After a short pit stop, HDNet and NASCAR are once again putting the pedal to the metal. Both organizations jointly revealed the schedule for the second season of NASCAR's HDTV package to be telecast by HDNet. The pioneering HD network will feature a total of 20 live HD telecasts from NASCAR Grand National Division races. The NASCAR Grand National Division (for those living in blue states who have no earthly idea what we're talking about) includes two independent NASCAR series, the Busch North Series and the West Series (the West Coast's oldest stock car racing circuit), which feature drivers competing using identical race cars. (Well, they're not exactly identical or we wouldn't be able to tell them apart.) HDNet will provide additional coverage of some races from NASCAR's AutoZone Division. With each car in the race powered by a 350 to 358 cubic-inch V-8 engine and weighing a minimum of 3,300 pounds, the series of telecasts will be a high-definition orgy of minimum miles per gallon and maximum emissions. (Oh, what the heck. We all need something to keep our minds off the ever escalating price of gasoline.)
In a market that's rapidly becoming crowded with LCD TV suppliers, manufacturers need to do something to differentiate themselves - preferably something other than simply lowering the price. (Although, all other things being equal, a lower price sure gets our attention.)
Although more and more high-definition displays now come with integrated over-the-air terrestrial Digital TV tuners (and some with Digital Cable Card slots), there are still plenty of HDTV Monitors with no Digital TV tuning capabilities whatsoever sitting in people's living rooms. At some point, be it 2006 or 2106 depending on when the FCC and Congress have the gumption to mandate that all analog TV broadcasting must cease and desist, owners of tuner-less HDTV Monitors will need to add some sort of DTV tuner if they want to enjoy all the glorious entertainment that local network television affiliates so graciously provide to a thankful and devoted public (in return for sitting through endless and insufferable advertisements).
I was wrong. (It's not the first time, but it is the first time I've publicly admitted it.) Before satellite radio (first XM and then SIRIUS) blasted off and began broadcasting, I thought it had about as much chance of succeeding as the Red Sox had of winning the World Series. (Oops...) After all, other than truckers and traveling sales reps with lots of ground to cover, who would want to pay for the privelege of listening to the radio? I even gave (what turned out to be) bad financial advice concerning the prospects of satellite radio to a drummer in a Texas rock band who told me he'd included XM Radio in his stock portfolio. (A drummer with a stock portfolio? I should have known right then that I'd totally lost touch with reality.)
It's unlikely that you've got hours and hours of HD video sitting on your computer's hard drive - although you might if you're the proud owner of a HDV camcorder (from JVC or Sony) or you've invested in an HD PCTV card for your computer and have been recording over-the-air HDTV broadcasts for the past umpteen months. On the other hand, you're more likely to have a slew of high-res images courtesy of your megapixel digital still camera. However, as my wife is forever explaining to me, having lots of great pictures (and video) stored on your computer is nice; it would be nicer (much nicer), though, if they could actually be viewed by the family in some way that didn't involve jockeying for space and hunching over a small computer screen. As I've discovered over the years, you ignore your significant other at your peril.
Unless you're a full-fledged (or even a budding) audio/videophile for whom performance is everything (and I'm not implying there's anything wrong with that), at one time or another you've faced the tough choice of sound and picture quality versus aesthetics, decor, and ergonomics (sometimes referred to as SAF or Spousal Acceptance Factor). Three introductions from Onkyo are intended to provide performance without ruining potential romance.
Imagine the number of people in the world for whom the intricacies of a setting up and using a home theater system are just about as inscrutable and mysterious as the Federal tax code. Then add those individuals who either have limited space or desire to keep the system as minimal in form and function as possible. Throw in a few more folks who simply like to set (and forget) things on top of the television, and you've got the makings of a giant market for two-speaker (or one-box) "surround sound" systems.
High-end home theater owners may already be familiar with Silicon Optix, Inc. The company's Image AnyPlace video scaler provides a great deal of flexibility for installers when choosing where to locate a front-projection monitor in relation to the screen. The scaler's Image Geometry Correction circuitry adjusts the image for off-axis projection in two dimensions (two-dimensional Keystone Correction), so for nightmare-installation rooms the projector may be mounted at the top, bottom, or either side of the projection screen. The scaler also makes it possible to project images onto cylindrical, spherical, or completely irregularly shaped objects. (Imagine the thrill of watching movies on the top of your brother-in-law's shiny bald head.)
It used to be that you had to be an astronaut or a fighter pilot in order to experience first-class motion simulation. D-BOX Technology, Inc., changed that when they introduced the high-end Odyssee Motion Simulator that included a dedicated controller and set of actuators that move your favorite chair or (a platform holding several chairs) in synchronization with a number of Hollywood movies for which D-BOX had slavishly encoded motion commands. (Read about Chris Chiarella's stimulating experience with the Odyssee simulator here
.) Now D-BOX has lowered the price of admission for motion at home with Quest chairs and loveseats.
Media servers - components designed to provide instant access to a large number of audio, and in some cases video, files stored in a central location - are hot. If you've never had a chance to use one, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. If, on the other hand, you've been fortunate enough to experience the ability to listen to any track of your music collection (or different tracks simultaneously in a multi-zone system), then you know what a joy it can be. It sounds silly, but using a system with such easy access to music can be incredibly addictive. It's even nicer to have instantaneous access to your entire DVD collection (with appropriate copyright respect, of course).