I must admit, onboard video and audio have come a long way. It used to be that they were just a line item on a features list. Now both are far more capable. Compared with what you can get as a separate card, though. . .well, let's say it's not worth comparing (although I did, of course).
You want the big-screen experience. You want to be immersed in the image. Ten feet wide at least, maybe 12. You've chosen the projector—a home model that's been getting great reviews. Obviously, you need a screen.
Acoustically transparent projection screens let you put the voices where the action is.
When you see a movie in a commercial cinema, it's easy to suspend disbelief and pretend you're watching the action through a window. One important reason for this is the fact that the sound of the characters' voices seems to come from their apparent location, rather than from above or below the screen.
I like to think of myself as a do-it-yourself kind of guy. I'd like to think of myself this way, but, in reality, this is not the case. I don't change my own oil (you want me to go under where?), I'm on a first-name basis with my mechanic (honestly, what Ford owner isn't?), and I call my landlord when the kitchen sink leaks (hey, that's why I pay rent). The two things I do myself are haircuts (thank you, King C. Gillette) and computers (sorry, no funny joke). I've been fascinated with computers since my parents bought me an Apple IIc in the mid-1980s. Since then, I've been modifying and building my own. A few months ago, some part of my brain came up with the idea to build a home theater PC from scratch—and make it silent. Keep in mind that this was the same part of my brain that thought it would be a tremendous idea to build a 13-foot-long subwoofer. Thanks to the deluge of e-mails I received after that piece (one—thanks, Mom) and the difficulty in finding a company that makes an HTPC (last count at CES, there were only 13,002 or so), I figured I'd design and build Home Theater's HTPC, the ugliest and quietest ever.
When home theater enthusiasts talk about their audio systems, they usually concentrate on components such as the disc player, receiver (or preamp-processor and power amps), and speakers. But there's another component that deserves just as much attention: the cables that connect the other devices together. Without cables, those other components would be nothing more than expensive boat anchors.
In our ongoing run-up to our 10th anniversary in early 2005, Michael Fremer looks at his experiences working on the soundtrack to the groundbreaking movie Tron. This article was first published in our Fall 1997 issue. We've made a few edits to account for changes since then (particularly in the references to laserdiscs!), but MF's description of the creation of an early-1980s soundtrack is as fascinating, interesting, and pertinent as ever. Modern digital techniques have revolutionized the film-sound business, but a good soundtrack is still a good soundtrack.
High-definition television has certainly moved along in fits and starts since the first digital-TV stations came on air in 1997. There's been a steadily increasing flow of prime-time programming and movies, a tantalizing season of Monday Night Football, increasing amounts of sports coverage, and numerous PBS documentaries and nature programs. Along the way, there have also been some compelling programs, including the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Masters and U.S. Open tennis, the NCAA Final Four, and three Super Bowls. More than a few prime-time shows have grabbed us by the throat, including NYPD Blue, C.S.I., JAG, Alias, ER, and Law & Order.
Home Theater's guide to using indoor and outdoor antennas to pick up digital TV broadcasts.
It's funny how everything old is new again. Forty years ago, you might have watched from the backyard as Dad carefully climbed up a ladder to the roof, strapped a bracket onto the chimney, and attached a large T-shaped television antenna so that you could watch those glorious black-and-white (and sometimes color) images from I Love Lucy, Bonanza, The Wonderful World of Disney, Gunsmoke, and other TV programs of that era.