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Old 08-30-2014, 08:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Full Array Local Dimming: It's All About the Zones



This year, numerous LED-LCD TVs feature FALD, which helps improve contrast and black levels. Can FALD make LCDs perform like an OLED or plasma?

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As many AVS members know, LCD TVs need a light source to illuminate the image, and modern LCDs use LEDs as that light source. The LEDs can be mounted along the edges of the screen—an orientation called edgelighting—or they can be located behind the LCD panel in a 2-dimensional array. Edgelighting allows the set to be super-thin, but it often results in uneven illumination, which is especially evident in dark scenes. On the other hand, full-array backlighting requires a bit more cabinet depth, but it generally produces more even illumination across the screen.

Another benefit of full-array backlighting is the possibility of local dimming, in which the LEDs behind dark portions of the image are dimmed while the LEDs behind bright parts of the image are brightened. This feature is generically called full-array local dimming (FALD), and it can dramatically improve the perceived contrast and black level of the display. (Many edgelit sets claim to have "local dimming," but it's often not as effective as actual FALD.) In all FALD LCD TVs, the LEDs are grouped into zones, and the LEDs in each zone are dimmed and brightened as a group.

An ideal FALD-based LCD would have just as many zones as an OLED or plasma—one per pixel. Unfortunately, that is impossible, since LEDs are physically much larger than LCD pixels. However, based on my experience, I'd like to see thousands of local-dimming zones on premium TVs, not merely hundreds. Additionally, I've become skeptical of TVs that feature only one or two dozen FALD zones. I've found those TVs perform no better than edgelit designs, which feature ever-improving algorithms to help hide the machinations of the pseudo-local dimming.

A the recent Value Electronics shootout, LG's 55EC9300 OLED and Samsung's long-in-the-tooth PN65F8500 plasma tied for best TV. At this year's event, emissive displays ranked much higher in the vote tally when compared to the LCD-based screens. The calibrators who ran the show lauded the image quality of plasma and OLED displays, where every single pixel acts as a local-dimming zone.


In this picture from the shootout, you can see plasma, OLED, FALD LCD, and edgelit LCD TVs.

The most impressive display I saw at CES last January was Vizio's Reference series. When I viewed a 65-inch prototype, I saw an image that reminded me of plasma or OLED. The Reference series features a 10-bit panel with 384 dimming zones, which beats the zone count of the well-regarded Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD. A number of FALD-based UHDTVs—from various manufacturers—make do with fewer zones. For example, HDTVtest's Vincent Teoh says the anticipated Panasonic AX900 will feature 128 zones in the 65-inch model, and (oddly) only 32 zones in the 85-inch version. The AX900 prototype I saw at CES came remarkably close to matching the image quality of a plasma.


At CES 2014, Panasonic's AX900 prototype (on the right hand side) looked a lot like the ZT60 plasma (on the left).


Vizio's impressive 120-inch Reference Series UHDTV sports 384 local dimming zones. Photo by Scott Wilkinson.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers will not disclose the number of local-dimming zones in their TVs. Toshiba announced a high-end FALD set that looked great on the show floor at CES, but the company is tight-lipped about the zone count. The same goes for Samsung and Sony. Fortunately, there is an easy way to count zones on your own. In a darkened room, turn the TV's contrast and backlight controls all the way up. Then, watch the following video full-screen and count the rows and columns as the zones light up. Multiply the two numbers, and you've got a TV's zone count. Alternately, you can use a computer to drag the mouse pointer along the screen's edges while displaying a full-screen black field. Each zone will light up as the cursor passes through it.


This year, I paid close attention to local dimming because I was frustrated with how obvious its effects were on my Vizio M3D550KD, which is an edgelit model with only 12 dimming zones, six per side. When I use that TV to watch letterboxed content, the imprecise dimming zones spill over into the black bars. I experimented with physically masking the letterbox bars; after enjoying some success with that I wound up buying a plasma.


With its imprecise edgelit dimming, the Vizio M3D550KD can't keep the letterbox bars dark.

I also checked out a Vizio E602i-B2, which, like all 2014 Vizio LED-LCD TVs, is true FALD. However, it has only 16 local-dimming zones, and the implementation is not what I'd call elegant; I found it to be more distracting than the pseudo-local dimming in my older M-series. With the new E-series, I could see the large rectangles of each zone dim and brighten as the camera panned through a static scene—it was intolerably distracting. The larger, fuzzier zones found on the M3D550KD tended to hide those problems. I returned the Vizio within 24 hours of picking it up, largely as a result of its inferior FALD implementation. I'm glad I returned that Vizio, because that was the trip where I saw a Samsung PN64F8500 plasma on clearance—I bought it right away.

A high zone count offers no guarantee that local dimming won't draw attention to itself. At the Value Electronics shootout, I observed Sony's $25,000 XBR-85X950B flub a Harry Potter torture test—a dark scene filled with mist. As the camera panned, the mist pulsated as the dimming zones tried to maintain peak contrast. With Sony's flagship UHDTV, it looked as if a swarm of fireflies was hiding in the mist; it reminded me of the local-dimming effects I saw on the Vizio E. By the same token, a low zone count and/or edgelighting does not mean that the effect of local dimming will always be obvious. Panasonic's AX800U and Samsung's HU9000 both feature edgelit local dimming that doesn't call attention to itself. According to Panasonic, superior algorithms get the credit for the unobtrusive nature of its local dimming.

I'd like to see full arrays with thousands of local-dimming zones combined with better algorithms; it's the only way LCD might compete with OLED and plasma image quality. What are your thoughts about this? Will advancements in FALD allow LCD to compete with emissive displays? Also, if you have a TV that features local dimming, how many zones do you count?


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Old 08-30-2014, 08:15 AM
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After owning a few 4k LEDs and top tier plasmas, the only way I would ever even consider an LED again is if it had FALD with tons of zones.

With that said, I will probably never own an LED again.
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Old 08-30-2014, 08:22 AM
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Fingers crossed that the 72 zones of the Vizio P 70 does the trick.

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Old 08-30-2014, 08:29 AM
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Do you mean LCD instead of LED? Or do you mean OLED rather than LED?

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Old 08-30-2014, 08:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mavinwow View Post
Fingers crossed that the 72 zones of the Vizio P 70 does the trick.
Hopefully we'll start getting some owner feedback around the beginning of October. Even then it's going to have to be pretty special to make me part with my panny 60vt60.

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Old 08-30-2014, 08:36 AM
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I find this video to be particularly helpful for explaining FALD:

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Old 08-30-2014, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Mavinwow View Post
Fingers crossed that the 72 zones of the Vizio P 70 does the trick.
Sharp 60" Elite had over 280 if I recall correct, 72 is not even close to what is needed, another TV that behaves like an edge lit TV, but says FALD. Way to many of there around no-a-days.
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Old 08-30-2014, 08:49 AM
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Mark. Really great job on your post. Really great. I suppose the question of how many zones would be required is the number of LEDs that can be fit along the back plane. This might even be excessive depending on the minimum number of pixels each led can light given the distance from the LED to the LCs lit and the light pattern thrown by the LED. I suppose with overlap algs could deal with the overlap and adjust adjacent LEDs accordingly.

In any event, no matter the zones, emissive pixels will always trump a kludged technology such as back or edge lit liquid crystals. One has cons with LCs and engineering and innovation can reduce the cons but not eliminate them.

OLED really does not have any cons. The technology just has to mature a bit more and Professor Moore needs to work his magic to bring the price down a bit. For the enthusiast masses. Joe 6 pack couldn't care less. Edge lit LCD will be what is sold to the masses for many many many years. Cheap and big is all that counts.

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Old 08-30-2014, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Cleveland Plasma View Post
Sharp 60" Elite had over 280 if I recall correct, 72 is not even close to what is needed, another TV that behaves like an edge lit TV, but says FALD. Way to many of there around no-a-days.
Hrm seems fairly pessimistic. P series had a lot of good first impressions from CES.

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Old 08-30-2014, 09:04 AM
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Do you mean LCD instead of LED? Or do you mean OLED rather than LED?
? LEDs have replaced LCDs. They are virtually the same just now use LEDs for backlights.

You can basically use them interchangeably.
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Old 08-30-2014, 09:19 AM
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This probably won't be a popular opinion but I find that most LCDs that attempt to replicate the superior image contrast of OLED/plasma by employing local dimming fall flat on their face. I'd rather have my LCD accept it's technical limitations and just try to present the most uniform image possible. When buying an LCD I'm not expecting a world beating dark room image I just want a competent display. I'd much rather stare at grey black bars than deal with flashlighting, clouding, blooming, or crush due to the panel actually shutting the lights off mid-scene.

It's time to accept the limitations of LCD, embrace it's strengths, and hope to god that LG can make OLED work.
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Old 08-30-2014, 09:20 AM
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I agree with what Imagic said. Most of the FALD sets don't have enough zone counts. I think the R series will do well though. I believe a few thousand zones would be enough, but they would be incredibly bright. Technicolors 32" HDR workflow monitor has 2000 zones and up to 4000nits of brightness. We may need sunglasses to watch tv soon lol.
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Old 08-30-2014, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Cleveland Plasma View Post
Sharp 60" Elite had over 280 if I recall correct, 72 is not even close to what is needed, another TV that behaves like an edge lit TV, but says FALD. Way to many of there around no-a-days.
And the 70" had 400 zones IIRC. 72 is a joke.
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Old 08-30-2014, 09:35 AM
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Aren't there UDH OLED TVs in the 55-65 range for under 3-5 grand this year?

I see increasing the number of dimming zones as running into an economic brick wall : OLED will be right there, staring back at them.

OLED can't compete (yet) with large and cheap LCDs, but FALD is a hack to overcome a fundamentally inferior display technology, and at some point OLED is going to eat LCD's lunch I think, it's just a matter of time before production costs go down enough for the image quality differential to be worth the street price. Maybe that street price delta needs to be close to zero to beat LCD, but I think it will happen.
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Old 08-30-2014, 09:38 AM
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And the 70" had 400 zones IIRC. 72 is a joke.
Like mentioned in the article depends on how it's implemented. The only side effect of having not enough in most cases is blooming or seeing the dimming action. I think blooming may be a possible issue. The m series owners haven't reported it as a significant issue so it's all speculation. Well have to see the sets to judge them.
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Old 08-30-2014, 09:44 AM
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OLED really does not have any cons.
Other than (reportedly) high risk of burn-in/IR, short life-spans and super high costs? (Not to mention the obligatory, pointless curved screens.)
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Old 08-30-2014, 09:44 AM
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Like mentioned in the article depends on how it's implemented. The only side effect of having not enough in most cases is blooming or seeing the dimming action. I think blooming may be a possible issue. The m series owners haven't reported it as a significant issue so it's all speculation. Well have to see the sets to judge them.
Time will tell ...
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Old 08-30-2014, 10:03 AM
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Given the transmissive nature of LCD tech, regardless of the light source (I'm thinking back to CCFL days), I've never quite understood why a an extra LCD layer couldn't be sandwhiched between the the primary RGB lcd layers and the light source to serve as sort of a luminance channel. In the abscence of any sort of local dimming, black is simply the LCD panels' blocking of the light source (LEDs these days) to the best of its ability. And of course the brighter the light source, the more likely some of that light is going to slip through. So why not block more of it? Just as putting two pairs of sunglasses on, one over the other, will make things look even darker (and get you some odd looks), seems better blacks could be achieved with LCD tech by having an extra panel (or 2?) specifically between the light source and main panels. They could be 1/10th the resolution of the main panels and *still* have more "zones" than any of the local dimming solutions I've seen to date. Maybe it's not as simple as I'd like to think, or the fear of adding another 1/2" to the thickness of the display sticks the manufacturers' collective craw or something. What am I missing with this concept?
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Old 08-30-2014, 10:08 AM
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What am I missing with this concept?
Most likely cost ... assuming that the technical details would work.
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Old 08-30-2014, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by RLBURNSIDE View Post
Aren't there UDH OLED TVs in the 55-65 range for under 3-5 grand this year?

I see increasing the number of dimming zones as running into an economic brick wall : OLED will be right there, staring back at them.

OLED can't compete (yet) with large and cheap LCDs, but FALD is a hack to overcome a fundamentally inferior display technology, and at some point OLED is going to eat LCD's lunch I think, it's just a matter of time before production costs go down enough for the image quality differential to be worth the street price. Maybe that street price delta needs to be close to zero to beat LCD, but I think it will happen.
No sir. The 4k OLEDs will start 6k+ and 65"

The current 55" OLED is 1080p and $3500
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Old 08-30-2014, 10:22 AM
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Other than (reportedly) high risk of burn-in/IR, short life-spans and super high costs? (Not to mention the obligatory, pointless curved screens.)
These are not inherent limitations of a technology. They involve refinement of the basic technology rather than band aids.

Right now there are life term unknowns but the OLED themselves will be refined over the next few years to extend their useful lives.. Likewise curves are needed NOW to deal with what would now be prohibitive low panel yields. Refinements in manufacturing will increase yields to allow large flat panels. How you build it and the parts, not physics based limitations of the technology. Likewise just like the first FALD and plasma sets were very expensive, there is nothing inherent in OLED to prohibit Moore's law to work its err imagic. And $6.5K now is nothing like the $15K costs of those FALDs and Plasma when they first came out and the sizes were much smaller too.

My pleasure to set you straight here.
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Old 08-30-2014, 10:25 AM
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A decent FALD will come close in a dark/dimmed room and you do not have to babysit it. So a decent FALD is a alternative for dark/dimmed room viewing.

My FALD looks like there is a curtain of mist over the image. It is not like a thick curtain but it is there. The mist is mainly visible in dark(-ish) scenes. Obviously that mist gets worse off axis. Aside from those dark-ish scenes my FALD, xbr8 comes very close to a 500m in a dark/dimmed room. The Plasma has more depth (Yes the xbr 8 has depth). Plasma colors and blacks are more natural. Plasma has better motion (which can be unpleasant at times. LCd motion, while not as good as Plasma motion, is never unpleasant).

Some have said that OLED colors are not as natural as Plasma colors/and blacks. It might be the case that OLED in that regard is in between Plasma and LCd.
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Old 08-30-2014, 10:44 AM
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I see increasing the number of dimming zones as running into an economic brick wall : OLED will be right there, staring back at them.
I'm not so sure about that. The cost of LED technology is dropping like a rock as well. A couple of years ago a standard sized LED light bulb was on the order of $50-75. Now you can get them for less than $10. Moore's law at work here as well. You could theoretically add more LEDs and increase the number of zones, up to the physical limit of squeezing LEDs into the BLU.

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Old 08-30-2014, 10:49 AM
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I have a 5 year old Vizio XVT472SV that has local dimming (64 zones, I believe) and has always had a great picture. The only time I've actually noticed an effect from the dimming is when there's a small white object like a title or mouse pointer on an all black screen. So I went ahead and got the E400i-B2 for a bedroom TV and I have to say it's a step backwards in FALD tech from my XVT.
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Old 08-30-2014, 01:06 PM
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How this two performed ? Toshiba LCD with cell processor 512 zones , LG NANO Full LED 288 zones.




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Old 08-30-2014, 01:07 PM
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The only way FALD can mimic emissive display is if they have 2 million zones for an HDTV and 8 million zones for a UHDTV.

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Old 08-30-2014, 01:36 PM
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The only way FALD can mimic emissive display is if they have 2 million zones for an HDTV and 8 million zones for a UHDTV.
I can agree that would be the only way for FALD to replicate emissive displays, however it should require much less to mimic one at normal viewing distances and the technology has already proven its capabilities with as few as a 300-400 zones. As cheaper LEDs and better algorithms become available it could very well equal other technologies with regards to black levels for the majority of viewing environments. Being a lover of competition, I'm pulling for it to keep progressing.
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Old 08-30-2014, 01:52 PM
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I agree Eternity hopefully they will up they're game. plasma didn't force them to do it lets hope LG's push to make cheaper oleds pushes both of them forward.
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Old 08-30-2014, 01:55 PM
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Eternitay thanks for the like on my post but you didn't get my point,the point is that even with all the effort and money that they put on that toshiba and lg they failed.


They couldn't avoid blooming ,halos, crushed blacks,Inconsistent black levels.

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Old 08-30-2014, 02:07 PM
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Eternitay thanks for the like on my post but you didn't get my point,the point is that even with all the effort and money that they put on that toshiba and lg they failed.


They couldn't avoid blooming ,halos, crushed blacks.
I wouldn't say the failed although the only LCD to even match a plasma was the Elite. where those two failed pioneer succeeded, but back then they were obstructed by high production cost. the elite is still currently the Reference LCD set to go by for FALD, maybe this year Toshiba, Panasonic, or Vizio may get closer to taking its crown.
take a look at this pic of the elites PQ.
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