Archive | Reviews Commentary

Articles about how I do reviews, or changes and improvements to review formats.

Color Volume: Measuring and Understanding What it Means

Coming out of CES 2017, one of the key things you heard thrown around from manufacturers was Color Volume. For the past few years, we’ve heard companies talk about what percentage of the DCI/P3 or Rec.2020 color gamuts they cover, but those are 2D measurements. Color volume adds the third dimension, brightness, to the measurement. So what is color volume, and how should we measure and report on it to best distinguish what a display is capable of? Continue Reading →

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UltraHD Blu-ray Database

In March 2016 we finally see the launch of the UltraHD Blu-ray player format with a $400 player from Samsung and titles from many studios. These UltraHD discs will likely be the best sources of UltraHD content at home. This new format offers 10-bits per pixel instead of the 8-bits of Blu-ray for better gradients and less banding, wider color gamuts that are closer to what you see in the movie theater, high dynamic range with brighter highlights that better represent real life, and better compression for a sharper image. Overall the format is a big step-up from Blu-ray which is the best physical media format available.

The Martian UHDThere are some things to look out for, though. One main point of contention is that many movies aren’t mastered in 4K for the theater, but have their master done at 2K resolution. What this means can differ from title to title. Some movies, like Mad Max: Fury Road, are shot at 2.8K resolution on an Arri Alexa camera, and then have their special effects done at 2K resolution. So this title on UltraHD Blu-ray will benefit from more bits-per-pixel, wider color gamuts, better compression, and possibly high dynamic range. However it is upscaled to 4K as it was never shot in 4K.

Samsung UltraHD Blu-ray Player

Samsung UltraHD Blu-ray Player

For a title like The Martian, it was shot in 4K but the final master is at 2K resolution so all the visual effects are likely that resolution. For the UltraHD Blu-ray, it looks like they are going back to the 4K master for creating the HDR effects but the special effects will still be 2K. So this title will have all the real world content in true 4K resolution, but the visual effects done at 2K resolution.

Sicario-UltraHD-Blu-ray-wpcf_239x300Finally we have Sicario, which is shot in 4K and has a 4K master. With far fewer special effects shots, it didn’t need to go down to 2K resolution so we will get true 4K all the way through.

The key thing is that these films will almost certainly look better on UltraHD Blu-ray than on traditional Blu-ray. They’ll have a wider color gamut to use, highlights that are spectacular, and less compression. However only some might take full advantage of the UltraHD resolution offered. We are going to attempt to keep track of this and update a chart with all the details on the announced titles. This way if you only want true 4K films, you can find those. If you just want to know what the original format is you can also find that, but this way you aren’t going into a purchase without being sure of what you are getting.

You will also need a TV that is an UltraHD Premium model to take full advantage of these features. If you simply have a 4K TV from a year or two ago, it might not support the wider color gamuts and high dynamic range features that UltraHD Blu-ray can offer. The TV will need to support HDMI 2.0a to understand the HDR content, and will need HDCP 2.2 copy protection to pass the image. If you are unsure if your TV supports this then you should check your manual or see if there is a firmware update available for it that might help. Most high-end TVs this year are UltraHD Premium certified, but it isn’t a guarantee.

View the UltraHD Blu-ray Title Database

You can also find the database in the Main Menu under Guides. It will be continually updated as we get more information from the studios on the features available in each title.

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Touring CNet’s Testing Labs

The testing setup that I am always in awe of it the one that CNet has. While most of us have to do our testing in a vacuum and rely on subjective memory or our objective test data, CNet has access to almost all the recent, popular displays. The room design enables them to do side-by-side comparison of many displays so they can compare them and not rely on their memory. Since I was in Manhattan for something, I decided to pay a visit to see how their test lab works.

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Which Gamma is Correct?

As 2014 TVs begin coming out, I’ve been rethinking how I properly attempt to calibrate them. While measuring the grayscale and color gamut are easy, picking the correct gamma is hard to decide. There are many factors that come into play, from the room and environment to the capabilities of the display itself. It makes a large difference in how we see an image as well as you see the picture above with the different sides using different gammas. To try to come to a consensus on what gamma is correct for a review, I talked to other reviewers and experts to get their feedback.
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Choosing Reference Materials

Over on the side of my site, at least if you aren’t using AdBlock, you’ll see a window with a list of the reference materials that I use for evaluating products.  You’ve probably noticed that most reviewers go back to the same music and films, over and over again, when they review things.  Why do we pick the titles that we do, and what makes a good piece of reference material?  Other reviewers probably have different thoughts, but these are the reasons I pick certain material.
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Bench Tests Never Lie (except when they do)

If you’ve read many of my reviews, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in the importance of objective measurements and testing.  While we all have our own beliefs and preferences, and our own tastes in music and movies and what is enjoyable to us, objective numbers give us something we can all rely on.  We might interpret them differently to fit our preferences sometimes, but the numbers themselves remain stable and true, right? Continue Reading →

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Giving up on The Absolute Sound

I’ve been a long-term subscriber to both The Absolute Sound and Stereophile.  Even as I could find reviews sooner and cheaper online, I stuck with them both as they had access that other writers do not, and seemingly reputations that they would want to defend by not making crazy mistakes.  While I will still keep my subscription to Stereophile going, once my current one to The Absolute Sound lapses, I’m afraid I’m done with it for good. Continue Reading →

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What is the best projector?

Many times we get asked “What is the best projector?” or a similar question for a different component.  People want to make sure they buy the unit that reviewers think is best, and might not have the time to go drive around town to many different dealers and see everything for themselves, or they might not even have all the units available in their town.  As nice as it would be to simply say “This is the best projector!” it often is a far more complex issue than that. Continue Reading →

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Home Theater Display Reviews and Measurements

When you look at a typical home theater display review, there are a few things you are guaranteed to see from any objective analysis.  You should see a grayscale chart, showing how accurate and linear it tracks across different values, and you’ll also see a CIE chart showing how accurate the colors are compared to the reference values.  You probably will see a gamma chart showing how well it tracks to a certain value (usually 2.2), and you might see contrast readings as well as maximum and minimum light output values.  All of this is very useful to someone to know how well a display performs, but there is a lot still missing from this data. Continue Reading →

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