The Digital Video Essentials DVD
Its here... its here! And it was worth the wait!
After much anticipation and hype that a new Video Essentials DVD by electronics
guru Joe Kane was to be released, we could hardly wait. Scant weeks before the
new DVDs release Mr. Kane indicated to Technofile that hed been
spending most of the hours in each day getting the finishing touches done to
the disc. Such attention to detail is always welcome, and in this case, it shows.
When the new DVE was dropped off at our office by our friendly courier (well,
it was courier, anyway) we could no longer contain ourselves.
Why? Cause we take our home theater seriously, and so does Joe Kane -
and while it was flawed (mostly due to being made before there were such things
as DVDs), the original Video Essentials was still the best tool for tweaking
your home theater.
And since the last Video Essentials release there have been other test DVDs,
such as the Avia disc. Even Video and Sound magazine came out with one. Each
supposedly upped the ante as the latest and greatest test disc to have.
Yet we always liked the way Video Essentials was able to convey technical information
to the novice. It was always done in a friendly, non-intimidating manner. We
also liked the video footage montages designed to give you an instant review
of your handiwork after youve adjusted your TV.
Now that DVD, HDTV, and anamorphic widescreen 16:9 has arrived it was time
to update Video Essentials. The result is the new Digital Video Essentials
disc, and its a doozie, armed with the latest advances in technology -
and shot in high definition (though the DVD, of course, isnt HD).
The discs navigation still takes a little getting used to, and still
isnt as good as it could be (but its a lot better than the original
VE!) but once you figure it out its fairly easy to find your way around.
The key is to enter the Program Guide Menu and to highlight the arrow
next to the return icon to move forward to the correct chapter point.
Once there youll find a myriad of selections that cover a range of topics
including: DVE Introduction (which sets the scene for you), Room Environment,
A/V equipment, and Digital Video. There is even a section on DVD navigation
and how to use it effectively, which as hinted at above can be handy.
All in all, theres some great background on how to set up your system
in your room, what types of rooms are best, types of speakers, the difference
between analog and digital television, etc. So its not only an excellent
disc for setting up your system, its a great primer on what it takes to
build a good home theater.
Theres also a section on how to use a sound level meter for fine tuning
a surround sound system.
And of course there are countless test tones and video signals, enough to make
your head spin.
Its undoubtedly the video section that will sell this disc. Its
divided into the sub-categories Basic Calibration, Troubleshooting,
Advanced Calibration, and Video Systems Details. Using
step by step instructions, it walks you through the numerous video test patterns
used to optimize your TV via such parameters as black level, flesh tones, color,
sharpness, etc. There's more heavy duty stuff as well; for instance you can
use its patterns to check out your TV's geometry, but such adjustments aren't
for the amateur or the faint of heart.
We noticed that this time around, the color and hue adjust pattern rigmarole
is more intuitive than on the original disc, taking much of the guesswork out
of the process. Its more uniform and allows for an easy adjustment that
can show up dramatic differences in the picture quality, even when youve
only made small adjustments.
We also liked the binding of all the color filters that are included in the
box into one housing. Theres less chance of losing a filter along the
By the way, thats also an improvement over the original VE,
which only had one filter.
And this time around there are some welcome updates on the test tones and patterns
as well. There's more stuff than you can shake a stick at!
All the audio adjustments offer a nice test tone length, giving you ample time
to make any necessary level adjustments for the various channels. This is particularly
handy if, like some, your audio system inflicts a slight delay on the audio
And the Buzz and Rattle test will reveal how much your room interacts
with the lower frequencies, which in many home theaters can be a real annoyance.
The test is given to all the speakers in a surround system and is a good way
to tell if, for example, your fireplace glass doors are rattling, or if picture
frames are dancing on top of your speakers.
This test may convince the spouse to give you that permission you were looking
for to do some "room deadening."
Again Digital Video Essentials offers some stunning pictures in the Montage
section. Plenty of vibrant colors and fine detail to test any TV sets
abilities. Use it once youve done your adjustments (or for "before and
after" comparisons, or to check your work in progress) to test the
results without having to remove the disc and find another of your favorite
DVDs to test. It truly gives you a look at what an optimized picture should
Theres some other great eye candy, too! Near the beginning of the disc
youre treated to a stunning scene of the Space Shuttle on the liftoff
pad - in fine detail. And the animated roller coaster ride will induce vertigo
on large screens. Fasten your seats on that one!
And if you arent yet convinced aurant scene, in both aspect ratios, is
The disc is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, which in this day and
age is exactly how it should be. Picture quality, not surprisingly, is excellent
- we would expect no less from a disc such as this, and DVE delivers.
Audio is also excellent, and itll work with analog Dolby Digital 2.0
surround systems, Dolby Digital EX 6.1 and dts-ES equipped systems. Weve
been resisting the move to 6.1/7.1 (where will it all end?!), and so tested
the disc using our 5.1 home theaters.
We were not disappointed. The audio tests are very effective, and the sound
quality is excellent.
DVE is a disc that no one whos serious about home theater should be without.
It is, quite simply, a necessary tool for any home theater system. Not only
will it allow you to set up your equipment properly, it also teaches you what
you should know about it in the first place.
It'll also give you a leg up on questions to ask if you decide to call in a
professional to super tweak such things as grayscale or the geometry
on your prized television monitor.
DVE also offers different versions on the disc - and dare we say tape.
The English language disc is offered in both PAL and NTSC standard definition
signals and since the DVD is 0 region coded, it is theoretically
will play on any DVD system worldwide.
It's also available on DVHS tape (digital video home system) mastered in 720p
and 1080i HDTV systems.
In our view DVE has accomplished its mission extremely well and has once again
made Joe Kane's work the benchmark. It truly lets you exploit your home theater
to its best advantage, and isnt that what its all about?
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think