Entries Filed Under "HDTV"

September 1, 2009

Home Theater Nirvana

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Reviews

image I bought a new super remote: the Nevo Q50.

What I like:

  • Don’t have to aim remote (uses RF to talk to Nevo Connect, which is connected to my devices via IR Emitters)
  • Can use remote in any room
  • No number pad (those keys are wasted on me)
  • Almost everything can be done via 31 hard buttons
  • Four hard buttons that use the remote’s screen for labeling
  • One-handed operation
  • Voltage sensor for devices that do not have discreet on/off codes (like the PS3)
  • Completely customizable color, 320x240 touch screen
  • NevoStudio Pro 2.0 - really good/easy software for programming
  • You can get the screens to look *exactly* like you want. For example, I just took an image from the manual for my PS3 controller and made that a screen. Then I placed hotspots on the buttons that mapped to the actual IR remote output for a PS3 (via IR2BT).

What I don’t like:

  • Has to be charged approximately every three days
  • Software only runs on 32 bit Vista (not 64 bit Windows 7, which is what I normally run)
  • You get obsessed wanting to customize the screens to look perfect…and you are never finished
  • Resistive screen doesn’t work well with fingers (fingernails work better)

I bought the Nevo Q50 Remote, Nevo Connect, and NevoStudio Pro 2.0 software for about $550 on eBay from a merchant called “jdm-cafe.” Normally, you buy this remote from a home theater installer that will do all the programming for you…but what fun is that? I think this remote is more than a $1000 if you buy it from an installer.

I bought a voltage sensor (for my PS3) and 6 IR emitters from Remote Shoppe for about $140.

To figure out when my PS3 is powered on, I connected the voltage sensor to the power lines on a USB cable I plugged into the PS3. I learned about this technique for detecting the power state of a PS3 here.

I’m really happy with how slick this setup works. *NOW*, everything just works. Press the “PS3” button and…

  • TV turns on
  • TV switches to HDMI for PS3
  • Receiver turns on
  • Receiver switches to PS3 digital audio
  • PS3 powers on (if it isn’t already on)
  • Remote switches to PS3 control, with volume keys controlling the receiver

And when I’m done, I press “Power Down System”…

  • TV turns off
  • Receiver turns off
  • PS3 is sent a macro for turning off (if it is currently on)

Mmmmmmm…home theater nirvana! This makes me *really* happy. :)

August 16, 2009

SIGGRAPH: Stereoscopic 3D

Filed under 3D, Gadgets, HDTV, Movies, SIGGRAPH


Stereoscopic 3D (S-3D) was big at SIGGRAPH this year and left me thoroughly impressed. For me, it was the biggest news of SIGGRAPH 2009.

What is S-3D? S-3D creates the illusion of depth, like you would see with a View-Master. Instead of a single image, each eye has a unique perspective of the image.

Why is S-3D hot all the sudden?

Hollywood has taken notice of the increased revenue, and it shows. There is a surge in the number of 3D movies coming out.

There are many ways you can see S-3D. Two technologies that standout as the best:

RealD has most of the market currently. I don’t have any stats, but I believe I heard in the SIGGRAPH panel that over 1,000 theaters are RealD-capable now and they have more than 90% of the market for 3D cinema. To use RealD, theaters need a special silver screen to reflect more light and keep the light polarized. They also need a RealD filter device in front of the projector to polarize frames for the left eye and right eye. The glasses are cheap to produce and can be recycled or replaced.

Dolby 3D uses color filters instead of polarizing light. Each eye can only see certain colors, but amazingly appears as a full color image. Dolby 3D uses a standard white screen. A big advantage is there is no special screen to buy and thus 2D movies are not impacted by a theater’s move to 3D-capable. I’m not sure how a 2D movie looks on RealD’s silver screen, but I’ve been told it does look different than using a standard white screen. The Dolby 3D glasses are not cheap like the RealD glasses, and theaters must be careful not to lose the glasses.

I’ve seen both RealD and Dolby3D and I can’t pick a winner…both look really good.

Movies are obvious candidates for S-3D…but I saw other forms of entertainment that *really* shine in 3D. In the SIGGRAPH panel, I watched a demo reel from 3ality Digital that showed scenes from an NFL game, an NBA game, and a U2 concert. Seeing a live event in 3D is *very* compelling.

Two scenes stood out in my head:

  1. A running back trying to break through a wall of linemen and eventually forced out of bounds and into the 3D camera made the entire audience react as the running back kept getting closer to us. We had the same reaction as if we were standing there preparing to get hit.
  2. Watching the kicker kickoff. Seeing the ball from the opposite end zone is nearly impossible with the sea of people in the background…but in 3D, the ball popped out in front and was very clear, even though it was very small.

I can’t wait for movie theaters to start hosting NFL/NBA games in 3D…I’ll definitely shell out some cash to see that.

I’m a believer in 3D for movie theaters…I’ll definitely go see every movie in 3D that I can.

But what about in your home?

That is getting very interesting very quickly.

JVC had a 46 inch LCD on display at SIGGRAPH that uses the same technique as RealD…and it looked really good. The bad news: You lose half your resolution because each frame contains the left and right images instead of just a single image. That means you *cannot* do 1080p currently in 3D.

However, HDMI 1.4 fixes this with its “3D over HDMI” feature.

Panasonic should have a 3D-capable set by next year. Sony has not made a 3D  announcement yet, but was very active in the SIGGRAPH panel…so you can draw your own conclusions.

So you get a Blu-ray player and TV that supports HDMI 1.4…what about 3D content? There is *no* standard for 3D yet…so anything you buy now may be worthless when a standard is decided.

My advice for 3D in the home: wait. It is coming, but it looks like it is still a few years away.

As soon as 3D for the home is standardized…I’m jumping in…I’m hooked on this stuff.

The SIGGRAPH panel left some good websites to follow for information on this topic:

April 10, 2009

David vs. David: Blu-Ray/DVD Taste Test

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Movies, Work


First, some background.

I showed David Bullock, a buddy of mine from work, a blog post I did about HD-DVD vs. DVD and how the difference for a typical TV size and viewing distance is not as obvious as you would think.

We got in several “discussions” about the topic. DavidB thought it would be easy to tell the difference between Blu-ray and DVD. I claimed it would be difficult.

Who would be right?

Arguing got us no where. We decided to settle this like they did in the Pepsi Challenge: a “Blu-Ray/DVD Taste Test.”

The loser of the test has to take the winner out for dinner at a restaurant of their choosing.

The taste test had the following rules:

  • 10 popular movies of David Lenihan’s choosing
  • Play a scene of David Lenihan’s choosing
  • May be all DVD, all Blu-ray, or a mix
  • Played in random order
  • No replaying
  • No pausing
  • Played on a PlayStation 3 connected to a Sony XBR3 46” LCD via HDMI
  • TV/PS3 running at 1080p
  • Tuned with Blu-ray Digital Video Essentials
  • 1:1 Pixel Mapping for Blu-ray content
  • Test subjects cannot watch video setup or when video stops
  • Viewing distance of 6ft or more
  • Scoring is as follows:
    • 1 point for each movie identified correctly as Blu-ray or DVD
    • -1 point for each movie incorrectly identified
    • 0 points for blank answer

I invited people from work to join in the fun.


From left to right: CharlieK, Ed, DavidB, Shelly, Greg, An, and Ted.

Here are the movies I showed:

  1. Death Proof - DVD
  2. Matrix – DVD
  3. Dark City – DVD
  4. Pixar’s Lifted – Blu-Ray
  5. Reservoir Dogs – Blu-Ray
  6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Blu-Ray
  7. Sleeping Beauty – Blu-Ray
  8. Terminator 2 – Blu-Ray
  9. Blade Runner – DVD
  10. Sin City – DVD

I had everybody predict what their score would be on the scorecard.

Here are the results (click on the names to see the actual scorecard)…

Place Name Predicted Score Actual Score
1. Greg 5 6
2. (tie) An (left blank) 0
2. (tie) Shelly 5 0
4. (tie) DavidB 6 -1
4. (tie) Ed 3 -1
6. CharlieK 2 -2
7. Ted 6 -3


Some interesting results:

  • Everyone picked Lifted as Blu-ray, and it was
  • Everyone picked Sin City as Blu-ray, but it was DVD
  • A score of zero is what you would expect if someone guessed on every movie. Only Greg beat the guessing score.
  • Ted did 9 points worse than he predicted, the biggest disparity
  • Greg was the only person that did better than they predicted, by 1 point
  • The average score was –0.14, which is worse than the guessing average

So where should I have David take me to dinner? Post your suggestions in the comments.

This was a lot of fun…thanks to my buds from work for coming out and being great sports!

June 2, 2008

Blu-ray Player/PLAYSTATION 3

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Movies, Video Games, Xbox 360


I made the plunge yesterday and picked up a PS3 to use as a Blu-ray player. From what I've read, it is the best player out there and it is relatively cheap ($400).

There are some things I really about the PS3 when compared to an Xbox 360:

  • Quiet operation! I don't notice the PS3 at all...and that is my #1 issue with the 360.
  • Web browser...I can watch glorious 320x240 youtube videos stretched out on my HDTV
  • Slot loading drive...no tray
  • Solid unit...360 feels cheap in comparison
  • No power brick like the 360 has...just a cable to the wall outlet

I picked up the remote for the PS3 and figured I would use it to program my universal remote.

But you can't do that.

The PS3 does not have an IR port...it does its communications via bluetooth!

The cool thing about bluetooth is you don't have to do line-of-sight like you do with IR...which is nice.

The *bad* thing about bluetooth is...no other universal remote can send out those signals! So now I'm stuck with two remotes....grrrrr!

Help is on the way, though. There is a product called IR2BT that will take IR codes from your universal remote and convert them into bluetooth signals that the PS3 can understand! The product is out of stock, but I'm getting one as soon as they are available.

Now that the format war is over, I am switching to Blu-ray as my primary format. I picked up several discs this weekend including:

I am going to continue to use my 360 for gaming. The PS3 doesn't have anything that I'm really interested in with their current line-up.

In October, Little Big Planet comes out for the PS3 exclusively...and I *will* get that. It looks amazing...

December 8, 2006

HD DVD vs. DVD...Fight!

Filed under HDTV, Xbox 360

I received "Superman Returns" from Netflix yesterday. This disc is a HD DVD/DVD combo...HD DVD on one side and a regular DVD on the other. I figured this would be a good disc to test the difference between HD DVD and DVD.

I used my 5 MP Sony CyperShot to capture the images. I captured two scenes from 8 feet away (my normal viewing distance) and the same two scenes from 1 foot away (to better show the detail from HD). My TV set is 46". I did not use zoom for any of the shots. The images were captured in jpeg, so there may be some compression artifacts from my camera that are not in the source material.

The first shot I captured is of a newspaper clipping. I captured this one because of all the small text. Click on these images to see the full resolution...make sure you aren't zoomed out (i.e. should be viewed at 100%) or you won't get the full effect.

This image is from the Superman Returns HD DVD (1080p) on a 46" TV from 8 feet away.




This image is from the Superman Returns DVD (480p) on a 46" TV from 8 feet away.




I am a bit surprised by the results...the images are not that different! HD DVD is a bit sharper, but not significantly.

The next shot is of Lex Luthor in front of a elaborate model train setup. I chose this shot because it has a lot of detail.

This image is from the Superman Returns HD DVD (1080p) on a 46" TV from 8 feet away.




This image is from the Superman Returns DVD (480p) on a 46" TV from 8 feet away.




Same results...the HD DVD is sharper...but not dramatically.

These results are specific to my situation...a 46" TV from 8 feet away. The further you sit or the smaller your set, the less advantage HD DVD has over DVD. The converse is also true...a bigger set or sitting closer will accentuate HD DVD's better image quality. I can't get a bigger TV for quite some time, but I can sit closer. So these next shots are from the same scenes as before, but are from one foot away. At one foot, my camera could only frame a portion of the TV screen. Using the chart at the end of this post, I estimate I would need an 85" TV at my current viewing distance to get the same results as the 1 foot viewing distance with a 46" TV.

These results are from a camera, which does not have the same ability to capture images as the human eye. I can see more of a distinction between HD and SD with my eye than I can with the camera, but these results are at least in the ballpark.

This image is from the Superman Returns HD DVD (1080p) on a 46" TV from 1 foot away.







This image is from the Superman Returns DVD (480p) on a 46" TV from 1 foot away.







At one foot, you can actually see the individual pixels on the LCD display and the black around them (a.k.a. the screen door effect). I can make out some of the article text in the HD DVD, but you can't even read the date/web address in the upper right on the DVD ("Tuesday, February 13th, 2005 www.dailyplanet.com"). Also note the color of the newspaper is more yellow in the DVD and more natural in the HD DVD. Resolution is certainly an important aspect of HD, but the better color reproduction is impressive as well.


This image is from the Superman Returns HD DVD (1080p) on a 46" TV from 1 foot away.







This image is from the Superman Returns DVD (480p) on a 46" TV from 1 foot away.







Look at the lit up windows in the background. There is a clear on/off pattern on the HD DVD, but the windows are just a blur on the DVD.

These photos show how important screen size *AND* viewing distance are for HD content. Here is a good article about this issue. The best part of the article is a viewing distance/TV size/resolution graph, reproduced here because I know I will refer to this quite a bit...


December 5, 2006

Xbox 360 HD DVD Player

Filed under HDTV, Reviews, Xbox 360

I got an Xbox 360 HD DVD Player this weekend.

The external drive plugs into a USB port. Initially, I was not excited about a console with two drives. However, now I like the idea.

One of my main gripes about the 360 is how loud the DVD drive is. You better crank up the volume if you don't want to be distracted by the DVD drive. The HD DVD is quiet. I never noticed it, even during low volume scenes.

Another nice benefit of two drives: I can leave my games in the 360 while changing out movies in the HD DVD tray and vice versa. It means less trips to the console if you want to play some "Gears of War" in between episodes of "24", like I'm doing now.

The HD DVD disk themselves feel much more sturdy than a standard DVD. I read a while back that HD DVD would have a special "scratch-proof" coating. It is really hard to gauge if it is working at this point. But if it does, it certainly will make renting HD DVD a more pleasant experience than renting DVD's.

Speaking of renting, Netflix has both a HD DVD & Blu-ray "genre." You can setup Netflix to send you HD DVD or Blu-ray if they are available. I loaded up my rental queue with 50 HD DVD's. There is no extra cost to rent HD DVD or Blu-ray.

The video quality is excellent. I didn't see any video issues whatsoever. In fact, I could watch the movie from just 1 foot away on my 46" TV and *NOT* see any compression artifacts! Even the best OTA HD broadcast has compression artifacts that are easy to see from that distance. I could see the film grain ("Happy Gilmore"), but that is an issue with the source material, and not the HD DVD drive. From 9 feet away, the film grain was not noticeable. I didn't see any film grain issues with "King Kong."

Sound was the same as a standard DVD as far as I could tell...which is really good.

DVD's still look good on my set, but HD DVD looks even better...mainly sharper and better color output.

HD DVD has the ability to keep running the movie while interactive menus play on top of the film. It is useful for changing the audio track or jumping to a particular scene. Certainly not ground breaking, but DVD's can't do this. On a DVD, every time you select a different menu, the audio/video for the current menu abruptly stop and start on the new menu. With HD DVD, the transitions are flawless...it just makes the disk feel more polished.

HD DVD does not pause midway through a movie like a DVD does when going to the second layer of a dual layer disk. That pause was more annoying than anything, but I'm glad it's gone.

If you have a 360 and an HDTV, this is a no brainer...get this drive!

December 1, 2006

Discrete Codes

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV

I define "Home Theater Nirvana" as the ability to use one remote to do everything you need.

In order to control a complex home theater system, you need to turn on components, switch the video input on the TV, and switch the amplifier to the correct audio input.

How do you turn on a component with a remote? Press the "power" button, right? Wrong! What if the component is already on...the power button will turn it off. When you program a remote to setup your system to watch a DVD, you don't know what state any of the equipment is in. To program a remote, you need to use commands that work as advertised.

That is where "discrete codes" come in. Instead of a power button that will toggle between on and off, there are separate codes for "on" and "off."

Finding discrete codes is a bit tricky. I've used a few techniques.

The first way was to buy a cheap One For All remote and use codes from this website. Then my home theater remote learned the discrete codes from the One For All remote. It worked for simple stuff (like on/off), but as my equipment got more complex, I needed more discrete codes than I could get from the One For All remote.

I currently use a Home Theater Master MX-700 remote (which I love). I found a place on remotecentral.com that lists tons of discrete codes in hex format. The hex format is used by the Philips Pronto line of remotes. My remote won't read hex codes directly, but it will read a .ccf file via a feature in the MX-700 Editor called the "Universal Browser." A .ccf file is a configuration file used to store IR codes for Pronto remotes.

To convert hex codes into a .ccf file, I used ProntoEdit.

  1. File->New Configuration.
  2. Create a configuration for the TSU2000.
  3. Right click on "HOME" and select "Add Panel."
  4. Double-click on one of the panel buttons.
  5. Select "Set IR."
  6. Click "View IR."
  7. Paste the hex code into IR Code area at the bottom.
  8. File->Save Configuration to create a .ccf file

This worked for most discrete codes I needed. However, it did not work for direct access to Video 7 (HDMI) and Video 9 (VGA) on my TV. Since I now need access to VGA, I had to find a way to get the correct discreet codes for Video 9.

I found another good way to get discreet codes. I followed these instructions and downloaded MakeHex. I placed the discrete codes I wanted from this list into a .irp file. MakeHex converts this .irp file into a .hex file which contains the hex codes. I then followed the above procedure to convert a hex code into a .ccf file.

And guess what? It worked! I now have discrete codes for all the inputs on my TV: Video 1-Video 9.

This is certainly convoluted and required a lot of digging to get it working...but once you experience Home Theater Nirvana there is no substitute!

1080p on Xbox 360!

Filed under HDTV, Xbox 360

Yesterday, Microsoft's Major Nelson announced a new update for the 360 fixes issues with 1080p over VGA. If you want 1080p, then you have two choices currently: component or VGA. My TV (a 46" Sony XBR3 LCD) will only accept 1080p over VGA or HDMI.

Well the fix is here, so I ran to Best Buy today to get a VGA cable (I was using component).

And guess what? It works! I have full 1080p now!

To tell the difference between 1080i and 1080p, you need content that is running at 60 frames-per-second. I don't currently have any, so my visual quality hasn't improved...yet.

I recently found out that I could generate my own HD content on a PC and burn it to a DVD and the 360 will play it back. When I get some good test videos, I'll post my results. 

November 26, 2006

Xbox Live Video Marketplace

Filed under HDTV, Reviews, Xbox 360

The Xbox Live Video Marketplace went live on November 22, 2006...one year after the Xbox 360 launched. Here's another review with some nice pics.

The video marketplace lets you rent/buy movies and TV shows. The biggest news is that some of the content is offered in HD...and I'm all about HD now. For more details on the video marketplace see the FAQ (part 1 and part 2).

So on the 22nd, I found an HD movie to test out, "V for Vendetta".  I rented it for 480 Microsoft Points or $6 (80 MP = $1). I started the download before I went to work. The movie was a 6 GB download. In 30 minutes I had about 7% downloaded. I went to work and figured the whole movie would be finished by the time I got home.

Wrong! When I got home, the download was at 36% complete. I let it run for the rest of the night and I only got to 40% before the download ended in an error message. I was charged for the movie even though I never finished downloading it. 

I tried to download the movie again before I left for Thanksgiving. I was charged a second time for the download. When I came back, the movie was downloaded. Since I was gone for a few days, I have no idea how long it took to download.

Apparently Microsoft was having some growing pains with the video marketplace. Many people were reporting slow and failed downloads. Microsoft's Major Nelson acknowledged the problem and gave a number to call (800-4MYXBOX) to get credit for failed downloads.

I finished watching the movie this morning. The video quality was beautiful. However, I did notice a jerkiness during scenes with motion, like when the credits moved up the screen. I saw a similar issue when I first watched a DVD on my 360, but it was cleared up with a patch...hopefully this issue will be fixed as well.

The controls are fairly limited. The remote control works much better than using the 360 controller since you can access functions directly without having to go to an on screen menu. There are not a lot of control options:

  • Play/pause
  • Fast forward/Rewind (2x, 4x, 8x). At the fastest speed, it takes ~7 seconds to skip a minute. This makes skipping to a particular part of a movie *very* frustrating.
  • Chapter Skip. Normally a chapter skip moves to the beginning of scenes in a movie. This *could* work that way, but in this movie it did not. The movie was divided into "chapters" by creating a chapter every 8 seconds. The chapter skip will move you to the next or previous chapter. This is pretty useless without some logic behind the chapter locations.
  • Info. This shows the time elapsed and a countdown to the end of the movie.
  • Format. You can switch from the default view (which looks good) to a "letterbox" view which adds black bars to the left and right as well as top and bottom...effectively turning your HDTV into a SD TV. I guess you might use this feature if you are watching HD content on a SD TV.

The video is 720p, which looks great. The sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1.

What is missing? You don't get the chapter search that you get with a DVD. Also, there is no visual scene selection like most DVD's have. There is no way to do slow motion. There are no DVD extras, like director's commentaries or behind the scenes features. There is no support for subtitles, which I use a lot when I have trouble understanding what an actor says.

I called 800-4MYXBOX to fix the issue with the double charge on the one movie I downloaded. I spent at least 10 minutes on hold until I got to talk to somebody. The person I talked to would ask me a question and then would interrupt me every time I tried to answer her which meant she would have to ask me for the information again...it almost made me wish Microsoft would outsource their call center. After 30+ minutes on the phone, I finally got my credit...but I don't think I should have ever had to call. Microsoft knew there was a problem. They know what I've downloaded and when I've watched it. I would have expected them to correct the issue without any need for me to call in. Oh well.

You have 24 hours to finish watching a rental from when you start watching. When you look at the movie in your downloaded movie area, it indicates how much time is left in the 24 hour window. After my 24 hour window expired, I wondered what would happen if I tried to play the movie again. I just tried it and the movie started playing...no "Do you want to rent this movie again?" dialog. It doesn't look like I was charged for it, but after all the troubles they are having and since they have given me a credit for multiple charges on "V for Vendetta", who knows if this is the normal behavior.

I'm excited about the future of Xbox Live Video Marketplace. If I have the choice between watching an HD-DVD (my player is shipping this week!) or an HD video from the marketplace, I'd choose the HD-DVD every time. But, I do see utility in the Video Marketplace. Video Marketplace will eventually allow me to watch TV shows that I may have missed that are not yet available on DVD or HD movies that are not yet available on HD-DVD (or are instead on Blu-ray). I hope more and more content providers jump on the Video Marketplace.

November 16, 2006

1080p vs. 1080i

Filed under HDTV, Xbox 360

For movie and TV content, there is no difference between 1080p or 1080i for a progressive TV (LCD, plasma, DLP, LCoS, but not typically a CRT).

Just six months ago I would have argued with this statement. 1080i has half the lines of resolution as 1080p, right?

Wrong! This article does a nice job of explaining how 1080i content can be converted to 1080p perfectly.

Even though film/TV content received at 1080i can be converted back to the original 1080p content, it is contingent on your TV doing reverse 3:2 pulldown correctly. If you drop 1080i and use 1080p throughout the journey from source material to your TV set, then you don't have to worry if your TV is converting 1080i correctly. 1080p removes one level of complexity from an already convoluted process.

According to a recent test of sixty-one 2006 model year sets, more than half did *not* recover 1080p from 1080i correctly. My TV (Sony 46" XBR3) was one of the sets that failed. However, changing Sony's terrible default settings (why would they do that?) fixes the problem.

Another reason you want 1080p...when we start receiving 1080 content at frame rates higher than 30fps. Both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 are capable of 1080p content at higher frame rates than film or TV use. For these HD sources running games at 1080p 60fps, converting 1080i to 1080p will result in loss of image data. Most 360 games are designed for 720p because of the performance hit of moving to 1080p. I suspect the same will be true for the PS3. I have no doubt games will move to 1080p eventually, but currently we are not there.

I have my Xbox 360 hooked up as 1080i. Microsoft added a patch recently that gives the Xbox 360 1080p support. Unfortunately, it does not work with my TV due to a bug in their update, which Microsoft is going fix.

I am going to pickup the $200 HD DVD player for the Xbox 360. There is a lot of chatter on the internets about how Microsoft has to get the 1080p output working for the HD DVD player to compare to Sony's PS3/Blu-ray player. However, it really doesn't matter. Film is at 24 fps, and my set does 3:2 pulldown correctly now. So I will get the same 1080p output that the PS3 does, even if I am doing it via 1080i.

Who's Winning?

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Xbox 360

You can argue and speculate all you want, but why not check the facts? This website uses data from amazon.com to figure out who has the most popular video game console, next generation DVD format, and satellite radio service. Very cool!

October 23, 2006

Free TV!

Filed under HDTV

I have decided to make a *big* switch in my life. For the first time since I was in college, I am not paying for TV. I'm now using an antenna ("rabbit ears") to watch TV.

I was using a bastardized version of DirecTV for apartments via AT&T Home Entertainment. It is the same programming as DirecTV, but with a few differences.

One difference is AT&T customer service is *terrible*. When I called about setting up HD programming, I was told I could not get HBO or Showtime in HD (not true). I was told that one of the few HD channels I could get was MSNBC (not true). I was told I could not get the local channels in HD (not true).

Another difference between DirecTV and AT&T HE is support for DVR's. AT&T will not provide you with a DVR, you must get one yourself. They also will only support you after you follow the instructions on this web page. I used the directions to setup my NTSC dual tuner TiVo with success.

Since I was getting HD channels, I needed a new DVR that could record HD. I bought a DirecTV HR-20. I followed the instructions on the web page and all I got was an error message: "no signal found." AT&T would only help me via email on the issue. I was getting about a 4-5 day delay between emails. None of the emails helped me. Most ended with, "Please consult your DVR manual. We consider this issue closed." After nearly 2 weeks WITHOUT service, I decided I needed to get away from these people. Why am I paying them more than $110 a month when I can't get any help and my service wasn't even working?

Going without service made me realize something...I really do not need all those channels. Most of the TV I watch is on the local channels or on DVD via Netflix.

One of the great things about HDTV is over the air (OTA) reception. Before cable, we all got our TV via rabbit ears and it looked terrible. HD is different. You basically either get a perfect picture, or you don't get anything. Another nice benefit of OTA HD channels...most broadcast in 5.1 surround sound, just like you get with DVD's.

I am able to pickup all the local channels in HD: ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS, CW (which hosts The Tube on a sub-channel) and about 4 others.

So there are some big holes with my plan. I'm a big Mavericks fan, and only a handful of games are on the local channels. Most are on Fox Sports Southwest. I also don't have ESPN anymore, which means no more Monday Night Football...although I have class on Monday night, so it really isn't a problem.

There are a few things I can do. If there is a game I want to see and I don't have a channel for it, I'll just plan on going to a sports bar to catch it. When the Soprano's come back on, I'm going to watch those in the community TV room or just wait for it to come out on DVD.

I still need to get a DVR for the local channels. I returned the DirecTV HD DVR because it will only work with DirecTV service. I'm planning on picking up a Media Center PC, probably this one when it comes out (which should be sometime in October).

Another benefit of dropping satellite/cable...I only have a few channels, but most of them are HD channels, so I spend most of my time with HD content.

One channel I now get OTA that I didn't get before is "The Tube." This channel is like MTV in its early years, but better. It is all music videos with no commercials. The video quality is pretty poor (you can see a lot of compression artifacts), but the music comes out as Dolby Digital 5.1. The music selection is all over the place...I saw Duran Duran with "The Reflex" and that was followed by a Harry Connick Jr. video about hurricane Katrina. It is a great channel to leave on when you aren't really watching TV.

September 25, 2006

More HDTV Pics

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Photos

I can't stop! Here are a few more pics from my new HDTV.

 This is from Universal HD in 1080i from DirecTV HD.








This is from Discovery HD in 1080i from DirecTV HD. 








Tonight Show from NBC in 1080i using an antenna.








Late Show from CBS in 1080i using an antenna.


Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Photos

I took some pictures of my TV showing Monday Night Football in HD. My digital camera takes pictures at 2592x1944. ESPN is broadcasting MNF in 720p (1280x720). As detailed as these pictures are, a 1080 broadcast would show even more. I took the pictures about 4 feet from the TV.

Check out how much you can zoom in before the image gets pixelated and the clarity of the text. Click on the pics below to see the full resolution versions.


September 21, 2006

My Little Bundle Of Joy

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Reviews

After a few years of researching, I finally got my HDTV, a 46" Sony XBR3 LCD.

Why did I choose this set? There are a few reasons...

  • 1920x1080 resolution
  • Support for 1080p inputs
  • Looks great from any viewing angle
  • DRC 2.5 (Digital Reality Creation) - Image Enhancement Chip
  • Sony XBR well respected brand for high end TV's
  • Floating-glass Bezel looks cool
  • Not too big for standard definition, not too small for high definition from a viewing distance of 9 feet
  • Automagically brightens when the room gets brighter (lights on, Sunlight)


I used the THX Optimizer from The Incredibles DVD to check the setup. I changed the color mode from "vivid" to "standard." Other than that, all settings were left at the factory defaults. I was surprised that the default settings gave the best results for the THX Optimizer...I didn't have to adjust anything.

I watched some of The Incredibles and I was blown away by how good it looked. I sat about 3 feet away and it looked amazing. I noticed *much* more detail than before. One reason for this is probably because my old set did not support anamorphic DVD's, but this one does. Anamorphic DVD's use the entire frame for video instead of wasting data on the black bars. The DVD player will stretch the frame to fit a wide screen and add the black bars.

If a DVD can look this good, I'm not going to be in a rush to get HD-DVD or Blu-ray. Although, I will be *very* tempted to pickup the new Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on if it is only $170.

I watched a bit of Star Wars Episode III and was again impressed. Granted, I chose these movies because I knew they were filmed at 60 fps for HDTV, unlike most movies that are done at 24 fps.

Next I watched an episode of 24, season 2. It did not look as good as the previous movies, but it still looked great.

DirecTV looked terrible at first. I played with the settings for DRC and then I got a picture that looked almost the same as my old TV, which was really good. Lesson learned: DRC can improve picture quality when done right, and it can make TV look horrible when done wrong. The default is on with some funky settings which make regular television (NTSC) look awful.

I will be getting FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, Discovery, TNT, and MSNBC in HD tomorrow. My apartment complex in the past month has added HD support to the DirecTV they supply us. I can't pick up HD using an antenna because I am surrounded by tall buildings.

I played Xbox 360 last night, which is currently my only true HD source (720p). I sat really close and played Project Gotham Racing 3. I've had this game since I bought my 360 back in February, but I haven't played it much. It feels like a new game...you can see further in the distance, the detail is a amazing. The wide screen fills my field of view...it was a completely different experience than before. I will *definitely* be playing this one more.

My initial impression...I *love* this set.

July 15, 2006

Does Your HDTV Do 1080i Right?

Filed under HDTV

Here is another "gotcha" for HDTV's...processing interlaced signals. There is a right way to do it and a wrong way. The right way is (of course) more expensive than the wrong way. But the wrong way only gives you 540p resolution from a 1080i source (that is less than 720p...ouch!). This guy did a test of 54 HDTV's to see which ones do it right and which ones do it wrong. The results are a bit surprising. Almost half the TV's failed. If you care about image quality from 1080i signals, then make sure you get a set that does interlacing the right way. I wish I could get an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray Video Essentials so I could test this myself.

Viewing Distance for SD

Filed under HDTV

My bro and I went to several places today looking at HDTV's. Probably one of the biggest complaints about HDTV's is how poorly they show standard definition (SD) television - regular television. The bigger the TV, the further back you will have to sit in order for SD television to look good

This web site has a nice calculator for figuring out how big a TV you should get if you want SD to still look good. You can skip the first input (distance to main viewing location) since that is not used in the calculation we care about. Just enter your screen shape (4:3 or 16:9) and screen size, then press "Calculate."

The result we are interested in is at the bottom under "Viewing Distance Based on Visual Acuity", "Maximum Viewing Distance for NTSC/PAL". This is the closest you should sit to see SD television. Sit any closer and you will start to see visual artifacts and bad-looking SD television.

I did a test with my current TV, a 4:3 32" Sony. I sit about 9' away from my TV. I am supposed to sit 10.2' away, according to the calculator. So I am too close. At 9', I can see some compression artifacts around text sometimes. Those artifacts would go away if I moved back a little more than a foot (which I can't without knocking out a wall). The visual artifacts are fairly minimal, but they are present.

SD is viewed as 4:3. To watch SD without stretching/distorting it on a 16:9 screen, you have to have the black bars on the left and right sides. This is the same as the mechanism called "letterbox" used to make a widescreen film fit on a 4:3 TV screen.

For 16:9 TV's, the calculator assumes you will be watching SD in a stretched/distorted (zoom) mode which fills the screen. I won't do this because I *hate* distorted video. If you want the results for undistorted SD on a 16:9 TV, you need to figure out the 4:3 screen size equivalent of your TV. This web site makes it easy. Go to "Screen Size Calculator", "Wide-Screen 16:9 TV." Enter your 16:9 screen size and press calculate. The 4:3 version of your TV is listed on the right as "Windowbox view diagonal."

For example, the TV I'm planning on getting is the 46" Sony LCD (KDL-46XBR3). The 46" 16:9 TV is the equivalent of a 38" 4:3 TV when showing SD material undistorted. Now I go to the Viewing Distance Calculator and use *4:3* for screen shape and 38 for screen size. The results say I should be sitting 12.2 feet away to see 4:3 content the best. Since my new set will be LCD, I should be able to put it closer to the wall than my CRT TV. That should increase my viewing distance to about 11 feet. So I'll be about 1 foot too close, just like I am now with my current TV. With a 46" 16:9 set, I expect SD quality to be about the same as my current 4:3 set.

July 10, 2006

And the winner is...

Filed under HDTV

In my search for HDTV, I narrowed my choices down to the LED DLP or the Sony SXRD.

But the problems with DLP not being true 1920x1080 and reliability issues with SXRD made me decide to reevaluate plasma and LCD.

I still can't do plasma because the burn-in issue worries me...so that leaves LCD.

Samsung has a new 1080p LCD 40" set out that looks really good, the LN-S4095D. I saw it today at Best Buy for $3,300. Sony is supposed to come out with their own 1080p LCD's in September. I need to read some reviews, but right now I'm very tempted to get the Samsung.

June 11, 2006

DLP Not Really 1080p?

Filed under HDTV

I wrote previously how I noticed a DLP set was shaving pixels off the sides so it wasn't showing a full picture.

It appears that none of the DLP sets are actually 1080p. The DLP chip they use only has a resolution of 960x1080. It uses a technique called "wobulation" to allow each mirror to address 2 pixels. I'm wondering if a technical limitation of wobulation is the reason why the edges are cropped.

This makes me a bit worried about DLP. I am now leaning more towards the 2nd generation Sony SXRD.

Here is a nice write up on the current state of HD TV's. There is mention in this power point presentation that all 1080p DLP sets are really using 960x1080 DLP chips.

June 5, 2006

Pixel Shaving?

Filed under HDTV

I was at Best Buy today checking out HDTV's. I was looking at the Sony 60" 1080p SXRD next to a Samsung 61" 1080p DLP. Both looked really good, but I noticed something odd...the Samsung was showing less picture than the Sony. I looked at objects on the edge of the Sony and the same objects were not visible on the Samsung. I'd guess there was about an inch missing off each side of the Samsung. Does this mean you really aren't getting 1080p with the Samsung? I can't wait for the HD version of Video Essentials so we can find out what the heck these HDTV's are really doing! Apparently just looking at the picture is not enough!

June 3, 2006

New Sony SXRD's

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV

I've narrowed my choices for HDTV's to either the Samsung LED DLP or the new 2nd generation Sony SXRD's. Here is a press release about Sony's new sets for this year. Not sure what the difference between the XBR and non-XBR is. I'm probably going to get a 55" set.

May 16, 2006

LED DLP Delayed Until July

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV

The first LED-based DLP HDTV, or what I like to call "My Next TV", has been delayed until July. Originally, the Samsung HL-S5679W was to ship in May. I guess that gives me a few more months to save up.

Crutchfield has a page on this TV now.

May 10, 2006

New Xbox 360 Toys!

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Xbox 360

E3 is going on this week. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo made some big announcements concerning their next generation consoles. Even though I was a PlayStation guy (I had a PS1 and PS2), I decided to switch to the Microsoft camp and get an Xbox 360 because I thought they had a better game plan than Sony.

Here are some of the Xbox 360 announcements that I'm excited about:

  • HD DVD player
  • Wireless Steering Wheel with Force Feedback
  • Xbox Live Vision Camera - For video conferencing and as an input device for games using "gestures"
  • Wireless Headset
  • Grand Theft Auto IV and download-able episodes
  • Retro games for Xbox Live Arcade: Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, Rally X, Defender, Paperboy, Root Beer Tapper, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Frogger, Contra, Super Contra, Track & Field, Time Pilot and Scramble. Portrait style games like Pac Man (as opposed to normal TV in landscape mode) don't fit on standard TV. To fit on the screen, either the game has to be redrawn at a lower resolution or it is zoomed in. If you want the closest reproduction of a retro game, these solutions are not acceptable. But since the Xbox 360 can do HD, this should no longer be a problem!
  • Live Anywhere - Play online via Xbox 360, PC, PDA, or cell phone in this seamless network
  • PC RF Receiver - use wireless Xbox controller, steering wheel, headset, etc. on your PC
  • Halo 3 - I've never played Halo, but I've heard good things about it

May 5, 2006


Filed under Gadgets, HDTV

Samsung has released the first LED-lit (as opposed to a light bulb) DLP set, the HL-S5679W. Here are the deets on this set:

  • 56 inch
  • Native 1920x1080 resolution
  • Supports 1080p input
  • Uses LED's instead of a light bulb
    • Faster startup time
    • Produces more colors
    • No color wheel (no noise, no rainbow effect)
    • Longer lifetime (20,000 hours for LED vs 4,000 hours for bulb)
  • Black cabinet (why do they keep switching between black and silver?!?!)

A quick search of prices shows that this sweet set can be had for as low as $2450.

This is probably the set I'm going to get, pending some good reviews.

April 22, 2006

HD DVD for Xbox 360

Filed under Gadgets, HDTV, Xbox 360

Xbox 360 and HD DVDA Microsoft executive said in an interview that Microsoft would announce details of HD DVD support for the Xbox 360 at E3 (May 9-12).

I read a rumor that the add-on would be $100! That would be amazing if it is true...and it would change my current HD DVD buying plans.

Currently, component (which is analog) is the the best HD output you can get for an Xbox 360. Support for HD DVD implies that HDMI (which is digital) will be coming. To watch some HD DVD's with content protection, you will need a digital interface like HDMI.

How do you add another optical drive to a system that already has one? Adding another box that needs its own power and will be almost as big as the Xbox 360 seems like the wrong way to do it. Plus, how will it connect to the Xbox 360? A quick check of the back of my Xbox 360 shows that the only open connector is for ethernet. The USB port is in use by my Wi-Fi network adapter.

My guess on how the add-on will work is in keeping with Microsoft's true agenda with the Xbox 360: to connect your TV to your computer. I currently can stream MP3's and photos to my Xbox 360 from my computer. If I had Windows Media Center or Windows Vista, I could also stream video to my Xbox 360. And with a fast enough network connection, I could stream HD video, even wirelessly.

So here is my prediction: Microsoft will release an external HD DVD player for a PC that connects via USB and has HDMI cables for the Xbox 360. Then the PC will stream the HD DVD to the Xbox 360. The first HD DVD player is currently selling for $499. An external HD DVD player for a PC should be cheaper since it doesn't have to worry about a user interface (done in software by Microsoft), a remote, networking, or power (might be able to get it from the USB port). Considering that I found a place offering the first HD DVD player for $399, I would not be surprised to see an external PC HD DVD player for $199.

So there's my prediction...what is yours? Post your thoughts as comments (click on the comments link below) and we'll see who gets the Amazing Kreskin award in early May!



February 18, 2006


Filed under HDTV

There will be two companies making LED DLP’s this year. I already mentioned Samsung, but I did not know about Akai. They have a 42″ for $1799 (PT42DL27L) coming out in March and a 52″ for $2199 (PT52DL27L) coming out in May. I’d be interested in the latter based on screen size. Considering the Samsung 56″ is expected to be $3999, these prices are really good. Have to see a review to see how they stack up.
So now I’m tracking 3 potential suitors for my HDTV:
  • Akai 52″ PT52DL27L
  • Samsung 56″ HL-S5679W
  • Sony 55″ 2nd Generation SXRD

February 13, 2006

HDTV Purchase Plans

Filed under HDTV

I have been looking into buying an HDTV for a while now. I have narrowed down my search for the “perfect HDTV” to a few features:

  • Native Resolution
  • Display Technology
  • HDTV formats supported
  • Screen Size
  • HD DVD/Blu-Ray support

Native Resolution

The native resolution is the fixed resolution of the display device. For example, this Sony LCD has a native resolution of 1280×768. So everything that is shown on this TV must be converted to 1280×768. Both of the main HDTV formats (1920×1080 and 1280×720) must be converted to fit into 1280×768.

If the native resolution is less than the format you want to watch, then you will lose detail. In the example above, a video in 1920×1080 format will have to throw away a bunch of pixels to fit into 1280×768.

So I don’t have to worry about throwing away details, my HDTV will have a native resolution of 1920×1080.

Display Technology

There are several display technologies to choose from. Each has its pluses and minuses.

At one point, I was set on getting DLP. However, the color wheel used to break light into red, green, and blue has two nasty side effects: the Rainbow Effect (RBE) and noise. You can see the RBE especially when you have a high contrast video (like white text on a black background). To really bring out the effect, blink your eyes while turning your head side to side. You will see rainbow colors, even when the video is showing only black and white. I am tired of all the fan noise from electronics, so I do not want a TV that contributes more noise. So I decided against getting a DLP. 

However, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year, Samsung showed off a new DLP set that uses LED’s instead of a light bulb. How is this better?

  • No color wheel needed, so no more RBE or color wheel noise
  • LED’s have a wider color gamut, so it can display more colors than a bulb
  • LED’s last 20,000 hours compared to 3,000-6,000 for light bulbs
  • Fast TV start up time: 7 seconds for LEDs (longer for bulbs, but not sure how much)
  • Brighter images

Samsung only plans on building one LED-based DLP set this year. It is a 56 inch 1080p set with a price tag of $4,199. It also has two 1080p inputs. It should be out in April. I will be watching this one closely!

I don’t like LCD for a few reasons:

  • Most do not have the 1920×1080 native resolution I care about
  • Have problems displaying black (it usually looks dark grey)
  • The Screen Door Effect: You can see a border between individual pixels when you get close to the display. The border can look like you are watching TV through a screen door.

If I had to buy a TV today, I’d probably get one using Sony’s version of LCoS, called SXRD. I have heard very few negatives regarding LCoS. It has gotten very good reviews (here and here). My biggest issue with this current generation of SXRD is that they do not support 1080p signals. However, the next generation previewed at CES this year will. The new features planned for the 2nd generation SXRD’s:

  • 30% thinner than previous generation
  • Two 1080p HDMI inputs
  • No more “Dumbo Ear” side speakers (i.e. won’t be as wide as previous generation)

A poster to a forum claims there are 3 new versions of the SXRD for 2006, 50″, 55″, and 60″…

KDS50XBR2000 (August 2006) MSRP $2999.99
KDS55XBR2000 (July 2006) MSRP $3599.99
KDS60XBR2000 (August 2006) MSRP $3999.99

I still have to wait for the LED DLP and the 2nd generation SXRD to come out and be reviewed before I can pick. But with what I know now, my HDTV will either be DLP or LCoS (SXRD).

HDTV Formats Supported

Most HDTV’s will have input’s that will accept 720p and 1080i. Most current HDTV’s DO NOT support 1080p. Currently there is not much 1080p source material…but it is coming. Both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray store all of their information in 1080p. So if you want to see the best picture possible from these next generation DVD’s, you will need a set that supports 1080p.

My HDTV will support 1080p

Screen Size

This is a really difficult topic. It would be really easy if all the content on TV was in 1920×1080p…just get the biggest TV you can. However, getting a huge set will make standard definition (SD, regular television) look terrible. I read an article about this today that has some nice charts comparing screen size to distance from a set for various types of content.

Another way of gauging the size of a screen is based on the field of view (FOV). If you want to get a true movie going experience, then you want to have the same FOV that a movie screen has. SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) recommends a 30 degree FOV for movie theaters. For a movie theater to get THX certification, it must have a 36 degree FOV. This webpage has a nice calculator that will tell you what your FOV is given your TV size and the viewing distance.

Since I want SD and HD content to look good, and I will sit about 9 feet from my screen, I want a screen size around 50 to 55 inches.

HD DVD/Blu-Ray support

The next generation DVD formats should arrive soon. It is quite possible (especially with older HDTV’s) that HD-DVD/Blu-ray will not work correctly without the proper copy protection circuitry. I will wait until these new formats are finalized and tested with HDTV’s to verify they work. My HDTV will support both HD DVD and Blu-ray.


About HDTV

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to David's Blog in the HDTV category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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