Earlier this year, JVC teamed up with Panasonic for a feature called HDR Optimizer that helped somewhat with the complexity in reproducing HDR in front projection systems. But it still relied on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs to have the accurate metadata to report average and peak brightness levels. Regardless, the combo of a Panasonic UB9000 UHD player and my JVC NX-7 projector wowed above and beyond my expectations.
Unfortunately, many discs have inaccurate metadata or none at all. The HDR Optimizer required the purchase of a Panasonic UHD Blu-ray player (UB820 or UB9000; I chose the latter for my home theatre) to pair with the JVC projector (I use an NX-7 from the JVC NX-5/7/9 lineup - the RS1000/2000/3000 equivalent) and could only be used on UHD Blu-ray discs. While most people who invested in it found HDR Optimizer to be highly useful (myself included), the process certainly had its limitations. I can't use the feature, for example, with an Nvidia Shield or Apple TV. For this, you need the new Frame Adapt HDR firmware update from JVC.
The idea behind Frame Adapt HDR is because content brightness varies, a fixed setting cannot deliver optimum image quality. JVC's new Frame Adapt HDR solves this by instantly analyzing the peak brightness of each frame or scene using a proprietary JVC algorithm, and adjusting dynamic range to provide the best possible HDR image. Frame Adapt HDR works with any HDR10 content, even content that does not contain brightness metadata (Max CLL/Max FALL).
The new function delivers images closer to reality, says JVC. Dynamic range is adjusted in real time for optimal image projection. At the same time, saturation, hue, and brightness is analyzed and optimal corrections are made, which reduces colour loss. As a result, even within a single program, darker scenes have deeper blacks with enhanced colour. Bright scenes have higher peak brightness without colour loss while maintaining black level. All content is reproduced closer to what the human eye is capable of seeing.
No offense, but anyone who claims that Frame Adapt HDR makes HDR Optimizer irrelevant doesn't know what they're talking about. Yes, users who bought one of the required UHD players to use it may want to turn the feature off and default to direct HDR output, letting the projector handle all tone mapping itself. However, if you want the extra brightness or don't want to use high lamp power for minimal noise level like myself, you still need to use both.
Compatible With All HDR10 Content, Regardless of Source
Frame Adapt HDR adjustments are based on analysis of the input HDR10 signal. Therefore, it is effective on content with or without mastering information. As a result, all HDR10 content, regardless of source, can be enjoyed with visually greater dynamic range and brighter image quality than before.
The gamma processing accuracy, which in the past was based on 12-bit equivalent, has been improved to 18-bit. As a result, gradation performance is dramatically improved. In any given scene, it reduces the banding effect in the bright portions and the crushing of dark portions. This provides accurate, smooth gradation along with higher average peak level brightness and increased colour saturation, which has previously been a challenge with HDR content.
The firmware update also brings other improvements, like support for 16×9 content when using a Panamorph Paladin DCR lens (adds Anamorphic D). It is now possible to leave a Paladin DCR lens in position and view both ultra-wide and 16×9 content correctly. Auto Calibration support for Spyder X sensor (I personally would NOT recommend this sensor, however, due to its insensitivity at lower IRE readings) is also available and adds new presets to screen adjustment functions.
How Does it Look?
All the above mumbo jumbo is worth absolutely nil if the performance doesn't deliver. Boy, what a delivery it is! The new Frame Adapt HDR submenu has three possible levels - Low, Medium, and High - as well as an Auto setting that is supposed to use metadata (when available - or simply frame analysis if the metadata is not available) to choose the appropriate level.
According to the downloadable manual, Low will tame the brightest content while High will brighten the dimmest areas of a scene. Your screen size and projector brightness will definitely also play a part in which setting you prefer.
I tested it using video from the IMAX Enhanced 2019 Demo UHD, DTS 2019 Demo UHD, and several other titles including Hobbs & Shaw, Blade Runner 2049, and The Wizard of Oz (all UHD, of course). I found that some work best with Low, some with Medium, and some with High. However, ALL of them work really well with Auto, which, for the most part, does a pretty good job of analyzing which level to use. It worked so well, as mentioned previously, that I could bring down my High Lamp power to Low Lamp at 0 iris position (to put it into perspective, I used to use Low Lamp at -5 iris position for regular HD and High Lamp at 0 iris position for UHD HDR). This way I can get my near-silent home theatre floor noise of 35 dBA (max) back, achieve better black level, and save the bulb life of my projector by at least 50%.
I created a UHD 2:1 back up of The Meg and Aquaman UHD discs onto my HDD and played them back using my Nvidia Shield. The Frame Adapt HDR preset analyzed the HDR content quite well, as if I was using an actual disc. Renting a couple of movies through iTunes and playing them back using the 4K AppleTV yielded similar results.
Some people may be afraid or reluctant to update firmware on anything. If it's not broken, why fix it, right? In this case, you couldn't be more wrong. A 20-30-minute firmware upgrade process might be a pain for some, but the result is like getting a new projector for free.