Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Best Room For Your Best Home Theater

A “home theater” immerses the viewer to make watching television or movies so much better. That’s because, rather than relying on the TV, there are dedicated speakers providing quality and potent audio that can well rival the best found in the movie theaters. But the biggest problem people have in putting together a “home theater” is where to put all the components. Obviously there has to be space for the TV itself, but anyone installing more than a sound bar knows there needs to be room for the speakers. And by speakers we mean quite a few: the speakers that flank the TV for Left/Right plus the center channel so necessary for dialogue must be augmented by a pair of surrounds that have to be placed to the left/right of those watching. Even if these surrounds are able to go wirelessly in position, there still needs to be power cords running to outlets. Add to that the subwoofer and the cables and power cords and the physical space needed for a cable box/satellite receiver, Blu-ray player and other video sources — plus an AV receiver (audio/video) — and it’s easy to see that space can become an issue. This doesn’t change even if the speakers/amplification is being supplied by an all-in-one home theater system either. So lets look at the spaces in the typical home/apartment to see what the advantages/disadvantages of each constitute.

Usually the biggest room in the home, the Living Room offers plenty of space for placement of the TV, the home theater components like the AV receiver and furniture for holding same. This is also the best place for having large groups of people watching, since there’s enough room between the TV and the couch, the chairs — so as to avoid those being forced to sit at the edge of the couch and not enjoy the “sweet spot” angle for the best picture. As the most “common” of spaces, it can be a good place to congregate as a family. But family members not watching might need to pass through the Living Room in order to get to another location — especially if the kitchen is placed nearby.

A Bedroom is rarely a space as big as the living room, although most have enough room for placing the various home theater components and furniture in position. But due to the bed being a part of the equation, the TV and speakers must take into account that those watching will often be seated/lying down on the bed. This will affect placement of the TV but even more so, the surround speakers — which most likely will be on the walls but must either be at ear-level based on those on the bed, or aimed down from the ceiling to “hit” this sweet spot of those lying down. Additionally, any other viewers will most likely be seated or standing close to the bed as well. On the up side, the intimate nature that watching in the bedroom allows can made the home theater even more appealing for those viewing, especially when the home theater system is working together in concert. And easier to hear at lower volumes too. Not to mention an extremely comfortable experience.

A “dedicated room” can be a Den, basement or any space that is not otherwise in use (storage, etc.) and which can be sealed off from the rest of the house. The main advantage is that there are no requirements for how the space is to be set up: no decor is in place already that must be accommodated. Nor must the seating “match” each other — stadium or Lazyboy-type seats or a couch that clashes is meaningless here. And since no foot traffic will be encountered, the room can be darkened and the immersive experience of watching and listening taken to as high a level as is possible. The isolated nature can further be enhanced by wireless headphones being used when a single person has gone in to watch but doesn’t want any sounds to emerge.

To set up a home theater, it’s important to realize that each person’s needs are unique and so must be met in a similar fashion, Only by confronting this head-on can a proper home theater be set up. The results will be ongoing and enjoyable.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Facing The Big Screen TV

Once the 19” tube-based color TV was the king, having passed the smaller black and white models that sat inside cabinets to try and make them seem bigger than they were. As the TV got larger, the technology had to change because tube’s are heavy:  hence the flat panel appeared. But while the size of the TV has steadily increased, the decision as to where to sit facing it seems to have stayed in quicksand. You don’t sit in the same place when facing a 40” HDTV as you do when facing a 60”. The reasons aren’t about esthetics, where to place the couch so it looks the best facing the TV, but as to where those viewing the TV will be properly placed to enjoy what is being seen.

There’s a number of reasons why people instinctively have put themselves farther away from the TV than necessary: the old canard about the TV being harmful if seated too close has no bearing in the flat-panel displays of today, but the thought holds on. More realistic is that the father away one is from the TV, the less chance there is of someone who isn’t seated dead center being forced to look at the TV at an angle. This most often happens when it’s a couch that is facing the TV. Early on, flat panel TVs didn’t handle illuminating the display evenly, and those looking at an angle would see a less bright image than those facing it straight on. The same applied to the colors being displayed. This is less likely to occur with the modern HDTVs and 4K TVs than previously: with new breeds of TVs like those using Organic LED (OLED) in the display rooting the image evenly and colorfully for all those watching — even those looking at a decided angle.

So let’s figure it out with a typical scenario, but first stipulate two basic rules: 1)the TV should be at about eye level also to be viewed at its best, although some compromise might be needed if such a placement relative to a person seated seems to low, and 2)there should be some ambient light playing in the room, best if hitting the wall by/behind the TV — rather than being totally dark.

We’ll use the living room as our example: where the TV is placed against a wall or at least near it with those watching most likely be seated on a couch facing it or have chairs by the couch also. While the visual angle of view is increased due to the TV size, the goal is to be facing it so that you’re close enough to see what is being displayed with clarity, both from your eyes as well as from what the TV is able to output — but without any eye-strain.

A popular recommendation is to multiple the diagonal measurement of the TV’s display by 2.5 and so use that distance as the yardstick between the TV and where the viewer is placed. Other recommendations are based on the viewing angle, a 30% viewing angle would require multiplying by 1.6, while for 40%, the THX group says multiply the diagonal screen measurement by 1.2 to get the optimal viewing distance for a 1080p resolution. Calculators make this easy (probably have one on your smartphone), but for the actual distance consider getting one of those cloth yardsticks or a tape measurer. Or if you want a more general rule, seating should be about 1/2-2 1/2 X the display’s diagonal.

But size alone isn’t the only definer for where to sit,  a 4K Ultra HD TV can be the same size as that of a HDTV, but the higher resolution comes into play here. The 4K TV has denser pixels and, as a result, this means a “tighter” pattern to the image when closer. That’s why so many people stick their faces right up against a 4K TV, only to find that a blurring and indistinct pixel pattern can’t be seen. So, in general when dealing with a 4K display, expect to be a bit closer so you can take advantage of seeing all the fine detail being displayed.

Being at the proper distance to the TV will increase the feeling of “presence” and create a more immersive experience for those watching. This can be helped along by those TVs that have a curved display, but even such sets need to be at the proper distance in order to perform well. The best thing about all this is that your eyes are the best judge of what looks good, to you. That’s what is the most important and through a bit of careful planning and yes, a little hard work of pushing things around, enjoying the best picture your big screen TV can display will be yours.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why 4K High Definition Is So Good

Television has been around for more than 70 years, but in many ways the TV set itself hasn’t changed. Regardless of whether it’s big or small, thin or chunky, the picture appears on a display at the front of the TV watched by the viewer. But it’s what the viewer sees that has changed, because the image is now amazingly well-defined and lifelike. That’s a direct result of the high definition quality of the display — it has to be built in from day one.

So why is high definition so important and, as the all-important follow-up question, why is it that a 4K Ultra HD TV is the picture of choice for anyone wanting the best picture they can get? It’s all about the pixels.

Pixels are the “building blocks” of the image that you see on the TV screen, and the greater their number, the denser they are (closer to each other). A 4K TV has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 — versus a HDTV’s 1920 x 1080. That means 4K TVs have 4X the number of pixels to work with. As a result, this removes the fuzziness and “blockiness” that standard-definition images and even HD ones can fall prey to, especially if you get up close and look at the screen. With a 4K display, the pixel structure is so tightly compacted that sticking one’s face right up to the screen won’t betray the “grid” pattern of the pixels. It’s that good.

Plus there’s the level of clarity to the image. Clarity is a very important result of the high definition. A piece of jewelry on a person is no longer a smudge or an ill-defined blob, but a detailed object that can be made out immediately. Of course such things as books or signs that once were unreadable are now pinpoint sharp. And can you see the sweat on a person’s brow or the stubble from a 2 day lack of shaving, for sure you can. Also there are often scenes in which objects are moving across the screen at a high speed (think car chases). With the high-definition of a 4K TV, it’s now possible to see the license plate, not as a blur of letters but as individual readable text. These things that you see in real life, and which have been masked by the lower resolution of the TV’s display are now gone. That makes what is being watched on a 4K TV more “real life” than ever before, because there’s no longer a need for making excuses about the lack of detail while watching. In fact, according to some in the film community, the 4K pixel structure is about as close to film as has ever been the case — making the transition of movies from film to forms suitable for watching on a 4K TV more akin to what the film-maker wanted you to see in the movie theater.

It also goes without saying that the colors and level of contrast (white to black) are superior on a 4K TV, raising the bar as to why the picture on these sets look so good. Of course this all presupposes that the show or movie is being transmitted to the 4K TV in 4K resolution (or from a 4K media server designed for this purpose), but even HD programming up-converted by the electronics in the 4K TV benefit visually from the display’s high resolution.

And because 4K looks especially good on bigger TVs, the trend towards bigger displays — 55”, 65” and even larger — is accelerating. Who doesn’t want to watch a bigger picture on their TV? With 4K, the barriers against doing this from a technological reasoning are gone. As is also the case from pricing, since the affordability of 4K TVs is quickly accelerating since their appearance just 2 years or so ago. So getting the high definition image at home that makes watching TV a pleasure is now possible by getting a 4K Ultra HD TV. Because it’s that good.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Video & Audio Center Does it Again — Worldwide Launch of LG’s Organic LED (OLED) 4K Ultra HD Curved TVs

There's always a good reason to go to Video & Audio Center's Santa Monica Superstore - but the evening of October 2nd was even more special. That's because LG's Organic LED (OLED) 65" and 77" 4K Ultra HD Curved TVs were first revealed to an astounded audience consisting of both press and the public. The 65" LG Organic LED (OLED) 4K Ultra HD Curved TV was on a pedestal, with its back to the crowd. Shortly that would be rectified and it would be revealed. But first Tom Campbell, Video & Audio Center board member, Technologist and Industry pundit, gave the crowd a bit of background as to just why Organic LED (OLED) is such a groundbreaker technology. One that has to be seen to be understood.

This was followed by Joseph Akhtarzad, co-owner and President of Video & Audio Center, who addressed the crowd from his perspective of having introduced new and exciting technologies over the years. "Since LG's launch of the industry's first 84-inch 4K Ultra HD TV in our Los Angeles store two years ago, we've seen firsthand that consumers are hungry for the Ultra HD experience," he said. "But they've never seen anything like LG's unique marriage of OLED and 4K Ultra HD technologies. LG calls it the 'Future of TV,' and I agree."

Also present to interact with those attending was Thomas Lee, Senior Vice President, Home Entertainment, LG Electronics USA., Mayer Akhtarzad, co-owner Video & Audio Center and the Honorable Mayor of Beverly Hills, Jimmy Delshad.

Finally came the time to reveal the 65" TV. As it swung around, the crowd was awed by a picture that made all those that came before seem hollow and tasteless. This did not change as eager viewers crowded closer for a better view. And to touch the side of the set to confirm what their eyes showed: that such a thin display was possible, no bezel, due to the single layer that Organic LED (OLED) technology provides. Because it doesn't need a backlight, as LCD displays do.

As LG's John Taylor, VP, Corporate Communications, and David Vanderwaal, Marketing Director, LG USA, made the rounds to confer with the crowd and answer questions, a closer inspection of the 65" LG on display provided visual reasons why Organic LED (OLED) is so superior: to begin, the 4K high resolution approaches that of looking through a window, rather than viewing a display on which images flow. There is also infinite contrast available, which enhances and makes colors "pop" for a brighter and more vivid image. Additionally, there is also absolute black — black in an image makes a difference between a picture being "strong" or "weak," and causing dark areas to go grey or have all detail disappear within them. But because the pixel structure of Organic LED (OLED) can literally turn a pixel on or off — you can get a black that is unmatched and yes, similar to that as to when the TV is turned off. That's pretty amazing but, more importantly, makes the image look amazing.

The evening was punctuated over and over again by just how astounding the LG Organic LED (OLED) display truly was. "Fantastic," "Amazing," "I've never seen anything like it" made you think that no one had ever seen a bright and vibrant high-resolution image before. But the truth is that no one has — that's how good these LG TVs are. Yes the tagline "Best TV Ever" is no hyperbole because seeing was believing and all those who saw knew that they were watching seeing something special.

As the evening progressed with sales of the 65" reaching into the teens, a couple of facts emerged. The first is that LG has created something truly special and unique in the evolution of the TV set. From TV tube to flat screen might have taken years, but now that these Organic LED (OLED) displays are here, all that has come before seems flat. That these LG Organic LED (OLED) 4K Ultra HD Curved TVs can be viewed in person is also special — there's no comparison between seeing these TVs or the picture they display with your own eyes. Leave it to Video & Audio Center to score another coup in making this available to the public.