Projector - HD73.
Screen - Stewart Firehawk (170cm wide)
Sources - SKY HD Box & Toshiba HD-E1
Material - Sin City' and The Forgotten' HD recordings from SKY HD. Grease' Sky One & Sky 1 HD simulcast. King Kong' HD-DVD. Terminator 2: Judgement Day' SD DVD.
Seating distance c.310cm.
I have only run a very basic set up procedure with my new projector. Nonetheless, I don't think it will take too much tweaking to get it perfect.
PAINT THE WHOLE WORLD WITH A RAINBOW
Firstly, the bad news. For Sin City' read Rainbow City', with Zippy, George and Bungle in full attendance (not to mention Rod, Jane and Freddy) **. I consider myself a moderate RBE sufferer, though I often suffer most badly on black & white films. I'm afraid that the rainbows on Sin City' were the worst I've ever seen. Indeed, my partner, who had never noticed RBE on my old projector (the SD H56), complained that she was suffering badly on this film. However, it should be noted that she never saw a black and white film on the H56.
AND NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS
On all the other material (all of it colour), whether it be SD, HD, from satellite, or from disc, it was virtually impossible to induce rainbows, despite some pretty wild blinking, shaking of heads, and exaggerated movement. I did get a little, but hardly any. Personally, I would not consider this anything but the most minor of hindrances for the HD73, unless you wanted to watch a lot of films in black and white.
What a shame there was so much RBE in Sin City', as the picture was otherwise awesome. The Sky HD broadcast has had some stick in the Sky HD forum here, but to my eyes, apart from the RBE, I found the picture to be beyond reproach. I'd even go as far as to say that it was the best image we saw. To be fair, I think this may largely down to the fact that the images are relatively simple in this film, with animated blocks making up much of the picture, and lots of ecu shots to show off Bruce Willis' stubble in all its detailed glory. This is obviously quite different to King Kong's complex backgrounds of vegetation, with thousands of tiny leaves, etc.
SOURCE MATERIAL IS IMPORTANT
Unfortunately, The Forgotten' was not of the same standard. There was nothing particularly wrong with the image, it just wasn't striking. I think this may be due, in part, to the moody & soft look of the source material.
Grease' was a different matter entirely. Swapping between the SD broadcast on Sky 1, and the HD broadcast on Sky 1 HD, the difference was most noticeable; so much so that I'd be tempted to suggest that Sky had knobbled' the SD image. In reality, I think the comparison merely showed up the limitations of a carelessly compressed SD broadcast on an HD projector.
MY PROJECTOR IS TOO GOOD
King Kong' was a joy to watch. The image was crisp, colourful, vibrant, and detailed. Some of the long shots of Kong sat on top of the island were breathtaking.
Unfortunately, I fear the image may actually have been too good. The brontosaurus stampede looked too obviously blue screen' - it was almost impossible to remove the mental image of actors stood against blue screen, with the CGI added later.
I most certainly didn't see this at the cinema. Indeed, both my partner and I felt King Kong' looked noticeably better than it did when we saw it at the cinema, despite the fact that we had no complaints about what it looked like originally.
Finally, the SD DVD of Terminator 2: Judgement Day' looked as good as I've ever seen it - at least as good as the HD recording of The Forgotten'.
SO, JUST HOW GOOD IS THE HD73?
I would not claim to be an expert on projectors, though I am a massive film fan. I'm used to seeing excellent images at the cinema, and for many years was a frequent patron of the NFT in London, having seen many virgin, newly restored prints.
I'm sure that, placed alongside a more expensive model, I might notice some shortcomings with the HD73. I'm equally sure that someone who retails projectors, and sees them day-in, day-out, may well notice things they'd like improved.
However, RBE aside, the HD73 produced as good an image as I have ever seen - video or film, home, multiplex, or arthouse cinema.
Several months ago, I witnessed a SIM C3X a couple of times. The image was gorgeous, but I don't remember it being particularly better than I saw last night - RBE aside. Don't get me wrong, as I've said, I'm sure that side-by-side there'd be noticeable differences. But we don't watch like that. Few of us, I imagine, have ever seen any video projector alongside 35mm film. We must rely on our satisfaction, and our memories, and on that count I'd say the images I saw on the HD73 were as satisfying as any I've ever seen, and there was nothing I saw which I could remember seeing better elsewhere.
Colours looked natural - reds looked red, greens looked green, etc. Contrast, and detail in both very dark and very bright scenes looked excellent. Brightness was no problem, with bright scenes looking white, rather than dark grey (this may well have been helped by the fact that my cinema room is pitch black, and I have a relatively small screen). I saw nothing immediately in the way of digital artefacts.
In short, if you enjoy watching the film, rather than the image, and simply want PQ good enough that it doesn't distract from the film, but amazes you as a spectacle occasionally, as great cinema sometimes does, the HD73 is as good as you'll ever need.
Both my partner and I were very clear in our conclusion - the HD73, fed with a good HD source, looked noticeably better than a multiplex cinema, and at least as good as a top quality cinema picture.
In 5 years time I hope (expect?) Themescene/Optoma to have a 3 chip, RBE-free projector, which is otherwise the same quality as this, for £3,000. I will buy it, and never want for another projector again.
** For my trans-Atlantic cousins, 'Rainbow' was a British children's TV programme, with resident puppets George, Bungle and Zippy, and cheesy-smiled singing trio Rod, Jane and Freddy.