As many of you know, I appear as a regular guest on The Tech Guy, a nationally syndicated call-in radio talk show hosted by Leo Laporte. The show airs live on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 AM to 2 PM Pacific time; some stations carry all or part of the show live, while others play the recording at different times. My segment is usually on Sundays right after the 11:30 AM news break, when I talk about home theater and answer reader and listener questions.
On February 5 and 6, I had the incredible opportunity to sit in for Leo as the guest host of The Tech Guy for the entire show. Leo was on vacation for three weeks, and I happened to be in the San Francisco Bay Area during that weekend, so we agreed that I would host the show from his studio, answering phone questions aboutwhat else?home theater.
By far the most important demo at NAB was presented by Christie, one of the foremost makers of digital-cinema projectors for commercial theaters. It was a comparison of the effect of shooting and displaying 3D movies at different frame rates24, 48, and 60 frames per second. The entire demo was created and narrated by James Cameron, who started by pointing out that digital cinema cameras and projectors are fully capable of shooting and displaying higher frame rates, which greatly reduces or eliminates the motion blur and stuttering endemic to 24fps.
Dolby was showing several items in its booth, including an update to Dolby Digital Plus for mobile devices as well as its LED-backlit LCD professional reference monitor with local-dimming control of each LED rather than larger zonesvery cool, but very expensive. What interested me the most was Dolby 3D, a new technology developed in collaboration with Philips Research and introduced at NAB.
Epson had a small booth way in the back of the South Hall, and along with some commercial projectors was the Moverio wearable display. Inside the temple pieces of these glasses are tiny LCD microprojectors with a resolution of 960x540, and the image is directed through special diffusers to appear in front of each eye. The glasses are transparent, so you can see the surrounding environment with the video image superimposed over it.
And now for something completely over the topan autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 16:9 rear-projection display measuring 200 inches diagonally! This behemoth was developed by Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) and consists of 200 small DLP projectors behind a special diffuser screen and Fresnel lens. Amazingly, you can walk around and see objects from different angles and even behind them, much like a true hologram. There was some obvious vertical banding in the 1920x1080 image, but I found no one who could explain why.
Outside the Red Digital Cinema demo theater, I saw this 60-inch quad-HD (3840x2160) flat panel made by Planar. No one could tell me much about itthe Planar rep wasn't around at that momentexcept that it's an LED-illuminated LCD, probably edgelit. It did look mighty crisp and sharp.
The most important consumer-related product introduction at NAB was a new projector and source device from Red Digital Cinema, which is best known for its digital-cinema cameras. As its name implies, the REDray Laser Projector uses lasers as its illumination source, and the red, green, and blue lasers are housed in a separate module (the larger box seen directly above the projector in the photo) that connects to the projector itself via fiber optics. Even more interesting, multiple laser modules can be ganged together to produce more light for larger screens, and the lasers are rated to last more than 25,000 hours with virtually no change in color or light output.
Each year at NAB, NewTek, maker of the TriCaster video switcher, hosts a panel discussion about the future of television called Broadcast Minds. This year, the panel was moderated by Leo Laporte, head of the TWiT network that produces my Home Theater Geeks podcast among many others. Seen here in the center, he is joined by (left to right) Jeff Hawley, Director of Customer Experience for Yamaha; Bill Chapman, VP of Creative and Engineering Technology for Turner Broadcasting; Jeff Jacobs, Senior VP of Production Strategies for MTV; and Kevin Pollack, comedian, actor, and host of a popular podcast called Kevin Pollack's Chat Show.
Last Thursday, Ken Florance, Director of Content Delivery at Netflix, posted the results of a very interesting study on the Netflix Tech Blog. The company measured the effective throughput speed of its HD streams as delivered by many ISPs in the US and Canada from the first of October to the middle of January. The US results are shown above, while the Canadian results are shown below.
Sony, Imax, and the Discovery Channel have announced new 3D programming for 2011, with three new series, two specials, and the broadcast debut of Open Season in 3D, the first feature-length animated movie from Sony Pictures Animation. The specials include Imax's Space Station narrated by Tom Cruise and a 3D episode of Discovery's Ghost Lab.
If there's a choice between convenience and quality, convenience usually wins out. The best example of this is the sad tale of DVD-Audio and SACD vs. MP3, all of which were introduced at roughly the same time. The convenience of quickly downloading MP3s into portable players easily trumped the vastly superior quality of DVD-A and SACD. Granted, the skirmish between the two high-res audio formats didn't help, but I suspect the outcome would have been much the same even if there had been no competition at the high end. So what's an audiophile to do?
Well, it seems the DTV transition will not be delayed after all. The Senate voted on Monday to allow stations to shut down analog broadcasting at any time between February 17 and June 12, but the House of Representatives defeated that bill today.
If you've been reading about home theater for any length of time, you've probably heard of Stewart Filmscreen, the company that represents the lion's share of the consumer and commercial projection-screen market. Recently, Stewart conducted its first-ever factory tour for about 20 members of the press, which was an eye-openingand, at certain moments, eye-wateringexperience.
As anyone who watches TV, listens to radio, or surfs the Web knows by now, yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's landing on the Moon and humanity's first footfall on a celestial body other than the Earth. I remember watching with rapt attention as the grainy, fuzzy, black-and-white video was accompanied by the authoritative voice of Walter Cronkite, who was so overcome with emotion at that moment, he paused, removed his glasses, and chuckled in amazement. (BTW, anyone who believes the moon landings were staged must watch the Mythbusters episode about it. Busted!)