As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm not what you'd call a sports fan. The only sports I watch at all are some of the Olympics, and then mostly for the great high-def images. The closest I've come to football was as the drum major of my high-school band, when I had to ask a clarinet player what was happening on the field so I could call up the appropriate music ("Yay, something good happened!" or "Boo, something bad happened!").
Tom Norton and I saw Rio in 3D last week at our local AMC multiplex, which offers something called Enhanced Theater Experience (ETX) with a larger screen, digital projection, and a beefier sound system. I guess this is somewhere between a conventional theater and Imax, and it was quite good overall.
As we bid a fond farewell to 2008—"fond" in the sense that many are glad to see it depart—it's only natural to take a look back at the year gone by and try to sneak a peek at the year to come. In the realm of home theater, there's a lot to ponder...
Last night, I attended a special preview screening of <I>Avatar</I>, one of the most eagerly anticipated movies of the year. Presented a few hours before the movie opened to the general public, the screening was hosted by 20th Century Fox, which gave 50 tickets in the front-most section of the theater to Panasonic for its contribution of equipment during production. Fortunately, I was near the front of that line, so I was able to sit in the last row of that section—still a bit too close, but very immersive. I'm going to give you my impressions while minimizing any spoilers, though I found no surprises in this movie other than the incredible 3D imagery, which is certainly no secret.
<I>There are some awesome AVRs out there, but I think it's a big compromise to run long speaker cables all around the room. Nearly every speaker manufacturer recommends using equal-length speaker cables. So unless you use monoblocks for each channel, you defy that logic.</I>
Last Tuesday, I attended a demonstration of the BD-Live capabilities that will distinguish Disney's Blu-ray release of <I>Sleeping Beauty</I>, the first Disney animated title with these enhancements. Of course, to take advantage of them, you need a BD-Live (aka Profile 2.0) player, of which there are very few so far. In fact, the only ones available as of this writing are the Sony PS3 and Panasonic DMP-BD50, with the Sony BDP-S350 and S550 expected to ship soon.
I just saw <I>Shrek 4D The Final Chapter Forever After...whatever</I> in Imax 3D. (I really wish DreamWorks had settled on one name for its marketing campaign!) I went because I want to see as much 3D as possible, but after reading several lukewarm reviews, I was prepared to be unimpressed, at least with the story.
This Thursday is the national pig-out known as Thanksgiving, followed by the national sellout known as Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season. Retailers normally give thanks at this time for the sales that represent a major percentage of their annual business, but this year, they're likely to have much less for which to be thankful.
As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the yearor the most dreadful, depending on whether or not you plan to join the buying frenzy on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Many stores open at an ungodly hour and offer seemingly outrageous deals on certain products to get people in the door, hoping that they'll buy more than they bargained for and put the store's accounts in the black for the year, which is why it's called Black Fridayeither that, or it might be due to all the black eyes resulting from fights over the last remaining $60 Blu-ray player.
I've been looking at some Black Friday previews, and I've found some apparently great deals on flat panels, Blu-ray players, and other home-theater gear. Unfortunately, many stores do not reveal the model number of the sale items, making it difficult to judge just how good these deals really are, and as far as I can tell, none of them are flagship products. Still, there are a few that I think are good enough to share with you…
Now in its fourth year since the format was launched, Blu-ray remains a bit enigmatic. Of course, most early adopters and movie enthusiasts eagerly embrace it, and rightly so—Blu-ray provides the best picture and sound quality you can get from a home-theater source. But its success in the mass market is less clear, at least so far. To assess this and other issues related to the state of Blu-ray, the <A href="http://www.dvdinformation.com/">Digital Entertainment Group (DEG)</A>, an industry-funded, non-profit organization that promotes various types of home entertainment, hosted a day-long conference last week at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles, calling it Blu-Con 2.0.
Last night, I was fortunate enough to attend the world premier of Brave, the latest animated feature from Disney and Pixar that will open nationwide on June 22. The star-studded event was held at the newly renamed Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards and Cirque du Soleil's Iris located in the heart of Hollywood, California.
Sponsored by NewTek, maker of the TriCaster portable streaming-video production system, the second annual Broadcast Minds roundtable at NAB offered a lively panel discussion about video production in the online era. Joining the panel was (left to right above) Leo Laporte, whose TWiT network is the official webcaster of the NAB show; Steve Hellmuth, executive vice president of operations and technology for NBA Entertainment; moderator Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, editor of Streaming Video magazine; Mark Fratto, director of athletic communications at St. John's University in New York; and Adam Corolla, well-known comic who was introduced as having the most downloaded podcast in the world.
A few months ago, Netflix separated the subscription plansand feesfor its disc-by-mail and streaming services, essentially doubling the cost for those who want both. This caused the company to lose as many as a million customers, and its stock price plummeted. So how did Netflix try to salvage the situation? It renamed the disc-rental business, which is now called Qwikster. If you subscribe to both streaming and disc-by-mail, you'll have to go to two different websites, and you'll pay two different bills.
This move has most folks scratching their head, and it further fuels the anger of those who objected to the original rate hike, which could certainly lead to more customer defections. What was Netflix thinking?