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Category Archives: HDTV

Instant Gratification

Every so often those of us who grew up in the analog era are struck by our new era of instant gratification thanks to digital technology and the internet. It is mind-boggling how much information, of good quality, is at our fingertips day and night.

Zettabyte

IDC reports that in 2010 the digital universe exceeded a zettabyte, or 1021 bytes (sorry, but a bug has my WordPress site converting the superscript into a subscript). That’s approaching the prefix limits of the metric system and is equivalent to one trillion gigabytes. For perspective, the first floppy drive my parents bought for me in the early 1980s used pitiful 160 kilobyte disks, and it would take over seven quadrillion of those discs to hold that much information.

Even more important than the vast quantity of digital information is its accessibility. I don’t have to sort through seven quadrillion disks to find what I want. I just type a phrase into Google or Wikipedia or YouTube and almost instantly I have the data, and in readily consumable form to boot. Cisco predicts that in a few years internet traffic will reach a zettabyte per year. Egad!

Petabytes per month of internet traffic

Note how a huge chunk of that data stream will be internet video, and I’m certainly doing my part. I’ve been a Netflix member since 2004, my plan fluctuating over the years anywhere from 1 up to 5 discs-at-a-time. But improvements in streaming offerings and my living room’s internet connection have left my discs gathering dust while I watch video podcasts, stream old TV shows and movies via Netflix, and watch clips of darn-near-anything on YouTube. And if there is a song I want to hear, but don’t yet have in my digital collection of over 11,000 songs, someone has almost always posted it as a YouTube video clip.

In the early days of video streaming I was disappointed by delays, lags, and video artifacts. But those have mostly disappeared, in part because I replaced my first-generation Apple TV with the newer model, switched from WiFi to hardwired ethernet from my office router to a switch in the living room, and upgraded from 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps internet service. (My local cable service now offers a 50 Mbps plan, but all of the video streaming I’m doing would incur extra charges from its 50 GB monthly usage cap, so I have stuck with my 10 Mbps plan which has a daily cap of 5 GB.)

The living room ethernet switch serves my Apple TV, Tivo HD, and Sony Bravia HDTV. I can also stream video via 802.11n WiFi to my iPad 2 and either watch it on the pad or send it on over to the Apple TV to watch the video on my big-screen HDTV. So most days I’m pulling up my favorite video podcasts from the TWiT network using my iPad’s TWiT app and watching them on my HDTV via the Apple TV. And I’ve been gorging myself rewatching episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise from 2001-2005, finding them better than I had remembered the first time around.

So while it is true that I watch almost no live television (I no longer have cable TV and, for example, never turned on a single TV during my entire 11-day vacation to New Mexico and Colorado last month), I do watch video at home. But it isn’t broadcast or cable TV…it is podcasts and old shows and movies and random fluff.

I can indulge childhood nostalgia by pulling up clips from almost any TV series I ever watched. Yesterday I was thinking back to a show I watched when I five years old: Josie and the Pussycats. Yeah, there was some movie version about a decade ago, but I never paid any attention to that. I remembered Josie as being like Scooby-Doo but with better music during the long chase scenes. And the old clips confirm that impression.

But I do have a soft spot for some of its silliness, such as Stop, Look, and Listen, which I actually prefer to its obvious musical source, the Jackson 5’s ABC. (Jump to 37 seconds into the clip for the song.)

Listening to the singing of Kathleen Dougherty (Cathy Dougher) as Josie, Cherie Moore (actress Cheryl Ladd) as Melody, and Patrice Holloway as Valerie at that impressionable age left me with a fondness for girl groups that would make me a fan of The Bangles when I was in high school and college. And no, I had no idea Cheryl Ladd, who to me was simply Farrah Fawcett-Major‘s replacement on the original Charlie’s Angels, was a singer on the Josie and the Pussycats songs.

It was the vast and accessible internet data archive that not only revealed that interesting tidbit but also revealed that Valerie became the first regularly appearing female black character in a Saturday morning cartoon show thanks to the insistence of music producer Danny Janssen. He had cast the performers for the singing group when Hanna-Barbera tried to change the show into an all-white trio. Janssen refused to recast Patrice Holloway and Hanna-Barbera eventually caved after several weeks of standoff. Interestingly, many notable soul session players in L.A. offered their services to the group at minimal fees out of gratitude for his stance.

The internet also told me that the series theme song was co-written by Hoyt Curtin. And to follow that train of thought, I’ll reveal that I remain quite fond of Hoyt’s bombastic themes for SuperFriends and, especially, Battle of the Planets.

I own an instrumental-only track of that theme and just love to crank it. And I wouldn’t have a clue about Hoyt Curtin, probably best remembered for his Flintstones theme, if it weren’t for the internet.

Woody the Birthday Pony on Foreman Scotty

Continuing the stream-of-consciousness the internet enables, I was exposed to old-style television as a small child by being taken to a few of the studio recordings of the Foreman Scotty TV kiddie show in Oklahoma City. I even got to mount Woody the Birthday Pony.

I was too young for that honor to register in long-term memory. In fact, my only clear memory of Foreman Scotty was one visit to the Channel 4 studios for the show where I saw a monitor which was playing a Flintstones cartoon out of sync with the rest of the show. I was completely puzzled about how the cartoon could be playing “on TV” before they officially started the same cartoon in the live show. I had no idea they could do that! To my little brain it was about as surprising as hearing modern rock songs pounding out of an old-time radio – I thought antique radios should produce antique music!

There are limits to the internet archive: I could not find any Foreman Scotty video clips online, just several stills, although I readily located some video of HoHo the Clown, who I watched for years on Channel 5. Old Ed Birchall was a very sweet man, but frankly he rarely made me HoHo with laughter.

There is no compelling reason to put any extant film or tapes of Foreman Scotty up on the internet, although I presume eventually a few clips will appear. And similarly the catalog of television shows and movies available for streaming will expand. For I’m not the only one with discs gathering dust by the television. The cloud keeps building and building, promising to eventually shower us with almost any information we desire…instantly.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2011 in HDTV, music, technology, video

 

A New HDTV

Time for another installment of my HDTV saga. At the start of 2008 I cancelled my cable TV subscription and purchased a Tivo DVR so that I could watch and record over-the-air HDTV broadcasts on my 2003 30” CRT HDTV. Augmented by my original Apple TV, that satisfied my video needs quite handily. In addition to watching live and recorded TV broadcasts on the Tivo, I have rented and purchased movies and some television shows using the Apple TV, watched YouTube videos on the Apple TV, rented TV shows via Amazon Video on Demand on the Tivo, and used the Tivo to watch streaming Netflix movies. For years I was on a 3, 4, or even 5 disc-at-a-time plan on Netflix. But having seen most of the classic movies I was interested in, I found myself going weeks without touching a Netflix disc. So I finally dropped down to the one-disc-at-a-time Netflix plan that still provides unlimited streaming.

My three-year service contract on the Tivo expires in January, and six weeks ago I was speculating about whether or not the Google TV might allow me to let that go too. What I’ve seen of Logitech’s Revue Google TV box has not impressed me, however. If I keep the Tivo going, I’ll either have to pay up front for a 1, 2, or 3-year service contract or incur a $13/month charge. My old HDTV lacked a digital tuner and HDMI digital inputs, so the Tivo has been crucial to watching the impressive over-the-air HDTV signals from Tulsa. But now I find myself almost exclusively watching podcasts and a few episodes of The Venture Bros. on my Apple TV, and hardly ever using the Tivo except for some Netflix streaming movies.

So when I saw a good deal on a Sony 42” LCD HDTV at Sam’s Warehouse a few weeks ago, I bought it. The new box has plenty of HDMI digital inputs, has VGA and mini-jack audio inputs for a computer, and a tuner for over-the-air digital broadcasts. I bought a WiFi add-on module for it, which allows me to access video from YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon and listen to Pandora internet radio. So the only thing left for the Tivo to do is record over-the-air digital broadcasts, which isn’t worth much to me since I watch so little broadcast TV.

So I’m planning to drop the Tivo service in January, saving $100-$155 annually. To give me some additional viewing options, I reinstalled the latest hack to my original Apple TV which allows it to browse the internet (not very worthwhile when I can just use my iPad on the couch) and adds the Boxee service. Boxee allows me to easily stream videos from my desktop PC to my television through the Universal Plug-and-Play feature with Windows 7’s Media Center. I can also use Boxee to watch TV shows from Hulu and other internet sources. It even duplicates some of my Sony TV’s functionality, providing an alternate way to access YouTube, Pandora, and Netflix. I control Boxee with its iPhone and iPad apps.

My mishmash of living room devices would drive me crazy were it not for my Logitech Harmony Remote, an older 880 model which I’ve programmed to make it easy to operate my TV, Blu-ray player, Apple TV, audio receiver, Tivo, and VCR. Yes, I still use an old analog tape VCR for a bunch of old workout videos. I never transferred them to DVD, since that is actually less convenient. My analog VCR tapes have about 10 workouts on each of them, and I can just stop the tape after a workout and start it up the next morning for the next installment, which beats remembering where I left off on a DVD’s menu. Some of the tapes are 17 years old but still going strong. It seems possible that the DVD+R discs I use for videos at school may stop working before my old VCR tapes wear out.

It will be interesting to see how much I’ll miss having a DVR. If I miss a good broadcast TV show, I can hopefully use Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, or a network’s own website to view it later. Perhaps what I’ll miss most is fast-forwarding through commercials. If it gets too annoying, I’ll either reactivate the Tivo service or look into turning my computer into a DVR.

My next project is to boost networking speeds in the living room by running a long Ethernet cable from my office router to a switch in the living room. I’ll then hardwire the television, Blu-ray player, Apple TV, and Tivo box to my network. But I’ll still rely on my home WiFi for my iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and netbook computer. Can I guy have too many gadgets? I didn’t think so.

UPDATE: Here is a great article on the future of TV.

LATER UPDATE: I bought a cheap 75′ ethernet cable from monoprice.com and ran it from the office to a D-Link DGS-2205 switch in the living room.  The switch required no configuration at all and allowed me to use that cable with my Sony television, Sony Blu-ray player, the old Apple TV, and the Tivo.  I find myself using Pandora more on the television for background music, while I use the old Apple TV for viewing video podcasts and the Boxee hack to watch Twit Live.  And I like watching Netflix streaming on either the television or the Tivo.  As for broadcast TV, at first I couldn’t get the television’s built-in TV Guide listings to work, but I finally re-initialized the TV Guide application and got it going so that I don’t have to fire up the Tivo to see what is on.  And my new TV is able to play back audio and video from my desktop PC in the office via Windows Media Player.

12/1/2010 UPDATE: Today TiVo came through with an offer to upgrade my existing box to Lifetime Service for $99.  That meant I can keep using it until it has a physical failure for the same cost as about eight months on their month-to-month plan.  The offer was only available via phone, so I gave them a call and made the investment.  (Essentially I was getting Lifetime Service for the same cost I would have paid for it when I first bought the box three years ago.)  Given that the box is still working fine, I already invested in an external drive to boost its capacity, and the features on their new Premiere box are not compelling to me, it struck me as a good deal.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2010 in HDTV, technology

 

One Set-Top Box to Rule Them All

The new Apple TV

Having fulfilled most of my hopes for couch surfing via tablet with their iPad, it was too much to hope that Apple would also solve the set-top box problem.  This week they announced their latest take on the Apple TV, announced this week amidst their iPod refresh.  I was rather disappointed by their new unit.

I currently use a Tivo HD and first-generation Apple TV with my HDTV.  Having dropped cable TV, I record over-the-air high-definition broadcasts with the Tivo and can also use it to watch Netflix streaming and Amazon Unbox.  I can also purchase movies and TV shows on the Apple TV, but I mostly use it for podcasts, music, Flickr, and YouTube.

The new Apple TV is a streaming-only device with no local storage, somewhat like a Roku but with movie and TV episode rentals through Apple plus access to your desktop computer’s iTunes library, and some limited ability to interface with an iPod or iPad.  It throws in Netflix streaming as well, the service which is becoming ubiquitous, although their streaming movie selection still pales in comparison to what you can get from them on DVD or Blu-Ray.

My Tivo HD is almost 3 years old

My Tivo HD will be three years old in January and my service contract will expire, meaning I’ll shift to $13 per month to keep it going or have to buy a 1, 2, or 3-year plan to keep it working for reduced rates.  I find myself watching fewer and fewer shows on that DVR, making me wonder if there isn’t a cheaper way to time-shift the paltry number of broadcast shows I really want.

Google TV is coming, promising to be a set-top box or integrated part of some television sets, with DVR capabilities plus some sort of internet video gateway.  If it could act somewhat like a Tivo without a service plan or with a cheaper plan than $13/month, that intrigues me.

But what I really want is for Apple to provide one set-top box to rule them all:

  • DVR capability for over-the-air HDTV broadcasts (a la Tivo)
  • Audio and video podcasts plus my music and photos library via iTunes
  • Run Apple iOS apps and full integration/remote control via the iPad and iPhone
  • Full internet browsing, including flash video and Hulu
  • Rent high-def movies from all studios and television shows from all networks
  • Amazon Unbox
  • Netflix streaming
  • YouTube
  • Flickr

The Mac Mini

That isn’t the way Steve Jobs’ hobby is going, however – at least not yet.  Perhaps Google TV will spur Apple to add more features, but it appears more likely that the best hope for this sort of functionality is a Mac Mini with Magic Trackpad, if they ever provide iOS support on it.  If I could spare $2,000 to replace my 2003 30″ CRT HDTV that lacks HDMI with a big new LCD HDTV and Mac Mini, I’d do it.

But my budget won’t absorb that hit, so instead I’ll be taking a close look at Google TV to see if it might be able to replace my Tivo or if I should just pay $13/month to keep the old Tivo going.  That along with my iPad and first-generation Apple TV should allow me to carry on inexpensively for another year.

UPDATE: In late September a good sale price finally led me to purchase a flat-screen HDTV with HDMI inputs.  I’ll probably renew my Tivo subscription, but I’ll definitely take a close look at what Google TV has to offer.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2010 in HDTV, technology

 

Jonesing for a better TV…

Bigger, flatter, and pricier

Bigger, thinner, and pricier

The Harris Poll had some interesting HDTV statistics yesterday:

  • Almost a year-and-a-half after Blu-Ray won the format war, 11% of US adults own HD-DVD players but only 7% own Blu-Ray players

I own both, although my HD-DVD player is gathering dust in the spare room – I only have a handful of HD-DVDs, none of which I need to watch, and I didn’t want to squeeze another player into the stack of devices cluttering my entertainment system.  I have no plans to purchase Blu-Ray discs, but instead pay a surcharge to rent them, whenever possible, from Netflix.  But the Harris Poll data is confusing, since they also report 9% of US adults own a Sony Playstation 3 (PS3).  Well, those are Blu-Ray players, so why would they say only 7% of adults own a Blu-Ray player?  Perhaps many PS3 owners don’t realize they can play Blu-Ray discs?

  • Ownership of televisions that were 36 inches or larger increased from 35% to 42% of US adults this past year
  • Ownership of HDTVs increased from 35% to 47% of US adults this past year

My HDTV is only 30″ and is an older flatscreen 16:9 CRT.  So it is deep and heavy, but it also is bright, has fairly accurate colors, and a very wide viewing angle.  I usually sit eight feet from the screen, so standard-definition video sources don’t look grainy and I can tug the couch up closer if I want to see a Blu-Ray, downloaded, or over-the-air HD show with greater perceived resolution.  (My screen tops out at 800 lines, which is fine for its size, although if you move up to 42″ and beyond the full 1080 is preferred.)

I’d certainly like a bigger screen, but I’m still leery of plasmas, especially with Pioneer exiting that market, although some well-regarded Panasonic units have reportedly greatly reduced their lifetime-loss-of-brightness and burn-in problems.  And LCD televisions still suffer from some motion blur as well as color quality and brightness dropoff at large viewing angles.  Without some quality up-conversion, I’m also afraid the things I watch in standard-definition would look lousy on a huge screen.

I’d be more fond of the instant gratification from streaming HD video were it not for the frequent buffering delays, lack of bonus features, and sparse selection compared to discs from Netflix. Some new HDTVs incorporate Netflix streaming, which I can already get through my Tivo HD along with Amazon’s video-on-demand.  And I can also rent videos on my Apple TV, although that has been less satisfying with limited content and some annoying playback delays.  I used to hook my Averatec laptop to the television to watch Amazon Unbox video, but even with my smaller Asus Eee PC that remains a bothersome kludge.  To get the computer image on the TV I have to plop the netbook by the TV, plug in the audio cable and two cables for the video dongle that converts VGA to component video, then plug in the computer to the wall since I will be overclocking it continuously, then tweak the screen settings on the PC and the receiver and the video dongle, all for an image that suffers from blooming and color distortions.  Good grief!  So I’m truly thankful Amazon’s service is on the Tivo now.

Another thing I’d like to do is surf the web on my TV from the couch.  To avoid the above hassle with the netbook, I’ve hacked my Apple TV with the aTV Flash so that I can now surf the net through it, but plugging in my wireless keyboard and mouse causes the overburdened Apple TV to stutter a bit and the CRT image is still rather lacking.  So I find that I’d rather just put the netbook in my lap and use it.

But eventually I will make the jump to a larger HDTV, perhaps 42″ to 46″, with 1080p resolution, good standard-definiton upconversion, and multiple HDMI inputs as well as VGA.  For couch surfing I’d hook that new TV directly to a small dedicated computer with a wireless keyboard and trackpad.  But today a good Samsung LCD TV and Mac mini to achieve the results I seek would cost me about $2,000.  Ouch!  I’ll stick with my CRT and netbook for now.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2009 in HDTV, technology

 

Eliminating Overscan

Overscan

Overscan

For years my Samsung TXN3071WHF HDTV has suffered from overscan.  Most cathode-ray-tube (CRT) sets make the image too large to fit on the screen so that the edges are cut off.  Many newer LCD and plasma televisions can disable overscan, but it is common on older CRTs.  Cathode ray tube images tend to “bloom” or expand when bright images are displayed, and overscan makes this less noticeable.

Yes, I still use a CRT.  While it is a high-definition set with 800 lines of resolution, it lacks HDMI ports and other modern amenities.  Since it is only a 30″ set, I truly don’t need more resolution than that and Hollywood’s refusal to allow DVD upscaling over component video doesn’t really matter to me since a 480p image looks great on a 30″ screen.  The good points about my old CRT are its bright screen, wide color gamut, and broad viewing angle.

I sit about nine feet from the screen, so a 30″ screen is acceptable to me, although I’m told I could go all the way up to a 50″ set showing 1080p images from my Blu-ray player and still avoid seeing pixels and have a far more immersive movie experience. (Here is a nifty graph of screen resolutions and seating distances.)  I’m a single male, so I don’t mind if a 50″ set overpowers my living room, but I’m sure that most 480i images on broadcast television would look pretty lousy at that size and distance.  So I’ll probably wait and purchase a LED-backlit 50″ 1080p LCD television in a couple of years when they will be much cheaper and more video sources are high definition.

Anyway, back to the point.  The factory default for my TV is to overscan and the normal user menus offer no remedy.  The problem has been especially noticeable when using my Apple TV in 1080i mode, with text falling off the sides of the screen.  I also noticed it on election night when viewing HDTV over-the-air digital broadcasts – some of the local race results on the side of the screen were cut off.  I hate overscan, since I want to see every bit of the original image, although it seems many people don’t pay much attention to overscan except on their computer monitors when it is most noticeable and truly annoying.

I did an internet search on my old TV and, voilà, found instructions on how to access its mysterious service menu.  The secret keystrokes of MUTE-1-8-2-POWER on the remote bring up dozens of settings for the picture size, location, distortions, color, etc.  I took the internet’s advice and scribbled down the original settings so I could restore them if need be.

Then I tackled the 480p settings by loading my Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith DVD and activating its THX Optimizer.  That option shows test patterns, including a 16:9 circle and edge boxes so you can eliminate overscan while keeping the screen width-to-height ratio properly balanced.  Playing around with six of the two dozen settings achieved my goal of no overscan while retaining the proper width-to-height ratio.

Then I switched over to my Apple TV in 1080i mode and again fiddled with the service menu to eliminate overscan and keep the image in balance.  Unfortunately I don’t have a Blu-ray disc with test patterns, so I had to do a bit more guesswork on those settings.  If later I notice some problems, I’ll rent a Blu-ray test pattern disc from Netflix and do a more thorough fix.

But for now the overscan is gone and I am a happy viewer.  The entire images are mine, all mine.  And if a cameraman ever screws up and lets a boom mike into the shot, I’ll know it!

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2008 in HDTV, technology

 

Netflix on TiVo

Netflix on TiVo

Netflix on TiVo

My purchase of a TiVo HD about a year ago continues to pay off.  Now I can watch streaming movies from Netflix on the TiVo and the experience beats the pants off watching Netflix streaming movies on a computer.  The instant gratification of a decent-quality stream is luxurious compared to the long wait to download a video to my Apple TV or to my TiVo from Amazon’s Video on Demand service, let alone waiting several days for a DVD or Blu-ray disc to arrive from Netflix.

Mind you, I still will insist of viewing great movies on Blu-ray discs I rent from Netflix.  The video and audio quality of an actual disc are far better than the Netflix Watch Instantly stream.  But the Netflix stream is certainly good enough for casual viewing.  It certainly looks okay on my old-school 30″ CRT HDTV, which has 800 lines of resolution.  I would likely be less satisfied if I had the gargantuan 50″ 1080p home theater TV I can’t justify buying (yet).  And the stream is free with my current five-discs-per-month Netflix account, versus having to pony up to rent or buy a movie via Amazon or the Apple TV.

I just watched The Pixar Story, a documentary that isn’t yet available on Netflix disc, with the new Netflix streaming service on the TiVo.  The video stream didn’t have to pause and buffer and only occasionally was I annoyed by macroblocks and other compression artifacts.  It is annoying to have to edit my “Watch Instantly Queue” on the computer rather than being able to edit it on the TiVo, but it could be even more frustrating to try to search for movies and edit the queue using the limited controls on a TiVo infrared remote.  CNET has a good review of the new service.

As Netflix expands its roster of Watch Instantly movies I will probably drop back to a cheaper 3-or-4 discs-per-month account, and I’m hopeful that their deals to get their streaming service on the TiVo, on the standalone Roku box, on Samsung players, and the Xbox 360 means they will survive the eventual death of movies on disc.  I do hope, however, that economics don’t doom Blu-ray discs too early.  Movie theaters are becoming obsolete and until we get larger bandwidth for true HD video streams we will still need Blu-ray discs to show quality movies with appropriate video and sound quality.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2008 in HDTV, technology

 

Blu Daze

Sony BDP-S350

Sony BDP-S350

Sony BDP-S350 at Amazon

Impatient to move on from my HD-DVD debacle, I decided to not wait for the forthcoming Black Friday and beyond price drops.  I just went out and bought a Blu Ray player.

I decided to get some use from my Amazon.com Prime account and bought the Sony BDP-S350.  I paid about $265 for the thing, but rumor says Sears may have it for as low as $180 after Thanksgiving.  If notoriously picky videophile Dan Ramer of dvdfile.com is satisfied with the higher-end Sony BDP-S550, then I’m safe to drop down a notch.   I did NOT want a Sony PlayStation 3, even though many use it for Blu Ray movies, since I don’t play videogames and I love my Logitech Harmony 880 Universal Remote.  The PS3 won’t take infrared commands, costs more, and I’m sure it is noisier.

It seemed best to get a Profile 2.0 Blu Ray player that could take advantage of online content and firmware updates.  I’ll borrow a super-long CAT 5E cable from work for firmware updates.  But the online BDLive content sounds less than interesting thus far and has brought user unhappiness with “frozen” players while content is being downloaded, so I won’t bother trying to get the player a permanent wired connection.  If online extras are ever to matter, Sony and others will need to invest in 801.11 networking for their living room players.  TiVo did it, and so can they, of course.

Mr. Kite in Across the Universe

Mr. Kite in Across the Universe

I’ve only watched one full movie thus far and experimented a bit with a regular DVD.  For my inaugural Blu Ray disc I chose from my local Hastings rental shop the visual and sonic feast of Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe.  (I didn’t yet have my Netflix queue prepared for my jump to Blu Ray.)  The film seemed a good test of the Blu Ray format, and I was quite pleased with the quality of the playback.  The best part of the movie for me was U2’s Bono playing Doctor Robert and then Eddie Izzard’s unforgettable portrayal of Mr. Kite…you gotta see it, baby!

Now, mind you, my HDTV is an older 30″ CRT from Samsung that takes 1080i signals on analog component cables and displays only 800 lines.  At that screen size and resolution, there just isn’t that big a jump in quality from 480p DVD to Blu Ray (or HD-DVD, for that matter).  So why make the jump to high definition?  I love great movies and I want to see them as clearly and with as many fun extras as is practical.  And someday I’ll no doubt invest in a bigger flat screen HDTV that can deliver 1080p images carried on HDMI cabling and also upscale older DVDs.  (My defunct Toshiba HD DVD player and the new Blu Ray one can upscale DVDs, but thanks to Hollywood’s paranoia they will only do so over a digitally protected HDMI cable.)

I was worried when I first popped in a regular DVD, one which had both full frame and widescreen versions of a film.  I wanted to test how the player would handle a 4:3 DVD video on my 16:9 set since some older movie DVDs and most older TV shows on disc use that format.  At first it was squishville with all of the usual horrid distortions when a 16:9 TV stretches a 4:3 image.  On my Toshiba HD DVD player, I had to keep re-entering setup to shift it out of progressive and back into interlace mode on such discs so that my poor TV could squeeze the image back to normal.  I am sick of that stupidity.  But I finally fiddled enough with the video settings on the Blu Ray player so that it properly displayed the 4:3 imagery with pillarboxing in progressive mode, which is a great improvement.  Who knows if the luck will hold on other oddly formatted DVDs, but I have hope.

Netflix on TiVo

Netflix on TiVo

Before settling on the Sony BDP-S350 I had given some thought to buying a Samsung unit that could stream my Netflix Watch Instantly movies.  But their silly player also wanted a wired Ethernet connection and I wasn’t about to bother pulling wire into the living room nor was I going to invest in a new wireless router and separate wireless bridge to get a fake “wired” Ethernet connection in the living room.

Now it seems that problem will be solved, since Netflix and TiVo have each bought a clue and teamed up.  By early December I should be able to watch my Netflix Watch Instantly movies on my TiVO HD, which has a wireless connection.  The quality won’t compare to that of the Blu Ray player, but the instant gratification will come in handy.

So about a year after wasting my dough on an HD DVD player, I’m finally Blu.  Now if only CBS would get off their collective butts and put the Remastered Star Trek out on Blu Ray.  And we need all of the new Battlestar Galactica on Blu Ray, and Vertigo, and…we get the picture, don’t we?

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2008 in HDTV, movie, technology

 
 
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