There are a number of things that make TrueTheatre a very effective system. For starters it’s easy to control. During playback you can bring the TrueTheatre control panel up at any moment and it can be set to automatic, where the software chooses the best settings, or manual, where you can adjust the various settings using the intuitive sliding bars. In general we’d always opt for manual adjustments where possible, though the automatic mode proved suitably frugal in its application of the processing. Vitally, Cyberlink has added a split-screen and clone modes here, so you can easily compare between the original source and the output once the processing is applied.
Of all the various modes, TrueTheatre HD (the upscaling element) is easily the most impressive. Whether it be a high-quality DVD such as The Matrix or The Bourne Ultimatum, or something more patchy such as Seven or The Wire (which is shot in 4:3), it does a superb job of bringing out detail, sharpening soft images and eliminating blocky artefacts.
This excellence is particularly evident in the Morpheus and Agent Smith interrogation scene in The Matrix. Here, with the TrueTheatre HD mode set to around three stops above zero (less than half), the skin texture and scars on Laurence Fishburne’s face are brought out to a level that’s almost unrecognisable from the original DVD. TrueTheatre HD also did an excellent job of tightening up the sumptuous animation in Akira, reminding us exactly how ahead of its time this masterpiece really was.
You do have to be careful how you set-up TrueTheatre HD, though. As intimated above you rarely need to have it set more than a few levels above the minimum; beyond this and things get very noisy and ugly. Indeed, even at modest settings, there’s always a little noise, though it’s generally of a finer and less irritating nature than that found in the original source.
Even so, as Morgan Freeman chats to Brad Pitt at a bar in Seven, some pixel flutter is evident as the processing engine grapples with the complexity of the scene and mediocre source quality. Nonetheless, it’s not dramatically worse than we’ve seen on other hardware devices or the hardware upscaling engine found in the Toshiba Qosmio G50-115, which Power DVD’s upscaling renders largely redundant.
Impressive as TrueTheatre HD is, the Lighting and Motion variants are less convincing. Lighting, like the HD mode, should be used sparingly, but even so the results can be inconsistent. Though it does add a certain level of dynamism to brightness and contrast in pictures, this can also lead to overblown highlights and colour contamination. This was evidenced by Seven, where the dingy walls of the police station were often given an unfaithful green tinge that was particularly distracting.
TrueTheatre Motion, meanwhile, which aims to create smoother “judder-free” playback by increasing the frame rate, proved to be too subtle to easily judge. Given it adds a significant extra processing overhead in addition to the large chunk taken up by the upscaling processing, we found we could live without it easily and anyone using a decent HDTV will likely prefer the motion processing inherent within it.
As a whole, though, the TrueTheatre system is very successful. Indeed, our only really significant complaint regards the processing power it requires. Being a software solution it’s totally reliant on the CPU and on a notebook running an Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 at 2.0GHz it consistently used around 50 to 60 per cent of the CPU; sometimes up to 80 per cent if using TrueTheatre Motion and HD simultaneously. This isn’t a reason to avoid Power DVD 9 and we never encountered any performance related issues, but GPU acceleration for TrueTheatre is a feature we’d dearly love to see in future.
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