I have owned the TW9400 / UB6050 for the last two years after owning about 10 JVCs. I got fed up with JVC’s quality control and awful support in Australia. Interestingly, support was great back in the UK and made up for the issues with quality control. This is not to say JVC isn’t trying to improve things, but switching to a first generation JVC in a new chassis is always risky – and in fact a lot of quality control issues have been reported for these new units through the dealers. Their second-gen native 4K units should behave better hopefully.
In any case, the Epson has not skipped a beat and has been an absolute workhorse. There are many reviews online, so I wouldn’t want to repeat the same old here but I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for those that own this projector.
Tip 1A: Update Your Firmware – Pixel Shifting now shifts 3x
While Epson didn’t advertise it anywhere, they released a firmware late last year whereby they updated the pixel shifting in 24p material to flash the panels 3x as opposed to 2x. I was specifically looking out for this change, because Epson included a custom pixel shifting processor in these new models. The new processor allowed Epson to make pixel shifting a lot more precise, reduce blur and improve sharpness. Also, since LCD pixels are smaller than say DLP or JVC’s DILA pixels, the pixels are more defined even when shifting them twice. This makes a huge difference in perceived sharpness compared to JVC’s 1080p to 4K e-shit for example (although it also impacts their 8K e-shift on their new projectors because of the native filtrate that’s present without shifting already).
So what Epson did was update the firmware to flash the panels in-between the two existing positions and improve fine detail and sharpness even more. It made things quite a bit sharper and nuanced for UHD Blu Rays that had a 4K DI, and especially if they were mastered from an 8K source.
So essentially the resolution is now around 1080p x 3 (remember that 4K is 1080p x 4).
Tip 1B: Turn Panel Alignment OFF
This is related to the one above. It is important not to use panel alignment as it is a digital correction that will cut your resolution in some of the chroma / colour channels. While it might not be so obvious in certain scenes, it will be very obvious in others.
Of course if your panel alignment is very badly off, you may have to use it. But it’s best to correct whole pixels as opposed to partial pixel widths / heights.
The misalignment is normally not visible with these projectors from any reasonable viewing distance. But if you have it on, any resolution you gain using the new firmware might well be gobbled up by this digital correction. Not great!
Tip 2: Calibrate Dynamic Picture Mode for HDR
I know this sounds crazy, but for HDR you need every bit of juice! Epson rates these projectors at 2400 lumens. HOWEVER, in Dynamic picture mode, with a new lamp, these projectors can put out as much as 3200 lumens which is brighter than some of the laser projectors on the market. It is pretty insane.
However, the issue in Dynamic is colour accuracy. To achieve that level of brightness, more of the green and blue light are let through from the lamp. However, Epson’s dynamic mode is still pretty watchable even on default settings – and much better than let’s say a DLP’s dynamic mode.
However, if you want to try my settings I include them at the end of this article.
[Start tech talk]
Some people will tell you that it’s better to use the colour filter for HDR to get a larger gamut coverage. However, this isn’t entirely true. Colour perception – especially in HDR – is not two-dimensional but 3. This is why we tend to talk about colour VOLUME when it comes to HDR. That’s not volume as in loudness but volume as in contents of a 3D object, such as a cube.
Colour is expressed as saturation, hue and brightness. That third element is incredibly important for HDR.
So while we may not get as deep saturations on the edges of the gamut without the filter in place, we get 2-3x higher brightness, which means we can express a lot more colours from the volume, than if we had the filter in place. The colours on the edges of the gamut are rarely used while higher brightness within the “popular” colours are a lot more common in HDR. This is why it makes a LOT more sense to increase brightness than saturation – especially as the filter cuts light output by around 40%.
For the more technical folks, who are still unconvinced: there are mathematical formulas that convert colours perceptually from a higher brightness (but lower saturation) to a lower brightness (but higher saturation). This is in fact what tone mapping – and Dolby Vision – exploits. The math works the other way around too.
[/End tech talk]
Tip 3: Improve Perceived Contrast
There are a few ways you can improve perceived contrast but there are the ways I like to do it
- Choose a lower gamma setting: go into the advanced menu and choose -1 or -2 gamma. Especially as the lamp ages on the Epsons, the gamma seems to lift a bit. It might be worth trying a lower gamma by putting in a movie that you are very familiar with and choosing the gamma that looks the most correct. Also, if you darkened your room or have a bat cave, you may be able to choose a lower gamma (e.g. -2) for even more contrast. Of course this isn’t very scientific. I’ll have some video calibration guides later in the year that will allow you to do custom gamma curves.
- Darken your room: the darker the room, the more detail you will be able to see near black.
- Stop light bouncing around the room: if you are able to treat your ceiling or walls with a darker colour, especially around 2m out from your screen, it will greatly improve the image, since it will stop light bouncing around the room and back onto your projection screen.
- Use a cinemascope screen: by using a cinemascope screen, you are able to get rid of the black bars from projection. Since the black bars tend to be a bit grey on LCD and DLP projectors, zooming them out will greatly improve the perceived contrast.
- Darken your front wall: this is especially important with a cinemascope screen. Having a really dark or black front wall means that the zoomed out picture area will not light up your front wall and distract from the image, especially in HDR where you need to use the brightest modes.
- Use a grey screen: whether you use a cinemascope or a 16:9 screen, switching to a grey screen from a white one will improve ambient light rejection and perceived contrast. I recommend a grey screen for all rooms that don’t have literally black or very dark walls. A white screen will always look a bit more washed out when there’s light bouncing around in the room.
- Use an ambient light rejecting screen: if you are adventurous enough, and a grey screen won’t cut it, you can use an ambient light rejecting screen such as the Cinegrey 3D from Elite Screens. You need to be careful with quality control for these screens and buy from a reputable dealer in case a replacement is needed. These screens have very delicate material that when not handled correctly can create imperfections on the projection surface.
Get Your Projector to Talk Dolby Vision
This is not a typo. No, really!
What you need is the following:
- An HD Fury device you can load the Sony LLDV (Low Latency Dolby Vision) EDID profile into.
- A Sony UHD blu ray player that supports LLDV
- Additional UHD HDMI cables to connect things up
You can read more about this on the forums. I personally had an HD Fury Linker and even though it wasn’t officially supported for this, I managed to load the EDID and get it to work. The EDID is loaded permanently (although can be switched off if needed) and doesn’t cause any issues. The Sony player can be toggled for Dolby Vision on and off so I just toggle it there.
In spite of what people are saying on the forums, Dolby Vision should only be enabled for Dolby Vision disks and streaming content. This is because the Sony players are able to convert HDR10 to DV, but they do so by hard-clipping at 1000nits, which is not ideal. They also mess with the near-black gamma in ways I don’t appreciate. Best to watch HDR10 as HDR10 on the Epsons as the tone-mapping is pretty good.
However, for Dolby Vision content, when played as Dolby Vision, this method does offer better picture quality and frame to frame tone mapping, which is what Dolby Vision really is. It can result in higher perceived brightness and higher perceived contrast.
Where to from Here for Epson?
It is almost time for Epson to release an update for these units. After that announcement, you may be able to pick up one of these for a very low price.
What are the possible improvements Epson could make in the new units?
Well, they could put native 4K chips in. However, that is not nearly as simple as it sounds. The reason is that increasing the pixel grid means decreasing the amount of light that can pass through the chips. This is because the border space for the pixels increases and therefore the amount of light the grid blocks. However, it would be possible in two ways:
- They increase light output by using a higher powered lamp or laser. However, this means that both the chips and the lamp / laser needs more cooling. This could increase price a bit or quite a bit.
- Take the hit on the light output. This is not something that is normally compatible with Epson’s strategy with these projectors. Since they cannot compete on absolute contrast performance with JVC or Sony, they try and best them on light output.
The second option is to stay with 1080p panels but pixel shift 4x instead of 2 (or now 3 with the new firmware). This could be possible by improving on the pixel shifting chip and method of shifting. This is what DLP projectors do of course.
A mixed strategy would in fact be a likely better option: increase the panel resolution to half of 4K and then shift the panels twice. This would balance the hit on light output and the technical complexity for pixel shifting. In fact, if they could flash the panels 3x (or give us the option with a slight reduction in brightness), the projector could do around 6K resolution, which would be halfway between 4K and 8K for an even better competitiveness with JVC’s 8K e-shift. Since LCD pixel sizes are smaller, the effective perceived resolution would likely be the same as the JVC’s pixel fill introduces some blur when pixel-shifting compared to native resolution.
Now is there a way Epson could stay competitive when it comes to contrast? Well, Epson is actually very good when it comes to ANSI contrast – that is displaying both bright and dark areas of an image at the same time. In fact, they tend to do quite a bit better than reflective technologies (such as JVC’s DILA or Sony’s SXDR). However, what they have an issue with is sequential contrast: that is displaying deep blacks for darker (lower APL) scenes.
To stay competitive with sequential contrast, Epson has been very aggressive with their dynamic iris and lamp dimming which are used together on the current units. However, I think they are reaching the edge of what’s possible as there are some noticeable artefacts if you look very closely even on the current units.
My preference would be for them to do double-stacked LCDs. Now this is rather advanced, but would yield exceptional contrast performance and would behave like full-array local dimming on TVs. What they could do is modulate brightness of the different picture areas using something like a 1080p LCD chip, while having 4K or pixel shifting lower-resolution panels for the 3 LCD panels they currently have that modulate red, green and blue colour channels. While this would likely require switching to laser with light polarisation to avoid burning the light-modulating LCD panel up into smithereens, it could result in a picture that even JVC and Sony would have a hard time following: literally a flat-panel like picture.
Is it likely Epson would do double-stacked LCD? I would be extremely surprised if they did for the next generation of projectors. But if Epson is very serious about LCD, then I think it is inevitable that high-end LCDs (and even DLPs) will move into double-stacking territory. This is the only way they will be able to stay competitive with high-end TVs edging closer and closer to 4000nits then 6000nits until they reach the full standard of 10 000nits.
Yes, they could simply employ laser to increase light output but unfortunately contrast performance would decrease which is not going to be competitive over time.
Epson TW9400 / TW8400 / UB5050 / UB6050 HDR Calibration data for Dynamic Picture Mode
Please note that there are two different type of lamps Epson has for these projectors which can vary their colour output quite a bit. Also, there is lamp variance even between lamps even from the same manufacturer so the below calibration might not be ideal for your lamp. However, it is worth trying to see if it tones down the colour performance where HDR is improved. I will try and post the calibration data for the other lamp type which I also have on the unit.
Dynamic HDR Lamp 1
Lamp hours: 300h
picture mode: dynamic
Color temp: 7
Skin tone: 4
Custom color temp:
Offset R: 49
Offset G: 49
Offset B: 49
Gain R: 50
Gain G: 40
Gain B: 50
HDR slider: Double what you use for Digital Cinema. if you are using 2 under DC then use 4 for Dynamic! If you use 4 for DC, use 8 here. This also depends on content. I use 6 on a 150″ equivalent (130″ cinemascope) screen.
Dynamic iris: High Speed
(Best to switch dynamic iris off and let the lamp warm up for 2-3 mins before movie starts then switch it back on for movie)
Dynamic HDR Lamp 2
REMOVED – this will be updated when I do a proper calibration at 600hrs. The current calibration is unlikely to be transferrable to another unit.