Tech

The Evolution of Front Projection

front projection

In his recent contribution to our ongoing discussion about media rooms, Theo Kalomirakis wrote about the need, as an AV system integrator, to approach the media room concept with an open mind. Whereas he once shunned media rooms as a lesser alternative to a dedicated home theater, he now acknowledges that the demand for more casual home entertainment spaces is growing, and the industry needs to creatively adapt.

 

Perhaps no segment of the home theater market has needed to adapt as much as the front projection category. Nothing screams dedicated home theater like a projector, and getting people to embrace the use of a two-piece video system over a big-screen TV in a den or living room is certainly a challenge. It has forced both projector and screen manufacturers to think outside the light-controlled box known as the theater room.

 

Projectors used to be divided into two main categories: home and business. Now the home market has further splintered into home theater and home entertainment. For a home theater projector, black level is king. You want a projector that can serve up lusciously deep blacks to give the entire image a greater sense of contrast and depth in your fully light-controlled room.

 

But, when people move out of the theater and into a den or media room—where the lights often stay on and daytime TV watching is an expected practice—a projector’s light output becomes a lot more important. These days we see a lot more 2,500- to 3,200-lumen projectors at lower price points. Epson’s premium Pro Cinema line even includes several ultra-bright models in the 4,800- to 6,000-lumen range.

 

Projector manufacturers have also been forced to make their products a bit more TV-like in their features, adding things like TV tuners, built-in speakers (which, in most cases, sound even worse than the speakers in flat-panel TVs, if you can believe it), instant on/off light sources, and MHL/MiraCast support to stream media content from mobile devices. LG has incorporated its WebOS smart platform into some of its DLP projectors.

front projection

Of course, no matter how bright a projector is, your basic matte white 1.0-gain screen just isn’t going to cut it in a well-lit room where people want to watch NFL football on Sunday afternoon. Screen manufacturers have also had to adapt, which has given rise to the hugely popular ambient-light rejecting (ALR) screen. As the name suggests, screen materials like Screen Innovations’ Black Diamond (shown above) are designed to reject light from nearby windows and lamps to improve image contrast. We’re also seeing a lot of “zero bezel” frames with sleeker designs meant to mimic the look of a flat-panel TV.

 

But there’s still that whole “two-piece system” problem. A TV is a nice, self-contained unit, and that’s what a lot of people want. They don’t want a projector on one side of the room and a screen on the other. Enter the ultra-short-throw projector, which can cast a big image from a small distance.

front projection

One of the more interesting categories to emerge is what I’ll call the all-in-one AV projection system—like Hisense’s new Laser TV system, which combines a 4K-friendly ultra-short-throw projector with a 100-inch screen and a Harman/Kardon sound system. In the same vein, Sony’s upcoming LSPX-A1 (shown at the top of the page) omits the screen but builds the native 4K projector and sound system into an attractive furniture cabinet (shown above) that blends into the room’s aesthetic when it’s not delivering an immersive AV experience. While pricey, these designs represent exactly the kind of creative thinking the AV industry needs as it moves outside the home theater.

—Adrienne Maxwell

Adrienne Maxwell has been writing about the home theater industry for longer than she’s
willing to admit. She is currently the AV editor at Wirecutter. Adrienne lives in Colorado,
where she spends far too much time looking at the Rockies and not nearly enough time
being in them.

REVIEWS

Wonder Woman review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

ALSO ON CINELUXE

Dolby Cinema–The Ultimate Movie Experience

Dolby Cinema

As home theater enthusiasts, we focus so much of our attention on the home experience that sometimes it’s easy to forget what home theater is really all about: Replicating the commercial cinema experience.

 

Granted, there is much about watching movies at home that can be far superior to jumping in the car and heading down to the local megaplex. The food and drink at home is better (and cheaper), the movie starts/pauses/stops on your schedule, you have total control over who you’re watching with, and the picture and sound quality are of known quality.

 

But, when done right, the commercial cinema experience can be fantastic, and I recently saw a film at a Dolby Cinema theater that reminded me of just how truly great a movie theater can be.

 

After CES ended, I had quite a bit of time to kill between the show ending at 4 pm Friday and my flight departing at 1 am Saturday. And while my usual practice is to while away as many hoursand drinksas possible at the Las Vegas McCarran American Express Centurion Lounge, this year I decided to take a Lyft across town and visit the AMC Theater in Town Square 18.

Dolby Cinema

My sole previous experience with a Dolby Cinema was at the company’s headquarters in downtown San Francisco. That building occupies 68,000 square feet and features mixing rooms for working with both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. It also contains a reference-standard lab (aka “theater”) where Dolby technicians can develop next-generation imaging and sound technologies.

 

The stars aligned as I just happened to be out visiting my parents in the Bay Area when Dolby launched the facility with the first screening in the new theater. That experience was so over-the-top impressive that I couldn’t wait to actually experience a Dolby Cinema in the wild.

 

Unfortunately, there aren’t any Dolby Cinema locations near me in South Carolina, making it a tough proposition. (Here’s the full list of locations.) Which is why once I discovered that this AMC cinema was outfitted with a Dolby Cinema screen, I knew it was a destination I had to add to my Vegas agenda.

 

A lot of components go into making the Dolby Cinema experience so impressive, and it starts before you even enter the seating area. This is a concept Dolby calls “inspired design,” which is meant to transport viewers into another space to be fully absorbed in the cinematic experience.

 

An audio/visual pathway with a full-motion HD video wall and immersive sound sets the mood as you walk into the auditorium. Once inside, your first impression is of the massive 68-foot-wide screen. This screen is so large, in fact, that I wasn’t even able to zoom my phone’s camera out enough to capture the whole thing in one frame. Compare that to what would be an insanely large home theater screen at around 14.5-feet wide (200-inch diagonal) and you can appreciate just how impressive this is.

 

The next thing you notice is the blackness. Everything is black. The walls, the ceiling, the area surrounding the screen, the seats, the carpeting. Sure, there are some colored accent lights, but this overwhelming black just sucks up all the light in the room and focuses all attention forward on that massive screen.

Dolby Cinema

There are 214 seats (plus seven ADA spots) in the Town Square’s Dolby Cinema, and you reserve your seat when buying your ticket. All the seats are oversized faux-leather powered recliners positioned in pairs where you can raise the middle arm rest to create a loveseat for couples. Even more amazing, the seats are positioned so you can’t see anyone behind or below you, making you feel like you’re in for a truly personal presentation.

 

But the really big deal, of course, is the theater’s picture and sound presentation, which is absolutely top notch and exceeds any movie-watching experience I’ve hadand that includes viewing movies at the Stag Theatre at Skywalker Ranch. (To be fair, it’s been several years since I’ve seen a film at the Stag, and it was actually still using film at the time, which is at a real disadvantage to a modern digital projector.)

 

The power behind the Dolby Cinema image quality is two Dolby co-designed and custom-built Christie Laser projectors, which Dolby describes as “quantifiably higher performance than any other technology out there.” These projectors deliver a staggering 31 foot-lamberts on screentwice the brightness of the SMPTE recommended standardproducing a picture that is more like watching a giant flat panel than a projector.

 

The Christies also have 500 times the dynamic range of a typical cinema projector, delivering the lowest black levels of any commercial projector, and producing an unbelievable 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. They can also reproduce true HDR images that have been graded in Dolby Vision specifically for these projectors. To drive the point home, a small clip runs prior to the movie that shows what you thought was blackkind of a deep greybefore showing what Dolby Cinema black is all about. It’s a new level of black, like watching an OLED next to an old DLP.

The second aspect that makes the presentation so spectacular is a full array of Dolby Atmos speakers, which completely immerses you in the audio presentation. (I reached out to Dolby for specifications on the Town Square theater as regard speaker numbers and wattage. They didn’t have specifics on that installation but said that, “The number of speakers varies from [theater] to [theater], based on the room size . . . [but] enough speakers [are installed] to ensure a smooth pan through of audio around the room.”) The sound is clear and detailed, with objects that swirl all around and overhead, and with bass that is massive, deep, and incredibly tight. Transducers in the seats also physically convey the impact as well.

 

The movie I saw was the latest Liam Neeson thriller, The Commuter, which was basically Taken-on-a-train, but offered some big explosions and action scenes that looked and sounded terrific.

 

If I had one minor quibble over the experience, it was that the movie started practically an hour after the scheduled showtime due to a string of now-coming trailers that seemed to never end. Honestly, I enjoy trailers, and the picture and sound were so good I didn’t have a big problem with it, but if I were on a time crunch, it would be nice to know when the actual showtime was compared to when the trailers begin.

 

Without question, Dolby Cinema is the best movie experience most of us will ever have. And if you’ve been turned off on going out to the movies, you owe it to yourself to visit one. If I lived near a Dolby Cinema, I would never see a movie anywhere else.

—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.

My New Tech Resolution

There are two people in my life whose book recommendations I never ignore. The first is my daughter, with whom I share a brain. The second is my friend and mentor Brent Butterworth, who is, without question, the smartest human I know. So when he casually dropped a reference to Robert Lustig’s The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains in a conversation last week, I immediately rushed out and bought it. What followed was two days of outright fascination, a bit of righteous anger, and a ton of self-reflection.

tech gadgets--Hacking of the American Mind

I mention this merely because that book was weighing heavily on my mind when I read Adrienne Maxwell’s missive about all the technology that enters our lives during the Holidays, and the stress some of it brings with it.

 

What could those two things possibly have to do with one another? Well, perhaps it’s worth explaining what the book is actually about, because its title is a little vague. In its 352 pages, Lustig digs deep into three of the primary limbic pathways in our brains and bodies: cortisol (stress), dopamine (pleasure), and serotonin (contentment). I won’t spoil the meat of the book, since it deserves to be read with a fresh mind, but one of the key takeaways is that we as a society have, through no fault of our own, been conditioned to conflate pleasure with happiness. And that conflation is, very literally, killing us.

tech gadgets--Roku Ultra

Adrienne’s post also hit home with me because I had my own experience with tech-related elation and stress this Christmas. One of my favorite gifts this year was a Roku Ultra, a desperately needed upgrade over my tired and overheating Roku Stick, which served me well for five years but has recently become more a source of frustration than streaming bliss.

 

Here’s where the problem begins, though: The Roku Ultra supports the latest in Ultra HD and high-dynamic-range video, but to unlock all of that video goodness it also requires the very latest in digital copy protection, which my TV supports but my surround sound processor lacks. And the Roku Ultra doesn’t have dual HDMI outputs as my Ultra HD Blu-ray player does, so there’s no workaround!

 

As soon as I unboxed it, I felt my cortisol-fueled dopamine pathway begin to kick into overdrive. I need to replace my surround sound processor, too, if I want to get the most out of this little black box!

 

In the end, of course, that’s ridiculous. I’ll eventually replace my surround processor when the time comes. For now, I’m perfectly content with the faster operation, fewer lockups, and more reliable streaming provided by the new Roku. As I should be. I wasn’t unhappy with my old Roku because it lacked the latest in video format support—I was unhappy with it because I needed to reboot it every day. The new box solved that problem. So why did I immediately find myself wanting more?

 

I don’t want to give the impression I’m anti-technology here. Someone whose home has its own operating system has no place going on any sort of anti-tech rant. My point in all this is that, going forward, I’m going to focus more on tech upgrades that alleviate frustrations from my life rather than give me a quick dose of dopamine and long-term stress.

tech gadgets--Ecobee thermostat

My Ecobee thermostat, for example? It gives me all sorts of fascinating readouts and data to peruse. It feeds my dopamine pathways by rewarding me for making slight tweaks to my programming, informed by the charts and graphs it generates each month. In the end, though, all of that fuss saves me mere pennies. My time and energy are better spent letting it do its own thing. In other words, as with most of the technology in my life, I’m happier when it disappears—when it doesn’t call for my constant attention.

 

I’m generally not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I’m making one this year: Any new tech I add to my home (and believe me, there’ll be plenty) must meet that criterion. It must remove stress from my life, not add to it. So, instead of that shiny new iPhone X I’ve been drooling over and absolutely don’t need? I think I’ll add a motion sensor to my shower instead, to automatically turn on the bathroom vent fan when I bathe, which I always forget to do on my own (much to the displeasure of the missus). Instead of upgrading my Control4 remote in the bedroom to the latest model? I think I’ll add a second remote to the media room, so my wife and I stop bickering over the one in there now.

 

In other words, all new tech purchases this year will be made with an eye toward happiness, not pleasure. Because I never realized before just how much those two emotions conflict with one another.

—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.

Can Alexa Cure Technophobia?

Alexa

I’ve had a few friends hop on the Amazon Alexa bandwagon recently, and invariably they all ask me the same sort of questions: “What are all the skills I need to install ASAP? How do I control my TV with this thing? Will she work my receiver? Can I teach her my favorite TV channels? What lights should I buy? Should I replace my thermostat?” In other words, they want Alexa to do everything, and they want her to do it now.

 

They ask me because they know I’m a huge proponent of home automation in general and of voice control specifically. My Control4 system forever changed the way I interact with my entertainment, and Alexa has changed the way I interact with my Control4 system.

 

So perhaps it’s a little surprising when I give all of these Alexa home-control newbies the same advice: Slow down. Take a deep breath. Stick your toe in the water and find what works best for you before you turn every aspect of your home-entertainment control over to this digital voice assistant.

Alexa

And I say that for two reasons. First, there’s a lot that Alexa—and indeed, Google Home and similar digital voice assistants—can do, but that doesn’t mean you need them to do it all. Fill your Alexa app with too many skills, and soon you’ll find yourself tongue-tied trying to remember the words and phrases that control your lights, your TV, your Dish Hopper DVR, etc.

 

Second—and perhaps more importantly—voice control is still in its infancy. Cineluxe compatriot John Sciacca and I are both Control4 programmers, and we often share programming tips and tricks. We’ve had tons of conversations that began, “How could I get Alexa to . . ?” only to end with, “So, yeah, probably not worth the trouble.”

 

We both agree that voice control, amazing as it may be, is pretty limited in many respects. Most things people want to do with voice commands could more easily be done with the press of a button.

 

Where we disagree is that I’m pretty okay with that. In my own home, Alexa has full control of my lights—I can’t remember the last time my wife or I actually touched a dimmer or light switch—and I have a few voice commands set up to fire up my home theater system and tune to a handful of favorite TV channels. Most of those simply serve as a convenience for those times when I’m on the floor, snuggling with our four-legged little boy, and don’t feel like getting up to grab the remote.

 

So how can I justify saying that Alexa has changed the way my wife and I interact with our home if our voice-control commands are as simple as all that? In many ways, I think it’s because Alexa has made my wife more comfortable with technology by giving a personality to these impersonal black boxes.

 

A year ago, she was a veritable technophobe. These days, she’s tinkering with skills integration just out of curiosity—coming up with new ways to manage our grocery list with Alexa, for example. And as a result, she’s thinking more about the ways in which all of our control and entertainment devices connect.

 

She’s asking more questions. She’s using our Control4 system more, and in ways that have nothing to do with Alexa but can be directly traced to the fact that Alexa has made her more comfortable with control and entertainment technology.

 

There’s something to be said for that, I think. Even if voice control isn’t the main course when it comes to home-entertainment control, it’s certainly the spice that makes it more palatable for some people. And for now, that’s enough to really excite me.

—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.

REVIEWS

Wonder Woman review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

Video Displays: How Good Is Good Enough? Pt. 2

video display innovations

The Avatar sequel is reportedly being shot at 120 frames per second—5 times the
frame rate of the traditional 24 fps.

In Pt. 1, I discussed how improvements in color space and dynamic range are bringing video displays closer to the abilities of the human eye. Here I’m going to discuss the impact of spatial resolution and refresh or frame rate.

 

Pixels get all the attention when most people pick out their TVs. 2K, 4K, 8Khow many K’s do I need? But just because a display can put more pixels on the screen doesn’t mean they’re better pixels. 

 

Everyone has had the experience of going to the eye doctor and straining to see if that E is pointing up or down, or left or right. As you go from the top line to the bottom, there’s a point where you can no longer determine which direction the E is pointing. This is how the eye doctor determines your sensitivity to spatial resolution.

 

My eyes aren’t quite as good as they used to be, but on a flat-screen TV, I can see pixels on a 1080 display when I’m standing about 3X the picture height back. On a 4K, I can’t see pixels until I get inside of 1.5X the screen height. With projectors, you need to be even closer to see pixels as a result of the natural smoothing affect of convergence and optical lenses.

 

If I’m staring at a spreadsheet, those pixels and distances are pretty accurate, much like staring at those E’s at the eye doctor. But if I’m watching a movie, I’m not straining my eyes to see pixels but instead want to take in the whole image, so I’m moving further back. 4K allows me to sit comfortably about 2X the screen height back, which is as close as I’d ever want to watch a movie. So for the future, don’t give me more pixels, give me better pixels!!!

 

So far, I’ve been talking about pixels, but unless I’m only talking about spreadsheets, I need to understand more about how the human eye sees motion. After all, I want to watch movies!

video display innovations

James Cameron, of Avatar fame, was one of the first Hollywood producers to push HFR (high frame rate). The original movie spec was 24P, and it was chosen because it was the lowest refresh to allow acceptable audio quality. This means that the entire image on the screen is refreshed 24 times per second.

 

If I’m watching two people sitting across a table from each other talking, slow frame rate doesn’t bother me. But if I’m watching a plane fly across the sky, or Matt Damon jumping from one building to another in a chase scene, I need faster refresh rates. When you look in the sky and see a plane fly by, you see it move in a nice, smooth continuous motion. But when you watch a movie in 24P, the plane will seem to jump across the screen as it moves from frame to frame. Your brain naturally tries to smooth this out, but when you watch two scenesone with HFR and one withoutyou appreciate the difference.

 

The critics say HFR makes images seem “soap opera”-like, but honestly, isn’t that the way we see things in real life? When we walk through everyday life, does the world look more like a soap opera or a movie? (I did say “look” and not “feel.”)

 

So currently we hover between 24P for movies, and 60P for video. Experts seem to feel that the threshold for the human eye is around 120Hz (which is what the Avatar sequel is rumored to be shot in). Let me please note that HFR means the movie or content was shot or captured in this high frame rate, not just displayed at faster refresh.

 

Many flat panels tout 240Hz or even 600Hz refresh, but that is just refreshing the same content on the panel and is intended to fix deficiencies in the panels, not in the quality of the movie. HFR requires a lot of bandwidth, so improvements here are costly, but they have a big impact on the way we see images. So expect this to take a little longer than the other items discussed here.

 

In the past 10 years, we’ve seen improvements in all aspects of display performance that affect visual acuity. In the next 10 years, we will see even more improvements. The most important thing is that it’s not just about resolution. Getting to 8K will not bring us to the ultimate display.  In fact, most people won’t see any improvement from going from 8 million pixels to 33 million pixels. If we all want to watch video and have it replicate real life, we don’t really need more pixelswe need better pixels. Give me pixels with more color, more contrast, and refresh them on the screen faster. In the meantime, give me content that will really take advantage of all that my current 4K UHD display can handle. 

—George Walter

A 25-year veteran of the video-display industry, George Walter has been a vice president
at Digital Projection, where he founded its residential division, and a board member for both
CEDIA and Azione. George is the President of Rayva.

REVIEWS

Wonder Woman review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

Video Displays: How Good is Good Enough?

TV innovations

The last few years, we’ve seen continual improvement in the performance of flat-panel TVs and projectors. Where will it stop? What is the Holy Grail in video display anyway?

 

The answer to that question is different for everyone, but the solution is the same. When the display is capable of creating an image that meets all the limitations of the human eye, there’s no reason to keep improving. Everyone’s eyes see the world slightly different, whether it be color, contrast, sharpness, or action. That’s why some people hate 3D and others love it. (But that’s a topic for another discussion.)

 

To compare what a typical person can see versus today’s top displays, we need to look at four areas that affect the imaging in the human brain: color, contrast, spatial resolution, and refresh or frame rate.

 

First, let’s look at color. We’ve recently heard talk about “color space” or “color gamut.” This is defined in fancy three-dimensional charts, but basically it’s the total volume of color the eye can see or a display can create. 

 

When REC 709—the color standard for HDTV—first came out, it could reproduce about 35% of the total colors the human eye can see. P3, or digital-cinema color space, took the amount to about 50%. Most of us—especially those of us who remember NTSC—think this looks incredible, and yet we’re still only at 50%.

TV innovations

The triangle within the chromaticity diagram on the left shows the color space for HDTV while
the triangle on the right shows the significantly expanded color space for 4K Ultra High Definition

New discussions are about REC 2020, which will take the total color space to 75% of what the eye can see. Some flat panels can do this now, but projectors have a tough time reaching this with conventional lamps and will require pure RGB laser to achieve both the color space and light output needed to really appreciate all those colors.

 

In roughly 10 years, we’ve doubled the color space that can be seen on a consumer display, yet very little content is available to appreciate the full scope of this improvement. There’s still some room for improvement, but the big gains have already been accomplished.

 

Now let’s look at contrast. The human eye is an amazing organ. If you remember from science class, it’s made up of cones and rods, which are microscopic sensors that can detect content and send images to the brain.

 

Rods work at very low light levels (like when you wake up in the middle of the night) and cones need a lot more light and are used to see color. At night, the iris in our eye opens up to let more light in, but the rods don’t detect much color so we pretty much see in black and white. In this condition, we can see a lot of detail in black levels. On a nice sunny day, we get lots of light and color into our eye, and the cones take over. If we compare what the human eye can see in low light levels to what we can see in bright daylight, our range of contrast is huge.

TV innovations

HDR (high dynamic range) comes much closer to approximating human vision than
does SDR (standard dynamic range)

This is the magic of HDR. By applying different values to bright scenes than it does to dark ones, it more closely matches how the human eye responds, providing much more dynamic contrast. HDR has the most overall impact on picture performance than anything we’ve seen since HDTV, and yet few can explain how and why it works. (Not to mention that there are so many watered-down variations.) But let your eye decide, and it will see the impact of HDR every time from anywhere in the room. 

 

In Part 2, I’ll talk about spatial resolution, refresh or frame rate, and why pixel counts aren’t as important as you might think they are.

George Walter

A 25-year veteran of the video-display industry, George Walter has been a vice president
at Digital Projection, where he founded its residential division, and a board member for both
CEDIA and Azione. George is the President of Rayva.

REVIEWS

Wonder Woman review
Blade Runner: The Final Cut review
Lawrence of Arabia review

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

Why UHD Is Way Better Than HDTV–Pt. 2

Ultra HD

In yesterday’s post, I talked about how resolution and HDR (High Dynamic Range) contribute to making Ultra HD TVs and projectors a huge leap over traditional HDTVs. Here are the other two things you need to know about UHD.

 

Color

A new term you might hear when considering Ultra HD is “wide color gamut,” which refers to the significantly larger amount of colors a UHD set can produce compared to an older TV. Imagine the colors a TV can produce as a triangle, with the primary colors red, green, and blue making up the three points. Those three color points determine the number and accuracy of all the colors a TV can reproduce. New TVs produce an expanded triangle of colors, pushing the boundaries of the triangle further out at all three corners to encompass more of the colors the human eye can see. That means you’ll notice brighter, more vibrant colors than ever beforedeep crimson reds, vibrant greens, and cool, tropical blues that will pull you into the image.

Ultra HD
Bit Depth

The most technical area of the bunch, bit depth refers to the number of shades of color a TV can produce. TVs in the past used 8-bit color depth, which meant they could produce roughly 256 shades for each of the three primary colors256 shades each of blue, red, and green. Multiply those together and you arrive at the nearly 16.8 million colors a last-generation TV could produce.

 

Modern Ultra HD sets up the ante to 10 bits, and while a couple of bits might not seem like a lot, since bit rate is logarithmic, it’s actually a massive improvement. How massive? Modern sets can produce 1,024 shades per color, making for the ultimate Crayon box of more than 1 billion colors! That means not only a tremendously more lifelike image, but it also eliminates any color banding as colors transition from one shade to another.

Ultra HD TV

Individually, any one of these four improvements would be a big step beyond HDTV, but when employed together, these upgrades mean Ultra-high-defintion TVs produce the best, most lifelike images imaginable, making UHD TV a must buy for any true videophile!

—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.

ALSO ON CINELUXE

Why UHD Is Way Better Than HDTV–Pt. 1

HDTV vs Ultra HD TV

If you’re in the market for a new TV or projector, you’ve likely been bombarded by a lot of new terms and technologies you haven’t heard before. Ultra HD (aka Ultra-high-definition or UHD) burst onto the scene a few years ago and brought with it some major changes and improvements to our display systems. And now that prices are reaching mass-market levels, it would be foolish to buy a new set that wasn’t Ultra HD.

 

Wondering what all the fuss is about? In today’s post, I’ll talk about the first two things you need to know about this exciting new video tech and will discuss the final two tomorrow.

 

Resolution

The height of home video prior to Ultra HD was called 1080p, with the “p” standing for “progressive.” Those sets produced 1,920 horizontal pixels and 1,080 vertical pixels for a total of just over 2 million pixels on screen at any moment. UHD doubles the number of pixels in both directions, producing a resolution of 3,840 by 2,160, delivering nearly 8.3 million pixels on screen, or four times the amount of 1080p. That is why Ultra HD is often referred to as “4K”.

 

What do all those extra pixels mean? Greater definition, razor-edge sharpness, and finer details. Video artifacts like “jaggies” and “moire” are a thing of the past. Every strand of hair, every blade of grass, every grain of sand shows up like never before. As an illustration, imagine if you had a pencil and drew two same-sized circles, one with 10 dots and one with 40 dots. The 40-dot circle would have more resolution and be better defined. That’s the difference between 1080p and UHD.

HDTV vs Ultra HD TV
HDR

HDR is another term you’re going to hear a lot. It stands for High Dynamic Range, and it’s actually more important for picture quality than all those extra pixels. If you’ve taken any pictures on a modern smartphone, you’ve probably noticed the HDR tag. It works by capturing images with different exposures and then combining those separate images into a single photo that maintains the detail from the darkest and brightest regions.

 

In the past, TVs would “crush” the image at one end of the spectrum or the other, sacrificing black levels in bright scenes or lowering overall light output in dark scenes. But new Ultra HD TVs can simultaneously produce deep, dark blacks and bright, brilliant whites, meaning they can deliver images more like what your eye is capable of seeing. This gives the image great contrast, and delivers punch, depth, and reality like never before.

 

In Pt. 2, I’ll walk you through the other two crucial things you need to know about Ultra HD.

—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.

How Kaleidescape Delivers Real HD

Best of 2017--Strato Movie Player

You wouldn’t wait two years for delivery of your new Ferrari 488GTB only to immediately fill the tank with the cheapest E80 ethanol blend you could find and then expect to blast off in a neck-snapping sub-three-second-to-sixty launch down the road. No. If you expect to squeeze the maximum performance from a high-performance machine like a Ferrari, you understand the need to give it the right fuel.

 

But that’s the technology equivalent of what people do to their home theater systems every day when they stream massively compressed content from Internet sites.

 

I believe it was Forrest Gump who said, “Bits is as bits does,” and the more bitsor dataa source has, the better the picture and sound will tend to be. But since shuttling massive amounts of data around the Internet is a tricky proposition, video delivery services like Netflix and Amazon use some serious compression to shrink video file sizes and make them more manageable. This not only saves them on storage space and server issues, it also helps to avoid the dreaded “Buffering . . .” screens people loathe.

 

The result, however, is highly compromised video that might look viewable on a phone or tablet but will show a variety of ills when displayed on a large screen. And while the resolution might technically be 1080p or even 4K, bandwidth compression robs the image of detail and depth, and often the modern lossless high-resolution soundtrack is replaced with late-‘90s Dolby Digital.

 

Earlier this week, Theo waxed about how gorgeous the 4K restoration of Lawrence of Arabia was, and how when viewed through a Barco projector with a Kaleidescape Strato providing the image, it looked even better than what he remembered seeing theatrically years ago.

 

Part of why the image looked so good is that Kaleidescape painstakingly creates a video file for its Movie Store that retains every bit of information found on the original disc with no additional compression or data reduction. Every pixel, every nuance of color, and every fleck of detail. Kaleidescape is also the only movie download service that delivers the same high-resolution audio track found on the disc, meaning you can enjoy that immersive new Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio soundtrack in your theater that you paid so much for.

 

The result is a file that’s often massive in size.

 

How massive? As a comparison, Lawrence of Arabia clocks in at 7.65 Gigabytes if downloaded in 1080p from Apple’s iTunes. The same film is 12.24 Gigs when downloaded using Vudu’s HDX. But the 1080p download from Kaleidescape is a whopping 68.6 Gigabytes, or almost ten times larger than the iTunes file. And that pales when compared to the drive hogging 111.3 Gigs needed for the Ultra HD transfer of Lawrence.

 

How does Kaleidescape do this when others can’t or won’t? One way is they don’t offer any streamingall movies must be downloaded in their entirety before viewing. The upshot is that there’s never any buffering, and since the content resides on a hard drive on your local system, it’s always ready for immediate playback with no dependency on network speeds and always presented in maximum, pristine quality.

 

Bottom line: Garbage in, garbage out. Don’t expect to take a state-of-the-art audio/video system and feed it a highly compressed stream from the Internet and expect your system to shine.

—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.