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Archive for May, 2008

DVE HD Basics – The (almost) Finale

Posted by lozenp on May 28, 2008

I’ve already posted parts one and two of my attempt to calibrate my setup using the new DVE HD Basics discs, so be sure to check those out.
If you haven’t read those, or you’re looking for the audio tests section, I’m going to point you to a different place. I’ve done an article for ElectronicHouse.com that puts all three parts together into one feature in their Info and Answers area. Take a look at it.

I’ll post a longer audio calibration piece sometime in the next week, going into a little bit more depth than I had room for in the EH article, but the piece over there goes into everything I did.

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Posted in Blu Ray, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, TV, Xbox 360 | 1 Comment »

Lord Stanley and Larry O’Brien – Who to watch?

Posted by lozenp on May 27, 2008

Along the lines of such complaints as “All my $50s won’t fit in my wallet” and “I don’t know which of my boats to take out today” comes my grumble about the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings playing their playoff games on the same night… at the same time…three nights in a row.

The Red Wings are in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, looking to win their fourth title since 1997, while the Pistons are battling the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, looking to make their first trip back to the NBA finals since 2005. Everything is great in Detroit unless your team is named after a large cat, right? (Lions, Tigers, you listening?)

Not so fast.

The first three games of the Stanley Cup Finals, and games three, four and five of the Eastern Conference Finals are all being played on the same nights, with starting times only 30 minutes apart. Fans in Detroit are in a pretty big bind trying to decide what game to watch.

My decision – both of course! My wife and I had been talking about getting a TV for the bedroom for some time now, and it just so happens we did that this weekend. Nothing fancy, a 32-inch Magnavox with a built in DVD player. Since we don’t have a cable jack in the bedroom yet, that TV had no place to live.

So, come game night, the 32-inch sits next to my 50-inch Samsung DLP in the living room, hockey on one, basketball on the other. I then make sure that my dual-tuner DVR has one tuner set to the hockey game and one to basketball so that if something happens in the game on the smaller set, we pause the game on the big set, flip the tuner, and watch the other game. Once you add in the delay on the HD DVR, if you flip tuners fast enough, you might not even have to back up to see the play your switching to see.

So far Detroit is 3-1 in this setup (darn Pistons), and we had seven people crammed in the living room on Memorial Day to see both teams win. And while it’s been fun, it’s unbelievably stupid that it’s come down to this. The NHL had a Finals that was getting good press, a lot of people were talking about it, and they force one of the cities to make a decision on which team to watch. Gary Bettman continues to try to destroy the NHL.

Why is it the NHL’s fault you ask? Two reasons. First, the NBA’s conference final schedule had already been decided when the NHL scheduled the Stanley Cup Finals. And second, the NBA is the big fish, so the NHL needs to do what it can to avoid the NBA at all costs. Does that give the NHL a little brother complex? Probably, but it’s the reality. When your league isn’t on a large portion of people’s TVs (thank you Vs. Network) and you draw less fans, you get the leftovers. If you want to change that, you need to get back on level footing, and you don’t do that by alienating the fans in one of the cities in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Phew, I’m getting off my soapbox now. The Wings look well on their way to the title, up 2-0 without giving up a goal. The Pistons, meanwhile, are in a fight, tied 2-2 heading to Boston. Wednesday night I’ll be back in my living room with my two TVs, cheering my teams on while trying to figure out what to do with all those darn $50s.

Posted in HDTV, Home Theater, Sports, TV | Leave a Comment »

Catching up – again

Posted by lozenp on May 15, 2008

Between sick kids, sick dad, sick mom and Mother’s Day, I haven’t been out here in a while. Throw in a trip to the Palace for game 5 of the Pistons-Magic series with my dad (great game, great time) and I haven’t been around much to talk about some things that have happened recently. So, here’ a quick recap on the last week, in case you missed it:

  • Neil Young goes Blu – Rocker Neil Young announced that he would be releasing his entire catelog on Blu-Ray disc, starting with a 10-disc installment covering 1963-72 this fall. He promised downloadable content such as lyrics and additional music. This is an ambitous project, and the first of it’s kind, branching out from concert films.
  • Sleeping Beauty of a disc planned – Disney revealed its plans for the Sleeping Beauty Blu-Ray disc release, slated for October. BD-Live interactivity will have its hands all over this disc, including some pretty cool ideas allowing you to add video of yourself to the film and email it to friends and family. If more studios mine BD-Live for this type of interactivity, Blu-Ray might have a chance to gain a foothold.
  • Canadians aid argument about HDMI cable overpricing – Interesting article on HDGuru about a CBC report that basically found no difference at all in picture quality between an expensive, brand name cables and cheap no-name ones from the Web. This has long been known to the videoholic audience, but this information is getting into the mainstram more and more. Monster Cable has even introduced a mid-level product line to combat these stories.
  • Paramount re-issues its back catelog on Blu-Ray – Paramount, which started out format neutral, fell in love with HD DVD iin August of 2007 and removed all of its Blu-Ray releases from stores, and then recommitted to Blu-Ray earlier this yeaar, is putting those back-titles back on store shelves this month.

Lots of other things happened, but those jumped out to me as the big ones. I’ll be adding part 2 of my calibration adventure later this week, most likely Friday, so keep an eye out for that.

Posted in Blu Ray, Catching Up, HD DVD, HDMI, HDTV, Home Theater, TV | Leave a Comment »

Panasonic details its Profile 2.0 Blu-Ray player

Posted by lozenp on May 6, 2008

Panasonic announced today that the DMP-BD50, the first stand-alone Profile 2.0 player, will be released this spring with a MSRP of $699.95 (press release). It will also support Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA with in-player decoding. The Sony Playstation 3 was updated to profile 2.0 in March, making it the first Blu-Ray player to do so.

Profile 2.0, or final spec as it’s sometimes called, adds Internet connectivity to the player, allowing it to support BD-Live content such as downloads and social-networking features (My Scenes, etc.). Only a few titles exist today that have content supporting BD-Live, thought more are planned for later this year.

“Panasonic was the first to bring a Blu-ray player with Bonus View (Final Standard Profile 1.1) to market and now with the DMP-BD50 we are again leading the industry with the inclusion of BD-Live,” said Paul Sabo, Panasonic, National Marketing Manager Entertainment Group.

This is good news for the Blu-Ray association in the wake of reports that sales are sagging since HD DVD threw in the towel. With a finally finished product, they can now begin to eliminate consumer confusion about the various versions of Blu-Ray players. However, with a near-$700 price tag, this won’t go a long way toward helping ease those slowing hardware sales.

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Blu-Ray sales not helped by HD DVD death

Posted by lozenp on May 2, 2008

New reports from ABI Research and NPD Group state that the death of HD DVD and the end to the format war has not helped Blu-Ray player sales, and that Blu-Ray is looking at an uphill battle in its efforts to entrench itself in coonsumer’s living rooms.

It’s been a couple months since HD DVD bowed out of the battle to become the next-generation DVD technology, but Blu-Ray has not been able to capitalize on being the last man standing. From January to February, Blu-Ray hardware sales fell 40 percent, excluding the Playstation 3 console. Following the HD DVD announcement in February, sales only rose two percent from February to March, according to NPD Group.

Several factors could be leading to this, but two are likely the biggest culprits: price and apathy. Player prices are still in the “premium” range in consumers minds, not yet hitting that magic $200 mark. Also, Blu-Ray disc prices still outpace standard DVDs by a substantial margin, more than 2:1 in many cases.

Many consumers still profess they can’t tell the difference between a Blu-Ray image and a standard DVD image. While this may be hard to believe, it shows the amount of work needed to show consumers what they are missing. Also not helping the cause are the cheap prices on upconverting DVD players, as low as $70 now, and consumer confusion surrounding those players. Many people think an upconverting player IS an HD player, falling in line with statistics that show that around 50 perecent of people with HDTVs aren’t getting an HD signal and don’t even know it.

ABI’s research shows that the PS3 will make up 85 perecent of the Blu-Ray hardware market in 2008, and it will maintain its majority lead until 2013, yet again solidifying the argument that the PS3 is the best Blu-Ray player currently available.

With all that said, however, it’s not surprising the adoption has been slow since the dust settled. During the high tide of the format battle, each side was cutting prices, offering incentives and inciting rabid fan bases to make purchases to help their format win. That pressure no longer exists, and the amount of incentives on Blu-Ray players has slowed.

Perhaps the biggest roadblock to Blu-Ray adoption however, is the one that is being somewhat ignored: an incomplete standard emerged at the end of the format war. Blu-Ray is in the midst of what it calls its “profiles”, with profile 2.0 being the complete spec. Profile 2.0 players are just now slowly starting to make it to market, and they are well about the prices of other Blu-Ray players currently available. The PS3 recently was updated to Profile 2.0, which allows ineractivity via BDJ as well as picture in picture, both features that HD DVD featured from the beginning, but I digress.

At this point the high definition disc party is still full of early adopters and audiophiles and videophiles, the general consumer has not entered the market yet. So for those of us who went with HD DVD, or other high-def aficionados who waited on the sideline, we’re educated enough to know that this is not the time to be buying a Blu-Ray player. That means a large portion of Blu-Ray’s target consumer knows to wait until the end of the year at the earliest to buy a new player, when prices come down – at least slightly – and Profile 2.0 players and movies dot the landscape. Until then, I see similar numbers for Blu-Ray hardware sales, excluding Sony’s PS3 which is gaining momentum in the video game market.

Other factors loom large for the future of Blu-Ray as well, with Apple announcing today that it has agreements with most of the major studios to put movies on iTunes day-and-date with their release on DVD, some in HD. This is just another push toward the eventual evolution to a physical media-less entertainment society (see Netflix and Blockbuster’s set-top-boxes), one that Blu-Ray is dreading.

The next 12 months will be huge for Blu-Ray. This Christmas season must see Blu-Ray gain serious momentum if it’s going to gain enough traction before consumers make the leap to downloading their movies, otherwise Sony might still have a new Betamax on its hands.

Posted in Apple, Blu Ray, Format War, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater | Leave a Comment »