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Archive for the ‘HD DVD’ Category

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 »

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.

Posted in Blu Ray, HD DVD | Leave a Comment »

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 »

DVE HD Basics Part II – Video Tests

Posted by lozenp on April 30, 2008

There’s a lot of content on this disc, there’s no doubt about that. I had to watch several of the sections a couple times to understand fully who to properly test and calibrate my picture. On top of just test patterns, there’s a couple hours of information on how HD signals are created, calibrated and adjusted at the source. I’m still working my way through that, but it’s certainly proving to be educational.

I made some discoveries about my TV during calibration. First, my TV doesn’t accuratly display below-black color, as systems standards say sets should. According to the disc, this is very common. Also, I found that my set will properly calibrate blue and red color, but can’t come close to getting green right. Using the provided color filters, I can see that the green coloring is far from what standards say it should be. Unfortuantely, my TV doesn’t have very good color-correction controls, especailly in the Component connection mode.

I also determined that my set is likely using the standard definition decoder for setting color, another very common issue in some HDTVs.

After about an hour of messing around, I made good progress in completing the video calibrations. Here’s how things have changed, my old settings are first:

  • Contrast – 89 to 92
  • Brightness – 54 to 58
  • Sharpness – 39 to 11
  • Color – 54 to 60

The biggest learning was the sharpness. This control is actually a holdover from the early days of color tv. In most cases, it seems this control doesn’t need to be active for HD signals. Sure enough, using the overscan test pattern, I was able to see I had mine set way too high.

The other thing that I was able to prove to myself is that my screen overscan is very poorly set. When looking at the overscan patter, I’m losing the bottom five percent of the picture, the left three percent, the top two percent and the right two percent. The biggest issue, however, is the amount of picture I’m losing off the bottom. I also determined that my picture is slightly rotated clockwise.

Those are all fixes that can’t be made in the general menus but only in the service menu of the TV. All TVs have service menus that are not accessible to the consumer because of the amount of damage a uneducated consumer could do to the set by getting into those menus. Hopefully I can call Best Buy and take advantage of my service plan to get some of these issues resolved, and maybe convince the tech to show me the service menus while he’s here.

Next up, the audio test patterns.

Posted in Best Buy, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater | Leave a Comment »

DVE HD Basics Part 1

Posted by lozenp on April 28, 2008

I just got a copy of the HD DVD version of the Digital Video Essentials HD Basics disc. For those that don’t know, it’s a disc that contains a wealth of video test patterns and signals, as well as audio tests, to help you properly set up your HDTV. This is the first time a calibration disc has been made with high definition in mind, both in HD DVD and Blu-Ray. HD Basics released an HD DVD remake of their standard version earlier, but it wasn’t designed specifically for HD.

My initial calibration was done using the Avia Guide to Home Theater, which is now in it’s second version. The first time I used it I was amazed at how off my picture was, and how much better it looked when I finished. Over time, however, a tweak here and a shift there and I know my picture is again in bad need of calibration.

So over the course of a couple posts, I’ll take you through the calibration process. It make take only two, it may be a month-long series. Today I’ll let you in on my current setup, and the settings my TV is currently using.

My Setup

  • 50-inch HLR-5067 Samsung DLP
  • Xbox 360 HD DVD player hooked up via component
  • Comcast Motorola dual-tuner DVR (the new edition)
  • Yamaha HTR 5750 5.1 channel receiver
  • Klipsch 5.1 Ch. Quintett II

Current Settings

Here’s what my TV is set to currently on the component input my HD DVD player is using:

  • Contrast – 89
  • Brightness – 54
  • Sharpness – 39
  • Color – 54
  • Color tone – Normal
  • Digital Noise Reduction – off

And here’s my receiver’s current speaker settings. Interesting story as I went to get these numbers, I was getting a menu in my receiver that I’ve never seen before. Usually my speaker settings are displayed in digits, now I’m getting a slider bar. Not sure where that came from. Anyhow, here they are:

  • Front left – 4.75 at 13 ft.
  • Center – 4.75 at 12 ft.
  • Front right – 4.75 at 13 ft.
  • Rear right – 5.5 at 7.5 ft.
  • Rear left – 5.5 at 7.5 ft.
  • Speaker settings – All set to “small”
  • Subwoofer – 5.5 at 12 ft.
  • Crossover – 80Hz
  • Phase – Normal

So for now I’ll play with the disc a bit. Next post we’ll get into some of the tests and start making some changes.

Posted in Blu Ray, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, TV | 3 Comments »

Netflix makes Blu-Ray a premium option, teases Xbox 360 integration again

Posted by lozenp on April 22, 2008

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call yesterday that Netflix would begin charging more for subscribers renting Blu-Ray discs, saying that “consumers are used to paying more for high-definition.”

Netflix helped facilitate the end of the format war when it announced in February that it would stop offering HD DVDs through it’s mail-rental service. This move, while not surprising, is disappointing in that it puts up further barriers for people looking to cross into the HD realm. I’d be willing to bet that the number of people renting Blu-Ray is still pretty small, lowering Netflix’s ROI on buying all the discs.

No details were announced, so Netflix members were left to wonder how (will it be a flat, $2 service charge or tiered, like the subscription plans), how much and when (by the end of the year seems to be likely).

Also on the call, Reed again talked about the partnership Netflix has with LG to create a settop box for watching any of the company’s 9000 available instant watch features. Netflix also wants their client software integrated into internet-connected Blu-Ray players, game consoles, TVs and stand-alone STBs.

He also went on to say that they were working with three other companies, three of which are “major companies which each sell millions of devices per year, likely in Q4.” The smaller company (Slingbox maybe) is expected to hit before fourth quarter. This should start the “Netflix on the Xbox” rumors going again.

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

In case you missed it

Posted by lozenp on April 12, 2008

It’s been a busy week that’s kept me from posting a lot. So, in an effort to keep you up to speed, here’s some things you might have missed if you weren’t paying attention:

PS3 adds DTS-HD Master Audio – It’s becoming harder to argue that the PS3 isn’t the best Blu-Ray player available. This week comes news that the console will be adding DTS-HD Master Audio support (as well as DTS-HD High Resolution). Interstingly, the PS3 encodes the signal internally but can’t pass it bit for bit to your receiver (yet), but the jury is still out on if passing that signal straight through will actually sound better. Either way, this is exciting news for Blu-Ray fans and PS3 owners. Prepare to crank that volume knob.

Blockbuster announcing set-top box – The way things are going I might have my own set-top box in the near future. Everyone seems to be announcing these things lately, and my gear rack is already full. Netflix announced one a while back, but there’s been no movement on that one. Meanwhile, Blockbuster is set to announce this one next month, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Wal-Mart, Amazon join the HD DVD rebate game – Circuit City and Best Buy have already been running programs, and word came this week that Amazon and Wal-Mart would join the fracus. Amazon sent people a $50 gift certificate in the mail, Wal-Mart will be allowing refunds, with receipts, on purchases made after Nov. 1, 2007.

Also last week, the first BD-Live titles were released. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and The Sixth Day both came out. Unfortunately, for HD DVD adopters like me who were used to a mostly flawless online experience with HDi discs, the results so far for both BD-Live titles have been less than spectacular, with most users reporting long (we’re talking 4-5 minues) load times on online content. Hopefully this is something that gets better with time.

Posted in Amazon, Best Buy, Blockbuster, Blu Ray, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, Netflix, Wal-Mart | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Xbox 360 HD DVD player and 7-10 DVDs gets you $45

Posted by lozenp on March 21, 2008

Best Buy added the HD DVD player to their trade in site today, and here’s what you get for the Xbox 360 add on and 7-10 HD DVDs included, with all items in excellent condition and all original cables/manuals: $45.

Turn that 360 add on into a Toshiba HD-A3, it only adds $15 to get you $60. If you bought the Onkyo HD805, you can get $169 back. Toshiba XA2: $189. The XA2 by itself will net you $165, so it’s seems that Best Buy isn’t putting much stock in the movies you’ll be adding to your trade in. Combo players are on the list as well, with a LG BH-200 by itself bringing in $285 and the Samsung BD-UP5000$255, although judging from the reviews, some people might want to send that one packing anyhow.

Considering Best Buy is giving my $50 just for buying my Xbox add on there, I think I’ll keep my eight movies and the player and call it good.

Posted in Best Buy, Blu Ray, Format War, HD DVD, Xbox 360 | 1 Comment »

$50 from Best Buy for HD DVD players

Posted by lozenp on March 19, 2008

hdac_head2.gifWow, now this is what I call customer service. Best Buy, usually a favorite punching bag for techies, is doing its customers right by announcing a program to give a $50 gift card to anyone who bought an HD DVD player before Feb. 23, 2008, and yes the Xbox 360 add-on is included. But unlike other trade-in programs like those from Circuit City (which tripled it’s 30-day return policy to 90 days on HD DVD players) and Canda’s Future Shop ($100 toward a combo player from LG or Samsung), you get to keep your HD DVD player. Let me say that again because it bears repeating, Best Buy is giving you a $50 gift card, and allowing you to keep your player.

Here’s how the program works, according to Best Buy.com:  “Most qualifying customers will automatically receive their complimentary gift card by mail in the coming weeks. If you qualify and haven’t received yours by May 1, 2008, please call us at 1-888-BEST-BUY to verify your eligibility (have your receipt handy, if possible).” That means if you bought with a credit card or are a member of Reward Zone and used your card when you purchased, likely Best Buy already knows and you’ll be getting your gift card right around the time the stimulus package checks come from the government.

So while you likely paid $200 or more for your player, it’s not a full refund, but you can’t complain about getting $50 and being able to keep your equipment.

Also announced is that starting March 21, Best Buy will be adding HD DVD players and media to it’s BestBuyTradein.com site, allowing you to instantly see what your player and movies would be worth in trade for Best Buy gift cards. So it’s possible you could get your $50 gift card, and then unload the player and DVDs you have on the trade in site for even more gift cards.

Players eligible for the $50 gift card:

  • Toshiba HD DVD player models:
    HD-A1, HD-A2, HD-A20, HD-XA2, HD-A3, HD-A30, HD-A35
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 HD DVD player accessory model 9Z5-00013

Offer excludes HD DVD-equipped computers and laptops, and so-called “dual-format” or “universal” high-definition disc player models designed to play both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD media.

Posted in Best Buy, Format War, HD DVD, Xbox 360 | Leave a Comment »