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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've started a separate thread to describe my afternoon/early evening experience with the new compact three chip DLP from SIM2, the C3X. I have long been a SIM2 supporter mainly because the overall color balance and look of the SIM's picture suits my particular taste. I also appreciate other offerings from Sharp and particularly the Marantz S series. However, nothing really prepared me for what I saw at RTFM's place yesterday. I still own an 'old' HT300 with the tin rattling color wheel projected onto a 92" Firehawk and I still love the picture for all its modest light output. But I've always hankered after the phantasy three chipper with the ability to do the kind of charcoal black I so envied and loved from CRT whilst preserving high brightness and all at a reasonable price. A beautifully bright projector with deep grey blacks. I think not!! Well, think again. Somehow SIM2 have managed to pull this particular rabbit out of the hat or at least they have come very close to it. Closer than I would have believed possible.


When I walked into Jeff's viewing room with its dark walls and fixed 1.2 gain 104inch wide screen, my eyes were instantly drawn to the projector mounted on a shelf. It looked slightly bigger than my memory of the venerable Sony W400 LCD projector with a footprint of about 17" by 17". So there it was, sleek, stylish and purring with the faintest green light coming from the side vents to the rear. This PJ was surprisingly whisper quiet at the 200 Watts mark. Jeff has a huge HD library and I think most of the material we viewed was HD delivered by the Home Theater UVEM PC outputting DVI to HDMI using the Nvidia video card and the TheaterTek software player. First up was HD footage of the Angels aircraft display team. This docu/film was shot out in the open which can often make the image from fixed panel projectors look a bit watery. The C3X did a great job keeping the image solid and well saturated with a 3D presentation that just drew me into the drama. But what really caught my attention was the rich color fidelity in the slightly darker scenes. This was more than confirmed when we tried Terminator 2 where the advanced terminator materialises in a darkened area of the city having carved a half moon shape out the metal fence. This scene looked really lovely and was full of detail in the shadows making objects and people stand out and almost pop off the screen. The darker the picture, the better the color seemed to get. In True Lies near the beginning, there is a house filmed at night with ivy growing up the side. It all looked georgous and bristled with detail. Even in the lighter scenes in the ball room, the color was wonderfully saturated and there was a pulpable impression of sheer dynamic range to the contrast and color. And this is the strange part. The picture did NOT look painfully bright. It was bright but it looked very natural and filmic. I can't explain it anymore than that really. The blacks by the way are charcoal and seem to enhance color in a very, well, CRT way. I also loved the speeder chase from Attack of the Clones which was due in no small part to the sharpness, vibrant color and blacks that gave a clarity capturing the roller coaster ride more vividly than I remember it from the Cinema.


At this point Jeff left the room to deal with some business and I was 'on my own'. As a Firehawk owner, I was keen to see how the pj would perform with the Firehawk material. Jeff is a unique guy and his enthusiasm has produced an approach to projectors that involves producing terrific quality control and attention to detail. Attached to the ceiling at right angels to the main screen, he has a Studiotek 1.30 and Firehawk test screen. Each section of the material takes up half the screen and its a great way to compare the pro's and cons of Firehawk against the conventional 1.3 gain screen. Levering this into position produced an interesting test. For dark material I tried the Aragog sequence from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Peter Parker pursuing the villain responsible for killing uncle Ben and for fun I tried the speeder chase once again from Attack of the Clones. Without exception, all the dark scenes were handled beautifully, with clear detail in the shadows and none of that sense of illuminated or irradiated 'black' I get from my HT300. Not only did it look clear, the colors continued to look deep and very natural. The surprise was that Firehawk did not appreciably deepen the blacks. Yes, they were a little deeper but not by much. This was a real eye opener to me. Why was this so? In the same vein, later on ( with Firehawk out of the way) Jeff placed an ND filter over the lens while we watched Seabiscuit, a glorious transfer in hi def by the way. I believe the ND filter halved the light output from about 1700 lumens to around 700 lumens. Jeff's pj has been 'extensively' Colorfacts for D65 which knocks down the CR but yeilds fantastic dividends in deeper more natural color. The ND filter did damage the look of the image in bright scenes. But get this, we put up a black test pattern and placed the ND filter over half of the screen area and found that it did not seem to lower the blacks by much, a result that confirmed the behaviour of the Firehawk. Both Jeff and I agreed that the ND filter definitely did alot more harm than good to the image. Personally, on the basis of these findings, I would not recommend using HD filters with this pj if calibrated to D65. I think it would be sacrilege. But back to the Firehawk/ Studiotek comparison. For bright scenes I chose the recent HD launch of the space shuttle and the black Islander racing towards the camera on a pony in the...yes you guessed it...Bikini Destinations. Previously, this 'pony gallop' scene look like a dull day on the Firehawk part of the screen using a single chip DLP. But not this time. Bright scenes held up very well on Firehawk and there were times when you could not see much difference between the two halves as long as you were right on axis of course. For example, as the shuttle fired its rockets and moved across the screen, the white hot part of the rocket fire seemed similar in character as it tracked from Studiotek to Firehawk. Having said this, when we put up a white field, the bright creamy lighting of the Studiotek stood in stark contrast to the toned down colder metallic 'white' on the Firehawk with its subtle but noticeable shift to blue. This was, however, much less noticeable on film. My conclusion here is that if you have good light control with few room reflections, then a low gain screen is a total no brainer. If like me, your lounge is creamy white, then Firehawk is still a good compromise. Just to see what it looked like we turned the room lights full on. We selected the space scene from Starship Trooper where the heroine navigates the ship out of port. The image still held up really well on the StudioTek and on Jeff's larger screen, much like a gigantic telly. But the Firehawk really preserved the fidelity of the image through its ability to reject ambient light and retain a better 'black' in bright light. The Studiotek looked good but the Firehawk looked really great with the lights on.


The rest of the demo was spent gawping at the wonderful picture quality and enjoying the movies really. There was one final torture test I thought it worth trying for black level....yes thats right....DARK CITY!!!! Boy is this movie DARK...and what a horrible transfer. This was the only DVD we really tried. And yes...the C3X did falter just a little here. I noticed it at the beginning with the milky way scene. The black bars either side of the 2.35.1 were slighty aglow. This is the only time I noticed it. But it is indicative of the blacks still being a grey albeit a very dark charcoal like grey. If you put up a black field and hold your hand out, you will see the shadow of your hand against an 'illuminated' black but this is still fainter than on any pj I have tested to date. Were there other issues? Indeed. This projector is a bit of a Farrari and will take no prisoners with regard to poor source, a poor software player or glitches endemic in PC video cards. I noticed alot of what I would describe as compression artifacts and pictue noise in the HD material and I could also see that some scenes were still not sharp enough. It was as if the PJ was straiing for a really good source to display its virtues on. We viewed HD exclusively through the TheaterTek software player which is ok for HD but I still prefer the Moonlight Elecard. What this PJ needs is a less compressed, well mastered HD source to really do it justice. For picture quality that is sharp as a razer and beautifully bright with ground breaking blacks and deep rich accurate color, this is definitely the projector of choice. I do think we are witnessing a real leap forward in picture quality, a revolution no less. If you are going to CEDIA, I really think it is worth a look.


Regards,


Paul H
 

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Thanks for the great review Paul.


I think people are worring over brightness too much. Once you see how good a 3Chip can look, at a higher brightness, the 12-16fl standard really seems outdated. It sounds like this is especially true with the C3X now that we have (almost) true black levels.
 

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Was this a prototype or the real deal?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hi Guys,


Firstly, yes this was the 'real deal'. I had you in mind Marcus when we tried the ND filter. I was very surprised by the outcome. Also, a few years ago wild horses would not have been able to prise out of me an acknowledgement that brightness was very important. With regard to single chippers that have to deal with the peculiarities of the color wheel etc, I still believe that brightness needs to be controlled. But, with this new 3 chipper I completely agree with you Phil about the 12-16fl idea. Once you have seen this image with its vitality and 3 dimensionality its so hard to go back. After I left Jeff's I rushed off home, fired up my HT300 and was greeted with a rather dull, flat image, a nice dull flat image to be sure, but it looked like a very poor relation beside the C3X. The other great thing about this projector is that it will stimulate other manufacturers to innervate and create even better projectors. The winners out of all this will be us the consumers. I never thought we would see brightness and a good black together in a smallish package. The progress is so fast. Its all very exciting.


Regards,


Paul H
 

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I know its in different settings, but it would be quite interesting if Paul could post pictures of a a couple of movie scenes using his 300 and if Jeff could pictures of the same movie scenes using the C3X. Is that a major request?
 

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I really don't think that screen shots are going to reveal differences. Even if you could match the exact same camera's, the exact same paused frames of a particular scene, the exact same sources, screen sizes, theater conditions....etc. etc. the camera's would compensate for defficiencies, and yield similar images.
 

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Thanks Paul,

It sounds like you and I have come to the same conclusion about the source material. This projector REALLY does not like poor or even average (?) material fed to it. You said you only viewed one DVD during the demo and thought it only looked "ok". That was my impression too. Though most of the viewing was from DVD.


So you think the black levels are better then the single chip DLPs that you have seen? Man the C3X that I saw must have really been way out of calibration with regards to brightness (or once again perhaps it was the source) but I suspected this to be the case.


I thought that the HD stuff was mind blowing. The image really does jump off the screen. It's almost like you can step into the image and become part of it. Hard to explain :D
 

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From my experience with 3Chip, and higher brightness, there is definately a revealing nature to having more lumens. I see this as a plus rather than a negative, because it drives the refinement of source materials and equipment. I remember when I first got a really bright projector, I was uncomfortable with my sources, so I worked hard to improve the quality, and it was very rewarding. No more hiding in the dark with cheap equipment. ;)


If the spec's are correct, I am sure that the black level is superior to most single chip DLP's. My Panny 3 chip has black levels comparable to my Sharp 12K, and it specs are considerably lower than the C3X. I am pretty sure something was out of whack in your demo, Marcus. It may have been room reflections, or something as simple as the wrong ire setting on the DVD player.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hi Marcus,


I suspect it was probably a combination of the prototype, the less than controlled light levels you were treated to and calibration issues. Jeff has painted his whole room a dark grey in combination with black drapes around the screen. The projector was calibrated to D65 within an inch of its life by SIM2's finest here in the UK. This, in combination with the projector being the final production model probably allowed me to see the darks in all there glory.


As for photo's, I am not convinced that pictures of my HT300's performance will be of much use in this regard. For a start, the black always looks much better from a photo than it does in real life. I have no idea if Jeff would post any pictures. It would depend really on his time availabiity and whether this would be ok with SIM2 so close to CEDIA. I am sure Jeff (RTFM) will 'chip' in at some point. Frankly, there is no substitute for actually seeing the darned thing in action.


Regards,


Paul H
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hi Alan,


I honestly feel that I could live with the noise which is variable in any case depending on the source. I do not remember noticing any noise on Seabiscuit. But my point is that the image is so vibrant and rich, I could happily live with video noise just to preserve this sparkle and life. The filter we used sucked the vibrancy out of the image. Maybe under different calibrated conditions this could be made to work but it seems a shame to sacrifice one the projectors main strengths on the alter of disguising video noise. Still, only time will tell.


Regards,


Paul H
 

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I am sure the contrast ratio of this excellent projector is as high and probably higher than any single chipper. With the much higher brightness the actual black level will be higher. That is simple mathematics. With a 3-chipper with excellent shadow detail dark gray blacks would only be problematic with little detail on the screen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hi Mattias,


The black level is LOWER than on any single ship DLP I have seen. Admittedly this is confined to all the SIM2 single chippers, the Infocus 7203 or something and the Optoma 79??. I know that Gary Lightfoot has this PJ and he has seen the new SIM2 3 chipper. I always try to get a look at the 'black' screen on single chip displays and the three chipper was definitely the darkest I have seen. Combined with the high light output, it looks fabulous. The reason it is lower has to do with developments in the light path, the efficiency of the light soaks and a few extra tricks. Whatever, it seems to work well.


Regards,


Paul H
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Hayward
The surprise was that Firehawk did not appreciably deepen the blacks. Yes, they were a little deeper but not by much. This was a real eye opener to me. Why was this so?
If you were sitting back far enough that the Firehawk wasn't hotspotting much and you were getting good gain of 1.0 or more, then I don't think it is surprising that the Firehawk wouldn't darken the blacks a lot in a very dark colored room. Remember that if you put up a full "black" image on the StudioTek 130 and Firehawk from a high gain position the Firehawk image shouldn't be much darker. In fact, it should be the same percentage darker as a 100 IRE image would be. It is reducing reflections and off-axis lighting where the Firehawk really gets its advantage. Also, watching both screens at once is a little different than watching one screen at a time.


I think some people may find the Grayhawk RS to be a good match for this projector given the better color balance than the Firehawk and less hotspotting and sheen/sparklies.


--Darin
 

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As many have already said, this pj sounds like a groundbreaker.


Certainly it's going to knock the feet out from under competitors' high end 1-chips, but what about SIM's own 1-chips?


Hopefully they'll follow up with lower-priced 1-chips, with a similar optical engine design.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hi Darin,


Good points on the Firehawk. In particular, the sheen you mention is visible from time to time on Jeffs test screen during very bright scenes and on a pure white field. However, it is knowhere near as bad as I had feared. I am of course wondering how it might look on my Firehawk!!


Regards,


Paul H
 

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I hope some one will put this through some paces with a good or very good DVD player or scaler and DVD's. I woudl expect it to look very good with High Def source, but I would still be watching a lot of regular DVD's.

Paul, are you suggesting that this shows too many artifacts or compression with regular DVD's
 
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