Digital Video Essentials (DVE) Overview
Digital Video Essentials (DVE) DVD
MSRP: $24.99 [ Buy Now ]
The world of high-quality consumer display devices and home theater has really taken off over the last 15 years The tools and information to get one's television set looking its best, however, has been elusive and relegated to the few professionals and videophiles who did their research. I say few professionals because there are numerous professionals with the know-how to repair a display, but who are usually oblivious when it comes to making one look good.
Fortunately for the consumer, there is help. One of those sources for help is Joe Kane Productions' Digital Video Essentials. The first Video Essentials was available on laser disc back in 1996 and then on DVD in 1997. In 2003 they released Digital Video Essentials (DVE) that has been improved and updated for 16:9, HD, DLP and LCD display devices. You can read more about Joe Kane Productions [ here ] and [ here ].
I was an early adopter of laser disc and SVHS, but was never satisfied with either's picture quality on my display. I was constantly adjusting and readjusting in an attempt to get things to look better - or at least how I thought they should look. It was only recently that I understood why . My display, like so many others, was never set to any kind of reference standard. Quite simply, it was never calibrated correctly. From the very first time I watched and used the first Video Essentials DVD, I was downright amazed, impressed and blown away. Amazed by the information it contained - impressed at the ease of use and helpful explanations - and blown away by the results I achieved. If you have never calibrated your display, then arm yourself with the new DVE DVD and a remote control because the differences will be significant.
Let's first start off with what Digital Video Essentials is and what it is not. DVE is designed for the home user to properly adjust their display's user controls and then evaluate its performance. It also has a full array of test signals to calibrate and evaluate your home theater's audio set up. Digital Video Essentials does not explain how to use the advanced test patterns or how to enter your service menu and perform a more advanced calibration. That should be left to an ISF trained professional as you can actually damage or disable some televisions. That being said, there are some displays that allow more user control than others, and in those instances, the advanced test patterns can be very useful. For the scope of this review I will discuss only the user controls that are common to every display, leaving service menu adjustments for the professionals.
The first Video Essentials program provided an education in audio and video - and this version is equally educational in nature. I would suggest you first go through the entire DVD and soak everything in before making adjustments. There is a wealth of knowledge contained within this program. The sections on progressive scan signals and MPEG decoding are explained in excellent "layman's" detail. Also explained is grayscale, or the color of gray, along with a brief history lesson on video and why it has evolved into what it is today. It is fascinating stuff, and even seasoned tweakers may learn a few new things.
There are many improvements with this DVD version of Digital Video Essentials and one of the biggest is navigation of the DVD itself. It's now a snap to navigate thanks to a much improved menu system. Also improved upon are the color filters. There are now three of them (similar to what is provided with the AVIA disc) which are all mounted on one sturdy card for easy switching between the 3 colors. There is also an included chapter listing of all the test patterns for direct navigation.
The format and mastering has been revamped from the original. DVE was mastered in 1080p/24 and then down-mastered to 480p/24 and 576p/25 and is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic video. The live action test video footage looks amazing. The director of photography was Allen Daviau who worked on one of my favorites movies "Empire of the Sun".
Some things I would like to have seen included are: an example and explanation of aspect ratios and an explanation of the IRE settings found on most DVD players. I also feel strongly that convergence of CRT based projectors should have been explained, though this could easily take up its own DVD. They do provide the patterns but don't mention it at all and it can certainly make a dramatic improvement to the look of a CRT-based display.
After several minutes of some cool space shuttle footage and the lengthy introduction, you are brought right to the Program Menu where you can start the process of calibrating your display. It is recommended that displays be warmed up at least 30 minutes prior to doing any adjustments (this is especially important for CRT-based displays). While waiting, you may wish to go through the audio setup first.
The Audio Setup section guides you through all of the necessary steps to getting your system balanced. The only extra equipment needed for this is a Sound Pressure Level (SPL) meter (available at any Radio Shack for around $40). There are also sections that will test phasing of your speaker system as well as sweep modes to assist with proper bass integration. One very useful test is the Buzz and Rattle test. This test sweeps through low frequency tones to help locate anything that may be rattling in your room. All of these tests are adequate for getting volume levels set correctly and evaluating your system's audio performance. However, unless your sub has a relatively flat response within your room, you will have more work to do. This is not covered with this DVD and is another topic unto itself. The onscreen graphic representations of your speaker system, combined with the pink noise tests makes for a slick way to see if your system is placing sounds in the correct space. At one point the sound of bullets goes whizzing around your head and will likely cause any unwary listeners to jump out of their seat. Consider yourself warned and feel free to scare a friend or family member with it too!