A/V VETERAN

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 23, 2013 0 comments
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If you’re a fan of science fiction and haven’t heard of the TV series Farscape (1999-2003) you don’t get out much. If you’re not a sci-fi fan, this series might just make you one. It offers more compelling characters, action, humor, drama, weird plot twists, sudden mood shifts, poignancy, and stunning performances than any other dozen TV shows you might name.

It all begins when astronaut John Crichton encounters a wormhole on an experimental mission. He’s flung to a distant quadrant of the galaxy, encounters a gigantic vessel nearby, and docks with it. It turns out to be a living ship, know to the locals a leviathan, operated by a bonded pilot. The ship’s occupants are alien prisoners escaping from their captors. The latter, the Mr. Bigs in this area of space, call themselves the Peacekeepers, and from all appearances (externally at least) appear indistinguishable from humans.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 16, 2016 2 comments
Ever had the experience of surfing the web and finding a link to a site that you never knew existed? OK, there are a lot of sites most of us never knew existed. But if that site is endlessly fascinating and useful to you, that’s a different story. I can’t recall how I first came across bluraystats.com, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it before...
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 08, 2007 Published: Jun 09, 2007 2 comments

Sometimes there's more to be said about a reviewed product—information we've gleaned after the review is posted. It doesn't happen often; our schedule does not allow for leisurely, post-review ruminations. We have to move on to other gear. But sometimes we do learn new things. Or we need to follow up on something left hanging, perhaps after we've received a belated second sample. Often such updates are simply added to the existing review. But sometimes, particularly if the original review has scrolled off the home page and an important addition to it might be easily overlooked, the information will receive more attention elsewhere—such as in a blog.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 07, 2013 0 comments
A week ago this past Monday I was fortunate to be one of Chinese consumer electronics manufacturer TCL’s guests at the premier of Ender’s Game at the TCL Chinese IMAX Theater in Hollywood. (The theater is still best known as Grauman’s Chinese; see my earlier blog here about TCL’s purchasing and remodeling this classic movie palace into an IMAX theater with stadium seating).
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 30, 2008 4 comments

You know who you are. You're an experienced <I>Ultimate AV</I> reader with friends who just bought a new flat panel HDTV for the holidays. They've had it delivered and set up by Crazy Zeke's TV and Refrigerator Superstore.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 28, 2007 Published: Jan 29, 2007 0 comments

I have no statistics to back it up, but the week before the Super Bowl must be pretty hectic in your friendly neighborhood video store. Oh, sure, the end of year holidays are big, and tax refund season brings out the mad money that Uncle Sam has been keeping safe for you all year. But it's the annual rush to watch the Big Game on a Big Screen television that starts sports fans hearts aflutter.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 28, 2005 2 comments

You could write a book about how loudspeakers work in real-world listening rooms. In fact, many experts have. And while they may differ on many of the details, I suspect they will all agree on one point: The room-loudspeaker interface remains most neglected link in the audio reproduction chain.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 08, 2014 2 comments
Planet of the Apes is perhaps the longest running science fiction film franchise in history (unless you consider James Bond sci-fi—and Star Trek originated as TV series that didn’t arrive as a theatrical film until 1979). The original Planet of the Apes movie, based on a novel by French author Pierre Boulle, produced by 20th Century Fox, and co-written by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame, was followed by four sequels. The budgets for these sequels were tight (miniscule by today’s standards) and the results progressively cheesier. But despite its special effects and makeup, state of the art for the time though primitive now, the original still holds up today. There were also two relatively unsuccessful TV series in the ‘70s, plus books, comic books, and other spin-offs.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 25, 2014 3 comments
Movie time has been in short supply at chez TJN recently. My home theater system is packed up for a pending long distance move. I’m down to a modest two-channel setup (Onkyo AVR, Revel Concerta M20 bookshelf speakers, no sub, flat screen HDTV) in my much smaller family room. Potential buyers can now see the former home theater as the living/dining space it’s supposed to be.

The HDTV in this smaller system...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 28, 2005 9 comments

I suspect that Los Angeles has the greatest concentration of first-rate movie theaters in the country. True, there are fewer and fewer premier-quality movie houses even there than in the past. At least two have disappeared in the past 12 years. And every time I visit the Village or National in Westwood (two of the biggest and the best) I wonder how long the crowds (which rarely fill more than half of either theater, even for a hit movie on a weekend evening) can continue to support the maintenance of such a large space in such a pricey real estate market. Nevertheless, there more such theaters here than in any other large metropolitan area in the US. Which is, as you would expect, when you think about it.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 27, 2006 2 comments

The August 2006 issue of <I>Popular Mechanics</I> devotes one entire page (!) to HD DVD. The main feature of the article is a comparison between HD DVD and the standard disc played back on a much less expensive, upconverting DVD player (an $80 Philips).

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 08, 2006 Published: Oct 09, 2006 0 comments

Toshiba showed its first outboard HD DVD-ROM computer drive.

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Tom Norton Posted: Mar 09, 2016 10 comments
High dynamic range source material (HDR) has been available for downloading for months now, but the offerings have been spotty and, like the other enhancements that comprise the new Ultra HD format (4K 2160p resolution and longer, lower and wider color) constrained by the often limited bandwidth of Internet delivery. While popular notions of ever expanding bandwidth and more efficient compression abound, no one can know the future. And even now not all areas of the country are served by even the minimum Internet bandwidth required for fully featured Ultra HD delivery, much less at the highest possible quality
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 23, 2016 1 comments
We assume you’re into home theater because you love movies, so this blog is the first in an on and off series of movie (and possibly TV-series) recommendations. I first wanted to dub them “Hidden Treasures and Guilty Pleasures.” But while I liked the alliteration, it was too long for a headline so I’ll have to settle for alternating between the two, as appropriate. [Ed. note: We worked a little magic to make the head fit.]

I have a broad taste in movies, from historical to science fiction and a lot in between. I’m not big on crime dramas, grisly horror movies (unless the sci-fi elements outweigh the gore, as in Alien and Aliens), or gross comedies that make me squirm more than laugh. But almost anything else is fair game. The Dish isn’t a story about Hollywood gossip, but rather an Australian film about a 100-ton satellite communications dish parked in a sheep paddock near the small town of Parkes in the rural Down Under. If that sounds boring, it’s anything but...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 05, 2016 1 comments
Yes, I do have an odd taste in movies. But there must be others who can equally enjoy science fiction and action films, animated features, and well-done historical dramas. Only recently I revisited the DVDs of Zulu (the 1964 film with a very young Michael Caine in his first major role), and the first episodes of Shaka Zulu (a late ‘80s mini-series with a riveting performance by Henry Cele as Shaka). The technical quality on Zulu was very good for a DVD (there is a Blu-ray release that has received mixed reports, but I haven’t seen it). The picture quality on Shaka Zulu (1.33:1) is poor, but watchable. Both have mediocre audio at best, but despite their technical limitations are superb.

Anonymous is a much more recent effort (2011)...

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