Video and Audio Center Blog



Thursday, August 27, 2015

KEEPING YOUR HOME THEATER COOL


Summer only comes once a year, but it isnt the heat from outdoors that your home theater has to worry about. Everyone knows that electronic devices, be they TVs or Blu-ray players or even speakers should be left outside in the Sun but what about inside? Heat buildup of amplifiers and even those super-thin TVs can prove a problem not just because  they affect the performance of what you see and hear, but also because they can significantly impact negatively on the overall life of your electronics. As an example, people often put their audio systems main unit (be it a stand-alone amplifier or a combo with a built-in disc drive) inside a cabinet thats designed to keep the living room or bedrooms decor from looking techy. But since heat rises, that means hot air is getting trapped inside and re-enveloping the components and that doesnt change just because theres some holes in the back of the furniture for the cords to go through. And any air conditioning keeping the room (and people) cool wont be a positive here either. So what to do?

The answer is to keep cool for your electronics, not just yourself. If putting in a new home theater, you cant do any better than to enlist the aid of professionals, like the folks at Just One Touch, who not only know what equipment is needed and the best way to install a home theater in your home, but also know how to make sure that the equipment stays within its optimal temperature range.

But for those who already have their home theater setup locked down or want to take care of things for themselves, theres a few things to do, besides making sure theres open space all around the component, that will help to keep the electronics from being abused by the temperature. And they are.

 
CABINET COOLING FANS
A nice piece of furniture holding that new 4K TV will look great in a room, especially since other electronics like disc players and cable boxes can be placed inside shelves where they remain unobtrusive (in some cases a front glass door can make the components seem even more hidden, while allowing the beams of an infra-red remote to still send signals to them). But to avoid trapping the heat inside, Cabinet cooling fans operate on the principle of forced air they push the heat out from the area they are covering to the outside and so keep the component at about the same temperature as the rest of the room. As can be imagined, these fans are precision devices and so are not inexpensive. However there are many types available and prices vary from the manufacturers so its not a buy this or nothing situation.

SPOT COOLING FANS
These little fans possess a simple philosophy: theyre made to cover a small area and sit directly on top of the electronic that is putting out heat. An example of this would be to use one on top of an amplifiers grill holes. The spot cooler is designed with an attached temperature problem that will read the temperature of the component and so not turn the fan on until it is needed making for a more efficient use of electricity and the life of the spot cooling fan. Additionally, in most cases the power for the spot cooling fan can be plugged into the component it is protecting directly (through an AC outlet or a USB socket) eliminating the need to run wires.


HIDDEN WALL FANS
Flat panel TVs have become so lightweight and thin that mounting them to walls is no issue at all. However one of the prices to pay for this thinness is that the heat from the electronics dont have an easy exit path. A TV isnt going to get as hot (nowhere as hot) as an iMac, for example, does but if mounted to the wall then heat being trapped becomes an issue. The answer to this are hidden wall fans that fit behind the TV in the spaces necessary for the cabling and which take their power from the TVs USB ports (in most cases). Having the air traveling and not remaining stagnant makes the difference.

Keeping your cool is important, but keeping your home theater cool is even more so. Since each home theater is different than the next, its important to assess what is needed by looking at your setup and then deciding on the best way to keep the heat from getting its way. Your home theater will thank you.

Monday, August 24, 2015

WATCH YOUR OWN 3D ON A BIG SCREEN


3D has been around for more than 50 years movies in the 1950s from Alfred Hitchcock and other directors being good examples but its never been viable for those wanting to do it for themselves. Its not just that its been hard to find a way to shoot your own 3D pictures easily, but it was a battle in itself to find a way to look at them. But now that everyone has a cell phone camera, and there are 3D-capable TVs, things are different. Thats especially true with the TVs, for the following three reasons:

A BIG SCREEN will let more than one person see the 3D photo that is playing on it: because while the sweet spot for seeing 3D on a TV is dead center, having a bigger screen expands this space so you dont have to be right in the middle.

The HIGHER RESOLUTION of HDTV and, especially, 4K UHD TVs are able to delineate the differences in the image that make the 3D perspective apparent. You need to have the ability to display a high contrast without destroying detail in order for 3D to stand out. Now it can.

The ease in which a 3D image can now be displayed on a 3D-capable TV means that nobody has to be a rocket scientist in order to make it happen. Its a simple matter now of taking out the memory card from the camera and plugging it into one of the TVs USB sockets (with a SD adapter) or connecting a cable between the TV and the camera or sending the info wirelessly (for example, through a WiFI connection or a WiFi memory card). Then the TV just needs to be set to 3D and the picture put up on the screen to look at (with the TVs accompanying 3D glasses now put on).
So that takes care of how well view 3D. So lets go into how we can shoot it. While there are specialized cameras that have 3D built into them, to be readily accessible the camera needs to be right there in most peoples hands. Or pocketsbecause the smartphones that everyone carries around have good quality cameras built right into them. So there are phones which have 3D-shooting capabilities already. And the phones already have the means for getting their pictures sent to the TV through WiFi and other means. But what if your phone doesnt have 3D? Then itll need help for shooting in the third dimension and thats where the 3D accessories come in.

The way these 3D accessories work is that the phone goes inside of them so that an optical system consisting of 2 lenses and a mirror (to simplify) can shoot what is being looked at and save it on the smartphone as a stereoscopic image. An example of this is the Poppy 3D, which works with Apple iPhones 4th and 5th generation (and 5th gen iPod touch).

Theres even newer forms of 3D-compatible devices coming out: an example being the Bevel, created by the same folks who created a 3D scanner. The Bevel will attach to the phone and use its own optical system to turn what is being seen into 3D. One advantage here will be that the 3D image can be used in social media applications or as files for 3D printing as well as being on a TV and looked at.

As can be seen, having 3D pictures can be fun because the process of making and, most importantly VIEWING them has become so much simpler than it was in the past. Be seeing you in the third dimension!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

GETTING READY FOR Hi-Res AUDIO


Hi-Res audio is just a fancy way of saying that the music is at a high resolution to provide the nuances of sound that the artist intended. Enjoying high-quality audio is something that can be done at home and which only requires a minimal adding to of the components already found in your home theater in order to enjoy a superior quality sound that will make new titles, as well as old favorites sound impressive.

So youre sold on the idea, but what has to be set up to make it happen?  Heres what is needed in order to be able to enjoy Hi-Res audio.
THE AUDIO PLAYER

Because Hi-Res audio files are digital, the audio player must be too. So that means the player will have a hard drive to contain the files and store them for play. There will also be ways to move the audio from the Internet to get it from a PC and app control over it as well. WiFi will also be present and used. Having an amplifier built-in will be useful also (although those looking for portability via a mobile Hi-Res audio player can use it with an existing receiver). Deciding on the model to put in the home theater should be based on the features provided, how comfortable you are with the brand providing the player and whether it has those features that you feel are vital to your personal listening needs.

AMPLIFIER AND SPEAKERS

Hi-Res audio requires a strong sound field and by that we mean good quality speakers, not portable models that operate on batteries. A pair of speakers as in stereo will suffice, although having a surround sound system of multiple speakers can increase the ambiance and flavor of whats being heard. The most important thing about the speakers is that they match up, which is to say that the front left and right (used in a standard stereo speaker configuration or as the left and right main speakers) should be from the same company as then they will have the same sonic resonance. Should a 5.1 or 7.1 audio system be present in the home theater, then the center channel speaker should also be from the same company. And if speakers need to be put into ceilings or mounted and so requires help, there are professional installation companies that can be of aid here.

The power that drives the speakers comes from the amplifier, or as it is more commonly known today, the A/V receiver. Not that a stereo receiver should be discounted there are those who swear by the simpler circuitry and less bells and whistles found on a stereo receiver, because this can avoid any interference that otherwise could be generated to influence and color the sound. A stereo receiver will provide a strong and stable sound-field to the two speakers attached to it and so is not to be disdained, especially among audiophiles who continue to play vinyl.

But for those with a surround sound home theater, the A/V receiver will be found. As noted above. it doesnt just provide multi-channel audio from a number of speakers (for example, a 5.1 system means a left/right speaker, a center speaker and a pair of left/right surrounds, plus a subwoofer), but also enhanced sound field options to simulate a studio environment or a concert and others. Youll also find such enhancements as Bluetooth and other audio streaming technologies, along with setup technologies for automating a well-modulated sound between all the speakers, etc. But at its heart, the A/V receivers job is to provide the oomph to drive the sound to the speakers so that they can perform up to their capacity and with a high standard of the audio being heard.

To use the existing audio receiver means using a portable Hi-Res audio player that can output at the higher levels of frequency response. The advantage of this is that you also now have the means for listening to Hi-Res audio on the go and so not restricted to doing this only at home.

THE AUDIO CONTENT

Content, meaning audio files, is of course paramount if there arent Hi-Res audio files to listen to, whats the purpose of being able to play them? Thanks to the Internet, getting Hi-Res audio isnt complicated at all: albums and tracks can be had from a number of online vendors who make it feasible to download titles for home consumption. These companies go by the name of Qobuz or HIGHRESAUDIO, HDMusicStore, LINN, 7digital and others. And while the audio formats might vary being DSD or WAV or AIFF or FLAC  or PCM they all share the value of delivering the best sound possible for the original content they are derived from.

Listening to music is a very personal thing and we all have our favorites. Now with Hi-Res music, we can revisit those favorites and hear the music in a far superior fashion than was possible before enjoying the full rick sound of the original recordings and discovering new things in what we hear to make us like the music even more.