live with the 6500 UB, but for my very large screen size. So, other aspects of the projector notwithstanding (brightness, audible noise, etc.), this is the one I will probably recommend the most.
And if Epson can solve the 24fps/interpolation issues, well, then that's even better.
Even if not, from what I have seen (non-24fps) on Dark Knight, Casino Royale, all HDTV (except Groundhog Day). (And also on 24 fps without interpolation or 4:4.) This is my pick for under $3000.
If I change my mind (which I seriously doubt), you'll find out in the full review!
OK, get back to your holidays. Those of you still on the fence... Time to get off! -art