Saturday, September 11, 2004

An expensive hobby

Subject: Home Theatre
Just before Noir became the obsessive centerpoint of my compulsive viewing habits, I was searching for a top-notch DVD player to match up with my brand-new DLP HDTV. It would have to upscale to 720p over DVI, pass "pluge" (aka 0-7.5 IRE blacks), and not clip white levels. It would also have to be able to pillarbox 4:3 Academy Ratio movies, because my DLP locks into widescreen when it gets a signal over DVI.

I was willing to spend quite a bit, and was eyeing the Pioneer Elite 59AVI.

Then, when I got hooked on Noir, and started "experimenting" with anime, I discovered the importance of one more thing: deinterlacing. Anime discs are notoriously badly encoded, and most DVD players tend to exhibit combing artifacts when making a progressive picture when it encounters errors or sloppiness that occur in badly-flagged DVDs. Noir was a stellar example -- it looks gorgeous, but motion breaks up into scanlines all the time. And after seeing it in hi-def, I just couldn't stand it!

I never got around to testing the Pioneer. I started concentrating on building an HTPC to perfect DVD playback, but waiting for the new NVidia decoder (which supposedly would do the kind of deinterlacing I needed) was taking forever (it's still not available in a purchaseable package like TheaterTek yet). Other less-expensive DVD players I tried, even though they managed to meet many of my requirments, all failed the de-interlacing test.

But this week, I did it. I bought the brand new Denon 3910. It's got a top-notch decoder, excellent electronics, whiz-bang audiophile features I'm admittedly not using yet (I'll upgrade the rest next year), tweakable picture quality settings, and best of all, it deinterlaces anything you throw at it! It's not perfect; you can still see some occasional jagginess in solid lines, but it's such a drastic improvement over everything else that I'm quite pleased.

And I'd better be, because it cost eleven hundered bucks.

Anyway, being a regular "Captain Justification", I really didn't have to try too hard to come up with why I would spend such a large sum on something most people buy for $75 at Wal Mart. Primarily, even ignoring my growing anime collection (and my desire to deinterlace it), the movies I want to watch just aren't shown on the scant few hi-def channels I have access to. Voom is starting to show Fellini & Kurosawa films on their service, but I have trees in the way and can't get Voom. So I need to get the best DVD playback I can to tide me over for the day that HD-DVD finally arrives and Criterion starts releasing HD-DVD transfers. And seeing as I still have laserdiscs that haven't been adequately rereleased on DVD, I figure it'll be a while before HD-DVD content catches up.

An expensive, expensive hobby.

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