With the player's progressive-scan output selected, the image quality it delivered was impressively crisp. Slanted lines looked solid in the opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection, one of our favorite progressive-scan torture-test DVDs. And colors looked clean and were free of "combing" artifacts in animated films like Yellow Submarine.
Torture tests completed, I settled into my futon for some more relaxed movie viewing. (Yes, I actually get paid for this job.) Specifically, I watched The Family Man (Universal) starring Nicolas Cage. If you liked It's a Wonderful Life, you'll appreciate this sentimental flick about a hard-driving corporate executive glimpsing his alternative existence as chief diaper-changer.
The entire film is shot in muted, inviting colors. Nowhere is this more evident than when Cage awakens in Chapter 4, his face silhouetted against a black background. As the camera pans up and over, we can see every detail in his face as warm light illuminates him from the side. The pillow beneath his head looks as soft as a feather, and every shadow across his face and the pillow's fabric is diffused. The player's component-video output conveyed this picture with image quality as good as I've seen from a DVD. The blacks were black, the skin tone was natural, and every subtle gradation in lighting looked exactly right.
In Chapter 6, Cage awakens again, this time backlit somewhat harshly by light reflected from the bed's carved wooden headboard. The light grazes the shoulder of his flannel pajamas, clearly revealing the nubby texture of the fabric. A few moments later, in what is probably the highlight of the movie, at least for male viewers, Téa Leoni dances happily in the shower. Strictly for review purposes, I studied these frames very carefully. Light shines on the shower stall's frosted glass, illuminating both the glass and Leoni behind it and casting her hazy shadow on the tiled wall beyond. As Cage watches her, jaw appropriately dropped, his fuzzy shadow is thrown against a wall and across a child's drawing mounted on it. Every detail of color, perspective, motion, light, and shadow seemed beyond reproach to me. If we need a better picture than this, I guess we'll have to wait for high-def DVD.
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