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As someone who still has a large number of non-anamorphic discs, some form of aspect ratio control/zooming of windowboxed images within a 16:9 display is a vital feature on any new deck I pick up these days. The UK Toshiba SD-520 (equivalent model to the US SD-3800) performed the task near perfectly via. the Zoran Vaddis V, but was poorly implemented and almost hidden as a standard zoom function. Shame as the offset in picture quality was marginal when zooming/upscaling a letterboxed DVD. I'm currently running a Panasonic S75 (S55 in the States, I believe) which options the feature much more accurately in the GUI. But, after recently increasing the display size, the glaringly apparent pixilation and excessive softness in the zoomed image isn't pretty to say the least. I'm also presently running a Liteon 2001 which scales/zooms to almost the quality level of the SD-520 using the Sigma chipset. But again, the feature is pathetically implemented as discussed in many a D1 thread. Another personally essential aspect of the zooming feature overall is keeping subtitles/overlays onscreen. Both the aforementioned players pull this off, but the latter doesn't. So, top and bottom is I'm on the hunt for a player which accommodates the plus points mentioned from the 3 discussed decks above into one unit. Unfortunately, the only option within my limited budget that seems to offer this feature appears to be the Denon DVD-700 (DVD-910). Anyone had any experience using this particularly players zoom/ratio control function and could kindly comment on its performance? I suspect it'll be a matter of the player reformatting a 4:3 image into the centre of a 16:9 display, then scaling up all 4 corners to the required size using the zoom function. Any comments greatly appreciated...
 

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I know this won't make you happy and probably doesn't answer your question, but nothing, at any price, will beat the aspect ratio control of an HTPC. Reason #3 why I will never use a STB.
 

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As far as I know, the only standalone DVD player that offers a proper aspect ratio control for non-enhanced letterboxed material is (still) the Panasonic RP91. Despite the fact there are a number of solutions out there offering somewhat better overall video performance, and even I am using a Denon 2200 as my primary player, I still keep an RP91 in my rack as a secondary player for anything that is 4:3 or non-enhanced letterboxed.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by rbmcgee
I know this won't make you happy and probably doesn't answer your question, but nothing, at any price, will beat the aspect ratio control of an HTPC.
Why is that? What exactly can a HTPC do that nothing else can do?


- Dale Adams
 

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Dale,


1) You can control the AR on basically a pixel-by-pixel basis

2) You can "infinately" zoom in zoom out (expand/contract all 4 corners = no distortion).

3) You can stretch vertically or horizontally (distortion)

4) You can move the entire image up, down, right, left.

5) You can define the 3 basic formats (16x9, letterbox, 4x3) and have that AR automatically applied to the appropriate disc based on the DVDs flags.

6) You can tweak the AR of any specific DVD and then that DVD-specific AR will be automatically applied the next time that DVD is played.


Basically, you can get a perfect AR (whatever you decide is the perfect AR) and then have that AR automatically applied w/o any manual intervention.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by rbmcgee
Basically, you can get a perfect AR (whatever you decide is the perfect AR) and then have that AR automatically applied w/o any manual intervention.
You can do all of that with a standard DVD player & a good scaler with the exception of having it recognize a particular DVD for you and apply a predefined aspect ratio automatically. I guess I don't watch the same DVD over and over enough to have this latter feature be particularly worthwhile to me. I can see where some folks would value this, but it'd be pretty low on my list of desired features.


Personally, I'd rather have features you typically don't get with a HTPC: 10-bit video processing, 12-bit oversampling DACs, automatic CUE (if needed) and ICP correction, a correct analog reconstruction filter (as opposed to none, which is more typical of PCs), and true source-locked conversion of film sources to 48 or 72 Hz.


- Dale Adams
 

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Guys,


This is a conversation about AR control. Nothing beats an HTPC as far as that goes. This is not to say that any or all of this flexibility is important to particular person. For me, it's indespensible. For the original poster, it may or may not be meaningful.


Let's not turn this question into an HTPC vs STB debate. Truth is, I would never switch from an HTPC (for a wide variety of reasons, well beyond AR that any STB simply can't do) like I'm sure you guys would never turn to an HTPC for a variety of reasons.


To each his own.


BTW, I believe most standard DVD players (even when combined with a 'good' scaler) cannot perform MANY of these AR functions.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by rbmcgee
BTW, I believe most standard DVD players (even when combined with a 'good' scaler) cannot perform MANY of these AR functions.
As I stated earlier, I don't see anything in the list you provided (thanks for that, by the way) which virtually any DVD player can't do when coupled with a good scaler, with the one exception of the automatic recalling/setting of a previously defined aspect ratio. The aspect ratio flexibility I'm referring to is not a function of the DVD player, it's a function of the scaler, and I don't think you'll find that sort of capability in a standalone DVD player.


- Dale Adams
 

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But all of those capabilities, sans the disc recognition customization, are available on at least one standalone DVD player, the Malata 520.


The scaling controls on the Malata 520 allow you to


1) control the AR on basically a pixel-by-pixel basis

2) "infinately" zoom in zoom out (expand/contract all 4 corners = no distortion).

3) stretch vertically or horizontally (distortion)

4) move the entire image up, down, right, left.


without a separate scaler or HTPC.
 

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Bjorn,


I wondered when someone was going to mention the Malata. This, and an earlier Malata model, use the Nat Semi Mediamatics chip which offers the only way I've seen to date to inexpensively and properly put into a DVD player box what HTPC's and PC photo/paint programs have made possible for years - tha capability to make your displayed image any shape/size you want with X-Y adjustment at the pixel level. This is really the right way to do it and I guess buyers don't care enough to vote with their wallets and force OEM's to build some kind of X-Y shaping into players in order to sell 'em. However the Mediamatic chips do lousy (flag based only) deinterlacing, so you suffer with progressive viewing from Medamatics powered players. Also a lot of other players either still do, or used to, use this series of Mediamatics chips but do not make available it's built-in X-Y sizing feature. My Denon will ALMOST, with it's 1.5X Zoom, deal with non-anamorphics ...... but 1.5X is just a little too much so AR gets cutoff a bit. 1.1X, 1.2X, and 1.3X zoom choices, engineered well, in a DVD player would be perfect.



Bob G.,


I think you're a staunch CRT fan.(?) My CRT setup does excellent deinterlacing while at the same time offering accurate raster resizing of non-anamorphic letterboxing to either 1.78:1 or 2.35:1 AR, so I just switch to interlaced-out in my DVD player (via remote) for non-anamorphics to make them as large as possible (without scan lines at viewing distance) on the screen at the proper AR. Doesn't your projector or RPTV also permit this?
 

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I can buy a brand new non-anamorphic DVD, like Titanic. Open the box. Insert the DVD. And without doing anything else, the viewer would never know that it was a non-anamorphic disc. It would be automatically formatted as if it was an anamorphic disc. And this would be without making any adjustments or pushing any buttons on anything (player, scaler, display device).


I could then insert an anamorphic DVD, like LOTR. Without doing anything, that DVD would also be formatted correctly. The viwer would never know that Titanic was non-anamorphic and LOTR was anamorphic.


I could then insert Lion King (1.66). I have created a custom AR that zooms it very slightly to 1.78. This custom AR would be AUTOMATICALLY applied and the picture would completely fill the screen.


The key thing about an HTPC is that all of these ARs get applied automatically without having to hit any button or make any adjustment.
 

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Bob,


Clearly, you value the automatic setting of aspect ratio very highly, which is good, I suppose, because that's the only item left from your list which someone hasn't come up with a non-HTPC solution for. Personally, I don't place as much value on this as you do. Others - and this may well be most people - probably do, however, so I could easily be in the minority here.


Automatic solutions are great when they work as they make things easier for the user. But they can really suck when they don't work correctly, particularly if the user isn't aware that they're not working. It sounds like the automatic aspect ratio setting depends on information present on the DVD itself. Does anyone here have any information on how reliable this information is on currently available discs? There are numerous other problems with DVDs (bad flags, incorrect package markings, etc.), and it would be nice to know there's one area where things are always done correctly.


- Dale Adams
 

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Dale,


As far as I can tell, there are only 2 parts to AR control:

1) The ability to dial in the perfect AR (pixel-level adjustments, zooming, stretching and placement)

2) The ease at which the correct AR can be applied.


Some setups (player/scaler) can compete w/ an HTPC when it comes to #1. No setup can compare to an HTPC when it comes to #2.


As far as flags are concerned, I've owned over 500 DVDs and I don't believe I've run across one with an incorrect AR flag. That's not to say that all DVDs (within a given type) are formatted exactly the same. Some DVDs are formatted a little odd and I choose to tweak those (zoom in/out) and then save those as a DVD-specific setting. That happens more than it should. I would say 5-10%.
 

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My Denon 3800 has a menu option titled "Squeeze". I leave my player by default in progressive mode. In progressive mode this Squeeze option puts a 4:3 AR pillar-box centered onto my RPTV 16X9 screen when, and only when, the DVD content is non-anamorphic. So....I leave this option set to Squeeze all the time to provide quick and initial notification to me that I have a non-anamorphic movie about to start. The flag ..... or whatever DVD coding sequence it is that triggers this ...... has never failed yet to cause the centered pillar box to be present when the movie is non-anamorpbic and has never yet invoked the centered pillar box when the movie is anamorphic. Hence, so far I have an excellent indication when to switch to interlaced (on the player) and 1.78:1 or 2.35:1 raster zoom AR shaping (on the display).


I also play DVD's on my PC via DVD software and it's no more convenient or powerful than what my stand alone DVD player does, in fact the image is of course of lower PQ because of the superiority of the Silicon Image integrated circuit based deinterlacing going on inside the player.


(However, if the industry ever gets it's multi-media act together, I would like a transmitter-receiver combination to run between my computer in the den to my RPTV so I could have the computer back up my DVD player if the player should ever fail. The receiver at the HT end would, however, have to have component output on the receiver to drive video into the RPTV along with coax or optical outputs for the X.1 audio. LOL on ever getting this kind of super-practical product out of consumer OEM's.)
 

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My Panasonic DVD-85F automatically handles non anamorphic discs a variety of ways. If the content is 4:3, it will create a 4:3 window (black bars) centered in the middle of the 16:9 screen. If the image is letterboxed, the player automatically zooms the image to fill the screen if it's 1.85:1 or leaves the appropriate black bars if it's 2.35:1. All of this is done without a single flicker or video drop out. This makes watching extras on DVD's a pleasurable experience. There's nothing I hate more than having to switch my PJ from Wide to Normal and back again when going through the extras on a DVD.
 

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No offense phil, but you have obviously never seen or worked with a top of the line, fully tweaked out HTPC.
 
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