Thomas J. Norton

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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.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 06, 2013 0 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent color
Crisp detail
Punchy image
Minus
Dim 3D
So-so blacks and contrast

THE VERDICT
You won’t find the deepest blacks in this price class, but the HC8000D’s bright, sharp, pleasing 2D picture is worth a look.

It seems like only yesterday that Mitsubishi ended its solitary status as the last holdout in the rear-projection DLP business. Oh, wait, it was only yesterday—at least in geologic HDTV time. But this was by no means the twilight of Mitsubishi Electric’s DLP video ambitions. These live on in a wide range of projectors, including the HC8000D single-chip DLP—a key player in the company’s consumer lineup.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 29, 2013 3 comments
Lasers, or Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, have been with us for half a century. A laser produces a highly focused (spatially coherent) beam of light having a very specific wavelength, the latter depending on the design and application. They’re used in medicine, industry, laser printing, barcode scanners, CD, DVD, and Blu-ray players, laser light shows, and innumerable other applications.

Lasers can also be used as a light source for digital projection. While this is still under development, we’re likely to see it first in movie theaters. Lasers can not only produce a much brighter image—which can help overcome the dimness of 3D presentations—but also offer cost benefits to theater owners. Conventional xenon lamps are expensive to replace, and have a useful life of perhaps 1000 hours (some theaters try to stretch this as much as possible, often with negative effects on picture quality). A laser light source can stretch this by at least twenty-fold or even more. While replacement lasers will likely be significantly more expensive to early on, they’ll still be cheaper per hour of use. Another possible cost saving might come from using a centralized “light farm,” with the light from a single remotely located bank of lasers routed to multiple projectors via fiber optics.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 25, 2013 0 comments
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The old fairy tail of Jack and the Beanstalk has been a staple in movies and television, with versions including Disney’s Mickey and the Beanstalk, several Looney Tunes cartoons, a segment in the recent Puss in Boots animated feature, a recent TV episode of Once Upon a Time, and even a 1952 Abbot and Costello movie. In Jack the Giant Slayer, teen Jack trades his uncle’s horse and cart for those magic beans.
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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).
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 21, 2013 1 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $20,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Extensive color control
Sparkling 3D
Minus
Black level could be better

THE VERDICT
A good overall performer and a solid first 4K effort from LG.

It’s rabbit season at the Sound & Vision ranch. The bunnies are reproducing at a torrid rate, and you can barely take aim at one before another dozen pop up.

We’re not talking cottontails here, but rather HDTVs. Yes, it’s that time of year again, when the new sets arrive en masse in anticipation of the upcoming end-of-year holiday season. The hot tickets this year are 4K (more precisely, 3840 x 2160) or, as it has been dubbed by the industry, Ultra HD, and OLED. On the 4K front, two new LG sets, at 55 and 65 inches, recently hopped into view to fill out a 4K lineup that began with the big 84LM9600—the latter our subject here.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 14, 2013 0 comments
CEDIA began its annual event in 1989. At that time it was launched in a modest venue full of table-top exhibits and educational seminars, with a strong emphasis on the latter. This was appropriate, as we all had a lot to learn about home theater.

I’ve been attending CEDIA since 1994, when then Stereophile publisher Larry Archibald decided it was time to begin a new publication dedicated to the burgeoning home theater business—the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater. But even in the first year or two I attended, accompanied by Archibald, the Guide’s founding editor, Lawrence B. Johnson, and the requisite marketing crew, you could cover all of the exhibits in a couple of hours.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 08, 2013 0 comments
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When boogeyman Pitch Black schemes to plant fearsome nightmares into the minds and hearts of children throughout the world, it falls on the Guardians to derail his plans. When they attempt to convince Jack Frost, a free-spirit prankster, to join them, he agrees only when things turn truly grim.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 30, 2013 0 comments
Focal has a whole new line of loudspeakers slotting in just below the company's Electra range. The Aria series' signature feature is the use of cones consisting of a layer of flax sandwiched between layers of fiberglass. The result is said to produce a diaphragm that's stiff, light, and less time consuming to produce than the layered cones used in Focal's more pricey designs. There are currently five models in the range, shown here with the flagship 948 ($5000/pair) in front. The Aria CC 900 center is not shown, but somewhat disappointingly it's a conventional two-way woofer-tweeter-woofer design and not a 3-way with a centered, vertically-arrayed midrange and tweeter.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 30, 2013 0 comments
The Acurus ACT 4 7.1-channel pre-pro sports all the latest audio formats and is expected to ship early in 2014 for $4000. The accompanying 7.1-channel Acurus amplifier is available now at $4299.

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