Thursday, July 21, 2016


Summertime means more than taking a vacation — it’s also the time when many folks become reacquainted with their backyards. Some have pools, others sculptured lawns or quiet areas for reflecting, but once it becomes dark it’s like a “No Loitering” sign has been hung. Lets take back the backyard by making it what it was meant to be — a great alternate for going to the movies. This is easier than ever to do, because the technology needed to bring the big screen to the backyard is now easier to use than ever before. And the best part is that you can set it all up and then take it all back down later and put it away with ease. All it takes is a bit of careful planning.

The Picture

To get the movie theater experience, you need a big picture. The two ways to get this are:

1)A front projector gives you the opportunity of making the picture very big. Front projectors come in varying shapes and sizes, but the two most important things to consider are how much detail the projector can provide (i.e., the resolution) and whether the zoom is sufficient for making the image large enough within the confines of space that the projector is to operate within (i.e. how much room there available between the projector and the screen it will be playing the image on).

2)A big outdoor TV that is made with outdoor use in mind not only takes care of what you see but also takes care of the audio. These TVs are designed to be used in all-weather conditions and make for the easiest way for watching outside by yourself or with others.

The Screen

Because it’s the backyard, a big screen is required. The two most used choices are:

1)Going “old school” by draping a white sheet (or multiples) against a wall of the house (or even use the wall itself if the projector can compensate for its color).

2)Setting up one of those portable screens that inflates. This provides an all-in-one-screen system that can be taken down afterwards. Another advantage is that the screen will be the right color for projecting on (i.e., white).

In both of the above cases there must be no obstructions between the screen and the projector.

The Sound

While some projectors even have built-in speakers, these are often too ineffective for use with a crowd (especially when many won’t be sitting right near the projector). The solutions to this are:

1)Should the audio system inside be close to the outdoors where the screen is placed, the audio can be played at a loud volume. Additionally, wireless audio speakers and some compact audio systems can be moved outdoors for use, for example, on the patio.

2)A portable speaker running off of batteries can be positioned easily and, depending on the size and power output, provide more than enough volume. Some speakers will even include multiple drivers so as to provide a stereo output or even, in some cases, a simulated surround sound effect.

The speaker can be connected directly to the video source or, in some cases to the projector’s audio output. This requires knowing the correct kind of audio cable to have on hand.

In all of the above cases, it’s important to have the sound coming from in front (or behind) the picture, as otherwise the dialogue and sound effects (left and right stereo) won’t sound correct.

The Content

What to watch is more of a question of what you WANT to watch, because the choices here are simple to set up and execute. They are:

1)Connect a Blu-ray player or DVD player directly to the projector using the simple and single HDMI cable as used indoors.

2)Content can be played off of a USB flash drive that has been plugged into the video source player or the projector.

3) Use a streaming device connected to the video source or even the projector itself. The video source player might even have streaming capabilities built in (such as a Blu-ray player). This does require that the WiFi signal from the home’s network can reach the streaming device.

Watching a movie in the backyard brings a party atmosphere that screams sharing with friends and family. And you know what can make it even better? Have your guests bring the snacks and popcorn and drinks in return for you being the host.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Listening to music throughout the house has become pedestrian, thanks to dedicated audio speakers, whole-house audio and the advent of streaming to portable speakers through phones and tablets. But what about when you go outside to the porch or into the backyard? Should the music stop when you’re no longer indoors? The answer is no.

Balcony and Porch
Taking a portable speaker out to the porch or balcony is an easy method for bringing music outside: the portable speaker has its own battery and the music it connects to can be coming directly from a phone or tablet or over WiFi from an audio system inside the house (due to the closeness of the porch/balcony, the WiFi home network isn’t having difficulty in reaching out to the speaker). And of course when everyone goes back in, so to does the portable speaker.

But there’s another way to have music on the porch or balcony without having to bring it with you since balconies and porches share a common attribute in that they are close to the house or apartment proper — this means that access to an electrical outlet is almost a given. These speakers are designed to function like light bulbs in that they can screw into the torch light enclosure or other light enclosure. These speakers get their power directly from being screwed inside the enclosure, and use WiFi to connect to a mobile device. Besides varying their volume, they even have the ability to vary not just the level of light they emit but the color. And since they are not permanently installed, it is a simple matter replace them with the standard light bulb that was there before, should one wish to.

Having speakers in the backyard provides a continuation of the music “environment” that was inside: anyone having a party knows that opening it up to the backyard makes for a more enjoyable atmosphere. Taking a portable speaker outside is something that is easy to do, but it won’t have the impact of having speakers already in the backyard that are just waiting for you to turn them on. The speakers that are designed for this are called “disguised” and the reason for the name makes sense once you look and “not” see them.

Rather than having speakers in cabinets as found inside the house, these speakers come in disguise: resembling the rocks that can dot the normal backyard or built into planter pots so as to allow for flowers or plants to be placed inside of them. Other disguised speakers come in planter boxes and there can even be the ubiquitous hanging bird house which actually houses a speaker. In all these cases, the speakers have been specially built so as to be both waterproof and durable enough to handle normal outdoor weather conditions (obviously the planter boxes placed on the ground must also have integrated drainage).

The disguised speaker enclosures vary in size and so do the speaker which, in some cases, actually contain dual speakers so as to provide for a stereo sound as opposed to monophonic. It is also possible to have multiple speakers placed throughout so that an enveloping and immersive sound can be generated throughout the whole backyard (or just for specific areas as desired).

Due to the specifications of these speakers that are available for use in the backyard, for the most part they must be physically wired so as to receive an audio signal which is coming from audio components inside the house (the exceptions are those speakers that are built to handle the outdoors and come with rechargeable batteries). Because of the need for highly competent workmanship and the avoidance of city code violations (not to mention the danger of digging into power or gas lines underground), the actual installation of these backyard speakers are best done by professional installers (for example, Just One Touch). This guarantees that the work will be done efficiently and safely.

Taking your music outside is a natural extension of listening to what you want to hear no matter where you are at home. And how great is that?

Friday, July 08, 2016


There was a time when not going to the movies meant watching on a small TV at home; that it was boring was obvious because you never chose doing it over going to a movie theater where a big screen and a big sound could be found. Times have changed and the “home theater” now means more than just having greater choices in what to watch when the TV is turned on. You can even own movies in high resolution to watch when you want to, and take advantage of the latest 4K technology to let your 4K Blu-ray player stream movies or spin discs at will. But to really enjoy watching at home means stepping back and considering just how the experience can be enhanced. Doing so requires taking a hard look at how you watch and how you listen and decide how they both can be improved.

There are two areas, picture and sound, to enhance and improve on so as to make watching more enjoyable and exciting.


In the old days you picked a TV to take home — 19” being the most chosen — and that was it, there wasn’t anything else to choose from because the cathode tube-based TV was a big, ugly square beast. Today’s TVs are thin and attractive, yet filled with modern technology designed and devoted towards making a picture that attracts and holds the attention. Today’s TVs give you 2 distinct choices to make for personalizing what you will see:

Size of TV
There are many different sizes of TVs to choose from, yet even large TVs are no longer priced sky-high. Additionally, the size of the TV doesn’t dictate that they must be heavy or awkward to place in the home: most will find putting them on a cabinet an easy job, while others will marvel at how simple it is to mount a large flat-panel television on a wall. 

Resolution of the TV
When the television signal went digital, it was accompanied by the appearance of the high-resolution (HD) flat panel TV. This resolution was many times that of the no-longer-standard “broadcast signal” and opened up detail and colors like was never seen before. The results are that a HDTV flat panel TV provides a detailed and attractive picture that everyone can enjoy. 

The advent of the 4K television — having a resolution that is 4 times that of a HDTV — opens up the display to provide a picture that is even more immersive and inspiring than those that came before. The 4K picture allows for a greater color palette to be seen, and for blacks to be even more “inky.” As the latest evolution in the increase of resolution for TVs, a 4K TV is one way to take the “home theater” experience even farther visually. 
A great picture has to be accompanied by great sound if it’s to break through the barrier of “just watching” and turn it into “movie time.” The TV speakers are good for listening to talk shows and casual listening, but they’re too small physically (due to the thin chassis of today’s TVs) to really set the sound loose. That’s why there are two choices for enhancing the overall sound quality:


There are many advantages to having a soundbar as the main audio system. Designed to be svelte and easily put in place before the TV (or under it if wall mounted), a soundbar has all the technology needed to drive the speakers that are also within its chassis. Besides offering surround sound options and audio enhancement/calibration, a soundbar can also have “smart TV” functions built in like accessing music and other applications, playing music from a smartphone or tablet (via Bluetooth). Many soundbars also include subwoofers for deeper bass and has them connected to the soundbar wirelessly too.

Amplified sound
The advantages of having an AV Receiver (a.k.a., amplifier) is that there’s a great deal of power for precisely “driving” the speakers connected to them. These speakers can be as simple as just the left and right for stereo, or create a 5.1 system (adding a center channel, left and right surrounds and a subwoofer) or even higher configurations such as 7.1, 9.2, etc. The AV receiver doesn’t just provide power as it also has enhanced technologies for creating a greater immersive sound experience: these include Dolby Digital and others, including new audio technologies such as Dolby Atmos. A wide range of enhancements to the “sound” will be possible, due to the focused nature of the receiver dealing exclusively with the sound (although most now feature video transfer functions as well as “smart TV” abilities as well).

It’s not about duplicating the movie theater experience but about creating a wholly unique “home theater” experience rivaling the best seat in the house. And now that best seat will be in your house every time you and yours sit down to watch.

Friday, July 01, 2016


What is it about the past that makes people forget how good things are now? When videocassettes were the rage, people moaned about the low resolution picture and the need for higher sound quality. Those requests were answered when DVD followed by Blu-ray became the de facto way to watch prerecorded movies and TV shows at home. Then came streaming and everybody said Blu-ray was dead. But it wasn't. Sure streaming is convenient, providing that what is being streamed is what you were looking to watch. But maybe the biggest reason for having what you want to see right in your hand is that you can "own" that disc -- it's not dependent on maintaining a subscription or paying ongoing fees when you're not watching it.

So with that said, having a Blu-ray disc to play on a new 4K TV will look real good, but if the disc itself was also of 4K resolution, then it would look even better. That’s why 4K movies to watch at home are being created: there's plenty of them coming out now and even more in the immediate future. But before you buy a 4K disc, you'll need a 4K Blu-ray player that can negotiate the technology of the disc properly. And even if you don't have a 4K TV yet, by getting a 4K Blu-ray player, you’ll easily see as good a picture as is possible. Not to mention future-proofing yourself against the inevitable (and joyful) switch from that HDTV to a 4K Ultra HD TV. Here’s why:

Resolution, Resolution, Resolution

A 4K Blu-ray player by definition is designed to provide a video signal with 4X the resolution of the standard HD player now commonplace. This means that the video circuitry is disposed to being of higher quality; resulting in up-scaling capabilities of your existing HD library of Blu-ray discs so as to make them look better.  Of course the 4K video being outputted is geared perfectly for being displayed on a 4K TV.

Ease of Setup

Setting up a 4K Blu-ray player is no different than one of its HD Blu-ray predecessors. The same HDMI cable being used with the HD Blu-ray player and HDTV can be used here (modern HDMI cables are fast enough so don't stick with old ones that came for free). The same goes for connecting to the home network for accessing the Internet -- just attach an Ethernet cable between the player and the network's router, or use the player's built-in WiFi to join to the network like it was any other wireless device.

And Yes, Streaming

A 4K Blu-ray player has all the bells and whistles now expected of a "smart" device, and one of these is streaming. But since it's a 4K player, the streaming that it does is also 4K capable. This means that all that is needed to provide a 4K Resolution image to the 4K TV is a high-speed Internet connection to ensure that you get every erg of power (most will find a wired connection superior to using WiFi). No add-ons or extra devices are needed.

A 4K Blu-ray player is also bigger than one of today’s standard BD players — this not only helps to minimize vibrations from the disc as it spins, but also allows for the player to have a bigger impact on the decor and stand out amidst the other components. To have a competent and powerful home theater, you need a 4K Blu-ray player so what are you waiting for?