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A Tale of Two Gamers

It’s funny how shared hobbies can both bring us together and tear us apart. I experienced this frustrating rollercoaster of emotions recently when a friend’s husband casually namedropped a rather obscure auto-racing simulator in a chat about videogames (the subject of roughly half the conversations shared in my circle of friends). It was a moment of pure serendipity. Finally, we had both found someone we could reliably race with and against online, without having to wade through lists of anonymous potty-mouthed 12 year olds and demolition-derby wannabes.

 

But that shared joy quickly turned into an argument when we discovered he plays his racing simulations on a PC, whereas I prefer to spin my wheels on PlayStation 4. Playing on different platforms means we may as well live in different universes. We can’t be online racing buddies.

 

“But why?!” he asked, with the same tone of bewildered disgust Chicagoans reserve for people who put ketchup on hot dogs. “The graphics are so much better on PC!”

 

True. But as I explained to him, my PC resides in my home office and is generally reserved for roleplaying and strategy games. For action and racing games—especially racing simulators—my media room is where it’s at. And that’s where my PS4 resides.

After all, a few lines of resolution and some blocky textures are a small price to pay in exchange for 12,800 watts of room-filling surround sound—the Doppler-shifted roar of opponents sneaking up beside me in Project CARS 2; the rumble of a virtual LT4 engine rattling the frame of my Sparco racing cockpit and pounding me right in the chest; the subtle-but-butt-puckering chirp of my pretend rear tires breaking traction as I grip my Logitech G29 steering wheel and sling a pretend Corvette Z06 around the twisting pretend turns of a pretend Mazda Raceway.

 

“Try that without dragging your big, ugly black box of a PC into the living room!”

 

“Pfft. Who cares about the sound?” he scoffed. And just like that, our budding bromance died on the vine. Because, really, how can I be gaming buddies with someone who doesn’t understand that audio is at least half of the experience?

 

Sadly, for now, I’m afraid far too many people share his opinion—his quick dismissal of the undeniably superior experience of gaming in the home theater. In my next post, I’ll explain why they’re dead wrong.

—Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including
high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of
Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound
American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian. 

Husbands and Wives

Amazon Husbands and Wives

I know, I know—I just wrote about Cafe Society. And there’s a contemporary cinema worth acknowledging too. (Right?) But I’m working on something that’s got me scrambling to refamiliarize myself with the Allen canon, and streaming isn’t making it easy. There’s not a lot of his work available online at the moment, and most of it’s not what I want to plumb. Husbands and Wives is.

 

It’s almost impossible to believe the best Allen films ever got made—let alone gained a following—they go so strongly, and sometimes aggressively, against the grain of mainstream movies. But his core instincts as an entertainer, and his need to ingratiate (remember Zelig—and Zelig?), help ensure his best films are pleasurable and engaging no matter where they decide to go.

 

Husbands and Wives is a known quantity, so there’s no point in rehashing the plot or talking about its groundbreaking technique. So let’s talk instead about this persistent bullshit about Allen not knowing how to direct actors. (It’s like the old—and completely wrong—saw about Billy Wilder being a writer who happened to direct.) And yet there are more exquisite performances in his films than in the films of any other American director. Explain that.

 

The scene where Sydney Pollack tries to get his flakey girlfriend to get into his car before she embarrasses him is one of the rawest and truest things ever shot. And it didn’t happen by having an incompetent director set two actors loose and tell them to figure it out for themselves.

 

Pollack was at best a mediocre director—a mainstream hack. He looked humiliated in Tootsie and completely lost in Eyes Wide Shut. So why is he so good here, and so well integrated into the fabric of the film? It’s long past time to give Allen his due.

 

Di Palma’s cinematography is so subtle that the demons of streaming come close to shredding it. That doesn’t mean it can only be enjoyed on the largest possible screen in the grandest possible setting—there’s something intimate about it that makes that kind of setting almost antithetical. But it deserves respect, and streaming almost feels like a dis.

 

As brilliant, and almost perfect, as Husbands and Wives is, it can’t be Allen’s best film—it’s about 15 minutes too long and lacks the startling sprightliness of his best work. But it’s substantial, and true, which puts it so far outside the mainstream that it feels, deliciously, like sacrilege. It’s more mature, nuanced, and, in general, accomplished than Annie Hall or Manhattan, but it’s not better. Sometimes, vitality aces all.

 

Movies are almost impossible to make, and are harder to make the more mainstream they are. So it’s not a matter of taste but simple statistics: When you look at the number of innovative, provocative, engaging films Allen has made, and how consistent but also responsive his aesthetic has been across the decades, he’s probably had the most successful career of any American director ever.

 

I know that’s hard to believe, but think about it. Then try to dispute it.

Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and
now this.

REVIEWS

Media Rooms: Fad or Future?

media rooms

Look at practically any website that concerns itself with home theater and you’ll likely see example after example of dedicated home theaters. These are often beautiful spaces, luxuriously appointed, with fabric-covered walls, intricate woodwork and moldings, and rows of fabulous seats arrayed in tiers facing a giant screenfrankly, the kinds of things that made Theo Kalomirakis the legend he is and earned him the moniker, “The father of home theater.”

 

And as a custom installer, I can tell you these are almost always wonderful projects to work on. This is generally “our room” to maximize performance for one goal: Creating the ultimate movie-watching experience. Speaker locations are optimized, acoustics can be perfected, sound treatments can isolate external distractions, and lighting can be controlled for an ideal presentation.

 

But, despite all that, dedicated high-end rooms seem to be waning in popularity, giving way to something that could clumsily be called a multi-use space, but which we’ll call a media room.

 

Unlike a dedicated roomwhich is usually a separate, totally closed-off space, typically with a single door and no windowsa media room can be located in virtually any room of the house. In fact, media rooms are often in large communal areas like living rooms or family rooms, which actually gives them two advantages. First, every home can have one. Second, in my experience, media rooms get used far more often than dedicated rooms, which require viewers to actively get up and relocate themselves to a different location.

 

And, unlike dedicated home theaters, media rooms aren’t mainly for watching movies. They can be the best way to watch TV, listen to music, play videogames, view digital images, and stream content in a relaxed and comfortable environment. And couches, love seats, and comfy chairsfurniture already located in the roomall provide perfect seating options for your family or a group of friends.

 

At its most basic, a media room consists of a relatively large-screen TVlet’s say at least 55 inchesalong with some kind of improved audio experience, like a soundbar and subwoofer.

But for the true movie or music loveror anyone who takes their entertainment seriouslythis minimal approach won’t suffice, and their media rooms share many components similar to those found in a dedicated space. These include:

 

a much larger 4K Ultra HD display

 

a minimum of 5.1-channel surround audio system, but more likely with the channel count
expanded to allow for immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X

 

a device that can stream 4K content from Netflix, Amazon, or Vudu

 

and ideally a Kaleidescape Strato player for viewing the highest-quality UHD HDR movie
downloads.

 

And don’t think that having a media room in the middle of the house has to mean having stacks of gear out in the open, or having to live with monolithic speakers, or even having to have your room dominated by a giant screen on the wall. There are a ton of technology options available that can deliver phenomenal experiences with minimal impact on your décor.

 

How do I know? Because I’ve had my own media room for nearly 10 years, and installed dozens for clients.

 

In my next post, I’ll tell you about my no-compromise media room, and the installation decisions I made to make the most out of my space and entertainment system.

—John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Kaleidescape’s CEO on the New Apple TV 4K

Apple seriously expanded awareness of 4K yesterday when it announced a long-overdue refresh of its Apple TV, the Apple TV 4K. The new Apple 4K will come in 32- and 64-GB sizes for $179 and $199, and the A10X powered devices will feature Dolby Vision and HDR10, Gigabit Ethernet, an HDMI 2.0a output, and “up to Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound” (same as the previous generation model.)

 

On the content side, Apple announced that iTunes users will get automatic free upgrades of HD titles in their existing iTunes library to 4K HDR when the new version becomes available, and that 4K HDR titles will sell for the same price as HD titles.

 

The market leader in 4K HDR content delivery is Kaleidescape, which has deals with nearly all the major studios and offers more than 260 full-quality UHD titles for download. I had a chance to chat with Kaleidescape’s CEO and co-founder, Cheena Srinivasan, following the Apple TV announcement to discuss what he thought about Apple’s entry into this space.

How do you feel about Apple embracing 4K?

 

The overall take for me is, how could this be bad news? The Apple TV 4K is a differentiated productit’s like a Swiss Army knife. It’s a multi-purpose device. It’s for the mass market. And it’s going to increase the general awareness for 4K HDR. We need a big player like Apple embracing 4K and HDRwe haven’t had it until now. We need to let them do the democratizing and let us focus on delivering the best flavor of it.

 

By Apple embracing 4K, it ensures a good chunk of library titles could be remastered and re-released in 4K, and assures that almost every new-release movie will come out in superior qualitywhich will mean these titles will also be available in this best quality to Kaleidescape customers for purchase.

 

What are the differences between 4K in the mass market and in the high end?

 

When you look at a product that is geared for mass-market consumption, you’re playing on brand recognition4K must mean it’s better. HDR must stand for better color, vivid colors, and eye popping images. That says nothing about picture quality, that says nothing about audio quality, or any guarantee of quality of service that this will be pristine, predictable playback every time. The discerning customer is the one who wants the best every time.

 

We have taken the polar opposite view of a mass-market service in what we do. We make very deliberate choices in how we transcode the video, add lossless audio, and various other unique things we do, such as event cues for control-system automation, favorite scenes, etc., before we make the movie available for sale to ensure the playback is pristine every single time, and that there are no glitches, audio drops, artifacts, etc.

 

What do you say to somebody who points out that Apple is charging the same price for HD and 4K content?

 

If you take the Sony/Kaleidescape partnership and what we bring to consumers in terms of the promise of quality 4K video, there is no question that we deliver with confidence the highest fidelity video, audio, immersive cinematic experience. Period. But that comes at a price.

 

That Apple’s 4K HDR is the same as its HD price gives me two signals. One says, the marginal differences between the two formats are dictated by the TV you own and you shouldn’t be punished for owning a better TV by charging you a higher amount. And the second says if there isn’t substantial differentiation between HD and 4K HDR, it’s hard to justify the price difference. I don’t think it makes any sense for us to just mimic someone else’s pricing strategy, because we stand by the value differentiation we deliver.

—John Sciacca

 

Click here to read my complete interview with Cheena

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

REVIEWS

Incredibles 2 review
Ant-Man review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

ALSO ON CINELUXE

Theo’s Corner: Working with Vincenzo Avanzato

architect Vincenzo Avanzato

In my last post, I talked about my recent meetings with well-known interior designer Hernan Arriaga, and how much I’m looking forward to collaborating with him on new designs for Rayva’s theater rooms. During that same trip to Florida, I also met with another design professional I have long admired, the Italian-born architect Vincenzo Avanzato of Avanzato Design.

 

I was introduced to Vincenzo by our mutual friend, Aaron Flint of Acoustic Architects in Miami. Vina supreme practitioner of traditional architecture–is working on a project that has space for a very traditional theater.

 

I knew from the beginning that this wasn’t a project for Rayva, which uses a minimalist approach to design. Home theaters are still dominated by elaborate traditional designscolumns with ornate grilles, wall panels with rich brocade fabrics, and lots of gold and red. I thought that, given the opportunity, Vin could help break that mold by coming up with concepts that incorporate stylized traditional elements in a contemporary setting.

During our meeting, I shared with him lots of visual samples of what have in mind for Rayva. He reciprocated by sharing with me his own ideas, which struck me as original and, to a certain extent, iconoclastic for someone who has such a deep respect for and understanding of traditional architecture.

 

We finished the meeting with a promise to meet again soon. He called early last week to let me know he is working towards finishing a presentation to me. I count the days until I receive his concepts. And I look forward to working with even more professionals of Vin’s stature as designers see that Rayva offers a chance to explore innovative new ground.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

REVIEWS

Incredibles 2 review
Ant-Man review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

ALSO ON CINELUXE

Sony & Kaleidescape Push 4K Hard

Sony Kaleidescape partnership

(from L to R) Sony Electronics President & COO Mike Fasulo,
Sony Electronics VP of AV Specialty/Custom
Integration Frank Sterns,
Kaleidescape founder/CEO Cheena Srinivasan

The annual CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association) show was held last week in San Diego. Besides the beautiful, sunny weather and abundance of craft beer, the major players in the A/V industry were on hand demonstrating their latest products. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll share some of the things that caught my eye with the Roundtable reader in mind.

 

One of the big announcements at the show was the new strategic partnership between Sony and Kaleidescape. Sony has been a leader in 4K, and is one of the few companies with a complete 4K ecosystem capable of delivering a true “lens to screen” experience. As Roundtable readers know, Kaleidescape is focused on delivering the ultimate home theater experience, with a movie-download store offering hundreds of movies in 4K Ultra HD resolution and thousands in full Blu-ray quality.

 

The two companies realized they could form a symbiotic partnership, with Sony’s 4K projectors delivering a terrific cinematic picture and Kaleidescape Strato players (shown below) feeding those systems with the best theatrical 4K HDR content.

Sony Kaleidescape partnership

The companies are offering a joint promotion where any Strato customer who buys a qualifying Sony 4K HDR projector between now and 3/31/18 can download a movie bundle featuring ten 4K HDR movies from the Kaleidescape store valued up to $350. Conversely, existing Sony 4K HDR projector owners who buy a Strato movie player can get the movie bundle to jumpstart their collections.

 

Kaleidescape founder and CEO Cheena Srinivasan commented: “We’re pleased to partner on this promotion with Sony, the company that’s synonymous with 4K innovation and shares our vision for delivering the finest picture and sound quality.”

 

Qualifying projectors include the VPL-VW285ES, VW365ES, VW385ES, VW675ES, VW885ES, VZ1000ES, and VW5000ES (shown above), with models ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. Coupled with a Strato, this means a terrific “starter” 4K HDR theater package can be had for under $10,000. Both companies expect this offer to reach thousands of customers and expand the reach of 4K-projection adoption.

 

The movie bundle, which includes Spider-man: Homecoming, has been designed to deliver the ultimate 4K HDR experience to home theater enthusiasts and features a mix of classic and new releases from the major studious, including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Brothers.

—John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

REVIEWS

Incredibles 2 review
Ant-Man review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

ALSO ON CINELUXE

Theo’s Corner: Working with Hernan Arriaga

designer Hernan Arriaga

My search for fresh ideas and the pursuit of new design collaborators for Rayva recently brought me to Florida, where I met with two well-known professionals: Miami-based interior designer Hernan Arriaga and Italian-born architect Vincenzo Avanzato. (I will be writing about Vincenzo in a future post.) Having seen and admired their work, I knew they would be excellent candidates to create new design themes for Rayva.

 

Hernan’s business partner Fabio Lopes told me the process of dealing with home theaters has become so cumbersome that they’ve almost stopped proposing them to their clients. Having to fight what they see as insensitive placement of electronics by others into their supremely coordinated interiors wasn’t worth the trouble for them anymore. In a strange way, this legitimate argument resonates with a similar argument from the opposite side: A/V integrators also chronically complain that designers don’t respect the needs of a complex technology.

 

I’m very familiar with the issue, and I respect the viewpoints of both the designers and the integrators. The very reason Rayva exists is to bridge this seemingly irreconcilable divide between technology and design. The company’s goal is to blend superb design with sophisticated technology in an end-to-end solution that doesn’t keep just designers and integrators happy but, most importantly, the end-user, who is often caught in the crossfire. These problems can only be resolved with a good understanding of both perspectives.

I had already met Hernan through Rayva’s sales associate in Florida, Esteban Tettamante. I was a big fan of Hernan’s sharp, eclectic, sleek, contemporary style. Could this style translate into interiors for Rayva? I didn’t know, and it wasn’t important to know yet. Design talent is one thing, but I also believe in personal chemistry. If my design goals resonated with Hernan, great things could happen from this collaboration.

 

I explained Rayva’s basic design philosophy to him: Dimensional design elements or artwork presented against large, plain wall-mounted panels that conceal speakers and acoustic treatments. The designs in front of the panels are illuminated, gallery-like, by light sources positioned on the ceiling or incorporated into the artwork itself.

 

Hernan seemed to appreciate the challenge and we agreed to meet again in the next few weeks to review his initial concepts. I can’t wait for that meeting.

 

I will keep you posted as our design collaboration develops. And I look forward to working with more designers of Hernan’s caliber.

Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

REVIEWS

Incredibles 2 review
Ant-Man review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

ALSO ON CINELUXE

Full Metal Jacket

Netflix Full Metal Jacket

Received wisdom thinks dark, gritty movies are a recent phenomena, but they really began working their way into the mainstream right around the time the studio system began to unravel, beginning with Aldrich’s 1955 Kiss Me Deadly. They hit their peak—along with a lot of other styles and genres—in 1968, the year of Night of the Living Dead, and have had an insidious influence on just above every kind of film ever since.

 

Lynch, seeing the culture take the reactionary turn he wanted but sensing it couldn’t hold, took them someplace new in 1986 with Blue Velvet. But the film that’s probably had the biggest influence on contemporary grim is Kubrick’s 1987 Full Metal Jacket.

 

It’s a troubling film in more than one way—partly because you can sense the master starting to lose his grip. But it’s also fearless—something you can’t say about practically any of the noisy and abusive but heavily risk-averse stuff that’s come in its wake.

 

Don’t expect to see a pristine image when you watch Jacket on Netflix—but this isn’t a pristine movie, so that’s not the end of the world. Kubrick wanted it to have a washed-out, documentary feel, and I suspect even a print as distressed as the Vietnam combat footage he was aping would be really compelling to watch. But streamed, the darker the film gets, the more the various artifacts come to the fore until by the infamous sniper scene there are whole mosaics of tiling to distract you.

 

But even Kubrick on the wane is a better investment than just about any film made by anyone ever, so this is worth watching under just about any circumstances. And Netflix’ streamed version isn’t awful—it’s just not as good as it should be.

Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and
now this.

REVIEWS

Cafe Society

Woody Allen Cafe Society

I’ve never understood—and never will—what anybody saw in Midnight in Paris, except maybe a vision of Allen as a dealer in contrivance and platitudes instead of the serious filmmaker he can sometimes be. It was a not very convincing concatenation of gestures he’d delivered with far more depth and flair in earlier films—The Purple Rose of Cairo in particular.

 

Meanwhile, Café Society was greeted with a general ho-hum—which is scandalous, given that it’s a far, far better film. No, it’s not perfect—but why would anybody want a Woody Allen film to be perfect? What it is—and what it has in common with Blue Jasmine—is that it’s both astute and felt. And when was the last time you saw a film like that?

 

It’s a literary film—a dirty word in Hollywood, worthy of death—which is to say it has the pacing and careful observations of a novella. I can understand why that wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but it ought to be worthy of everyone’s consideration.

 

The digital cinematography is jarring at first, and never quite feels true, feeling too sharp and sterile. But the material and performances are better than the way they’re captured, and add up to something superior, by leagues, to the too contrived, relentlessly smartass confections that currently pass for serious film.

 

Anybody who passes on Café Society is missing the chance to experience a film that, for all its flaws, gets far more right than it ever gets wrong—which makes it something of a miracle in a contemporary cinema that, lost in its own sound and fury, almost always comes up short.

Michael Gaughn

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and
now this.

REVIEWS

“Warrior” and “Southpaw”

Kaleidescape Warrior

If you watched or visited a sports or news website in August 2017, you undoubtedly heard about the Floyd Mayweather Jr./Conor McGregor super fight in Las Vegas. While the fight seemed to go mostly accordingly to everyone’s plan, it went a solid ten rounds, and seems to have lived up to the hype and given the fans a good show.

 

Inspired by that massive spectacle, I came up with a couple of boxing-themed recommendations: Warrior and Southpaw.

 

Released in 2011, Warrior features a terrific cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, and Nick Nolte, and follows estranged brothers Brendan (Edgerton) and Tommy Conlon (Hardy) as they train for a massive, winner-take-all MMA tournament. The fights in the octagon are hard, fast, and real, yet the action is all PG-13, so they aren’t too bloody and brutal. The acting and pacing keep you involved and invested over the film’s 2 hours and 20 minute run time, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel track puts you right in the ring with crowd noise and solid connection of blows, as the movie builds to the inevitable brother-on-brother climax.

 

Southpaw (2015) follows practically every cliché formula in the book yet manages to be incredibly entertaining, dramatic, and enjoyable nonetheless. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, an avid boxer himself, the movie is filled with heart and has a terrific script with believable dialogue that keeps it from seeming like another retread. The supporting cast of Forest Whitaker, who throws himself into the role of trainer, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who ably handles the role of sleazy agent/promoter, and Rachel McAdams as the concerned wife, helps to create a fully rounded story. But it’s Jake Gyllenhaal in the leading role of Billy Hope that truly shines. Gyllenhaal got his body ripped and shredded for this role, put in a ton of training to move and fight like a fighter, and terrifically conveys Hope’s troubled I’ll-do-anything-to-get-back quest for redemption. And while “only” 1080p, the film has some terrific video detail. Check out the pool scene where Jordan Mains (Jackson) is talking to Mo’ (McAdams), and look at the fine pattern detail and texture in Mains’ jacket and hat. Stunning!

 

Both films are available in Blu-ray-quality download from the Kaleidescape Movie Store, and will be sure to entertain both boxing/fighting fans and non- alike!

—John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.