The Cineluxe Hour

Ep. 14: Barry Sonnenfeld on . . . a Little Bit of Everything

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Knowing that Barry Sonnenfeld has just finished shooting a series for Apple TV+—a tongue-in-cheek take on Studio Era musicals called Smigadoon—and that it was one of the first projects to go into production in the midst of the pandemic, we were curious to check in to see how he fared. He proved eager to talk not just about how he and his team rose to that challenge but about a slew of other topics as well, especially his plans to create a new screening room in a less than hospitable space.

 

Given all the ground we covered, it seemed best to opt out of the usual description of topics and provide a stripped-down road map instead:

 

4:39     His experiences shooting during the pandemic.

8:15     The virtues of filming in Vancouver.

8:52     The similarities of shooting Smigadoon and A Series of Unfortunate Events.

11:23   The similarities between Smigadoon and Pushing Daisies & his other work.

13:17   Apple TV’s and Netflix’s requirements for shooting in 4K.

15:33   Fighting HDR.

17:48   8K.

19:17   Working with Apple TV and Netflix vs. traditional studios.

22:37   The emergence of cinematic television.

23:53   His various screening rooms.

26:05   The challenges and opportunities of his new screening room.

26:44   The Apple app for accessing Academy screeners.

27:32   Jumping into Atmos.

28:38   Digital room correction.

29:06   Get Shorty.

35:45   Can they pull off the Oscars this year?

37:02   Somehow, we end up talking about the designated-hitter rule.

37:52   The fate of movie theaters and its impact on film financing.

40:21   Should streaming-only content be eligible for Oscar consideration?

41:12   Doing professional film production on an iPhone.

42:55   His James Randi project.

44:33   The intersection of art and technology.

44:59   The one good thing about 8K.

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Michael GaughnThe Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review, Sound & Vision, The Rayva Roundtablemarketing, product design, some theater designs, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and now this.

Ep. 13: 4K Changes Everything

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With the all but complete absence of new movie releases over the past year, the studios have turned their attention to beefing up older titles with 4K HDR makeovers, which has led to both some extraordinary and some subpar releases. In the first part of the podcast, Dennis Burger, Michael Gaughn, and John Sciacca talk about the impact this has had on reviewing movies and how it can be difficult to watch even Blu-ray-quality releases if there might be a UHD upgrade on the horizon.

 

At 9:55, the conversation turns to the impact of the proliferation of 75-inch and larger home displays and of streaming services now consistently offering 4K content. At 24:35, John, Mike, and Dennis talk about the differences in quality between the various streaming providers.

 

27:43 brings a discussion of the Christmas Day Soul vs. Wonder Woman 1984 matchup and of the perils of subscribing to HBO Max. At 32:39, talk pivots to whether it will be possible to have a legitimate Academy Awards presentation this year.

 

And the podcast wraps up at 36:25 with John and Dennis presenting what they’ve seen recently that’s worth watching.

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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.

Michael GaughnThe Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review, Sound & Vision, The Rayva Roundtablemarketing, product design, some theater designs, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and now this.

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.

Ep. 12: What the Hell’s Going On with the Movies? (Christmas Edition)

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After a prolonged drought of episodes, we were able to knock out a couple back-to-back. So here, on the heels of our conversation with Paradise Theater’s Sam Cavitt and his client William Erb, comes our look at the strangest holiday movie season in memory.

 

So many momentous, and in some cases bizarre, events have played out with film releases since we recorded Episode 10: “What the Hell’s Going On with the Movies?” that some kind of followup seemed in order. What will happen on and around Christmas Day will likely have a huge impact on what happens with theatrical and home movie releases throughout 2021.

 

The episode opens with Dennis and Mike outlining the events, like the disastrous theatrical release of Tenet, that have led to the movie studios pinning their hopes on streaming—at least for the near future.

 

At 2:25, Dennis talks about Warner Bros.’ decision to finally release Wonder Woman 1984, and the implications of it appearing both in theaters and on the subscriber-challenged HBO Max at the same time.

 

At 9:35, we discuss Warner’s sudden and unexpected decision to use the WW84 release as the model for all of its big releases for the foreseeable future—and the resulting pushback from filmmakers.

 

14:30 brings a comparison of Warner Bros.’ fumbling efforts and Disney’s far more nimble and successful responses to the same challenges—which leads at 17:55 to considering the likely outcome of WW84 going up against Pixar’s Soul on Disney+ on Christmas Day.

 

19:55 brings a recounting of the horrors of trying to access HBO Max, and we wrap everything up beginning at 23:17 by handicapping WW84‘s likely box-office returns compared to what it probably would have made with a traditional release.

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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.

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

Ep. 11: Inside The Minema with Sam Cavitt & William Erb

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This episode is the first chance we’ve had on The Cineluxe Hour to really dive deep into the creation of a luxury home theater. And the room explored here is a trailblazing effort that goes beyond being able to produce a better-than-movie-theater experience at home to include state-of-the-art video- and teleconferencing—a need that has come to the forefront as the pandemic has caused more and more people to work from home.

 

Since this theater, dubbed the Minema (for “mini cinema”), was essentially a collaboration between designer Sam Cavitt and his client, William Erb, we interviewed both William and Sam about the process that led to its creation.

 

Sam Cavitt (a frequent contributor to the site who we’ve featured in Cineluxe Trendsetters) is known for designing—and spreading the gospel about—no-compromise home entertainment spaces, which he prefers to call private cinemas.

 

William Erb isn’t a typical client. His enthusiasm for high-quality video and audio caused him to get deeply involved in the planning, building, and tweaking of the Minema. The mandate to create a high-end movie-watching and music-listening space that could also accommodate conferencing was difficult enough, but Sam and Willam had to make it all work within the constraints of a high-end LA condo.

 

Here’s an overview of the episode:

 

1:18  Sam talks about how a designer is different from an integrator, and how only a small group of people do what he does.

4:04  Sam discusses the kinds of clients he usually works with, and what makes someone a Cinema Connoisseur.

5:27  Sam introduces Willam, who talks about how he found Sam and brought together the team that created his theater.

10:34  What Sam and his company bring to a project like the Minema.

13:10  How Sam collaborates with integrators.

15:32  William describes his approach to finding the trades to create a theater.

18:01  William gives his objectives for the Minema.

20:12  The emergence of multi-use luxury theaters.

23:14  The problems of doing sound isolation in a condo.

29:00  William talks about how the theater was developed for more than just movie watching and what his expectations were for videoconferencing.

32:45  How to create a space where none of the functions are compromised.

37:19  The recent surge in demand for luxury home cinemas—and for making them more flexible.

42:10  William’s future expectations for his theater.

44:09  Sam on appreciating a private cinema as a luxury item.

46:29  William on how video- and teleconferencing is a great opportunity for integrators.

47:36  William on how beginning the planning of a theater by giving the integrator a budget number can actually hurt a client’s chances of getting what they’re looking for.

50:09  Sam talks about the importance of thinking of a private cinema as an experience and a luxury acquisition instead of just some room for watching movies.

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Sam Cavitt is the founder & CEO of Paradise Theater. His firm has collaborated with leading integrators, architects, designers & builders on nearly a thousand of the world’s finest private cinemas, employing an exclusive process that assures excellence always. Sam is also spearheading Cinema Connoisseur, an initiative to create a community of enthusiasts—cinema connoisseurs—both professional and public to embrace and enhance the world of private cinema and film. He likes to spend his spare time in Maui surfing, sailing, paddling & drumming.

William Erb is a longstanding movie enthusiast, music lover & home AV tinkerer. He has been using his spare time, now that he is semi-retired after a career in banking and biotech, to renovate his new home in Los Angeles with a private cinema and a distributed audio system, both state-of-the art. William became a client of Sam Cavitt’s Paradise Theater in the very early stages of his renovation project. He was lucky enough to get the private cinema completed just before lockdown, and is glad not to need an excuse to stay home to watch movies and listen to music. 

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

Ep. 10: What the Hell’s Going On with the Movies?

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After a longish hiatus, The Cineluxe Hour returns with a wide-ranging, freewheeling discussion of what’s been happening with new movie releases over the past year, and what that means for the movie theaters and for people watching films at home.

 

The episode opens with Cineluxe’s Dennis Burger, Michael Gaughn, and John Sciacca laying out the chronology from how the movie studios initially reacted to the pandemic through the decision to pull movies like Bloodshot, The Invisible Man, and Onward from theaters and offer them for home viewing.

 

At 9:35, John, Dennis, and Mike recount the events that led to the disastrous release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in theaters, and the impact that decision has had on other movie releases.

 

At 14:45, Dennis and John discuss their recent columns about Christie’s patent to allow theaters to send first-run movies to people’s homes.

 

18:37: How the pandemic has accelerated the decline of movie theaters and the flourishing of streaming, and how the theaters might not be able to recover.

 

20:25: How the proliferation of inexpensive high-quality big-screen video displays is allowing a much larger number of people to have a better-than-movie-theater experience at home. But John raises concerns that this could signal the end of the “event” movie.

 

27:15: Dennis discusses Disney’s decision to send Pixar’s Soul straight to Disney+ and to reorganize its company to focus on streaming.

 

31:30: Michael speculates that the world has changed so much over the past eight months that movies the studios have been hanging onto, like No Time to Die, The Batman, and Wonder Woman 1984, might seem out of touch and out of date by the time the studios finally release them.

 

And, lastly, at 34:07, everyone nominates their favorite older films that look exceptional after receiving a 4K HDR upgrade.

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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.

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

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.

Ep. 9: New Frontiers in Content & Compression

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Episode 9 opens with hosts Michael Gaughn & Dennis Burger talking about Dennis’s piece
on the surprisingly high quality of 4K streaming when watched using the right device.

 

At 6:18, Cineluxe contributor Andrew Robinson joins Mike & Dennis to discuss how Netflix
might be a threat to both the TV networks & the movie studios but the really innovative
programming isn’t happening on Netflix but on YouTube.

 

At 33:22, Cineluxe contributor John Higgins joins Andrew, Dennis & Mike to discuss the
controversy set off by the literally unwatchable Game of Thrones “Long Night” episode
and whether we can expect to see compression problems disappear any time soon.

 

The episode concludes at 59:20 with everyone (except Mike) talking about the most
interesting things they’re watched, listened to, or experienced in the past two weeks.

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Andrew Robinson is a photographer and videographer by trade, working on commercial and branding projects all over the US. He has served as a managing editor and freelance journalist in the AV space for nearly 20 years, writing technical articles, product reviews, and guest speaking on behalf of several notable brands at functions around the world.

John Higgins lives a life surrounded by audio. When he’s not writing for Cineluxe, IGN, or Wirecutter, he’s a professional musician and sound editor for TV/film. During his down time, he’s watching Star Wars or learning from his toddler son, Neil.

Ep. 8: Who Needs 8K?

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Hosts Michael Gaughn & Dennis Burger open Episode 8 with an apology for the long gap between episodes, caused by a technical glitch.

 

At 4:39, Cineluxe contributor Adrienne Maxwell and Wirecutter senior staff writer Chris Heinonen—arguably the two biggest experts on video displays in the industry—join Dennis & Mike to discuss the emergence of and potential for 8K video.

 

At  26:37, Chris and Dennis discuss Chris’s online 4K viewing-distance calculator, and at 30:32, everybody talks about the movies, series, and books they’ve checked out recently.

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Ep. 7: Theo on Theaters

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Continuing the discussion from Episode 6 of how home theaters are now definitely better
than movie theaters, Episode 7 opens with hosts Michael Gaughn & Dennis Burger
discussing Dennis’s recent post on how even streaming can be better than a movie theater.

 

At 10:14, Dennis & Michael welcome the father of home theater, Theo Kalomirakis, back to
the podcast to talk about what impact the better-than-movie-theater experience at 
home
has had on both his work and his personal love of movie-watching.

 

At 22:28, the discussion turns to the influence the superior home viewing experience is
having on filmmaking. Theo also provides a brief update on the efforts of his company,
Rayva, to offer simple-to-install luxury home theaters
.

 

Ep. 7 concludes at 32:13 with a survey of what everyone’s watched over the past week,
followed by a guest appearance by Dennis’s son, Bruno.

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Ep. 6: Home Theaters are Better Than Movie Theaters

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Hosts Michael Gaughn & Dennis Burger open Episode 6 with a brief discussion of how Dennis’s favorite show, Critical Role, recently made headlines by becoming the most successful video-production Kickstarter campaign ever. Dennis & Mike talk about the impact of alternate forms of production on TV & movies.

 

At 11:28, Cineluxe contributor Andrew Robinson joins the podcast for the first time, accompanied by fellow contributor John Sciacca. Everybody discusses how a home theater with the right gear, properly installed, can easily top the performance of a typical movie theater. But it turns out the biggest contributor to a better-than-movie-theater experience at home might not be the tech.

 

The show wraps up at 39:14, with a quick survey of what everybody’s watched during the past week, which runs the gamut from They Shall Now Grow Old to Love, Death, and Robots.

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Ep. 5: How to Find the Perfect Integrator

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Episode 5 opens with hosts Michael Gaughn and Dennis Burger setting the stage for a discussion of technology integrators—what used to be called “custom installers”—the people you hire to install TVs, speakers, projectors, and security and lighting systems.

 

At 3:39, Josh Christian of the Home Technology Association, Eric Thies of DSI Luxury Technology in Los Angeles, Ed Gilmore of Gilmore’s Sound Advice in New York, and our our own John Sciacca join Mike & Dennis to discuss Eric’s “How to Find the Perfect Integrator” and John’s “Why HTA Is the Real Deal,” and to talk about how HTA can help somebody locate the right integrator to install their technology.

 

At 42:47, Mike, Dennis, and John talk about some of the movies they’ve seen recently—including The Umbrella Academy, Ralph Wrecks the Internet, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; Mike talks about Pixar’s decline; and John discusses his fondness for the Mister Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

PODCAST GUESTS

Josh Christian, director of certification, Home Technology Association

Ed Gilmore, owner & founder, Gilmore’s Sound Advice, New York, NY

John Sciacca, co-owner, Custom Theater & Audio, Murrells Inlet, SC

Eric Thies, principal, DSI Luxury Technology, Los Angeles

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