Projector Reviews

Last blog – Epson 6500 UB, 7500 UB, TW5000 frame interpolation

Greetings,

OK! This is one more update, and summary, with my latest “thoughts” on the frame interpolation, and related issues on the Home Cinema 6500 UB, the Pro Cinema 7500 UB, and the european version of the 7500 UB – the TW5000.

First, I repeat!  For most, frame interpolation is a secondary issue (for most people) in my opinion, whether the Epsons, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Panasonic PT-AE3000 or Mitsubishi HC7000. The HC7000 btw has basic frame interpolation, but no creative frame interpolation like the others.

Second:  Very interesting.  When engaging frame interpolation on the Epson’s if feeding a 30/60 fps source, the Epson strips it back to 24fps before adding frame interpolation.  

Third:  This, plus comments from some folks on the other side of the Pond (Atlantic ocean), where some folks already have their TW5000s, is that they are not necessarily seeing what I am, regarding the jerkiness.  In all such reported cases, those folks are NOT using Sony PS3’s as their Blu-ray player. 

This definitely raises the question of whether the PS3’s 24fps signal has something to do with the issues I’m discussing.  I have two PS3 players, and Mike has one. Neither of us has any other Blu-ray player at this time.

I will attempt to bring in a non-PS3 blu-ray player very soon, but not before I post the full review (hopefully Sunday).  I will, of course report on what I find.

With a PS3 set to output 24fps, the image is great, until you engage either 4:4 (basic frame interpolation) or Frame Interpolation, which is actually creative frame interpolation, where the projector is analysing the motion and creating unique frames between the standard 24 fps frames.

Fourth:  On some scenes which are just slow pans, (in other words linear), the jerkiness is not showing up, fences and buildings slide by, with frame interpolation doing what you would expect.  It seems to be more complex motion that triggers the jerkiness (more below).

Engaging either form of frame interpolation provides a heavy, non-film like “live digital video” look to the image. Best translation:  It looks like the scenes are shot with a guy running around with a news cam.  Some who have seen at my house (about 10 folks for movies last night), describe the effect as looking more like a soap opera or live “on the scene” news broadcast.  I agree, that’s a pretty accurate description.

Switching to 30/60 (turning off the 24fps option on the PS3, drastically reduces the jerkiness to occasional, on certain types of motion, in certain cases, that I would describe as typical of what you find with the Panasonic PT-AE3000, but it still has more of the “live digital video” look.

BTW, Panasonic has two modes – Mode 1, Mode 2, for frame interpolation.  Mode 2 looks like the “live digital video” look of the Epson in 30/60 with frame interpolation on, but a bit less so.  Mode 1, on the other hand, remains much closer to film-like, in that I really didn’t notice it when I did the review.  I’m relooking the Panasonic PT-AE3000 and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 frame interpolation performance as I go, and will report more next week sometime.

HDTV performance with frame interpolation on (obviously a 60hz source):  Excellent – doing what one expects of creative frame interpolation.  I’ve watched a little NBA basketball, and even a few minutes of hockey, as both are faster moving than football.  It works as expected.

Movies:  Currently, at least with a Sony PS3 – my recommendation – leave 4:4 and frame interpolation off, and work with a normal 24fps output, just like about every other projector out there.   

Or, Plan B – feed the Epson 30/60, and use frame interpolation, if you like the effect.

I still need to take a closer look at the different frame interpolation modes (low, normal, high).  Mostly I’ll be looking to see, if the low setting reduces the “live digital video” look, as much as  the other two settings, and if it does, does it do so, enough, to maintain a more film-like look to the content.

Plan C, is of course, to find out if the issue is PS3 related, if so, (I have the current download in both of my PS3’s), what about the PS3 is causing it, and is there a way around it, without giving up 24fps if you want frame interpolation.

Related:  Epson is now deeply involved in this.  I have been communicating with them as recently as earlier today (product manager), who is forwarding my queries to Epson Japan.  They have already provided me some answers, such as that the Epson strips blu-ray back to 24fps, if fed at 30/60.

What if:  Several folks have asked – “If this is a problem, and Epson fixes it with new firmware, how can I get the new firmware.”  Epson will get back to me as how that would be implemented, and I will report.  Hopefully, it can be downloaded, then loaded into the Epson to update firmware, via the RS232 port.  The only alternate I can think of is sending the projector in to them.  Of course, if this is a PS3 problem… that changes everything.  

Epson has promised to get back to me about firmware upgrading if such a thing were to happen.

Next: An important thing to remember about creative frame interpolation:  

It’s not going to be perfect.  Sure, it should be very close when dealing with linear motion (the classic, “plane enters scene on left, flies across, exits on the right”.  That’s pretty straight forward. None linear motion, especially with stops and starts, and speed changes, is going to require a lot more processing power, and should be far easier to trip up (artifacts).  I’ve watched enough Panasonic PT-AE3000 with frame interpolation on, to know that it too has intermittent jerkiness (like the Epson with a 30/60 feed), at certain points, when certain things are happening.

Remember what frame interpolation is supposed to do:  The theory is that 24fps, and for that matter 30/60, is simply too slow to produce fast movement smoothly.  Thus the higher frame rates and creatively generating in-between frames, with objects moved. 

Now imagine a scene, say from Transformers, when one of the Transformers is changing form.  Dozens if not hundreds of “parts” on the Transformer, are rapidly moving in different directions, at the same time, and much of that is so fast that each of them are probably only linear for a few frames at most, then there’s an angular or speed (or both) changes… To really analyze something like all of that, and process and recreate with perfect creative, has got to require a lot of very sophisticated processing, probably far more than in any projector or LCDTV posesses at this time.  The result, therefore, are compromises, and some flaws – almost hiccups.  But the trade-off is those occasional hiccups, vs. the continuous judder of 3:2 pull-down, or the basic minimal motion blur found at running at straight 24 fps.

So, as always – trade-offs!

Movie night feedback:  After showing everyone the Epson on the first 15 minutes of Dark Knight, with the PS3 having 24fps turned off, and frame interpolation turned on for the 6500 UB, everyone was amazed at the “live digital video” look, but unanimously agreed, that while interesting, it wasn’t “natural” for movies (or perhaps it was too “real” as opposed to “film-like”.  The consensus from just about everyone was that they wanted to watch the next movie in 24 fps, no interpolation, over 30/60, interpolation on.  And so we did.

One person, watched about 45 more minutes of Dark Knight (while the rest of us were talking and partying before the main feature) with 30/60 and frame interpolation, and he admitted “he was getting used to it”.

Summary:

The big question though, that I am getting, is:  Well which one should I buy, or “which one would you buy” of the Panasonic, Sanyo Z3000, Mitsubishi HC7000 or the Epson UB.

At this point, I would, like last year, take the Epson UB.  I’d rather have the UB, and never engage any form of frame interpolation, and just watch at 24fps (for movies) and 60 for HDTVs, than watch the Panny, Sanyo, or Mitsubishi, with frame creation on.  The Epson, while not the most film-like of the group, is, IMO, provides the best overall picture, it’s natural depth, pop and wow, more than makes up for not using any frame interpolation, even if you like the interpolation.  If Epson should do something to solve some of the issues, or if the problem is primarily a PS3 related one, all the better.  

As for the rest of you, you’ll have to make your own call. If frame interpolation is an essential for you, but want to still have a film-like look, you’ll pass on the Epson as is.  Since, I haven’t spotted any serious differences in the frame creation function of the Sanyo vs Panasonic, your choice will be based on other factors, brightness in various modes, relative to what meets your needs, black level performance (Panny better than Sanyo), etc.  The Mitsubishi (over here) is far more expensive than the Sanyo or the Panasonic, and an excellent projector in its own right, including being very sharp, is expensive enough to dissuade most of you from going that route, and besides, it, like the Pro Cinema 7500 UB, is a local dealer only product.

I’m watching some sports, right now, and just switched back from the Panasonic PT-AE3000 (frame interpolation engaged) to the 6500 UB (frame interpolation engaged), I’ve watched HDTV with both 720p broadcast and 1080p, and for me, the Epson is the winner.  The image is sharper and I’ve got more lumens at my disposal. I’m watching sports, people, not projectors.  No frame interpolation issues are jumping out at me, with either projector.

BTW, the latest pricing – here in the US:

Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB:  $2999 minus $200 mail in rebate for a $2799 net  
Panasonic at $2499 (only rebate is a 2nd year warranty)
Sanyo PLV-Z3000: $2395 – $200 mail in rebate for a net $2195

Enough – go buy something – or if you have – go enjoy watching something!

-art