midrange By Scott Wilkinson
DreamVision Dream’E SXRD Projector price: $5,295 (with anamorphic lens kit: $9,595) at a glance: Superb detail and shadow detail Excellent anamorphic performance Oversaturated greens and reds
Anamorphic 4 Less
ou may not have heard of French projector maker DreamVision, but I sure have. Whenever I’ve seen its projectors at trade shows, I’ve always been impressed by their stylish cabinets, high performance, and high prices. So I was very surprised at CES 2009 to find that the company was unveiling a relatively budgetpriced projector called the Dream’E. Perhaps even more surprising, it’s based on SXRD technology, which is Sony’s version of LCOS. This is the first non-Sony SXRD projector I know of, but DreamVision assured me that it’s not simply a rebranded Sony. DreamVision designed it from the ground up.
The biggest surprise of all was the projector’s anamorphic option. This adds a secondary lens and electronic processing to display 2.35:1 movies on a 2.35:1 screen without the hated black bars above and below the image. This capability normally costs big bucks, but the Dream’E with an anamorphic lens kit lists for less than $10,000. Clearly, I had to see this puppy for myself. Features
The Dream’E’s curvaceous chassis is available in white, black, and a variety of high-gloss colors. Its center-mounted lens is easier to align with the screen than the off-center lenses that many other
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projectors use. All of the lens adjustments are manual, including horizontal and vertical shift, zoom, and focus. Electronic keystone correction is available, but I strongly recommend against using it if at all possible since it can reduce image resolution and lead to ugly artifacts. Of course, the highlight of the Dream’E is its anamorphic capability. You can purchase the projector with or without the so-called Wide System kit, which includes a Panamorph prismatic lens and a mounting bracket that places it in front of the main lens. Unlike many anamorphic lens systems, this one does not use a
motorized sled that moves it in and out of the light path. Once it’s mounted, it stays in place. When the Dream’E displays a 2.35:1 movie, the Cinemascope aspect-ratio mode scales the image vertically while the lens stretches the image horizontally to fill a 2.35:1 screen. To watch 16:9 or 4:3 material in its proper aspect ratio, the Converted 16:9 mode scales the image horizontally, which leaves pillarbox bars on the sides. The projector also includes a 12-volt trigger output that you can use to activate a screen-masking system for different aspect ratios. According to DreamVision, a
The remote is dead simple, just the way I like ’em. It’s fully illuminated and not universal, and it has dedicated inputselection buttons—well, almost. The single HDMI button toggles between the two HDMI inputs, but all the other input buttons select their respective inputs directly. Likewise, each picture mode has its own dedicated selection button. A couple of the function buttons threw me a momentary curve. The button labeled Zoom calls up the Overscan setting, and the Focus button calls up the Detail Enhancement control. Not exactly intuitive. The other function buttons—Iris, Aspect, Blank, and Light—do what I
Features DreamVision Dream’E SXRD Projector Type: SXRD, three-chip Native Resolution: 1,920 by 1,080 Rated Lamp Life: 2,000 hours Dynamic Iris: No Lens Shift: Horizontal/Vertical Dimensions (W x H x D, inches): 20.5 x 7.6 x 20.7 Weight (pounds): 37.5 Price: $5,295 (with anamorphic lens kit: $9,595)
• The center-mounted lens is
easier to align with the screen than the off-center lenses that many other projectors use.
expected them to do. (Blank hides the onscreen display.) Unfortunately, the remote doesn’t have enough power to bounce its IR commands off the screen and back to the projector from 10 feet away. I had to get about 5 feet from the screen before I could reliably control the projector while I pointed the remote at the screen. Since the couch in our studio’s theater room is about 10 feet from the screen, I had to point the remote back toward the projector itself, raising my arm fairly high so the IR receiver could see the beam. For the most part, the menu system is simple and well organized. Each time you go into the system and press the Enter button, it follows the path to the last control you adjusted, which is very nice. Also, when you select a parameter to adjust, the rest of the menu disappears and drops the parameter to the bottom of the screen, just as it should be. Still, there are a few odd things in the menu system. The first is the organization of the Picture menu, which includes three submenus—Picture Mode, Picture Adjustment, and Advanced Picture Settings. The Advanced submenu has only two
items—Lens Aperture and Blue Only mode. Everything else, such as Gamma and Color Temperature, is in the main Picture Adjustment submenu. Why even have an Advanced submenu? Another weird thing is the presence of Black Level and White Level controls in the Input Signal menu. These are in addition to the Brightness and Contrast controls in the Picture menu. I was glad to have the White Level control once I got into setting up the projector, as I’ll discuss in a moment. Finally, the aspect-ratio modes for use with the anamorphic lens—Cinemascope and Converted 16:9—provide unique variable controls. You can set Cinemascope anywhere from 1.78 to 2.50, while you can set Converted 16:9 from 1.30 to 1.78. This seems like it would be a good thing, but the Cinemascope setting did nothing at all. I had to set the Converted 16:9 setting to 1.33 for 16:9 material in order to display correctly. When I set it to 1.78, it stretched the image to the width of the 2.35:1 screen, which hardly seems intuitive. Setup and Testing
The first thing I noticed when I set up the Dream’E is that the
Pjotos by Cordero Studios
Schneider Optics anamorphic lens on a motorized sled is also available as an optional $13,995 Theatre System Kit. A second 12-volt trigger output can activate the sled. Speaking of the internal processor, it’s an HQV Reon-VX. It provides digital and mosquito noise reduction, among other things. But, oddly, there are no NR controls in the menu system. It also automatically detects film- or video-based content and offers what DreamVision touts as an advanced color management system (CMS), which I’ll have more to say about shortly. Other noteworthy features include a choice of RGB or Y/Pb/ Pr color space for HDMI signals, as well as an Auto setting. Plus, you can set the HDMI level for PC, Video, or Auto. It also has a Black Level setting (0 or 7.5 IRE), and you can turn Overscan on or off. The projector can accept 1080p/24, which it displays at 60 hertz, and you can tweak the
alignment of the red and blue imaging panels horizontally and vertically to help minimize color-alignment errors. The projector’s Blue Only mode is a rare and welcome feature. It turns off the red and green colors, which makes it easier to accurately set the Color and Tint controls than it is when you use those funky blue filters that come with most setup discs. One feature that’s missing— although I don’t miss it at all—is a dynamic iris. I normally find that dynamic irises make too much noise and/or pump the light levels in an obvious and distracting way. Apparently, DreamVision agrees, so it designed a new light engine that it claims will achieve a native peak contrast ratio of 15,000:1. As you can see in HT Labs Measures, I didn’t measure even a tenth of that, but it was good enough for the human eye in a dark room.
DreamVision Dream’E SXRD Projector
HT Labs Measures
except at the very top and bottom ends of the brightness range. Interestingly, this profile closely matches the best gray scale I could get using the Economic lamp mode without the lens. The color gamut was quite oversaturated along the greenyellow-red axis. DreamVision touts its “advanced color management system (CMS),” so I thought that might help, but it didn’t. For one thing, it only has Range (hue) and Saturation controls for the three primary and three secondary colors, but it doesn’t have Brightness. Also, the Range controls didn’t seem to do much at all. The Saturation controls brought the green, yellow, and red color points into line DreamVision Dream’E SXRD Projector as measured, but the picture looked awful, so I put them back to their defaults. Reducing the main Color control brought the points close to correct as well, but it also made Full-On/Full-Off real-world material look very washed Contrast Ratio: 1,254:1 out. Without the anamorphic lens, luma resolution extended fully to its theoretical limit, but there was a slight reddish tinge in the highest frequency and a bit of a cyan tinge in some of the lower frequencies. The highest-frequency chroma resolution was almost completely rolled off. With calibrated the Dream’E before the extra lens in place, the Converted and after I installed the 16:9 aspect-ratio setting caused the anamorphic lens to see if there luma resolution to roll off more than it was much difference between had before, and the color tinges got them. As expected, the extra lens worse and added some banding. reduced the light output, which In the Full Screen and Normal meant I needed to open the aperture a bit to achieve the same peak-white aspect ratios (which are not used with an anamorphic lens), a few level after I put the lens in place. pixels were cropped from each edge DreamVision claims that the of the picture, even with Overscan Medium color-temperature setting is off. In Converted 16:9 mode factory-calibrated to D65, but it Visit our Website for a detailed (the aspect ratio used with an was quite deficient in red. I explanation of our testing regimen, anamorphic lens to properly obtained the most accurate plus a list of our display 16:9 images), there gray scale before I put the lens reference gear. was no cropping on the right in place using the Normal lamp mode. However, the calibrated on the or left, but the top and bottom were still cropped a bit.—SW gray scale with the lens, web shown here, was very good
Color-tracking charts were generated in Datacolor ColorFacts.
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Inputs: Video: HDMI 1.3 (2), component video (1), RGB HD15 (1), S-video (1), composite video (1) Additional: RS-232 (1), 12-volt trigger outs (2)
horizontal and vertical lens-shift normally try to use a projector’s controls are buried deep behind lowest lamp setting to extend its the front fascia, which makes life and reduce power consumpthem very awkward to reach and tion, but in this case, the adjust. If the projector is set on a Economic mode wasn’t as surface, you must lift the front, consistent in terms of gray scale find the thumb across the wheel, adjust it, set brightness range as the projector back the Normal mode. down, reposition it, Both modes and see if you got it achieved a right. What a pain peak-white in the butt! I realize level of about 16 that if DreamVision foot-lamberts on put these wheels on my 100-inch-wide, the outside of the 2.35:1, 1.0-gain case, it would spoil screen with and the graceful lines, without the but form must anamorphic lens. follow function, if It was fairly easy you ask me. to install the As I started Panamorph lens. setting the BrightThe lens bracket ness and Contrast has some controls, I could see horizontal range of below black from a motion, which you Blu-ray test disc, should use instead but not from the of the main AccuPel test-signal horizontal lens generator, no shift if possible. matter where I set The lens itself can the Brightness or be shifted up and Black Level. Also, down and tilted a the Black Level bit to minimize control behaves pincushioning, in backward—when I which the top and/ increased its value, or bottom of the it lowered the black image bow inward. level. However, the DreamVision Brightness control recommends a worked as I throw distance of expected. at least 5 meters to Scott liked DreamVision’s Next, I found avoid pincushionsimple, no-nonsense, illuminated remote control. He found the that the projector ing on a flat 2.35:1 picture mode selection buttons to totally clipped screen; otherwise, be especially helpful. whites no matter the company where I set the Contrast. I soon recommends using a curved discovered that I had to reduce screen to compensate. That’s all the separate White Level setting well and good, but curved 2.35:1 quite a bit to eliminate clipping. screens are very expensive, After that, I looked at the Contrast typically more than the projector control again only to find that it itself, even with the anamorphic behaves backward as well—when lens. The longest throw distance I you increase the value, it lowers achieved was 14.5 feet, which isn’t the white level. Very strange. that shy of 5 meters. However, The Dream’E offers two lamp there was still some minor pinmodes—Normal and Economic. I cushioning that I could see.
DreamVision Dream’E SXRD Projector free of moiré as I’ve ever seen. As I was looking at various bright test patterns, I noticed on the However, the disc menu was not visible in Cinemascope a band of blue discoloration web mode because the menu is along the top few inches of For additional in 16:9, so the top and the image. The discoloration details, plus a list of bottom of the image were remained even after I made the settings used for this review, see sure the horizontal and the online version. cropped. I had to switch to Converted 16:9 mode to vertical red and blue select chapter 8, then go back to alignment controls were Cinemascope for the movie itself. optimized. This was the first that Many, if not most, Blu-ray and DreamVision had heard of it. They assured me that if any owner DVD movies have 16:9 disc menus, so this will be a common had this problem, the company problem that is no fault of the would repair or replace the projector. projector, so I’m not really worried about it. I ran through various test discs at 480i and 1080i, and the Dream’E performed very well overall in terms of deinterlacing, scaling, jaggies, and so on. With the anamorphic lens in place, I was concerned that the Cinemascope and Converted 16:9 aspect-ratio modes, which respectively scale the image vertically and horizontally, would degrade the performance in these areas. They did, but it was much less than I expected. I also took a look at some test patterns that reveal any misalignment of the three imaging panels and chromatic aberration in the lens. Overall, the projector performed well in this regard, with very little color misalignment. However, there was some chromatic aberration, which caused white lines to exhibit color fringes, especially in the corners of the screen. As I expected, the anamorphic lens exacerbated the chromatic aberration a bit, but this wasn’t particularly evident on the real-world material I watched. Real-World Performance
I did all of my real-world viewing with the anamorphic lens in place. I switched back and forth between the Cinemascope and Converted 16:9 aspect-ratio modes depending on the material. Fortunately, you can set up the projector to toggle between these two settings with the remote’s Aspect button, which is much more convenient than cycling through all the modes each time you want to watch something in a different aspect ratio. Starting with chapter 8 of Mission: Impossible III on Blu-ray at 1080i, the pan across the staircase looked as smooth and
The blue band of discoloration across the top was obvious in the opening shot of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Blu-ray) as the ship emerges from the fog. In fact, I couldn’t help noticing it in any scene with light coloring at the top of the image. Otherwise, detail in things like the ships’ rigging and textures of brick and wood was superb. Shadow detail in night scenes was also top notch. The red British uniforms and green foliage were somewhat
overblown, but skintones looked surprisingly natural. Seven Years in Tibet (Blu-ray) looked spectacular, especially the detail in the sweeping Himalayan vistas, intricate textiles, and facial pores. I’ve never seen better shadow detail than in the night scene where Heinrich steals food from the temple in Northern India. Colors were generally excellent, although there isn’t much green or bright red in this movie that would stand out as being oversaturated. As before,
midrange DreamVision Dream’E SXRD Projector the blue band at the top was obvious in snow scenes. Turning to 16:9 material, I switched to Converted 16:9 mode and looked at the “Seasonal Forests” episode of Planet Earth (Blu-ray). As I expected, greens were somewhat overblown, but the browns of animals and dirt were completely natural, and detail in the texture of bark, animal hair, and pollen was excellent. While I had that disc in the player, I also checked out a bit of the “Ocean Deep” episode. There was very little false-contour
banding in the opening sequence as the sun appears from behind the limb of the planet, but I saw lots of banding when the first underwater shot faded in. Fortunately, there was little banding to be seen once this and other underwater shots were established. The black level was less than inky in the dark depths of this episode, and blacks appeared a bit reddish, as did the pillarbox bars on the sides of the image. Clearly, side masking would enhance the experience of watching this projector on a 2.35:1 screen.
Topsy-Turvy (DVD) is a 1.85:1 movie, which the Dream’E displayed correctly using its Converted 16:9 mode. Shadow detail in the carriage as Sullivan races to the opera house at the beginning was excellent, and the overall detail was as good as you can expect from standard def. The reds and greens of the Mikado sets almost glowed, but skintones were quite natural. Next, I played an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (DVD) to see some 4:3 material. Of course, there were wide pillarbox bars on both sides of the image, and they were a bit ruddy, as was the black of space. Some of the episode I watched takes place on a planet’s surface, where the green foliage and the red in the Starfleet uniforms were a bit oversaturated. Otherwise, things looked as good as DVD can look. Conclusion
Up until now, I’ve always been perfectly content to watch 2.35:1 movies on a 1.78:1 screen with
letterbox bars, even without masking. That is, as long as the projector’s black level is low enough. But after the time I spent watching the Dream’E project 2.35:1 movies on a 2.35:1 screen, I might never be as satisfied with a 16:9 screen again. Overall, I’m very impressed by the DreamVision Dream’E. I was originally skeptical about its ability to cleanly display 2.35:1 and 1.78:1 images through a fixed anamorphic lens. However, thanks to its first-rate processing, it performed much better in this regard than I expected. Granted, greens and reds are oversaturated (though, surprisingly, fleshtones are not) and the black level isn’t the lowest I’ve seen, but overall detail and shadow delineation are both superb. Add to that anamorphic capabilities for less than $10,000, and you have a real winner. DreamVision • Dist. by Audio Plus Services • (800) 663-9352 • www.dreamvision.net Dealer Locator Code DRM
Test bench: Dream'E projector