Video and Audio Center Blog



Friday, June 26, 2015

HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE IS COMING - AND THAT’S GOOD


When TVs first came out, the movie theater’s began to panic that no one would ever leave the house again. So to fight this off, new technologies like “Technicolor” and “Panavision” widescreen picture formats came into being. The idea was that movie theater’s had the latest “technologies” that made them superior to staying home and watching a TV — today we would call these “features” that change the way the picture plays on the TV screen. And which are so great to have on the new TVs now available.



Today getting a good picture on the TV is taken for granted — and as a result new technologies (or “features”) that can make a big difference in image quality are not given the attention they deserve. Case in point: Technicolor and its HDR and SDR compatibility solution.



WHAT IS HDR?



Lets start with what HDR — high dynamic range — is all about. While its value for watching a TV picture hasn’t received the attention it deserves as yet, those using still photography, especially on smartphones like the iPhone, have seen what it can do. Basically it takes multiple pictures all at the same time, both under- and over-exposing the same image. This is then combined to take advantage of the extreme light and darkness of the image. Taking a picture in the normal fashion when the image has deep blacks and white whites causes the image to give up on trying to capture the entire range of the spectrum (the “dynamic range”) and instead go for an average which just doesn’t cut it (highlights can get washed out and black areas lose all detail and render as black holes).



WHY SHOULD WE CARE?


For TVs, HDR means a more colorful picture because the contrast level between light and dark can be more intense (without the negatives of “washing” out detail as otherwise would be the case). In a real sense it makes the “reality” of what is being watched on the TV screen come as close as possible to how your eye and brain react to “seeing” in the real world: the colors looks like they should, the highlights and dark areas have depth and the color is vibrant. You’re not putting up with watching anymore.



Of course for HDR to be effective it needs to have a strong and high resolution image for that TV screen. That’s why HDR’s time has come — because we now have 4K TVs that can provide a quality picture that is so close to reality. In addition, an organic LED TV (OLED) is also well-suited for HDR use; this is due to OLED’s ability to render a perfect, absolute black.




The last step, youd think, would be for there to be content to watch on TVs that have HDR capabilities built-in, but theres actually a step in front of that which is just as important. And its where Technicolor comes back to the forefront for TVs.





A HDR SOLUTION



Technicolor has described a single layer solution for HDR that is compatible with the already accepted standards of MPEG HEVC, while being backwardly compatible so as to not let out legacy SDR (standard dynamic range) imaging. What this means in “real-speak” is that coding and delivery of HDR content can be sent in a single stream which means less bandwidth requirements (as opposed to having to use multiple streams). This should please and soothe the angst of broadcasters, streaming services, etc., who are looking to add HDR content but have to consider the $$ — because storage and delivery of the HDR content is now being done through a single file that will also play on the legacy (i.e., old-school) TVs along with the new TVs.



According to Technicolor, one of the big factors of this is that their solution doesn’t require the consumer adopting HDR-compatible devices or it’s no-go (think: CDs required getting a new player because the cassette player couldn’t handle discs, but this isn’t that).


Technicolor is having the “big boys” (i.e., the Motion Picture Experts Group [MPEG]) view their solution as a standard to adopt. Testing is underway and if Technicolor has its way, consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits of HDR soon and on more screens.


 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

EXPLORE A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT POWERED BY BY ANDROID TV!


When flat panel TVs appeared on the scene, the first thing that anyone noticed was how thin and svelte they looked when compared to a TV tube model. Then special features began to crop up actually they exploded as enhancements to watching television changed. This brought us apps like the TV was a mobile phone or tablet, streaming capabilities for watching movies and TV shows when our schedule found it most convenient (Without having to physically have a disc player) and even ways to emulate a computers web browser for viewing things online. But to have all of this work correctly, there also had to be an operating system (OS) that could handle everything the TV was capable of doing efficiently and effectively. And it was here that the flat panel was lacking, because the OS seemed to be cobbled together. Until now, because the Android TV operating system is designed to take whatever the TV can throw at it and make it perform.

As built into the latest generation high-resolution TVs, Android TV is an integral part of the TV and has cutting-edge features built in. These features make it stand out and are worth knowing more about. So lets do just that.

SMART TV

An Android TV knows that theres more going on than just watching broadcast television or cable. Because of this, it can exercise a more precise control to deliver what the person watching the TV wants to do or see. Take apps like YouTube or Hula Plus, for example. Previously all you could do was access them and then search for what you wanted to see. But now these apps will put up personalized recommendations for videos or TV shows or sports right on the home screen because theyre working for you.


THINK IT, THEN SAY IT

Scrolling through menus is a chore and entering words or phrases for searches or to get information can make you tear your hair out. Rather than waste precious time, just speak into the remotes microphone and tell it what youre looking for: comedies set in New York, for example or asking what the forecast is for later in the week sure, you can do that now. Theres nothing like using your voice to streamline what you are looking for and thanks to this OS, your Android TV will show you everything relating to what you have commanded because it gives you the power of Google Search.


CONTENT COMES FROM WHERE YOU WANT IT

We all have a lot of devices and lots of things on them that could benefit from the big TV screen. No wires to connect or complicated setup programs to follow, if you want to cast music or a show or a movie or games youre playing to the TV, go ahead and do it. Got a Mac or PC? Go ahead. How about iOS (Apple) or Android phones or tablets? Sure. Chromebooks arent left out either. And in those cases where a device like Chromecast might be needed to make it happen for some devices, well it doesnt hurt if thats built right into the TV (actually the Google Cast technology that Chromecast is composed of).


HAVE FUN, WILL PLAY

Android TV includes access to Google Play and that means tons of games. But that also means you can start playing a game on your phone and then continue it on the TV if you want, because Google Play Games saves progress on  your Android phone, tablet and TV. Or start up a multi-player game and grab some friends (up to 4) and pass out gamepads, Android phones/tablets so you can get into some serous head-to-head gaming. Plus you can play PlayStation 3 games directly on some Android TVs too (no console needed). And the high-res graphics will look splendid on the big screen TV for sure.

One of the important things to remember is that Android TV is an interface and so will be found on more and more TVs moving forward. But we think the important thing to remember is that Android TV makes watching TV more fun.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

WHOLE HOUSE AUDIO - IT’S YOUR MUSIC IN YOUR HOUSE


We all love to hear music and even though mobile devices make that possible when on-the-go, still the best sounds come from when were home. Thats not just because theres better audio equipment and our music library is waiting to perform, but the environment is more relaxed and we can be ourselves while listening to the music we love. But good as that is, it can be even better when theres audio playing music throughout the house. That's called whole house audio. Does that sound complicated? Or confusing? It doesnt need to be.

Being able to play music throughout a home (or apartment) used to require complex equipment that was both expensive and hard to understand. Thats all in the past. You want to listen to music in your den or living room, go ahead. How about the kitchen? Same there. And of course the bedroom or patio or rec room is just part of it all. And having the music follow you from one room to the other isnt magic its just part of what whole house audio can do.

So now that youre fired up, how do you go about it is a reasonable question. First off, theres two ways that everything will be connected: wired and wireless. Well start with wired which, as it would seem obvious, lets out those who rent, unless the cables are going to run only along the baseboards and so doesnt violate the integrity of any walls. This is best done by an installer, for example, Just One Touch, because they not only know the how of connecting everything through physical connections, but also the why of doing it correctly. Not to ignore being cognizant of building codes and other requirements so that the work is done correctly and safely. Additionally an installer can help you decide on the best location for the speakers, be that free-standing, wall mounted or in the ceiling.

The other method, wireless, means that anyone can use it homes, apartments, condos, etc., because theres no invasiveness going on.  All the connections are done over the airwaves and while an installer will still perform their magic while you watch then should you decide on wireless, its also possible to assemble the whole house audio scheme yourself using audio equipment that was designed with this in mind and which you can buy yourself.

But regardless of which of the above methods are used, the first step is to do the planning so that you know what you want from your system, and how it is to work together. Lets focus in on that now.

AUDIO EQUIPMENT

The most basic requirement is an audio receiver (nominally called an AVR for audio/video receiver). It works to take the audio signal input from a CD player or other audio source and transmit the signal to speakers that then sound" off. As expected, these receivers can add their own audio signals to the mix: from FM radio to Internet radio.

Technologies are built into the receiver to facilitate such functions, such as Bluetooth to accept audio from mobile devices and Wi-Fi for joining a home network for accessing online systems or wireless transmissions. But there are also music player systems that work with hard drives and an amplifier for high resolution audio that can be accessed as well.

The next basic requirement are the speakers. These can be placed inside/outside the home (outside needing to be made with enclosures that will protect against the elements), and connect to the receiver through a wireless or wireless connection.

For stereo, two speakers will be needed in any location, but it's also possible to use a speaker that has multiple audio drivers in it and so can provide stereo from a single enclosure (these are really good for outside use or where space is limited).

AUDIO ZONES

The number of locations (i.e., rooms) where the music can be will depend on devices that can send the audio there. Some AVRs are able to output to speakers in two different areas, with some featuring multi-zone capability (the signal strength of each zone is being determined by the overall power rating of the receiver). Plus there are speaker selector devices for connecting multiple speaker pairs to an amplifier and giving you independent volume control over what is being played in different locations. There are also speaker transmission devices that amplify and send sounds to different locations.
REMOTE CONTROL

Controlling the sound in varied locations can be done by keypads or tablet-based controls which have traditionally been put into place by controllers. With the advent of mobile devices, it's also now possible to use tablets and smartphones to wirelessly control the audio -- depending not just on the app, which is tied to a particular amplifier or audio equipment, but on the systems that have been integrated into the audio equipment for user control. 

While setting up a whole house audio system may seem daunting at first, the rewards of doing so cant be underestimated. And with systems now in place to abbreviate the amount of time required to do a set up and mitigate costs, there's really no reason not to have music playing whenever and wherever you want in your home.

 

Monday, June 08, 2015

TODAY’S LCD TVS ARE BETTER THAN EVER!



Beauty is only skin deep doesnt really apply to todays flat and curved LCD TVs. Sure they look great theyre thin and sleek and svelte and classy but what makes the picture so attractive comes from what is inside that piece of black glass that we call the display.

All of what you see comes from various technologies designed to interact with the LCD screen. Some of these are now becoming available while others are a bit off. While Seeing Is Believing, its still important to know just what is helping that along. Why? Because its YOUR TV and knowing what technology it has working can only help you ensure that it will deliver the best picture possible when you turn it on. So heres what is worth knowing about the new LCD TVs.


QUANTUM DOTS

Take extremely tiny we mean hugely tiny crystals so that they are nanocrystals and set them in front of blue LEDs. Because the nanocrystals glow when energized, the result is that you not only get blue from the LEDs but also red and green because red/green quantum dots are energized also. So you get much better color with a greater depth and more realism than viewed with the white LEDs used in the past. TVs using this technology are much improved from a technical point of view but what is important is that this can be seen. So whether its a flat panel or curved, HDTV or 4K UHD TV, its all about seeing a much better picture than what was available before.


HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE

Commonly referred to as HDR, increasing the level of contrast makes for a brighter and more realistic picture with a wider range of color enabling brighter whites and darker blacks think of it as a TV picture that has a snap and punch to it. The downside of increasing contrast in the past is that image detail would suffer as the contrast increased no more, thanks to HDR. And to really enjoy the effect, the video signal being sent to the TV can be HDR enhanced - be that one broadcasted from a TV network or coming from a streaming service like Netflix or on a Blu-ray disc.

LASERS

Lasers have the reputation of being death rays, but what they really are can be condensed down to highly focused beams of light. Because of this, colors produced by them can be extremely accurate and natural-appearing. Theres talk of some TV manufacturers looking to make this technology available in the near future, but near could mean anywhere from 3-5 years out to never.

The fact that todays TVs contain so much technology (not to mention features) shouldnt put off anyone from replacing their existing ho-hum model with one new and improved. And with choices of flat panel, curved, HDTV & 4K TVs abounding, theres never been a better time to get that improved picture, thanks to a new TV.