Standard DVD version 1.4 NTSC
HD version 1 Blu-ray or HD DVD
SRP: $20 each
Silicon Optix of San Jose, California, is a leader in high performance video processing solutions designed to offer Hollywood Quality Video – that’s where the HQV comes from. Their ICs are found in such consumer electronics units as hi-res displays, DVD players, rear-projection TVs, front projectors and scalers. Their video processing technologies are found in products from Samsung, Yamaha, Toshiba, Denon, Mitsubishi and Onkyo among others.
These discs are quite different from the DVE and Avia test DVDs which are used to properly set up video displays. Their purpose is a refinement of the enhancements that use of the other test discs should provide for your display. The idea is to offer a sort of video obstacle course to reveal subtle details about the image quality of your display. Some of the errors one sees may not be adjustable on the particular component – they are just part of its design. One obvious use of the discs would be to take with you when purchasing a new display. Although most sets in stores are wildly out of proper adjustment for some of the parameters, the discs can still identify major differences between sets which may not be immediately apparent just from viewing the usual source material provided in the store.
Another use for the discs is to determine the best settings such as 3:2 pulldown, progressive or interlaced display, upscaling, and so on which you may be able to enable or disable on not only your display but also on your DVD players and outboard scaler/processors feeding it. Journalists reviewing video gear are already using the Benchmark discs to evaluate components. Some of the tests can establish whether or not a set actually lives up to the perhaps overly-positive claims of the manufacturer.
The standard DVD test disc has the most test sections on it since there are a lot more image problems and artifacts to be seen with NTSC than with either of the new hi-res formats. The menu screen brings up several sections, beginning with an introduction to the disc’s tests. Next is a run-thru of the tests just to familiarize the viewer with the purpose of each one. Next you are able to select running the entire series of tests or just specific ones you click on. Each one is looped so that you take as long as you want to make comparisons before going on to the next one. Each is very easy to access and clearly titled – unlike some of the video tests on the Avia and especially the DVE DVD, which are often extremely difficult to navigate to. The main purpose of the standard Benchmark is to test how well a video product upconverts standard 480i definition source materials.
Inside each disc box is a Scorecard with all the tests and suggestions of how to rate scoring of each one on a 1 to 10 basis. The tests on the standard disc are: Color Bar/Vertical Detail, Jaggies Patterns 1 & 2, American Flag test, Picture Detail, Noise Reduction, Motion Adaptive Noise Reduction, 3:2 Detection, Film Cadence, Mixed 3:2 Film with Added Video Titles – both horizontal crawl and vertical crawl. You may discover some aspects of video display that you never knew existed, and end up with an enhanced display on your present set after some setup changes. For example, I discovered that although my three DVD players all delivered similar quality images – one of them was slower at detecting 3:2 film mode, causing moire patterns to appear. Yet that player surpassed the others in the “jaggies” test area. Different film cadences are shown in the same filmed scene repeated eight times. None of my players were able to prevent a few of the cadences from flickering seriously and/or causing jaggies in the edges of the newspaper and cups in the scene. If your display is older and your DVD player a new model, you might achieve better 3:2 detection and progressive display if you turn off these options in your display and turn them on in your player. One of the jaggies tests uses a rotating white bar. At some of the angles as it rotates the bar begins to show jagged edges. These become even worse when the frame is paused.
The Blu-ray HQV Benchmark disc has about half the tests of the standard test disc. They are: HD Noise Reduction, Video Resolution Loss Test, Jaggies, Film Resolution Loss Test – Boxes, Film Resolution Loss Test – Stadium. The first test is excellent for determining whether any noise reduction in either the TV or the Blu-ray player should be turned on or off. The level of noise may even be the lowest with both turned off or both on, or you may notice that although noise is reduced the image becomes blurry or other artifacts are introduced and it is better to not use it.
The jaggies tests were the same as on the standard disc, but now there was no noticeable jagginess at all with the rotating white bar. The first of the Film Resolution tests consists of boxes of varying densities of grey. The top score was if you can see fine horizontal lines in the corner boxes; I could. But the lowest score was if the boxes in the corners strobe, and mine did. In fact the worst strobing with all three DVD players was a nearly white box in the center. I’ll have to study HQV’s online Scoring Guide to learn what this means. The second Film Res test is a long panning shot of a football stadium. You should not see flickering or moire pattern in the upper stands, and once the 3:2 pulldown switched in, I didn’t.
All the discs feature demo-quality video and film footage from hi-res sources in addition to the specific tests. Whether you have both standard and hi-def players or play back everything on one hi-def player, you should have two separate test discs to test each format. At the above HQV URL there is a detailed Testing and Scoring Guide which can be downloaded as a pdf file.
– John Sunier