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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 25, 2016 11 comments
HDMI is a boon to videophiles. It can carry both audio and video using one cable, in contrast to the 9 (!) required for a totally analog A/V connection (R, G, B, and 5.1 audio). It can also pass all the features offered by current HD and Ultra HD formats.

HDMI is a nightmare. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it works but limits the information it transports from the source to the display. And sometimes it doesn’t work at all.

Take your pick, but the truth sits somewhere between these two statements.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 11, 2016 3 comments
I’m a huge fan of the movie Oblivion. But is it a Guilty Pleasure or a Hidden Treasure? It received a mixed critical reception when it hit theaters in 2013, and many sci-fi fans and film critics found it derivative.

But who is really surprised when a film borrows ideas and plot tropes from past films and literature...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 20, 2016 0 comments
CEDIA stands for the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association. Unlike CES in January, which covers virtually everything in consumer electronics from cameras, to flat screen televisions. to audio, and to wearables (body décor with chips in them!), CEDIA caters to the large group of professionals who custom install and service electronics, mostly for the home. If you want a high-end home theater like the one shown above, but haven’t a clue as to how to do it, they’re there for you...
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 06, 2016 0 comments
We tend to forget that not all readers have been around the block when it comes to the language of video. Those that have know the tricks of the trade, and what all of the terminology means. True, even they’re sometimes mistaken, and we ourselves can get caught out from time to time with what’s being offered this year (or this week!) in the ever changing high definition (HD) and ultra high definition (UHD) world.

But manufacturers seldom offer much help in this, or even do their best to obfuscate. In their specs, descriptions, and promotional copy, one thing you won’t find clearly stated is what their products won’t do...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 30, 2016 1 comments
I like to think that have a broad taste in movie and television entertainment. I don’t much care for crime dramas, horror, gross-out comedies, or westerns (having lived through the era where westerns dominated evening television). I like historical films (either epics or straight dramas), science fiction, contemporary drama, and animation.

And there can be little doubt that the latter is on fire and in the midst of a new golden age. The first such era was centered almost exclusively on the early work of Walt Disney. It survived for about 25 years, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to The Jungle Book (1967). I’d argue, however, that there were only six true classics from that period...

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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: Aug 02, 2016 5 comments
With a near constant steam of new Ultra HD sets cycling in and out of my system, I’ve been slow in mounting my two projection screens, a 96-inch-wide wide, Stewart Filmscren StudioTek 130 (gain 1.3) and an 87-inch-wide, 16:9, Elite Primevision PowerMaxTension (gain 1.1). Both are retractable, which serves several purposes...
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 18, 2016 2 comments
It’s been no secret up to now that calibrating a display for high dynamic range (HDR) is a work in progress. But the recent release of an HDR10 workflow for CalMAN 2016 (the newest software from SpectraCal) promises to change that. CalMAN is widely used by calibrators and reviewers to optimize display setup.

HDR10 is one of the two most prominent HDR formats (though there are others lurking around looking for a niche). Both of these formats require specialized, and different, calibration techniques. A CalMAN workflow for the other format, Dolby Vision, has been around for several months.

But most UHD/HDR sets offer HDR10, as do all UHD Blu-rays to date, making an HDR10 calibration perhaps even more significant...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 05, 2016 2 comments
How can one distinguish between a guilty pleasure and a hidden treasure? Many movies fall into a gap somewhere between the two. They’re not so good to be called classics, but impressive or different enough to click with the right audience.

Emperor tells an important yet little known story. In the immediate aftermath of the Japanese surrender in World War II, General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Japan with his staff to lead the occupation. But before the rebuilding of the country and its government could begin, the issue of what to do with the Japanese military and political leadership had to be dealt with—most importantly Emperor Hirohito. Many in Washington, and in the U.S. public as well, wanted him tried and executed as a war criminal...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 21, 2016 3 comments
On a recent visit back to Los Angeles I took in the 2016 Newport, California hi-fi-show, more properly known as T.H.E. (The Home Entertainment) Show Newport (though it’s now actually held in Irvine). You can read my observations on the show, along with those from other Stereophile contributors (I write occasional reports and reviews for Stereophile, though Sound & Vision is my main beat) at Stereophile.com. Like virtually all such events (of which there are several in the U.S. each year under various management), this was a show for 2-channel audiophiles. Count me among them, but no more so than for multichannel music, movies, video, and home theater.

The only show in the U.S. that features video as it relates to home theater is September’s CEDIA Expo...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 07, 2016 7 comments
We’ve been fortunate in the 1080p world in having a variety of test discs available. While a full calibration requires special test tools, such discs can tell you a lot about how your set performs and help get the basic picture settings right. One of the most popular of such discs, and one of the first, is Digital Video Essentials, shown in the photo here.

But while 4K with high dynamic range (HDR) is now here, there’s still a lack of test materials for this format, particularly the high dynamic range end of the equation...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 17, 2016 1 comments
It hasn’t been that long ago that when I arrived back from the annual January CES, my desk looked something like the photo here, staring back at me with a “pick me, pick me” plea. But with all of the brochures and press releases and miscellaneous literature first transferred to CD-ROM, now to flash drives, and (in some cases) merely a cryptic card directing you to the manufacturer’s website, the reading material can now fit in a tiny corner of my suitcase.

Owners’ manuals were once like that, but with a fundamental difference. They were slender things that could be read and understood in an hour or two. But as products, particularly HDTVs and AVRs, became more complicated, their manuals grew larger, not to mention the need to produce them in 15 languages...

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 03, 2016 8 comments
If you’ve been following my writing (I know there’s at least one of you out there somewhere!) you know that I’m a major fan of packaged media. With a Blu-ray or Ultra HD Blu-ray disc I only have to buy it once and it’s always there, on the shelf, ready to access whenever I want it and offering the best of the best in both picture and sound quality. And it won’t vaporize if I want to see it again but the streaming service decides to no longer offer it...
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 19, 2016 4 comments
What’s a “nit” and what’s it have to do with what you see on your TV screen as we enter the Age of High Dynamic Range (aka HDR) video.
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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)...