<I>Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within</I> is a cross-genre blend of sci-fi and computer animation, more Japanese anime than cuddly Disney. Check out the flood of Japanese names in the end-credits. Released in 2001, it was one of the first attempts at photo-realistic animation, and in that respect, at least, was startlingly successful. While you'll never confuse the images here with those of real people, they're as close to it as anyone has come, either before or since. Unlike the more recent <I>Polar Express</I>, the characters here don't have creepy, zombie-like eyes.
I confess to a serious weakness for <I>The Last Starfighter</I>. Even by 1984 standards, the year of its release, it wasn't a great science fiction film. But there is something immensely appealing in its old-fashioned innocence.
CEDIA 2007 supplied more than its share of surprises. There were more interesting new, free-standing speakers there than I expected, though nowhere near what CES brings to town. The quantity of new electronics was intimidating, as usual, and that will keep us busy for the next few months as we check out the most promising candidates.
A company called Accell (www.accellcables.com) offers a variety of video switching and splitting options and cables. Their products include the tiny UltraAV, one-in, two-out HDMI splitter for $129, and the UltraAV HDMI two-in, one-out HDMI switcher that's smaller than its included remote control. Both are powered by external, wall-wart supplies. We plan on checking both of them out soon.
The new Snell CR70 center speaker ($1750) was so inconspicuously displayed that I nearly missed it. It is said to be a good sonic match for the Snell CR70 floorstanders ($6500/pair). New center channel speakers—hopefully proper three-way designs like this one—are expected next year for other Snell models.
Sonus faber's new Cremona M floor-standing speaker (about $12,000/pr) was on static display, but it was obvious that it maintains that Italian manufacturer's reputation for elegant design. It is said to closely mirror the sonics of the more expensive Cremona Elipsa ($20,000/pr), which seriously impressed this writer at last January's CES. A new Cremona center channel is in the works, as well, though it will not be available until some time in 2008.
Verity Audio showed a prototype of its new EXR center channel design, the first of a new line of Verity EXR speakers. But the $15,000-$20,000 price for the center channel speaker alone is intimidating, to say the least.
The Cary Audio Designs' Cinema 11V High Definition Video Processor ($3000) provide thesvideo switching that the company's Cinema 11a preamp-processor ($3000) lacks. But it can also be used as a stand-along video processor with other gear. It has Faroudja technology to provide video upconversion to a maximum of 1080p. It also claims to provide an output refresh rate of up to 120Hz, though we know of no current video display that can accept a direct 120Hz input (the new displays coming on line with 120Hz capability produce 120Hz internally from a 24/30/or 60 Hz source). There are six HDMI 1.3 inputs and two HDMI outputs, plus a full complement of analog video inputs, including RGB inputs and outputs on BNC connectors. CRT projector owners, take note.
The Arcam MS 250 Music Server ($6500) isn't your father's iPod. In fact, Arcam prefers to call it an archiving CD player. It will play CDs, rip them to its 400GB hard drive, and also compile play lists that may be recorded back onto a CD—the MS 250 is also a CD recorder. The hard drive is said to be able to hold up to 1200 entire CDs (not "songs") when they are recorded in full, uncompressed PCM.
You'd never know it by looking at its clean, non-intimidating front panel, but the new Primare SPA22 integrated AV amp houses all the features of a sophisticated AV receiver (it's called an AV amp rather than an AV receiver because it dispenses with AM/FM tuners). Proprietary class D digital amplifiers provide 5 x 100Wpc of amplification, the unit sports HDMI 1.3 and full video switching, the video processing upconverts to a maximum of 1080p via HDMI, and DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD decoding is expected by the time the unit ships in December at an anticipated price somewhere south of $6000.