Video and Audio Center Blog



Wednesday, August 29, 2018

STREAMING, BROADCAST, CABLE, SATELLITE, BLU-RAY & ? A GUIDE TO 4K CONTENT IN 2018 AND HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR 4K EXPERIENCE!

According to Benjamin Swinburne, Managing Director and Head of Media Research for Morgan Stanley, “It's no secret that internet distribution of content is disrupting television. By our count, there were 120 million aggregate over-the-top (OTT) subscriptions by the end of 2017 in the U.S. alone, suggesting that TV over the internet is officially mainstream” — and we at Video & Audio Center, California’s #1 audio, video and smart home integrator for the past 18 years, agree and feel that the most critical issue today is the growth of 4K content, as we attempt to outline some of the major players in 2018 in this article.

Throughout the years, home entertainment has been a constantly evolving landscape of new technologies; whether improvements in image quality, sound delivery and acuity, networking, aesthetics or even in simple convenience — such as today’s voice-activated remote controls, but nothing quite so game-changing in the last quarter of a century as the advent of 4K TV and the quantum leap that TVs took in providing a true cinematic viewing experience at home; and experts predict that by next year, one-third of all US households will own at least one 4K TV.

On June 26, 2013, Sharp announced the world's first 4K TV with THX 4K certification, and from that point on, 4K TV technology has been consistently growing, improving and becoming less and less expensive. In fact, a 42” plasma TV twenty years ago cost around $15,000—today, you can get a 43” 4K HDR SmartTV —with 4K’s vastly improved image quality—for just over $300 online, we know, we sell thousands of them.

At Video & Audio Center, we’ve been on the cutting-edge of new and emerging technologies for well over 30+ years, in fact, we’ve introduced many of today’s newest entertainment technologies to the public for the very first time, and the question we hear regarding 4K TV is, ‘what about content’—and while its certainly true that until the major TV networks start consistently broadcasting in 4K, that content will still be somewhat limited, but technology abhors a vacuum and the industry has seen a big move towards 4K acceptance across the board from other content distributors—with 4K Blu-ray (as always), plus the emerging internet-based streaming services as well as via local cable companies throughout the country, eventually broadcast (and then, who knows what will be next?).

Here’s a list of 2018’s more popular 4K content distribution options, but keep in mind, this list is constantly changing and expanding as 4K becomes more and more popular in our homes.

Netflix
In addition to your “regular” monthly bill, it’ll cost about $15 more a month to sign up for Netflix’s Premium Plan, which includes streaming, 4KUltra HD content on up to four screens. It is recommended that you have an internet speed of at least 25 Mbps or higher to reduce any buffering or loss of signal issues. Netflix was one of the first internet streaming providers to feature 4K Ultra HD streaming content, and their commitment to the format has also been growing as the majority of the network’s original series are now also being “filmed” in native 4K.

Amazon Prime
If you’re already an Amazon Prime Member, what have you been waiting for, it’s INCLUDED in your annual membership! But if you’re not a member either consider joining or it’ll cost you around $13 per month. Amazon Prime started out, like many existing providers, with only a small fraction of 4K Ultra HD titles, primarily versions of their originally-produced TV series, but these days they’ve increased those numbers to include most of its newer original series as well as other TV series and movies. Amazon also features a special selection of 4K Ultra HD movies as part of its Prime Collection, with titles refreshing and changing from month to month.

Hulu / Hulu Live

While Hulu is certainly one of the most popular choices for streamers, it has an extremely limited selection of HD and 4K titles. In addition to a full slate of Network TV programming, it does offer access to a vast library of classic shows and movies, and now even offers a live TV option starting at around $40 per month. Due to their relationship with the major networks, and unlike Netflix and Amazon, Hulu gets a great deal of network programming almost immediately after it airs on the network. They’ve also been extremely active in original production—following the trend of content distributors entering into the real of content producers as well.

Traditional Cable TV providers were actually at the forefront on streaming 4k movies “On Demand” to their subscribers for additional fees; and while that has continued, some are now offering access to a small number of 4K-only channels to augment their growing library of 4K movies, documentaries, travelogues, etc., these include:

DirecTV / DirecTV Now
Even though DirecTV was one of the first to provide streaming 4K movies on demand all the way back in 2014, their initial attempt seems extremely limited and subdued. For an additional $6.50 per receiver DirectTV currently offers access to a limited number of 4K movies and documentaries, concerts and sporting events with two, full-time 4K channels; programming this month included the PGA Championship, a couple of baseball and soccer telecasts, a concert and a bare knuckle fighting match among others. You’ll need a DirecTV 4K Ready TV (or standard 4K TV and 4K Genie Mini) and DirecTV’s Genie HD DVR; to receive their new LIVE streaming service you’ll also need to have the latest Genie HD DVR.

Dish Network
It’s pretty much the same story for existing Dish Network users, with live packages starting at $40. DirecTV can provide 4K content both live and on-demand through Hopper 3 hardware and 4K Joey, so live 4K programming is available on any channel broadcasting in 4K, but we already know that’s a small list today.

Comcast
Remarkably, Comcast streams free to its existing Xfinity TV customers, and has been streaming 4k movie content for over 4 years now—which like DirecTV’s involvement mentioned above, was downright prehistoric for 4K content! You’ll need an Xfinity XG1v4 or a Roku device, as well as specific model 4K TVs from LG, Samsung, and Sony (all available at Video &Audio Center stores or online). Like other 4k streaming providers, you can also watch Netflix in 4K via your Xfinity set-top box provided you have a Netflix account.

…and then there’s the user-posted, 4K content distributors such as YouTube, Vimeo and others, both of which have been involved in 4K streaming for the past couple of years, and while the content might not be Hollywood, the production values and sheer quality of the 4K offerings available make this one of my favorite places to find content that really maximizes the capabilities of a 4K HDR TVs ability to even surpass reality in terms of depth of field, clarity, a color palette into the millions and sheer vibrancy of the image.

There are also online streaming companies that either specialize in only offering streaming 4K movies for rent and/or purchase, these companies include names like, iTunes, Vudu, UltraFlix, Sony Ultra, Google Play and Fandango Now, among a growing list of other providers and streaming companies that don’t have any 4K offerings as of this date, such as AT&T WatchTV, Pluto TV, Acorn TV, Philo, and a host of others.
So because the majority of things you watch on your 4K HDR Smart TV will still “only” be in HD, it’s important to understand the role that interpolation plays in your viewing experience. The reality is the panels of the TVs are all fairly similar in capabilities, it’s the interpolation software that re-creates the broadcast signal into a 4K environment, and how effectively a TV handles this task that determines the quality of the image.

That’s why Video & Audio Center only carries the leaders in 4K technologies, including: LG, Sony and Samsung. To see the very latest in today’s entertainment technologies from the leaders, stop into any Video & Audio Center where you can see, touch, and experience all of today’s state of the art models, and here's a short "cheat sheet" for current content providers:





Monday, August 20, 2018

MEET THE NEW FRAME—NEW FEATURES, BUT STILL REDFINING WHAT A TV CAN BE!


Among the many TV innovations that Samsung has pioneered over the years, the company will always be remembered for transforming the TV from being a black box to a work of art with The Frame. In fact, when Video & Audio Center first released The Frame, our customer's response to this re-imagined concept of television itself was as revealing as sales were astronomical; and now the latest version, The Frame 2018, has just become available for purchase—and Video & Audio Center, like all our Samsung products, has The Frame 2018 for less than both amazon.com and Best Buy, see our stores for details.

But enough about being 2018's #1 video & audio/smart home/custom installation company and the best place to see and buy this new model, The Frame 2018 is the evolution of Samsung’s award-winning lifestyle TV, The Frame. With enhanced features, new customization options and more than 800 available works of art, The Frame 2018 is sure to transform your living room into a dynamic, customizable gallery space.

Owners of The Frame 2018 now have more ways to customize the look and feel of their room. The Samsung Art Store, the world’s largest art platform for TVs, houses an ever-growing and diverse library of artwork from some of the most prominent museums, galleries and artists around the world – including the recent addition of more than 30 iconic pieces of photography from The New York Times, 21 artworks from the Victoria and Albert Museum among others.

Whether you'd prefer to change the look of the room each season or want to bring a fresh  décor for a special dinner party, you can customize The Frame to create your preferred aesthetic in any room. Thanks to an improved UI, The Frame can browse different art pieces based on the color scheme of any room, or by a particular medium, like drawings or photography. Then, like curating a music playlist, you'll be able to create your own personalized collection that shuffles through your particular selections as often as you'd like.

Stunning Quality with User-friendly Functionality

When it’s switched on, The Frame 2018 features a crisp and clear 4K UHD screen with HDR10+ technology, so that you'll be able to view the content just the way the director intended. Similar to Samsung’s 2018 QLED TV line, The Frame 2018 comes with new smart capabilities that make it quick and easy to set up the new TV and access content.

With Effortless Log-in, you can quickly transfer your Wi-Fi and Samsung account details from your phone to the TV via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) without having to remember or re-enter any cumbersome passwords. Samsung’s proprietary Smart Hub menu enables consumers to intuitively navigate across streaming services, consoles and live TV while the Universal Guide feature curates content based on each user’s unique taste.

A Gallery in your Living Room

What sets The Frame 2018 apart is the way it transforms itself when the screen is switched off. Motion and brightness sensors convert The Frame 2018 from TV into a lifelike work of art. Just like how a framed picture looks different depending on the time of day, these sensors also adjust the screen brightness based on the ambient light in the room.

Samsung Art Store is an optimized platform offering new ways for consumers to access new pieces of art. Additional features include:
  • Slideshow – Sets a slideshow of the user’s personally selected artworks that automatically changes at intervals between 10 minutes and 7 days according to personal settings

  • Favorite – Enables consumers to select their favorite artworks and create their own collection of masterpieces to be used with Slideshow, and provide easier access to their favorite pieces

Discovery and navigation on the Samsung Art Store have been improved so users are never too far away from their new favorite piece to display proudly on their screen. Users can easily find their picks, browsing through the gallery where the images are sorted by different categories like colors and composition; and Samsung offers access to a wide variety of image collections by subscription.
The Frame 2018 seamlessly blends in with home décor. When mounted, it hangs flush to your wall thanks to Samsung’s No Gap Wall-Mount. The selection of four customizable magnetic bezel options – black, white, walnut and beige wood – also helps you to swap the monitor edge’s color to complement your room’s style. Another "designer" touch is the One Invisible Connection feature included on all The Frame 2018 models where a slim, translucent cable transmits both power and AV data to the TV, replacing all wires leading to and from the TV itself. The Frame 2018 ensures that users are provided not only better design, but also better and more aesthetic viewing experience.
Last year, we saw for ourselves just how Samsung's The Frame helped Video & Audio Center's style-conscious consumers find the right mix of functionality and design for their TVs – whether on or off. With The Frame 2018, this experience has become even more refined and is now quite irresistible. Stop in top any of our five Video & Audio Center Technology Superstores, where you can see, touch, feel and experience the brand new Samsung The Frame 2018 for yourself...and bring an extra pair of socks, this TV will knock yours off!

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Sony Electronics Launches New A9F OLED MASTER Series 4K HDR TVs — The Pinnacle of Picture Quality for the Home!


MASTER Series A9F Televisions Feature Next-generation Sony Processor and Exclusive Netflix Calibrated Mode to Bring Sony's Very Best Picture Quality into Viewer's Homes by Faithfully Conveying the Creator's Intent. 

In our 30+ years as Southern California’s premier consumer electronics destination and Sony Authorized Dealer, we can’t recall ever looking forward to a new product release as we have with the upcoming A9F OLED Series. Sony Electronics, Inc. has officially announced the new television series, offering extraordinary picture quality by virtue of employing multiple proprietary technologies and solutions, leading with Sony' next-generation Picture Processor X1™ Ultimate—will be released sometime this coming Fall 2018 to consumers at of course, immediately available at that time at any of our Video & Audio Center technology showrooms, or online at www.videoandaudiocenter.com.

The new A9F models arrive as the MASTER Series – a name Sony has reserved exclusively for its highest picture quality TV models. Sony's goal is to create a TV capable of displaying images that faithfully convey the creator's full intent. This is a trend that we at Video & Audio Center have seen growing within the industry for a couple of years now—as the relationship between TV manufacturers and TV content producers has become more and more firmly entrenched.

Sony's new MASTER Series provides picture quality approaching that of a professional-grade monitor in a movie studio and was developed by following a very strict set of product evaluation criteria set by its most experienced picture quality engineers."Sony's focus has always been on quality, and our new MASTER Series is a game changer," said Mike Fasulo, president and chief operating officer, Sony Electronics North America. "Netflix is redefining the way in which content is produced, and together we have created an offering that has never been done before. Our new line of TVs featuring Netflix Calibrated Mode truly optimize the entertainment experience and provide new viewing options for our customers."

The A9F MASTER Series models come equipped with a newly developed, next-generation Picture Processor X1™ Ultimate. This processor plays a vital role in delivering the high-quality picture in the MASTER Series. With a long history and expertise in developing professional cameras and monitors, Sony recognizes that precision in constructing fine signal processing components results in an immediately visible difference to the whole image. The Picture Processor X1™ Ultimate can intelligently detect and analyze each object in the picture through Sony's new Object-based Super Resolution for exceptional accuracy and detail. The Object-based HDR remaster has been updated and now allows each object to be remastered individually for better depth, accurate texture and an overall more realistic picture.

Introducing Netflix Calibrated Mode
Over the years, Sony Electronics has worked with television and movie industry professionals to develop new viewing technologies. In 2000, Sony Electronics introduced Cinema Mode, which was developed in conjunction with Sony Pictures Entertainment. In 2012, Sony introduced its first 4K television, working with the industry to bring this new standard from the movie studios to viewers' homes. For the MASTER Series, Sony has worked with Netflix to develop Netflix Calibrated Mode. The new feature was specially developed to mirror the same picture quality as a studio evaluation master for television in order to preserve the artist's creative vision and intent. By clicking one simple menu setting, Netflix Calibrated Mode faithfully reproduces the visuals that help bring a story to life, and entertainment enthusiasts can now enjoy this experience when watching their favorite TV series, films, documentaries and more on Netflix.

"In recent years, we have seen great advances in technology that have made an unprecedented impact on the way TV and film entertainment is consumed," said Fasulo. "Both Sony and Netflix have been pioneering the industry in terms of content production and distribution, working directly with creators to bring their stories to entertainment lovers around the world. Sony and Netflix have put much effort into developing and supporting cutting-edge technologies, such as 4K picture resolution, high dynamic range (HDR) and Dolby Atmos™ sound that allow film professionals to authentically express their vision for fans to enjoy in their homes around the world."

"While recently watching 'Lost in Space,' I was struck by the vivid landscapes: lush forests, shadowed snowfields, and other visual elements that pulled me more deeply into the Robinsons' adventures," said Scott Mirer, vice president, device partner ecosystem, Netflix. "We can't wait for our members around the world watching on Sony's new MASTER Series TVs to get this fantastic experience and — for the very first time — to deliver studio-quality picture mastering to the living room with Netflix Calibrated Mode."

Additionally, the MASTER Series is ready for CalMAN®, the industry-leading display calibration software from Portrait Displays. CalMAN is widely used by professionals as a tool to ensure quality control of the strict requirements demanded by content creators in broadcast, production and post-production. CalMAN eliminates the struggle of maintaining the picture quality throughout the life of the TV.

Innovation in TV picture, sound and design
The flagship A9F OLED TV comes equipped with the Pixel Contrast Booster, Sony's original panel controller for OLED, which maximizes the dynamic range by widening the area of color reproduction at high brightness. Pictures are enhanced with extra detail and texture.

The A9F OLED TV has top-of-the-line sound quality thanks to its new Acoustic Surface Audio+™ technology. Acoustic Surface™ was first introduced last year with the critically acclaimed A1E series, followed by the A8F this year. The improved Acoustic Surface Audio+™ gets an additional actuator in the center of the screen and an extra subwoofer channel, totaling to a 3.2 channel sound system. The additional center actuator acts just like center speakers hidden behind a acoustically transparent (AT) screen found in movie theaters. 

With the three actuators and two subwoofers facing sideways, the A9F creates a rich sound field that greatly enhances the viewing experience. The A9F also has a TV Center Speaker Mode that allows the Acoustic Surface Audio+™ to be used as the center speaker of a home theater system.

Using the Google Assistant with the A9F is simple. All A9F models have built-in microphones, enabling viewers to simply talk to the TV to find what they want, or to ask the Google Assistant to play TV shows, movies and more.

MASTER Series A9F (65" and 55" Class models) 4K HDR OLED TV
  • Features OLED as display device with Pixel Contrast Booster; eight million self-illuminating pixels and Sony-original panel controller for OLED brings a significantly enriched visual experience with unprecedented black, authentic color and a wide viewing angle
  • Features Picture Processor X1™ Ultimate, providing the ultimate 4K HDR viewing experience with the following technologies: Object-based Super Resolution, Object-based HDR remaster, Super Bit Mapping™ 4K HDR and dual database processing 
  •  Acoustic Surface Audio+™ creates a rich sound field delivered from three actuators and two subwoofers facing sideways, which greatly enhance the viewing experience
  • Features Netflix Calibrated Mode that brings the creator's vision directly to the TV.
  • CalMAN ready for professional-grade calibration
  • Features vibrant, expanded color with TRILUMINOS™ Display, further enhanced for color accuracy
  • Android TV with hands-free help from the Google Assistantii: Find what you want simply by talking to the TV; ask your Google Assistant to help you play TV shows, movies, and more; dim the lights and control your compatible, connected devices while you watch a movie for a better viewing experience
  • Minimalism styled with softness: the screen being a single slate with only a stand in the back to hold it up

Pricing and Availability
The MASTER Series A9F will be available at all Video & Audio Center technology showrooms and online a www.videoandaudiocenter.com in the fall of 2018, with pricing and retail availability to be announced later. For more information, please click HERE.