See Watchmen, Make Up Your Own Mind

March 13, 2009

watchmen-posterLet me get this out of the way right off the bat, I loved Watchmen, it was the breath of a fresh air the comic film genre desperately needed. I don’t get the lukewarm (or downright negative) Watchmen reviews. To be honest, it was one of the best films I’ve seen in quite some time and easily better than enduring one second of Toby McGuire as Spiderman. Watchmen had something most comic films lack, a soul.

Perhaps if I had read the comic, I’d have a different opinion but that’s the point. I didn’t read the comic and now I want to, what better testament to the filmmaker’s ability is there? See the thing a lot of “fans” miss is that even a wildly popular underground comic is still an underground comic, and in all honesty a film based on an underground comic doesn’t stand a chance at the box-office compared to the likes of a Batman, Spiderman or even Ironman for that matter. And whether you think they should be compared or not, rest assured they will.

For a film like Watchmen to be “successful” certain artistic license has to be taken, staying true to the original story is great but wider appeal is what pays the bills. For those unfamiliar with the story, there’s a “Watchmen: Complete Motion Comic” on DVD and Blu-ray that does a fair job of telling the story and setting the mood. I just can’t say whether I’d recommend seeing the comic before or after the movie. I rather enjoyed the movie without knowing much about the Watchmen universe.

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Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under Movies & Television | 10 Comments 

JVC DLA-HD750 D-ILA Projector

March 5, 2009

HD750By now many of you JVC aficionados have heard about the DLA-HD750, JVC’s upgrade to the HD100. By all accounts the 750 appears to improve on the HD1/HD100 quite nicely, admittedly there really wasn’t a lot to improve for the average user but one thing that immediately comes to mind is the increased brightness; 200 or so lumens better than the DLA-HD100.

Aside from the increased lumens, another much appreciated improvement over the older JVC DLA’s is color accuracy; it would seem as if all but the harshest critics of prior color performance have been satisfied.

Updated changes/additions to the DLA-HD750 include HQV Reon-VX video processing, the aforementioned full color-management system, and a 16-step adjustable iris. The Zoom, focus, and vertical/ horizontal lens shift are all now motorized whereas only focus and zoom were motorized with the HD100.

Another “feature” worth mentioning is that the projector has received THX video certification. In essence, this new stamp of approval from THX certifies the display has met or exceeded THX’s minimum performance benchmarks and that it features THX cinema mode (“THX Mode is promoted as being a pre-set calibration to industry picture standards).  One change from the previous HD100 I’m not all that pleased with however is the relocation of the input panel from the rear to the side.

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Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under Home Theater Projectors | 4 Comments 

High-End Integrators: What Recession?

February 26, 2009

Chart Things are bleak in certain fields but believe it or (pssst believe it) some custom electronic integrators have actually seen growth throughout 2008 and well into 2009. But wait what about the doom and gloom, the world is falling ala chicken little we’ve heard so often from Washington? Simply put, there are sectors that have traditionally remained “recession proof”. No I’m not particularly fond of that phrase either but if the shoe fits.

CE Pro’s Tom LeBlanc cuts to the chase and names the names of the companies who apparently found clients unwilling to participate in the recession. Longtime stalwart in the A/V biz ‘Audio Command Systems’ reports revenue “up a little” while Phoenix, Arizona’s ‘Custom Systems Integration’ reports revenue up by 25%. Lots of other juicy related tidbits over at CE Pro.

Now the 800lb gorilla in the room has to be, well it’s those “evil” rich people spending all that cash right? (After all these installs aren’t taking place in trailer parks). The political hacks will go back and forth for ages on who’s to “blame” for our current economic mess and how best to get out of it. For me, I’m happy to get back to work for those with the work and the means to get it done.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under Commentary | 8 Comments 

CES 2009

January 22, 2009

ces-2009CES 2009 has come and gone and aside from a few things like new LED-Backlit displays, connected (think Netflix, and Amazon video) displays and a few LCD/Plasma refinements in general, there really weren’t any jaw-dropping – where have you been all my life announcements as far as I was concerned.

Perhaps in part due to the economy and in part to 2009 being an off year in general for major announcements, I just couldn’t help feeling the show was a little flat this year. Then again it’s all perspective in the end.

In the weeks leading up to the show I kept seeing a G4 CES 2009 commercial that mentioned (paraphrasing)  “CES has launched some of the biggest advancement’s in home entertainment, the VCR, The Camcorder, Compact Discs and DVD players” among other notable introductions.

I couldn’t help compare those “mega” announcements to the likes of Swiss Army knives with USB memory, cell phones and wi-fi capable digital cameras. Yeah sure it’s unfair to compare a massive leap in home entertainment like the VCR or DVD player to “ceiling fans with speakers” but I do wonder when (if?) will another leap forward happen along those lines.

I suppose 3D could be that “next big thing” but it’s certainly not as simple a proposition as the VCR or DVD player. We probably won’t see something that earth shattering for some time to come, but I’ll be ready and waiting for it (whatever it is) when that day comes.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under Trade Shows | 2 Comments 

Things Are Tough All Over

November 30, 2008

I just caught this on Saturday Night Live (a few weeks late but better than never I guess) and nearly bust a gut laughing.

Announcer: Weekend update, with Amy Poehler & Seth Meyers.

Amy Poehler: I’m Amy Poehler. And here are tonight’s top stories:

“Panasonic, this week, unveiled a 150-inch flat-screen TV. Just in time for no one to afford it.”

So funny (and sad) and in our current economic environment Amy just verbalized what a lot of us have been thinking.  I dug around YouTube for a clip but no luck, the entire episode was a hoot and well worth checking out on it’s on.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under HDTV Programming | 10 Comments 

Blu-ray Beauties

October 5, 2008

It’s a great time to be a movie lover but especially if you’re a movie lover with a Blu-ray player. The long drought of anemic titles seems to be behind us now and we’re well into A-List territory for the first time in recent memory.

It seems like an eternity ago the calls of “where are all the blockbusters?” were met with answers like ‘Training Day’ and ‘Layer Cake’. Those were fine films in their own right but hardly the top-shelf fair many of us were looking for.

With titles like ‘Iron Man’ (a must see in my opinion), ‘The Godfather’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ already released. And titles like ‘Young Frankenstein’, ‘Interview with the Vampire’, ‘Carrie’ and the ‘Platinum Edition of Sleeping Beauty’ from Disney on the way; combined with the fact BD-Live players available we’ve moved beyond the cautious wait-and-see stance to dive-in and enjoy.

Of all the titles mentioned, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ best illustrates (no pun intended) how far Blu-ray as a format as come. The 50th Anniversary Edition of Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray boasts a fresh 4k negative scan performed by Lowry digital and a new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack that was recently restored as well.

As impressive as the sights and sounds of the 50th Anniversary Blu-ray are the BD-Live features are surely just as impressive. From a “living menu” that changes with the time of day and even the weather to movie chat and trivia, the disc appears to be a must-have for fans of classic Disney films.  Happy viewing.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under Blu-ray | 4 Comments 

CEDIA 2008

September 6, 2008

With CEDIA 2008 winding down, it’s time for a quick summary of some of the notable introductions from this year’s show. So in no particular order whatsoever, here are the highlights. 3D is coming and there’s absolutely nothing you or I can do about it. These three-dimensional dregs are hell bent on making sure none of us escape the clutches of 3D. Here’s the good news though, it’s getting better and better all the time and some companies are finally making real progress on 3D without the glasses.

Tru2Way made a relatively big splash with Panasonic demoing a “the first fully working Tru2Way TV” that according to Tru2Way proponents will “do away with cable boxes forever”. Now I’d be as happy as the next guy if that claim were to come true, but with the promise of (one-way) cable cards still fresh in my mind; I hope no one will think poorly of me while waiting for some proof to go with this wireless pudding.

The iPhone was large and in charge at this year’s CEDIA with at least three prominent companies showcasing the little phone that could as a handheld controller. Crestron showed off an iPhone with HVAC, lighting and media control capabilities while Savant (no stranger to Apple’s architecture) demoed a similar iPhone interface. Savant added support for the “gesture” and “tilt” control sensors found on both the iPhone and iPod touch.

Runco announced they were dropping the Vidikron badge and moving forward with Runco and Planar only. Probably a good move but one has to wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to just let the brand fade away on its own rather than buying it a few years back, either way arrivederci Vidikron.

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Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under Trade Shows | Leave a Comment 

The Suspension of Disbelief

August 25, 2008

The Suspension of DisbeliefThis is a subject I’ve touched on before, but given the current state of the economy (rather our collective perception of the economy) and more specifically high fuel prices eating into disposable income, its one that’s worth exploring further. The “suspension of disbelief”, at least with regard to consumer electronics, is really just another way of describing the feeling of getting lost in a movie or CD. Getting so totally lost that you’re able to completely forget where you are and become totally immersed in the moment.

It doesn’t take a rack full of expensive equipment to pull off this feat but it certainly doesn’t hurt. For those of us without unlimited means the trick is to strike the right balance between performance and cost, with the desired end-result being a system that has the ability to, you guessed it, suspend disbelief.

That last bit might have sounded a bit long winded but I wanted to be very specific about what I’m trying to describe here. In other words, when the lights are down, the sounds up and you’re focused on the screen, the style of the stand the televisions sitting on is about as important to the next two hours as last week’s losing lottery numbers.

What is important however is eliminating as many different things as possible (within reason) that get between you and immersion. This could be sibilance from a bad speaker/receiver combination, a particularly bad contrast ratio on a large screen television or front projector. It could even be something as simple as a room variable that just needs a bit of attention, think loud air vent, uncomfortable couch or sunlight hitting the screen.

This, er we need to name this type of theater, how about “Guerrilla Theater”? Whoops that’s already taken, how about down-n-dirty theaters? Yeah, that’ll work. D-N-D theaters are about the maximum bang for the buck but not necessarily the very latest bells and whistles unless they really add something to the desired effect. Again that “desired effect” would be taking you out of the world of bills, deadlines, taxes and broken alternators and plopping you right in the middle of international espionage, warring orcs and super heroes.

A few examples of D-N-D home theater equipment would be something along the lines of Onkyo’s TX-SR606 surround receiver, notable for the fact it’s one of the few receivers on the market for under $600 with True-HD and DTS-HD Master Audio support. Another would be the PS3 (for obvious reasons) and the Infocus IN81/82 front projectors and maybe something like a mid-line Samsung LCD on the flat panel end of things.

Regardless of how you define it, these entry to mid-level over-achievers have been with us for years. It’s always just been an issue of identifying them and pairing them up with other complimentary components and getting the most out of them in your particular application. I’d be interested to hear about some of the components in your systems that you’d consider a down-n-dirty, best bang for the buck bargain and any tips or tweaks you use to get the most out of them.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under Commentary | 10 Comments 

I Heart my HTPC

July 29, 2008

HTPCMy opinion of HTPC’s has pretty much come full circle in the last 10 years or so. It’s not that my standards have dropped, as much as it’s the quality of the hardware and software that has improved dramatically. My HTPC recommendations used to go along the lines of “buy something that’ll get the job accomplished but don’t go overboard”. Now I’m of the opinion that if you think this is for you, by all means, go for it. Shoot for full 1080p playback and even the lossless audio support that’s started popping up on certain motherboards.

The latest additions to my Frankenstein’esque HTPC were a Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 950 (QAM capable) tuner stick, a LG GGC-H20L Blu-ray/HD DVD combo drive and a XFX 750a SLI nForce motherboard / AMD 5600+ combo. Or in other words, I just completely revamped my system. It was long overdue and looking back I wish I’d aimed for this level of performance from the get-go but my wallet would’ve had no part of it. As it turns out I paid less to get 1080p and HD disc capable than I originally paid for the whole rig (gotta love those Fry’s CPU/mobo combos).

My original reluctance to recommend HTPC’s also stemmed from the fact that they suffered from the jack of all trades master of none syndrome. Sure they could play a DVD but not as well as a standalone and once they could, Blu-ray and HD DVD made that whole point moot. Well times change and not only can HTPC’s play DVD’s as well as all the best standalones, now they can play Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. As if that wasn’t enough it won’t be much longer before Vista media center can tune and record QAM HD signals without third party hacks.

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Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under HTPC | 8 Comments 

Netflix Rentals on the Xbox 360

July 15, 2008

NetflixYep, it finally happened. Well not yet, but soon. As a part of this fall’s Xbox Live update, Xbox 360 users will be able to access Netflix’s vast and ever growing library of films at (according to John Schapper, corporate VP of Xbox Live) no additional cost.

“Netflix has revolutionized the movie industry, and now that service is available free to all Xbox Live members and Netflix subscribers,” said John Schapper, corporate VP of Xbox Live. “Xbox 360 is the only game system to offer this content at no additional cost to Xbox Live gamers.”

Like we said back in January of 07, this service was a natural considering Microsoft and Netflix’s close ties. Now the question is, will this really add much to either companies bottom line? No additional cost on Microsoft’s end means they’re hoping the allure of being able to watch the films on-demand will draw in new 360 owners.

And unless Netflix is planning a special pricing tier for the service, their only real gain would be gamers who thus far haven’t subscribed to the service. I sense an unforeseen gotcha lurking just below the surface here, its probably just the pessimist in me though.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | Filed Under Media Servers | 10 Comments 

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