Yesterday we covered a CEA study indicating that an overwhelming majority consumers who see 3DTV demos on the retail floor like them. But there are still obstacles to acceptance, according to a study conducted in a decidedly different environment by Nielsen for the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing.
Universal Pictures and Vudu made high-definition history with The Bourne Ultimatum on December 11. The Matt Damon vehicle is the first major movie to be released at the same moment online, on DVD, and on HD DVD. The online version will be in high-def, placing it in direct competition with the HD DVD.
It had to happen eventually. Paramount announced today that Mission Impossible III will be the first title to receive simultaneous release in three disc formats: high-definition Blu-ray and HD DVD, and standard-definition DVD-Video. Each release will be a two-disc collector's edition with five deleted scenes, four documentaries, theatrical trailers, and other features. Blu-ray and HD DVD releases will have soundtracks in next-generation Dolby Digital Plus. The special-edition sets will have commentaries by Tom Cruise and director J.J. Abrams—but only the HD DVD release will show them talking in a corner of the screen during the movie. A single-disc DVD-Video release will include the deleted scenes, commentary, and the "Making of the Mission" documentary but will omit the other documentaries and features.
How often does The New York Times print something clueless about home theater technology? About as often as you go to the bathroom. The latest outrage comes in a story debunking various tech underachievers with the headline The Hat Trick That Didn't Happen. Reporter Richard Siklos cites a Frank N. Magid Associates survey saying that the number of HDTV buyers who are looking forward to watching high-def has declined from 63 percent two years ago to 47 percent now. He goes on to say: "The reason for this lack of enthusiasm is pretty clear in my own home. For one thing, plenty of shows on the high-definition channels I receive with my digital cable package appear with big black borders--because of the aspect ratio or somesuch--and I can't figure out whether this is my doing or the cable company's or the broadcaster's." Actually, aspect ratio is the program producer's decision, and those black borders are usually a superior alternative to stretching. Note to Siklos' editor: Tell your reporter to find his remote and learn to use the aspect ratio control or somesuch. He can learn more about aspect ratio in any number of places, including the Wiki. And while he's at it, RTFM. If fewer HDTV buyers are interested than HDTV today versus two years ago, the most likely explanation is that plummeting flat-panel prices have lured less knowledgable viewers into the market. And the solution is to assign knowledgable writers to cover the subject.
"A Full-Blooded Approach, with Surround Sound," promised the New York Times headline of a piano-recital review. I knew I wouldn't be able to resist quoting it when the concert venue, the Frick Collection, was described as "perfect for the iPod generation, offering intense surround sound, minus the hearing damage." I thereupon combed the Apple website for hours looking in vain for the new surround-capable iPod before realizing that critic Vivien Schweitzer was, quite reasonably, designating surround sound as a virtue lacking in earbud-tethered devices. She praised British pianist Leon McCawley for his performances of the Mozart "Sonata in D," Rachmaninoff's "Études-Tableaux," and the "Suite for Piano" by Hans Gál, with its "Debussy-like harmonies, Schubertian lyricism, echoes of Brahms and Prokofiev and a hint of atonality.... The listener, meanwhile, was enveloped in an acoustical cocoon of bright, passionate sound." If you think the sole purpose of this blog is mockery, think again. Chamber and symphonic concertgoing offers an all too rare chance to build an acoustically pure frame of reference, unmediated by electronics, that can be applied to gauge the quality of equipment. I treasure my experiences in the Vienna Musikverein and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. You'll never hear better surround sound than in the right seat of a first-class concert hall.
We interrupt this blog to bring you a commercial message about Practical Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Audio Systems (2007 Edition). Now moving into its sixth edition, it is the only annually updated book on home theater. This year the looong chapters on digital television and surround sound have been compassionately subdivided and reorganized. There are 40 more pages of content than in the first edition, including 16 new pages for this edition alone. Digital, or "on demand," printing technology lets me refresh the book every October, pulling the old edition and activating the new one. However, there are still old editions in the pipeline, and if you search the title on retailer sites, the new edition may not be the first to come up. Further complicating this year's switchover is the transition from the 10-digit International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to the new 13-digit variety on January 1, 2007. To ensure that you order the latest edition, look for the following identifiers...
An annual source of delight for readers everywhere is the updating of my book Practical Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Audio Systems (2011 Edition) from Quiet River Press. The latest edition is the 10th. Look out for the one with the spiffy green cover (yellow is so last year). In this year's edition you'll find a brand-new chapter on 3DTV with my own admittedly skeptical take on the subject. I've also consolidated the DVR and audio-server chapters into a new chapter on DVRs, streamers, and servers. It makes a lot more organizational sense. For the ISBN-minded, the ISBN-13 number is 9781932732122, and ISBN-10 is 1932732128. To ensure you order the right edition, click the links above and below. They'll take you to my website and that will take you to Amazon. You're also welcome to shop other online booksellers by searching the title on AddAll. Or, if you're the old-fashioned kind, walk through the door of your local bookstore and special-order the book. Just be sure to give the correct ISBN. This year's edition will be the first to be distributed in Europe, Canada, and Australia as well as U.S. and U.K. retail channels. The price remains $19.95 in the U.S., same as the first edition in 2002, a nice value in these hard times. Please buy my book so I won't have to beg in the street.
It's that time of year again. My book Practical Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Audio Systems has been reborn in what has become an annual tradition. You can distinguish the new edition by its yellow cover or its ISBN number: 9781932732115. This edition is number nine and its cover date (printed on the spine) is 2010. As always, I've gone over it obsessively, rooting out stale information and freshening up as much as possible. On the video side, LED-backlit LCD HDTV and the conclusion of the DTV transition. On the audio side, this is the first edition to discuss the new height-enhanced surround modes, Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz. It goes into detail about the latest version of HDMI, 1.4, and separates HDMI-cable fact from hype. And it delves into the exotic amplifier topologies that are finding their way into receivers, including the new Class D, Class G, and Class H. I remain committed to the annual update and have already stripped the book's giant text file so I can begin work on the next edition. It never ends. Finally, please note that the book is sold mainly online via Amazon and other booksellers in the U.S., U.K., and Europe. But you can special-order it from a brick-and-mortar bookstore.