This is probably a pertinent time, too, to remind you that none of the VP50Pro’s complexities will probably trouble you anyway, since all the hard brainache will likely be taken on by a custom installer. In fact, the VP50Pro even has everything necessary to be installed by a qualified Imaging Science Foundation expert.
Perhaps the single most important feature of the VP50Pro, though, is something called PReP. This feature, proprietary to the VP50Pro’s maker, Anchor Bay, decodes progressive scan signals, effectively re-interlacing them, and then applies its own de-interlacing circuitry before showing the final picture. And since the ‘Precision De-interlacing’ circuitry in the VP50Pro seems to be on a whole other level of existence to any de-interlacing processing I’ve ever seen built into a DVD/Blu-ray player or TV, the results of the PReP process are that pictures from, say, a Sky HD or cable receiver look not only better than you will ever have seen before, but actually better than you would ever have thought possible.
The differences are most pronounced with standard definition sources. I tried to catch the unit out with everything from an actually very high quality DVD picture to an average digital tuner picture from ”Sky News” all the way down to the frankly grubby quality of such B-List channels as the Crime and Investigation Network and Sci-Fi. And in every single case the VP50Pro made the channel’s pictures look like HD.
Not pristine, ‘best Blu-ray image ever’ levels of HD, perhaps, but HD all the same, in terms of both the amount of detail in the picture and, even more tellingly, the extraordinary little amount of video noise around.
This absence of video noise applies both to noise types commonly found in sources – mosquito noise, block noise, chroma noise – and noise or artefacting problems such as smearing commonly associated with video processing. The way the VP50Pro has such a profoundly positive impact on pictures without betraying its machinations in seemingly any negative way at all is bordering on miraculous for a £2,250 unit.
It’s well worth adding, too, that using the VP50Pro to take the burden off a TV’s own processors has a great effect on the image’s colour response. All too often the upscaling systems built into TVs seem to lose their grip on colour tones when trying to process standard definition sources, but standard def images that have passed through the VP50Pro come out in pseudo-HD at the other end while looking every bit as natural in tone as the original footage.
Don’t go thinking after all this talk of turning standard def into HD that the VP50Pro won’t also benefit you if you’ve only got HD sources for your swanky home cinema system. I stuck it between my projector and a Sky HD feed, a Blu-ray player, and an Xbox 360 console – and in every single case it produced HD pictures considerably, in some cases emphatically superior in terms of sharpness, clarity and especially stability to the results achieved by connecting these sources to the projector directly.