A/V Veteran

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 11, 2022  |  1 comments
The so-called Golden Age of Television is a bit of a moving target, but is generally thought to have run from the early 1950s to perhaps the mid 1960s. Depending on where you draw the line it began with the first mega-hit sitcom, I Love Lucy, and ended with the launch of the original ( Kirk, Spock, Bones) Star Trek.

A key characteristic of that age was the limited number of channels available. There was no home video of any kind, no way to record a show and later skip the commercials, and (at least in the '50s) black and white viewing on an enormous 21-inch (or smaller!) screen. As primitive as all that sounds, television was then the hot new entertainment technology, and the ratings for the best shows (with their limited competition) were enormous by today's standards. We might laugh today at the TV options of that era, but remember that TV nearly killed off the movies. Audiences in 2100 might well look back at what we have today—and laugh.

Our current cornucopia of options now features 99-channels of cable (and nothing to watch!), content streamed from a range of services (and over $100/month to pay for them!), and an unlimited variety of physical video discs (and yes, physical media is struggling but still far from dead).

Then there's YouTube, a free service supported by advertising. Up until a few weeks ago I considered YouTube an Internet oddity devoted to cat videos and looney stunts...

Thomas J. Norton  |  Dec 28, 2021  |  0 comments
The discussion here was inspired by a letter from a reader. He noted that in a recent review I mentioned that the set in question offered auto calibration. But the remainder of the letter suggested that my comment was misunderstood (or perhaps not precise enough to begin with). In the review/calibration/video-crazy business world, auto-cal refers to a specialized subroutine in a standard calibration program such as Calman from Portrait Displays. A different version of this subroutine exists for each brand/model of TV, and perhaps even for each year of each brand/model. Once set up it's fast and accurate. But this auto-cal requires the same expensive test gear and calibrator training as any manual calibration...
Tom Norton  |  Dec 14, 2021  |  3 comments
IMAX, as most people experience it, is a high quality movie format used in specialized theaters worldwide. But its history, and development, is complicated. Here's the low-down on a relatively new home theater format that trades on the IMAX name.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Nov 30, 2021  |  1 comments
Tom Norton jumps into his Movie Time Machine to revisit the enduring 1957 sci-fi classic, The Incredible Shrinking Man.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Nov 16, 2021  |  4 comments
I wrote about moving cross country back in 2015, but there's always more to say on the subject, particularly as it applies to home theater fans with expensive gear to transport safely. No, I'm not moving again, but what with Covid and other incentives, more folks are moving today than ever — particularly out of a few big and management-challenged states such as New York and California.

Moving from the wilds of Glendale California to the (different) wilds of western Florida in 2015 presented me with a number of challenges. But that was nearly seven years ago. Those challenges are somewhat different now, but the basics haven't changed. Moving remains one of life's more disorienting experiences.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 26, 2021  |  2 comments
There have been several past attempts to adapt Frank Herbert's iconic science fiction novel to film or television. In the mid-1970s, cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky scripted an ambitious version that would have run 14 hours!! The enormous planning effort for this version never made it onto film, due not only to this running length but also to the enormous anticipated costs. (At the time it was never considered for television—this was long before episodic event TV.) But Jodorowsky's work was so ambitious that it inspired a well-received 2013 documentary on the project, Jodorowsky's Dune, currently available both via streaming and on Blu-ray. Nevertheless, the novel itself, and Jodorowsky's aborted version, are said to have inspired other space operas, such as Star Wars, with elements from Dune but clearly different story lines...
Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 12, 2021  |  0 comments
A reader recently responded to a loudspeaker review complaining that, as set up for the review, the speakers were positioned 4-feet out from the wall behind them. Impractical, the poster commented, as he didn't have the space in his room to do that. But I always position speakers that way and suspect that most reviewers do so as well—though not all of them specifically state it. But I can't help myself; I cut my teeth writing for our sister publication Stereophile. While dubious "truths" abound in audiophilia, this one has a real basis in "the science."
Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 28, 2021  |  2 comments
If your TV is 7-10 years old and free of built-in streaming services, or you haven't yet used an outboard streaming device, your life is simple. But if your set is anywhere near new, and you're using its on-board, so-called Smart TV opening screen, it's a very different experience that starts with a cluttered home screen. Ever wonder why that home screen is packed with a dizzying array of apps?
Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 14, 2021  |  0 comments
As any serious photographer can tell you, color is a complex subject. There are researchers devoting their careers to it. It's also central to properly setting up a television in a process we call calibration.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 31, 2021  |  3 comments
A strangely vivid dream reminds Tom Norton of another time, long ago, when movie theaters were in trouble.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 17, 2021  |  3 comments
In case you haven't noticed, big screen TVs are becoming almost affordable. And by big screen, I mean BIG, as in over 80-inches diagonal. I was browsing in Sam's Club the other day where rows of TVs in that size were on sale. If an 85-inch Vizio P-Series Quantum X at $2,900 isn't surprising enough, how about an 82-inch Samsung Crystal UHD 7-Series TU700D for $1,396?

Granted, both sets were 2020 models on closeout and not the latest 2021s. The Vizio was that company's best, or next to best, model for 2020, but the Samsung was in a 2020 budget range. But still, about $17 per diagonal inch for the Vizio and $34 per inch for the Samsung?

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 20, 2021  |  5 comments
We've fretted a lot (or at least some of us have) over the growth of streaming because it threatens the survival of packaged media—having your favorite films readily available on Blu-ray or UltraHD Blu-ray, at the highest possible consumer quality, sitting on your bookshelf where no tools from a streaming service with cancellation orders can barge in and carry them away (at least not yet!).
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 06, 2021  |  1 comments
Remember the scene in Oblivion where Jack cues up a record in his secret hideaway? I could expand here on the ratty condition of the record sleeves, but I'm referring instead to the clump of dust on the stylus—the "needle" for the analog-deprived. In the movie world, and in the absence of a proper stylus brush, he might use a finger swipe to clean it off (yikes!), but since he (and the movie's art director) has only recently experienced the vinyl enlightenment if at all, and in the absence of a proper stylus brush, he simply ignores it. The record plays nevertheless.

But this tome isn't about vinyl. It's about the sticky business of keeping our audio-video systems relatively tidy. Working on this should be at least an annual event for every A/V fan, and for the inveterate tweaker and/or reviewer it should happen even more often.

Begin with the equipment stand or rack...

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 15, 2021  |  1 comments
Heat is the enemy of electronics, including all of that audio gear crammed into your A/V cabinet. In the early days of electronic entertainment, vacuum tubes (or as our Brit friends call them, valves) were the thing—the only thing. As one of my teachers once explained, the key to vacuum tubes was the little man with a switch inside. But he must have been sweaty, as a tube device could serve well as a space heater.

Back in the day our electronic entertainment consisted of little more than a radio. The family gave no thought to what was inside until one of the tubes failed, prompting a visit to the local drug store with its tube tester and ready supply of replacements.

Then came hi-fi and an interesting thing happened. Because of the heat issue, relegated largely to the output stages of an amplifier, separates were born. The separate preamp driving an amp on a separate chassis was a popular way to go.

The divide, between separates and the integrated amplifier (or perhaps AVR), still exists today in both the 2-channel and home theater worlds. Long forgotten is its genesis, since with solid state electronics heat is no longer an issue.

Or is it?...

Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 01, 2021  |  2 comments
Epson America recently filed a lawsuit against Vava (Sunvalleytek International Inc.), claiming erroneous ANSI Lumens claims for the latter's VA-LT002 4K UST (Ultra Short Throw) laser projector.

It's easy to get into the weeds on this subject (I pity the poor judge assigned to adjudicate the claim!). You'll usually see a projector's overall luminance specified in one of two ways: either simply in lumens or in ANSI Lumens. The latter spec must follow procedures established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The former doesn't...

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