We are going to take a look at what is widely regarded to be the best video processor on the market – the Lumagen Radiance Pro. We’ll tell you what it does, how it does it, and why we think anyone with a serious TV or projector setup should have one.
Let’s get started.
The world of video processors can seem a little bit confusing at first (even to those with a bit of experience in the AV world). There’s a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding, and misguided opinions out there that make accurately researching the topic a mini nightmare. They’re complex, reasonably expensive, and seemingly mysterious devices that often use extremely technical jargon to describe what it is that they actually do to justify the price.
What Does It Do?
At the risk of sounding obvious the Radiance Pro is a video processor, and as the name suggests - a video processor quite literally processes video. It transforms input video streams of various types into output streams (that go to your TV) that are of an optimised type.
Why Is Video Processing Important?
With the price of high-end displays and projectors becoming more and more reasonable each year, the number of people who own a display worthy of video processing is increasing rapidly. However, despite the cost coming down, they’re still a significant investment for those of us who aren’t multi-millionaires.
For most people, the buying process starts in an electrical store where they assess various displays in person. They probably go away to do a bit of research at home, and then head back to the store (or go online) to make the purchase. They’ll unbox the TV, connect it to their various devices, and when they finally switch it on – they often end up feeling a little bit underwhelmed.
It looked so much better in the store, and while it still probably looks pretty good at home – there’s often a noticeable difference.
One of the main reasons for this is that the high-end devices on the market these days have a mindboggling amount of pixels per square inch. There’s an arms race taking place within display manufacturers and each year they pack more and more pixels into a tighter and tighter space. This immense pixel density provides an incredible amount of detail. When they are given the proper input signal, they produce the stunning images you saw when you purchased the device in the store.
The problem is that this ultra-high resolution means that any artefacts and video errors that may be present also become much more noticeable…
Things that would get "smoothed over" or lost in the lower resolution on an average quality TV become painfully obvious when you’re dealing with an ultra-high resolution high-end product. Distortion, noise, warping, and all manner of other errors you didn’t expect to see on a display of such high quality are suddenly ruining your viewing experience.
These artefacts become more and more noticeable as you increase the size of your screen. And as most high-end displays are also some of the largest displays, it’s a real problem for many people who have invested in a high-end display…
The main culprit that introduces these errors is an unprocessed video input stream.
Why Does Unprocessed Video Cause These Artefacts and Errors?
Selling displays and projectors is big business, countless thousands are spent each and every day on devices across the world. The stores that sell these devices know that the vast majority of people will make their purchase decision based upon what they see on the screens in store – as such, they go to an immense amount of effort to make them perfect.
These stores often use video processing to ensure that each screen is given the optimal input stream to make them look mind-bogglingly beautiful.
These days there are a huge number of displays on the market, and there are a huge number of input streams too. Think of all the devices you’ve got plugged into your display right now, cable boxes, Blu-ray players, games consoles, hard drives, etc., etc. All of these devices will be outputting different video streams of different resolutions, refresh rates, and qualities.
Most of these output devices simply send the signal to your display without really caring all that much about what the display is going to do with it. Your display then does its best to deinterlace, scale, and otherwise alter the input stream to show it as intended.
How effective displays are at this depends on many factors (including the input stream and the quality of the processor inside the display itself). Some displays are better than others at processing sub-optimal input streams, but very few can mitigate the issue entirely. It’s this that causes the artefacts and errors that are probably ruining your high-end viewing experience that we mentioned earlier.
A dedicated video processor sits between your input streams and your TV. It’s a dedicated device that takes these "dirty" input streams and produces an output stream is completely optimised for your display. This means that your TV or projector doesn’t have to do any processing of its own, and the artefacts and video errors that were previously present suddenly disappear.
What Should You Look for In a Good Video Processor?
While there are several decent video processors on the market, in our opinion none offers a better performance to cost ratio than the Lumagen Radiance Pro. It’s often seen as the benchmark to which other video processors are compared, and as such, we’ll be doing just that in this section.
Scaling is considered to be the most important part of video processing. While many of you reading this will have 4K UHD displays, we’re willing to bet that not all of your input devices provide output video streams of such high quality. Without a processor, your display will have to do the conversion on its own. Upscaling a 576p input stream to correctly display on a large 4K display takes a huge amount of processing power, and most high-end displays will struggle (which produces artefacts).
How the Radiance Helps
The Radiance Pro takes care of all of the scaling for you, leaving your TV to simply display the perfectly optimised input stream (without any artefacts).
Modern high-end devices often use progressive technology to display images (as opposed to interlaced technology). When a display tries to deinterlace an interlaced input stream it can create jagged artefacts due to lack of processing power (or an inadequate chip).
How the Radiance Helps
Again the Radiance Pro takes care of all of this for you. It’s got dedicated chipsets that will perfectly deinterlace a video stream in real time doing the hard work for your display (and removing the artefacts in the process).
Chroma artefacts can ruin the viewing experience on high-end displays. They are caused by improper upscaling of colour signals that can result in horizontal streaks on your display (particularly in highly saturated images).
How the Radiance Helps
The Radiance proactively monitors video streams to detect chroma artefacts before they reach your TV. When discovered they will be automatically corrected in real time, eliminating the problem entirely.
High-end displays can handle video in 24Hz, 50Hz and 60Hz, but movies are often shot on 24Hz film. When there is a mismatch between the frame rate of the input stream and the display then motion judder can become a painfully distracting issue. It’s often one of the most noticeable problems that a video processor can help with.
How the Radiance Helps
Once properly set up the Radiance Pro will be able to process input streams of any frame rate and convert them to the optimal frame rate for your TV. Its advanced chips will again do the hard work for your TV – leaving it to do nothing more than display the perfectly formatted image.
To be honest this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of video processing (or more specifically the Lumagen Radiance Pro). However, for the sake of brevity we’ve just listed the most important issues that are solved by the device above.
It’s not super important to understand the tiny details of how video processing works (unless you’re into that kind of thing), but it’s good to have a basic understanding.
Hopefully, the issues we’ve mentioned above demonstrate the kinds of issues that are present and how they are solved. All the other benefits provided by the Radiance Pro follow a similar pattern…
It does the hard work so your TV doesn’t have to attempt to do it (and mess it up).
Is It Worth the Money?
We’re not going to sit here and tell you that the Radiance Pro is a budget option designed for the majority of users – because it’s not. It’s a premium product with a premium price tag. It’s designed for people who are serious enough about their viewing experience to buy a high-end TV or projector in the first place.
However, just because it’s not cheap doesn’t mean it’s not good value for money.
Once you’ve set up your Radiance Pro and turned your display on for the first time the difference in quality is astounding. It’s not a small change that only the most hard-core AV experts in the world will appreciate. You could show your grandmother a before and after demonstration and even she would have her socks blown off.
The way we (and many other people) look at it is that without a video processor you’ve almost wasted your investment on a high-end TV. While your resolution may be higher than a mid-range device, you’ve also made the errors and artefacts more noticeable at the same time. And because of this, the overall viewing experience is often comparable to a mid-range device (or in some extreme cases, it can be worse).
At around £4400+ the Radiance Pro is often an unexpected and unwelcome additional expense for someone who was expecting to get astounding quality from an already expensive high-end TV. However, it’s a sound long-term investment.
If you’ve already invested thousands into your TV or projector, then you should seriously consider investing a little more to get a Radiance Pro. In many cases, it’s the only way to get your money’s worth out of your high-end display. It is a well-built, extremely reliable device that will almost certainly outlast the lifespan of your display.
Simply put, it will provide you with the cinema like display quality you saw on your TV in the store.
But be warned…
Once you experience a display with a properly processed input stream – you’ll never be able to go back.