These guys make the image work: peter nofz, jonathan cohen, and spencer cook.
The most popular movie of the year and breaker of just about every box-office record, Spider-Man 3 owes much of its success to its seamless, high-impact visual storytelling. Vast portions of this were rendered in the computers at Sony Pictures Imageworks, the digital production studio that helped bring life to all three arachno-adventures. On the occasion of the release of this latest chapter on DVD—and the entire trilogy in a magnificent Blu-ray set—Sony invited HT to speak with three of the very dedicated men of Imageworks. Digital effects supervisor Peter Nofz, special projects computer graphics supervisor Jonathan Cohen, and animation supervisor Spencer Cook are all gifted artists and masters of their individual technologies. Each has different responsibilities, yet is proud of his role within the elaborate team. And their work speaks for itself—even when you don't notice it.
Certain catch phrases from my youth have stuck with me more than others. I was never a "Where's the beef?" fan, but lately, the one that keeps coming to mind is, "I want my MTV." It's not so much for the images of hyperactive rock stars and animated moon missions so much as the underlying fervor with which individuals demanded their favorite programming. That could pretty much apply to all TV these days, as well as movies or even video games—and the options for a media-hungry generation have never been as varied, or as powerful. I won't call the Slingbox a revolution for the same reason I won't apply that term to my beloved TiVo. Their uses of technology are bold, but the Slingbox has been a tad slow to penetrate the mainstream, as was the DVR in its early years. The Slingbox, if you don't recall our November 2006 review, is a network-ready place-shifting device that streams the audio and video from a connected home theater component, making it available on a PC connected to the Internet. Rather than start a game of Me Too with the more established Sling Media, competitor Monsoon Multimedia has upped the ante in two significant ways that you can probably figure out from the moniker of this particular model from their HAVA line.
In addition to spreading their technology message and announcing new software partners (Disney!), the D-BOXers brought along their top-of-the-line products, including a motion-enabled loveseat and this little beauty, a recliner with a third actuator for up-and-down-movement, or "heave," hence my raised thumb to illustrate. The heave literally adds another dimension to the interactivity that the chairs bring to DVDs and Blu-rays. If you ever see the D-BOX roadshow truck in your neighborhood, be sure to take a seat.
Last year here at CES I was more excited than anyone about the Nikko Home Electronics' R2-D2 Projector but then, as if swallowed by some swamp-dwelling scavenger on Dagobah, the little droid disappeared. This year he's back and better than ever (like when the Rebels cleaned him up for the big ceremony after The Battle of Yavin, good times...), upgraded to high-definition from last year's standard-def plans. This R2-DLP now puts out 2,000 lumens with an 1,800:1 contrast ratio and a DVI input for good measure. He should be landing at retail within about a month and a half, at a suggested price of $2,799. And no, he doesn't have little rockets that allow him to fly. That would just be stupid.
A small building just outside the LVCC evoked memories of Ralph Kramden in his chef hat, as were were treated to a glimpse of The House of the Future. The man of the house is the Life|media LMS-754, a home media server running Microsoft Windows Vista, available in different configurations that include DVD, Blu-ray, CableCARD, and various processors, either in a rack-mountable form factor or as a set-top box. The Life|ware 2.0 software enables elaborate control of the home entertainment experience, while taking it a step further with a new level of home automation, executing user-defined commands called Life|scenes, in collaboration with everything from Lutron lighting to next-generation smart beds. A 16:9 touch screen displays data and allows access from any room in the house.
Okay, by "the end of wires" I'm not referring to the terminations, silly, rather the conclusion of the wired era. Audiovox is showing off an assortment of wireless loudspeakers, a wireless suboofer (with a nifty, decor-friendly faux chest to conceal it!), and even a kit that will turn ANY pair of speakers wireless. Noise levels in the Main Hall were such that I cannot comment on sound quality, but listen up, cables: You've been given notice!
Ah, the splendor of the high-end table radio. SoundWorks i765 is a fab-sounding 2.1-channel system with built-in DVD/CD player plus a radio with improved AM and FM tuners over all previous models. It also now docks, charges, and provides video pass-through for all of the latest iPods, which allegedly is a very complicated affair.
Far from the madding convention center, Dolby provided A-B comparisons of their new Dolby Contrast technology, part of their HDR ("High Dynamic Range") tech family. The interesting part is that it is a video technology, for adjusting the range of dark to light in the LED backlighting of LCD TVs. By precisely dimming the right area of the screen at the right time, contrast can be heightened as never before, for a very film-like effect. (As the exciting screen image suggests, Blu-ray and DVD playback will both benefit.)