A/V Veteran

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Mar 29, 2022  |  0 comments
When I wrote about the new film version of Dune some months back my reaction was positive. I saw it in a movie theater—my first visit to one in two years. There was plenty of social distancing during my visit; with a dozen or so other attendees at a midweek, midafternoon showing I could have swung a cat on a 10 foot rope without hitting anyone (with apologies to cat people). I enjoyed the film, but as I noted in that October 2021 blog, I was disappointed by the quality of much of the cinematography. This was surprising, since it was the Dolby Cinema in my local AMC-plex. Dolby Cinema is by far my favorite way to see a movie in a commercial theater. It wasn't the sort of disappointment the average viewer would feel, and even I could set my concerns aside once I got into the film. But I know Dolby Cinema can do better and the film deserved it.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Mar 15, 2022  |  5 comments
...Long before the CGI animation revolution, a number of Disney animators quit to go off on their own. It was the late 1970s, and Disney, they felt, had fallen into a rut, resisting new animation techniques and failing to adequately train new animators. Their leader was Don Bluth, and while the efforts of his nascent company were only modest successes at best over the years, they did leave us with one title that deserves to be remembered as a genuine classic: The Secret of NIMH.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 22, 2022  |  2 comments
The human visual system is a lot more complicated than we might imagine. A recent paper published in the journal Science Advances (January 12, 2022), Illusion of visual stability through active perceptual serial dependence, by researchers Mauro Manassi (University of Aberdeen, UK) and David Whitney (UC Berkeley), takes this idea a step further. I can't pretend to have slogged through the bulk of this article. The text is dense with the sort of science-speak common to experts in their field of expertise but nearly incomprehensible to the layman (a worldwide issue over the past two years, but I digress!)
Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 08, 2022  |  4 comments
Chances are if you're reading this you're careful about setting up and configuring your loudspeakers. But if you're new to this game, perhaps you're not. The average consumer may unpack those new speakers carefully, but then simply plunk them down wherever they happen to fit. We've heard stories of surround speakers being placed up front near the mains because it was too inconvenient to run wires to the back of the room! That's certainly understandable, but then why even bother; such placement will almost certainly make the sound worse than simply leaving the surrounds in their box.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jan 25, 2022  |  0 comments
At the January 2022 CES in Las Vegas the latest version of HDMI, HDMI 2.1a was announced. What does it bring us, and perhaps more to the point, what will it demand from us?
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  |  1 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.