The following article originally appeared in Wide Screen Review (WSR) magazine and is being republished courtesy of the author, Terry Paullin.
I love my job. Have I mentioned that before? If you'll excuse the mixed metaphors, I have my fingers in enough pies that I get to look out over the landscape of our amusing little avocation and see Engineering genius stacked up next to Marketing faux pas (uh, let's call them mis-directions, unclear as to legitimate intent or not) on a regular basis. Sometimes it boggles the mind.
Things to like as I look around are, of course, all Industry advancements to the general enjoyment of Home Theatre at any level. An ongoing trend for some time, but worth noting again as evidence the trend continues, are values in front projector offerings. Perhaps because we use it in the ISF class, the Epson PC9700UB comes to mind. This would be a competitive projector in the 8K range, but the fact is it lists for less than half that! The thing that makes it so good in my mind (at any price) ties in with the other rays of sunshine I see in our current state - calibration s/w and CMS (Color Management System) implemented features. Thanks largely to consulting guidance from one of our own (Kevin Miller), this flagship projo from Epson has the right stuff for adjusting all the facets of colorimetry. Again, the ONLY way to see the Director's Art.
For years now, manufacturers who made any attempt at all at CMS have given us partial solutions. That is, most could move primary colors to a varying degree around a CIE chart, often with not enough range and seldom with any ability to compensate for the luminance loss once the repositioning was complete. If you can't adjust Hue, Saturation and Luminance of a primary color somewhat independently, there is really no point to tinkering with CMS. You are more likely to screw up the entire image. The aforementioned high-value offering from Epson does it all and with an intelligent menu scheme to boot. Bravo! Credit should also be given to D-ILA provider JVC for giving us early-on, working CMS from their high-end offerings.
World Class manufacturer Runco (Planar) has just placed an under $4K single chip DLP on the market. I'm anxious to get my hands on it and see how it compares in the CMS department. If it's an equal, my money (and recommendation) is still on the DLP technology for best film-like imagery.
Inextricably tied in with these important adjustments is a software package that enables us to manage all these variables in some graphical way. Prior to SpectraCal's CalMAN s/w, it would be nearly impossible to keep track of the highly interactive adjustments that constitute a comprehensive CMS solution. Now, thanks to several choices of charts and graphs, it is a very doable task. One still must have a good understanding of Imaging Science, but CalMAN has taken big chunks of mystery, frustration and time consumption out of the equation. CalMAN has just placed s/w version 4.3 on the street with several key feature additions and support for many new consumer products. Don't let your calibrator leave home without it!
In the somewhat discouraging department is the relentless push to feed us 3D. When it's ready for prime time, it will sell itself. Not before. It's not ready. The home usage model is still problematic. All the original reasons are still valid. While suppliers Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and others have agreed to some standards for active shutter glasses (the only scheme this readership should consider), there are still significant issues with overall brightness, left-eye/right-eye tint and brightness consistency, eye fatigue and lack of realism, not to mention content (A.T.&T. just threw in the towel on ESPN 3D). Early reports of demand falling short of expectations were true, but now the press releases focus on the increasing number of sets sold - which is quite different than the number of 3D movies being watched at home - the real bellwether. It's easy to buy "future insurance" when the delta $ are small, and you are going to buy an HDTV anyway. I still don't see traction, and I listen to H.T. "wants" every day from customers. Joel Silver and I went to a movie on a rare free night between ISF sessions in San Francisco last week and inquired about a showing of "Transformers". Without prompting, the box office attendant very apologetically confessed, "Sorry, but we are only screening the 3D version". Very telling. It appears there is even a degree of aversion down at the Bijou.
The next annoyance on my list is the continued clamor about "Edge-lit, LED TVs" One more time - there is no such thing as an LED TV. There are only LCD TVs that use LEDs as a backlight alternative to florescent tubes. What we want, of course, is local area dimming, where the "area" is one pixel. That's the path to ultimate REAL contrast ratio. Block dimming is a step, with current "blocks" several hundred pixels in size.
Sorry Interior Decorators, but the worst images I have ever seen come from razor thin, edge-lit LCD monitors. The issue here is consistent luminance across the entire screen, or what we call white field uniformity. If you only put lights around the periphery of a 50" panel, you don't have it. The hope is that internal reflectors will disperse the light evenly to the center and every place in between. I saw two such panels in a high-end home last week that when a full-field 10 IRE pattern (very dim) was on screen it looked like there were four spot lights shining in from the corners! No chance of luminance (and therefore chrominance) fidelity. I won't embarrass the manufacturer directly, but their name rhymes with "Boney".
One last irritant off my chest and I'll feel so much better. Movie reviewers who should know better keep calling Blu-Ray discs "DVDs". Come on guys, they are two separate formats who happen to be similarly dressed. Get with it!
Regular readers are aware of my affinity for concert videos. Since I last penned on this topic, I'd like to suggest 3 new adds to your collections. All BDs, of course.
First, "Live at Shea Stadium" from Billy Joel. Taped three years ago, it was the last performance at the stadium before the teardown in 2009. He's joined by the likes of Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, John Mayer, Steven Tyler and the first Beatle to open there in the mid sixties, Sir Paul McCartney. Billy may have lost a half-step. but never-the-less delivers 28 memorable tunes from our youth. Excellent cinematography, uncompressed audio and better than average (for a concert) video transfer.
Sheryl Crow, "Miles from Memphis". Hate her politics, love her music. Recorded at the familiar (to me) Pantages Theatre in Hollywood and backed by High-Q musicians, this disc is good enough to add to your already large SC collection.
Clearly the best new find was Jeff Beck's "Rock 'N Roll Party". It's mostly a tribute to the innovation and genius of Les Paul and Mary Ford. If you are too young to get the reference, it's your (considerable) loss. Small venue, Giant performances. Also featured is up and coming Irish vocalist, Imelda May. An absolute MUST OWN.
Posted by Terry Paullin, September 6, 2011 7:48 AM
About Terry PaullinAfter 25+ years as a Silicon Valley Executive, most recently as President and C.O.O. of Crosscheck, Mr. Paullin decided to follow his passion to the emerging Home Theatre industry. In 1994 he formed Front Row Cinema to design, build and calibrate Home Theaters for private residences. Nearly 600 theaters later, he remains engaged in the Industry in the following ways.
Builds dedicated (single purpose) Home Theaters and "Theatre Environments" (rooms used for other purposes as well).
Teaches Imaging Science and other courses for the Imaging Science Foundation. Mr. Paullin has taught CEDIA accredited classes to the installation community at both AVAD and ADI.
Consults to Industry on the topic of Imaging Science (Pioneer, Optima, In-Focus and several others under non-disclosure). Mr. Paullin has served on the Board of two companies and the Advisory committee of two others.
Has written articles/product reviews for major industry publications, including Widescreen Review, The Perfect Vision, The Ultimate Guide to A/V, WIRED magazine and CEPro and has maintained a monthly column (One Installer's Opinion) in Widescreen Review for the past eight years.
Mr. Paullin has a B.S.E.E. degree from Long Beach State University and performs ISF monitor calibrations for private individuals.
Mr. Paullin also maintains 3 theaters in his home for testing, comparison, performance verification, and reference viewing.