Set-up DVDs - Digital Video Essentials HD Review
Updated: December 3, 2012

Digital Video Essentials HD by JKP
The first HD-DVD set-up disc for the home theater

Essentially, an HD-DVD version of the popular
DVE HD Basics Blu-ray calibration disc

Digital Video Essentials HDDVE HD represents the first high definition calibration disc ever released for the home theater; this was in 2007. JKP released this set-up disc in the now defunct HD-DVD format. A year later, Joe Kane Productions released a Blu-ray version of DVE HD, DVE HD Basics.

DVE HD Basics is almost an exact replica of DVE HD except that it does not include the full set of video test patterns found on the original DVE HD even though it is very close both in content and in nature.

However, DVE HD Basics calibration disc still includes a most compressive array of audio test tones and video test patters with respect to other home theater set-up DVDs and Blu-ray discs within its class.

And like its predecessors within the Digital Video Essentials series, it includes extensive instructions on how to use them; making it suitable for both advanced intermediate users and beginners as well. The only real difference between the two discs is that unlike DVE HD, the Blu-ray DVE HD Basics disc comes with much improved menu system typical of BD movies, with much easier and straightforward navigation. This means that what we had stated in our review of the DVE HD way back in 2008 still applies for the DVE HD Basics set-up DVD.

For those who would like to know more, we are re-publishing here under our original detailed review of the DVE HD HD-DVD we first published in February 2008. DVE HD is a defunct format but the content of this review still applies for the DVE HD Basics Blu-ray disc.

Disney World-of-Wonder HD Home Theater Set-up Disc

Disney WOW: World of Wonder is definitely the ideal HD set-up disc for the beginner but not only.

It delivers clear explanations of both HDTV concepts and also of the audio test signals and the video test patterns found on this Blu-ray calibration disc. It is the ideal disc to go for if you want to learn about your HDTV and how to set it up.

More details available in our review here.

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Introduction to Digital Video Essentials HD

Digital Video Essentials HD represents a follow-up to the popular DVE DVD home theater calibration disc released in 2003.

Produced by Joe Kane Productions (JKP), this high definition set-up disc comes on an HD-DVD combo disc. The latter forms part of the HD-DVD specs and consists of an HD side and a standard definition side.

The HD side of the disc carries the high-definition video test patterns and audio test signals plus some additional demonstration material. It covers both basic tests the consumer will need for home set-up, plus a significant amount of extra material that is of use to professional system installers. The original DVE DVD standard definition version is being re-produced on the standard side of this combo HD-DVD disc.

All HD video tests and demo material is available in both 1080p/24Hz and 720p/24Hz/60Hz, at 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

Up-converting of 1080p/24Hz content to 60 frames has to be carried out by the player if needed by your display device. Similarly, conversion of the 1080p to 1080i will have to be carried out by the player if needed by the display.

The 720p section contains more test and calibration signals than the 1080p for two main reasons:

1] Some test patterns are not needed in both formats; these common calibration patterns were put under the 720p section. Apparently, this choice by JKP was done to help attract attention to the advantage of this progressive format over interlaced 1080i video when it comes to displaying motion content. (To know more on this motion content issue, please refer to our Guide to HDTV Formats.)

2] Some of the 720p test material is being repeated at both 24 frames and 60 frames per second.

Having the test patterns and demo content available in both 1920x1080 and 1280x720 resolutions is a welcome asset with any set-up disc. This means Digital Video Essentials HD DVD can be used to calibrate both 720p and 1080p HDTVs natively without the test patterns being rendered less useful due to possible errors introduced by the disc player scaler circuitry.

All audio content on the high definition side of the Digital Video Essentials HD DVD comes encoded in one of Dolby's high definition audio formats. The audio test signals are available in Dolby TrueHD which is a 100% lossless encoding high definition audio technology. On the other hand, all demo soundtracks come in Dolby Digital Plus - a high definition audio format supporting full 24-bit/96kHz audio. (More information on these high definition audio formats is available in our guide to Dolby High Definition Audio under the Surround Sound section of the site.)

Unfortunately, the Digital Video Essential HD packaging is misleading here. It indicates both Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus, as if the user can choose between the two in a similar manner to choosing between 1080p and 720p content. This is not the case; only the test signals are in Dolby TrueHD audio.

On a positive note, high definition audio comes in 6.1 channels; this makes Digital Video Essentials HD one of the very first high definition titles that include true 6.1 channel audio. There is also some matrixed 5.1 material that can be decoded as 6.1, depending on the player choice.

Keep in mind however that playback of high definition audio requires an HDMI connection between the player and the AV receiver. (More on connectivity requirements associated with high definition audio can be found in our guide to DVD-A: Connectivity Requirements, Playback Setup, and Content Protection.)

The contents on the standard definition side of the Digital Video Essentials HD is a replica of the original DVE DVD. According to Joe Kane Productions, this has been done to provide a standard definition of all the demonstration material for direct comparison with the HD content. But there is an even more important reason. There is no dedicated tutorial guide for the HD side. As such, the DVE DVD audio/video tutorial found on the standard definition side of this HD-DVD combo disc has to serve as a guide for the HD side as well.

As with the original DVE DVD, this combo Digital Video Essentials HD DVD is available with the standard definition side in either PAL or NTSC format.

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Digital Video Essentials HD - A detailed look

Digital Video Essentials HD comes with a full array of both basic and advanced video test patterns and audio test signals that can serve a purpose to home users and professionals alike.

The basic test patterns and troubleshooting tools can serve just about anyone with a minimum of home theater knowledge. With the extensive tutorial guide on the SD side, these patterns and tools can help the user adjust basic system settings like brightness, contrast, color, sharpness, and audio levels, for best system performance with minimum effort.

Then there are the more complex test signals. There is no on-line guide associated with these test patterns, while documentation in the PDF supplement is just minimal. Furthermore, most of these advanced patterns require the use of appropriate test equipment such as color analyzers and oscilloscopes, and therefore are best left for use by qualified trained professionals.

Disc Packaging: The Digital Video Essentials HD disc comes with a short index guide, a single-pager note, and a small card-frame with the red, green, and blue filters, for use during the color decoding setting.

The enclosed small booklet with the index guide for contents found on the SD side is a remnant from the original SD version of the DVE DVD.

Digital Video Essentials HD pack complete with the color filters sheet

The Digital Video Essentials HD Pack with the color filters sheet

The single-pager note is in reality an addendum to the booklet informing the user that all program notes for this set-up DVD are available on the Video Essentials Website. Equally important, there is also a short reminder to download the latest firmware for your hardware to be able to take full advantage of the 'features incorporated in this' Digital Video Essentials HD-DVD.

Loading the HD side of the Digital Video Essentials HD disc would bring up a simplified disc menu; the user just has the option to select between 'Audio' and 'Video'.

Selecting the video tab allows the user to choose between 'Demonstration Material', 'Tests and Calibration', and 'Credits'. There is also the option to select between 720p and 1080p test patterns. Selecting the audio tab would take the user direct to the respective audio test signals.

Obviously, the important sections are the 'Tests and Calibration' under the video section and the 'Audio Tests' under the audio section. The demo material is basically nothing more than high-definition replicas of what is already available on the standard definition side.

Navigating the test patterns and audio signals has been made a lot easier thanks to the HDi interactive menu system; the latter is Microsoft implementation of the advanced content interactivity layer in the HD-DVD specifications. In simple terms, HDi equates to 'Advanced Navigation'.

It is worth taking note here that some have experienced difficulty with the interactive menu structure found on the Digital Video Essentials HD even after downloading the latest firmware for their hardware. In this case, disc navigation will be limited to searching by Title and Chapter; you will then have to refer to the PDF supplement for the HD side to track which title and chapter number corresponds to what.

But if your setup supports full HDi, navigating the high def side of the Digital Video Essentials HD DVD is simply fantastic! HDi represents substantial improvement over the static 'almost non-existent' menu structure found on the standard-definition version. The latter is far from intuitive and difficult to navigate.

Ease of Use: Unlike the original standard definition DVE DVD, the high-definition side of the new Digital Video Essentials HD combo disc does not include any tutorial guide. In fact, as highlighted earlier on, this side is just a collection of the test signals and demo material.

Surely, the original DVE DVD tutorial guide replicated on the standard definition side is extremely informative and complete, and includes details that other home theater set-up discs miss. It also includes information on how to use the basic video test patterns and audio test signals; these details apply for both the standard definition patterns and their high definition replicas.

But the full tutorial guide on the SD side of this combo HD-DVD is approximately an 86 minutes discussion. At this level of detail, no one can expect the user to remember all the contents discussed in the program guide. Nor it is practical to keep flipping the disc from one side to the other to keep track on how to use the different test signals.

We find the lack of a dedicated guide on the HD side with information on how-to-use the various test patterns and tones to calibrate your gear, extremely lacking. To be fair, you do have some onscreen information about the test patterns as part of the Digital Video Essentials HD advanced navigation, so you are not totally without guidance. And there is also the comprehensive PDF supplement for the HD side that is downloadable from the Digital Video Essentials website. The file is a 147-pager designed to complement the tutorial on the SD side; it covers the entire high definition test signals in substantial detail. However, the actual how-to explanations associated with some of the test signals are not that straightforward and may be even intimidating for beginners.

We wonder why the HD side does not include all the necessary tutorial information on its own. This seems to point that the content on the HD side is just a supplement to the original standard definition content of the DVE DVD, when instead it should have been the opposite.

Video Test and Calibration Material

This represents the most important video content on the Digital Video Essentials HD calibration disc. All test and calibration material under both the 1080p and the 720p sections is divided into four main categories: Basic Video Calibration, Geometry and Convergence, System Evaluation Patterns and Video Response.

Overall content is fairly complete, covering all aspects, with some 85 test patterns in 1080p format and 128 patterns in 720p. The additional test material under the 720p section mainly relates to Gray Scale Tracking and Uniformity test patterns to evaluate the image quality over the entire picture area.

Pluge Pattern for Brightness Level AdjustmentThe basic video calibration tools consists of a series of pluge patterns that are set to help the user evaluate and adjust the set brightness or level of black, contrast, color decoder calibration, tint, sharpness, and grayscale among others.

DVE color bar chartColor and tint calibration in particular have been rendered a simple straightforward process. This is possible thanks to the use of a special test pattern in conjunction with the set of color filters provided with the Digital Video Essential HD disc.

Grayscale setting makes use of a series of window test patterns; these patterns however require the use of an optical comparator or a color analyzer to make the relevant measurements. The use of a color analyzer is also required with the Gray Scale Tracking windows found under the 720p section of the Digital Video Essentials HD home theater set-up disc.

Overscan ChartAdditional test patterns in the form of reverse ramps/step patterns in primary and secondary colors specifically designed for the Digital Video Essentials HD disc should help determine the dynamic range of the decoders.

Some of these patterns are also useful to help adjust the phase of color filter wheels in DLP based projection systems.

Included under the basic calibration section, there is a set of overscan test patterns to check the amount of image area displayed on the screen.

The Geometry and Convergence section includes various test patterns based on two-pixel width grid lines in primary and secondary colors in both full amplitude and half amplitude. These grid patterns are designed to test/adjust the display geometry in digital displays; in the case of CRT based sets, these patterns can also help test for convergence.

System Evaluation Patterns include among others, a set of SMPTE charts to test the display resolution as well as additional patterns for luminance and chroma analysis. There is also a series of A/V timing tests to help determine if your audio is in synch with the picture. Basically, you are determining if your equipment is adding any delay. Ideally, you would need an oscilloscope here to pick the exact delay.

Video Response patterns consist of a series of luminance and chroma sweeps designed to test luminance and chroma response, phase errors, decoding problems and resolution issues.

Audio Calibration Test Signals

Most of the audio test material on the Digital Video Essentials HD is once again a replica of the content found on the standard definition side. The exception here is that the test signals on the HD side of the DVE HD disc come encoded in Dolby TrueHD. This represents a significant improvement over the Dolby Digital/DTS6.1 encoding used with the previous test tones.

Multi-channel Audio Level SettingAll tests under this section are designed to help you set the volume levels correctly, while evaluating your system's audio performance. The basic audio tests include the usual level adjustment tones for speaker configurations supporting up to 7.1 channels.

Other tests include pink noise tests, a subwoofer phase checker, and a pan-around-the-room check to test for correct speaker polarity. Interesting are the frequency sweep modes on the Digital Video Essentials HD disc to test both the overall system response as well as the LFE channel.

Buzz and Rattle TestA low frequency sweep test is also included; termed 'Buzz and Rattle Test', this sweeps the low frequency end of the audio spectrum (15Hz to 300Hz) to help you locate anything that may be rattling in your room.

As expressed in our guide to home theater calibration DVDs, you would need a Sound Pressure Level (SPL) meter to correctly balance your audio system. This applies irrespective of which set-up DVD you use, and is also necessary to make the most out of the test signals available on the Digital Video Essentials HD DVD. An inexpensive model such as the Galaxy Audio CM130 SPL Meter should prove more than adequate for home use.


Digital Video Essentials HD is surely one of those set-up DVD discs that are hard to rate. As highlighted above, it has a few shortcomings, but... The high definition side of the Digital Video Essentials HD DVD combo disc comes with well mastered test patterns in both 720p and 1080p high definition formats. The demo material is also among the best high definition reference footage one can get. And equally important, all audio test signals on the HD side are encoded in true high definition audio.

Furthermore, though the main objective of this review is the high definition side of the Digital Video Essentials HD calibration disc, one cannot but remark that the tutorial on the SD side is an excellent source of educational content. Even more important, the tutorial guide will surely help the beginner get the basic setup correct.

However, the lack of an onscreen tutorial guide to assist the user on the use of the various test patterns found on the HD side is in our opinion a serious shortcoming. We sincerely hope that this issue would be addressed in a new release of this otherwise excellent high definition set-up disc.

Updated Recommendation March 2012: Despite the shortcomings highlighted above, at the time of its release, Digital Video Essentials HD represented an excellent HD calibration disc. Unfortunately, it came in a format that did not make it during the Blu-ray/HD-DVD battle. Luckily for both intermediate and advanced users, JKP released DVE HD Basics in Blu-ray version in 2008; as stated in our introduction, this is basically the Blu-ray version of the original DVE HD.

Digital Video Essentials - DVE HD BasicsIn our opinion, DVE HD Basics will do a lot towards helping you improve the quality of your TV picture and home theater sound. Above all, it falls within that category of home theater set-up DVDs and calibration Blu-ray discs that can be used by anyone interested in making their home entertainment experience better. 

It is not exactly for beginners despite the 'basics' label, but it has got just about everything the majority of users will ever need.

For more information on availability and reduced pricing at amazon, please check out the following link:

Digital Video Essentials HD Basics Blu-ray disc

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