Product Review (May 2003)
FOCUS Enhancements - CenterStage CS-2 and CS-HD
Video Scaler/Deinterlacer

High performance scalers have become popular with the increasing number of fixed pixel displays currently available. While some of these new displays have built-in scalers, many lack the flexibility or performance users desire for their high-end home theater system. Focus Enhancements, Inc. has introduced their new CenterStage CS-2 video processor, which is both a line doubler and a scaler. This video processor accepts composite, s-video, component, RGB, RGBS, SDI (optional), DVI and DVI-HDCP for processing and scaling to any native rate on a VESA, Plasma, Projector, or DTV format display. There's even an HDTV pass-thru mode since analog HD signals are not processed. Full geometric adjustments are offered with 4:3, 16:9, and anamorphic aspect ratios. High performance video deinterlacing fully capable of 3:2/2:2 pull down detection and correction for viewing of film-based sources is included. This is the first scaler we've seen that supports DVI-HDCP which allows full scaling of protected content at native display resolutions. In addition, the CS-2 has user definable output resolutions for the ultimate in flexibility.

The CenterStage front panel is simple to use with nine backlit buttons and a two-line backlit display. The picture adjustments include contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpness and hue. CS-2 control choices include the infrared remote, rear panel RS-232 port, or front panel backlit switches. When the unit is powered on, the firmware version is displayed. Input and output selections are also shown on the display. Changing input modes is simple, especially with the remote. Output mode changes require the front panel buttons.

The rear panel is loaded with an assortment of video inputs and outputs to meet today's demands. A pair of composite, s-video, and interlaced component video inputs (RGB or YPrPb) resolution. All coaxial connections use BNC connectors. Our review unit included the optional SDI interface card that streams serial digital video (SMPTE 259M) over a single coaxial cable. A DVI (Digital Visual Interface) input and output is provided on the CS-2 for the ultimate in digital connectivity. There are also 12 volt triggers available for screen control. The RS232 connection can be used for several different applications. Using the CSR (CenterStage Remote) software running under Microsoft Windows, the user can control, customize, and upgrade the unit. We recently upgraded our CS-2 to the latest V2.04 firmware with ease. The serial port can also be used with Crestron or AMX controllers. As new display resolutions emerge, the CS-2 has the ability to change with the times making it resistant to obsolescence.

Content Protection
One of the great features available on the CS-2 is the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) offered on both the input and output DVI interfaces. HDCP is a content protection scheme that is sometimes used with DVI to prevent unauthorized duplication of digital content. As new products emerge with digital outputs, HDCP protection is likely to be enabled with high-definition and pay-per-view movies. As we move into the world of digital video interfaces, content protection becomes a reality all of us must deal with as studios will not release their content unless they are confident strong barriers exist to thwart piracy. Unlike the CS-1 (an option) and CS-HD, the CS-2 fully supports HDCP on its DVI interfaces. When HDCP is active, the analog video outputs are disabled. This encryption standard is now becoming commonplace on new high-end video displays being offered by the vast majority of manufacturers. Now with the CS-2, encrypted digital data can remain in the digital domain from the source (Set-Top Box) all the way to the display device. This eliminates any unnecessary analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog processing which can typically degrade the video signal.

Inside
The CS-2 has some powerful video processing "under the hood". One large circuit board holds all of the main electronics while a separate module holds the switching power supply. The optional SDI card mounts on a header right in the middle of the main board. Composite, s-video and interlaced component video get switched and processed by the Philips SAA7118E video decoder chip. Full 3:2 and 2:2 video deinterlacing is performed by a Silicon Image Sil504 chip along with the associated SDRAM needed for storing the video frames for real-time processing. The CS-2 uses the Genesis Microchip GM5020-H for scaling as well as receiving DVI and DVI-HDCP 1.0 protected content. The Silicon Image SIL170B is used to transmit the DVI and DVI-HDCP data. A mix of Xilinx CPLDs and one FPGA perform custom processing functions. The VGA analog video is driven by an Analog Devices ADV7123 high speed triple 10-bit DAC. The optional SDI board uses a Gennum GS7005 SMPTE 259M-C compliant SDI receiver chip. The CS-2 incorporates an array of high performance ASICs and custom programmable chips from top notch companies such as Silicon Image, Genesis Microchip, Analog Devices, Gennum and Xilinx, which all contribute to the impressive performance and flexibility this powerful deinterlacer and scaler has to offer. The trick is putting the right ingredients into the mix and making sure the user benefits from them.

Performance
Our evaluation of the CS-2 included several different displays capable of both analog and digital video. We started out with our Pioneer Elite PRO-610HD displaying 480p and 1080i analog video. DVDs produced very good results with the deinterlacing and upconversion process. Introduction scenes from Star Trek's Insurrection are quite demanding on video processors due to the difficult deinterlacing scenes. In addition, high frequency scene detail sometimes confuses Y/C separators when using composite video. The CS-2 performed well with some cross-color artifacts in the scenes where the children are jumping through the hay. However, the artifacts were minimal and the deinterlacing from the composite source as well as all interlaced video was excellent. No videophile in their right mind would ever use the composite inputs unless they were forced to by composite based content such as laserdisc. Therefore, few will ever have to use the comb filter if they stick with s-video and component-based source material.

We switched to the analog and digital 720p output format for our SharpVision XV-Z10000U HD2-based DLP projector. Here we projected a 100" image on a Stewart Luxus FireHawk Filmscreen using both the analog VGA cable and a high performance Monster M500DVI-5M DVI-D cable. Both worked well in our setup, but the advantage of DVI is clear with a reduction in low level noise in the picture. DVD material looked good running through the CS-2, but certainly nothing compared to a real high definition source from HD-Net or HBO's 509 HD channel. It's not fair to compare standard definition material (DVD) to high definition, but we want to make it clear that the existing DVD format will not look as good as true high definition content.

We also ran the DVI cable into a less expensive Optoma DLP projector that is based on a 4:3 1024x768 DLP. This projector has good performance with an MSRP of under $5K. Again, the CS-2 worked well running the output resolution in XGA (1024x768) mode with excellent performance on a variety of source material. We were convinced that the high quality scaler used in the CS-2, combined with excellent front-end deinterlacing from the Silicon Image Sil504 processor, produced a winner.

So what if you really don't want all the bells and whistles offered in the CS-2, but still need a good deinterlacer and scaler for your high-definition display? Well, Focus Enhancements addressed this call and came out with their new CenterStage unit dubbed the CS-HD. It lacks the DVI and SDI inputs, but still has the DVI output and only supports a limited number of output modes when compared to the CS-1 and CS-2. It's also not upgradeable like its big brothers, nor does it have user-defined output modes. All BNC connections on the CS-2 are now RCA connectors on the CS-HD. It also lacks the TBC (time-based correction) and RGBS support. However, the CS-HD has most of the other features offered in the CenterStage line and is priced at an attractive $995. Looking at the design of the CS-HD, I can tell you that the same high performance chips used for deinterlacing and scaling processing found in the CS-2 are also utilized here. The tests we ran on the CS-HD proved to be very similar in performance to what we've seen on the higher priced units. In fact, the design and performance of the new CS-HD leaves many competing deinterlacers over-priced in my opinion, especially when you consider the CS-HD also provides scaling. So far, from what I can see, it's an incredible deal if you don't need all the high-end features offered in the CS-2 model.

Conclusion
Focus Enhancements pull no punches with their CS-2 and the features and performance would excite any videophile. The DVI-HDCP capable input and output connections are unique in today's products and offers serious home theater enthusiasts the ability to stream and process protected digital video content. The optional SDI board further enhances the capabilities of the CS-2. The Windows-based CSR software increases the capabilities of the product and the periodic firmware updates are a huge benefit in this ever-changing world of display products. When you compare the capabilities of the CS-2 to other deinterlacers/scalers with similar features, you may be surprised at the reasonable price.

Should you not need the full power offered in the CS-2, but want the fundamental deinterlacing technology, the CS-HD may be more suited to your needs. We found the CS-HD very attractive, but still wanted the ability to scale DVI/HDCP content offered in the CS-2. Depending on your system requirements, Focus Enhancements appears to have you covered.
- Kevin Nakano

Review System

Display #1 - Pioneer Elite PRO-610HD 58-inch HD-Ready TV (ISF calibrated)
Display #2 - SharpVision™ XV-Z10000U High-Definition DLP™ Front Projector
Display #3 - Optoma H56 DLP™ Front Projector
Filmscreen - Stewart 100" 16:9 Luxus Deluxe FireHawk ScreenWall
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management - Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers - Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers - Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer - Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments - Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box #1 - Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
Set-top Box #2 - RCA DTC100 HDTV/DSS Satellite Receiver
DVD/CD/SACD Player - Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player - Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
Video Generator - Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Video Signal Analyzer - Sencore VSA794 NTSC Video Signal Analyzer
Color Analyzer - Sencore CP5000 Color Analyzer

Review at a glance
FOCUS Enhancements
CenterStage CS-2 and CD-HD Video Scaler/Deinterlacer

Features

  • Scales to popular resolutions for monitors, projectors and plasma panels.
  • New resolutions can be easily downloaded, installed and customized
  • Flexible inputs support composite, S-Video, YPrPb, RGB, 480/576p, and DVI digital
  • DVI digital, RGB and component outputs
  • Infrared Remote, RS-232, or front panel control choices
  • Backlit LCD status and on-screen display
  • 3:2/2:2 Pulldown detection and correction for best viewing of film-based sources
  • Supports all combinations of input and output aspect ratios
  • Input controls over contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpness and hue
  • Active buffered VGA pass-through
  • Advanced comb filter input
  • Luminance and chrominance noise reduction
  • Auto-save memory for settings and input formats
  • Screen Trigger Output
  • Supports 4:3, 16:9 and Anamorphic Output Aspect Ratios
  • CS-2 Model Specific Features

  • Standard DVI HDCP encryption
  • Option slot for SDI Input option
  • RGBS input support
  • Rackmount brackets
  • BNC analog video input connectors
  • Output Resolutions

    Computer/VESA

  • 640 x 480p 60hz (VGA)
  • 640 x 480p 75hz (VGA)
  • 800 x 600 (SVGA)
  • 1024 x 768 (XGA)
  • 1280 x 1024 (SXGA)
  • 1280 x 768 (WXGA)

    Projector/HDTV

  • 852 x 480p
  • DoubleTV
  • TripleTV
  • QuadTV
  • Epson TW100 1280 x 720
  • 1280 x 720p 16:9
  • 1280 x 720p (RGB) 16:9
  • 1280 x 720p EIA-861 (for DVI HDTV out)
  • 1920 x 1080i 16:9
  • 1920 x 1080p 16:9
  • 960 x 540p
  • 1365 x 1024 D-ILA
  • 1400 x 1050 D-ILA
  • MAXX LCOS 1400 x 1050

    Plasma

  • 852 x 576
  • 1024 x 768
  • 1024 x 1024
  • 1280 x 768
  • 1280 x 960
  • 1365 x 768 16:9
  • 1365 x 1024

    Company Information
    FOCUS Enhancements, Inc.
    1370 Dell Ave.
    Campbell, CA 95008 USA
    Phone: 408-866-8300
    Fax: 408-866-4859

    CS-2 Manual Addendum
    CS-2 Software Download FTP Site

    CS-HD Manual

    Source: Manufacture loan
    MSRP: $2495, $2795 with SDI input option
    Dimensions: 19" x 4" x 9" (WxHxD)
    Weight: 10.2 pounds
    Warranty: 2 year limited warranty

    URL: www.focusinfo.com
    E-mail: info@focusinfo.com

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