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Inside Pioneer’s KURO Loft
Pioneer invited us inside their Hollywood Loft for a special look at some KURO plasmas and the BDP-05FD Blu-ray player.
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August 22, 2008 by Marshal Rosenthal

The corner of Hollywood and Vine has evoked movie memories for ages, but now the historic Broadway building that once nestled amidst radio and movie-related businesses is better known for having gone all 21st Century. Because its high-profile tenant is Pioneer’s KURO Loft. Okay, so maybe the name “KURO” doesn’t exactly scream Hollywood to the uninitiated, but for those in the know, this is the place where directors, technicians and colorists come to discover how good their video products are going to look when they reach the consumer. And since it also just happens to be where Pioneer is showing off their latest KURO Plasma displays and a pretty sweet Blu-ray player, going inside seems like the right thing to do.

The Loft is a comfy place, not crowded with equipment tossed every which way. The hallways are lined with flat-panels which point the way to a small alcove called the “TV Taste Test.” Here are more cushy couches, but more importantly on the opposite wall are six 50-inch Plasma screens, each presenting the same image provided by various Blu-ray players hidden within the wall.

The plasmas vary greatly in the detail they’re presenting in areas of black. Now we all know that it’s in the black levels where plasma excels, but color reproduction gets high marks too. Turns out that you can flat-line the plasma displays so that you’re not using any of their enhancement technologies, but by the same token you can prime it for settings more kind for movies or standard viewing, etc.

After a few minutes of watching I venture a guess as to the bottom middle screen being the Pioneer. And what do you know, I’m right - in fact the one directly above it, which almost held blacks as well, was last year’s model. What gave the Pioneer away (it’s the Elite PRO-111FD) was the amount of detail that pushed through the dark. It’s something you don’t realize you’re missing till you see it, and then a Pioneer rep pushes a button on the remote control to prove the point even further. This brings up the Optimum mode, which has the KURO Plasma using a small sensor to monitor the level of ambient light at the same time it’s checking the video being played. Then it does some number crunching to create the optimum setting for viewing brightness and all that other good stuff. You can even pop up the settings so they’ll run at the bottom of the screen (these oscillating lines are arguably as intriguing as some of the films I’ve watched lately). 

But does the KURO really have black levels five times that of their previous model? I dunno about that, but there’s no denying that black’s been given the royal treatment. And color seems to be another thing that Pioneers Plasmas got a lock on. Michael Chiado, VP of Engineering for Company 3 has been watching the scenes with me.  This digital production house has worked on the color correction for such films as “Dreamgirls,” “Pirates of the Caribbean 3” and “300,” among others, and he notes that colorists can get a lot out of using this system to view how their work will be perceived and to see (i.e., the Pioneer). Guess it’s a good thing that the new 50-inch PDP-5020FD also follows this route of increased black level and optomizing abilities, and we’ll be seeing a larger view courtesy of the 60-inch PDP-6020FD retail model shortly.

Oh, it doesn’t hurt either that Pioneer has cut down on that plasma bugaboo, reflections, by eliminating a piece of glass commonly found inside. This also takes care of that shadow you sometimes see when viewing off axis and improves contrast - this told to me by one of the Pioneer folks hovering around.

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