Movie theaters are always eager to find new ways to drag consumers off their living-room sofas and into the multiplex. In recent years, this has become more difficult as big-screen HDTV and home surround sound can often exceed the movie-going experience. Apart from sheer screen size, consumers have less and less incentive to spend $12 a head, or more, just for the seatnever mind the cost of refreshments.
Movie studios don't miss a thing when it comes to keeping a tight watch on the effectiveness of Blu-ray copy protection. Recently, in an apparent attempt to close an assumed (I assume) breach, 20th Century Fox updated its BD+ copy codes in an effort to keep the door firmly locked. The first disc I noted a problem with was (surprise!) <I>Avatar</I>, which was so firmly locked it would not play. After an inordinately long loading cycle it decided it couldn't get along with an Oppo BDP-83 player, which I've admittedly been lax in updating. The same proved to be the case on another current but not updated model, the Pioneer BDP-320. Same long wait, same lack of a payoff. Or at least not a welcome one. All I got was a bright red screen telling me to update my player.
In a recent e-mail, an old friend and audio reviewer asked about Blu-ray players. I tried to steer him away (successfully, I hope) from what he thought was a good deal on an new, unused first generation Sony Blu-ray player. The seller had apparently almost convinced him that this was some sort of undiscovered gem, akin (though in a different application) to the early, tank-like SACD players held in high regard by some audiophiles.
What's a blog? It's the hot topic on the Internet these days, but what, exactly, is it? Since we've just launched four new blogs here on <I>Ultimate AV</I>, this is a timely question. Three of the blogs have been converted directly from our previous monthly columns. A fourth is brand new.
It may surprise some readers, but apart from the Blu-ray discs we are assigned to review and the occasional disc that flies over the transom, most of us here at Home Theater actually buy the Blu-rays we watch. True, at one time (as the editor of the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater and Ultimate AV), I received many screeners for review. So I do have a large collection of DVDs (many of which have been donated away), Blu-rays, and HD DVDs (RIP). But the pile has grown far more slowly in recent years. Nevertheless, I look forward to upcoming releases just as much as before, and I'll be in line to purchase titles I want that don't come my way for review.
With the analog audio section of this multi-part tome largely out of the way (though a listen to the audio from the Special Edition Oppo BDP-83 is still to come), I turned to video. All of the testing was done with duplicate copies of high quality Blu-ray discs. The players were compared directly, two at a time, with the disc in one of the players running roughly 12 seconds behind the other. Making allowances for a switching delay of about 5 seconds (which the players needed to re-sync with the display following the switch) this staggered cueing let me watch the same few seconds of program material first on one player and then on the other.
At long last, we come to the final chapter of the ongoing Blu-ray player saga. It has been a journey too-often interrupted by the need to adjust to new system components coming in and out for their own reviews. Nothing is more disruptive than having to adjust to the sound of new speakers.
But enough with that. First, a brief summary of what this entire effort has been about....
Join me in the WayBack Machine for a trip to 1995. Somewhere in North America a Stereophile Hi-Fi Show is in progress, and the writing staff is gathered for an Ask the Editor’s session. A question arises about the then fledgling music downloading technology. I recall I answered that, “We’ll be able to do it before we can do it well.”
As it turned out that was correct, though I’m no soothsayer...
With the HD DVD competition set to launch within a month, Sony invited members of the CE press to the Sony Studios in Culver City, California for an update on Blu-ray technology and a demonstration of that format's formidable capabilities.
Steven Soderbergh's feature film, <I>Bubble</I>, premiered last week in high definition on HDNet. It also opened simultaneously in several dozen theaters around the country, all of them either Landmark theaters (owned by HDNet owner Mark Cuban) or independent art houses. Theater chains boycotted the film because in its simultaneous release on cable television, in theaters, and (this past Tuesday) on DVD, it represented a perceived threat to their box office revenue.
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...
We've been, and continue to be, big supporters of getting a video display properly calibrated. We do it in our reviews because it shows us best that a set is capable of. Just as significant is the fact that if you just present only the out-of-box result in a review, you're trying to hit a moving target. Different samples will differ, perhaps significantly, because manufacturers can't perform anything more than a rough setup on the production line. The average consumer won't notice the difference in the store, and it takes too long (and costs too much) to perform a tight calibration for everyone just to satisfy the discerning customer.
<I> My blog is open to any non-blogging </I>UAV<I> writer. Why should I have all the fun? Today, reviewer and contributing editor Steven Stone chimes in with advice for feline-loving audio- and videophiles.</I>
It's been a busy, hot, sad, exciting, confusing, jumble of a month here at <I>UAV</I>, and there's a lot to catch up on. Rather than post several separate, shorter blogs at once, I'll mash them all together.