Posted by: htguys | June 25, 2015

Podcast #693: What the H?

Today’s Show:

What the H?

In the transition from High Definition Television to Ultra High Definition TV, we’ve seen the acronym dictionary go from bad to worse. On the good side, HDTV was multiple video resolutions and display formats, like 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p, while UHD is essentially just one. Some call it 4K, some call it UHD, some call it 2160p, but it all really boils down to the same thing for the TVs we’ll buy as consumers – 4 times the resolution of 1080p.

HDTV to UHD

There are differences between what the professional video industry considers 4K, which is a resolution of 4,096 by 2,160, and what the rest of of get when we buy a 4K TV, or an Ultra High Definition television set, which is typically 3,840 by 2,160 resolution, but the two are quite close. Some TVs support the slightly higher resolution, but for the most part we’re dealing with the one, quad-HD format, that defines UHD.

In some ways, this makes the transition from HDTV to UHD very simple. In early HDTV days, there were the EDTVs: plasma TV sets that could display HDTV content but scaled it down to a native resolution of 480p. Then there were two dominant resolution formats, 720p and 1080i. 720p was better for fast moving action while 1080i had better resolution and produced sharper images. Eventually we got 1080p sets, the best of both worlds, and the debate was solved. With UHD, we don’t have to worry about it,. We get 2160p televisions. That’s it. Nice and simple.

But that’s not the whole story. It isn’t just a resolution change in the migration from HDTV to UHD. There are so many more changes under the covers, so many more changes built into the transition that are intended to improve our lives and make the entire viewing experience better and more advanced. We’ve talked about many of them before, but sometimes it’s easy to get them confused or to gloss over the relationships between all of them. They build a somewhat twisted web of interconnected relationships it’s easy to get turned around. It happens to us all the time.

HDMI 2.0

The High-Definition Multimedia Interface 2.0 specification is typically considered part of the UHD or 4K transition. HDMI cables have been heaven-sent. One cable that carries high definition audio and video in the same connection makes wiring up your home theater soe much easier – so much simpler than the days of old with a coax or SPDIF audio cable and three component video cables, or one DVI cable if you were so lucky to have digital video support on both ends.

As the demands for what you can watch on your HDTVs evolves, the HDMI spec has had to evolve as well to support the better video. HDMI 1.4 actually supports 4k resolution, but only at 24 or 30 frames per second. If you want full 4k resolution at 60 fps, you have to get a system that supports HDMI 2.0. In addition to the higher frame rates, the higher bandwidth supported by HDMI 2.0 also allows more audio and video information to travel across the cable. For example, HDMI 1.4 is limited to 8-bit color, HDMI 2.0 can go to 12-bit. That higher bandwidth paves the way for something called HDR or High Dynamic Range.

HDCP 2.2

But before we get to HDR, let’s take a brief detour to discuss HDCP 2.2, the next rev of the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection spec also commonly associated with Ultra High Def TV. HDCP has been around since the beginning of HDMI. It is the copy protection part of the spec aimed to keep pirates from getting their hands on pristine, high quality digital formats that they could turn right around and post on the Internet for anyone to download. It is designed to protect the content owners from the evil pirates who want to post movies and TV shows on bit torrent and other file sharing sites.

However, what it typically does is just make all of our lives harder. Many of the HDMI communication issues we’ve all experienced between set top boxes, receivers, and other home theater devices are due to the copy protection part of the spec. A part of the spec that probably, in most cases, isn’t even enabled for the content we’re viewing. But HDCP 2.2 is the next evolution, so if you want to make sure you’ll be able to watch copy protected 4K content, you’ll need gear that supports HDCP 2.2.

Odds are they’ll never turn on the content protection for most of what we watch, because it would create so many issues with people trying to view it that it wouldn’t be worth it, but if they do decide to enable it, all the devices in the chain: set top box, blu-ray player, receiver, television, etc. will all need to support it for you to see the content. The biggest bummer is that we’ll probably have a whole new batch for HDMI incompatibility issues as some devices begin to roll out with HDCP 2.2 and try to talk with legacy devices that don’t support it. HDMI, for all its benefits, hasn’t been without its issues, and HDCP will most likely compound them, not make them any better.

HDR

If you can get past the copy protection, and get your devices all talking with HDMI 2.0, you might very well be able to enjoy HDR content, or High Dynamic Range video. High dynamic range video is, in a nutshell, a better luminance range than typical video, providing whiter whites and blacker blacks, this gives you better contrast, better color response and better shadow detail in the videos you watch on TV. You don’t get better resolution, but you get more realistic, more lifelike images because the contrast more closely resembles what we see in the world around us.

HDR isn’t an essential part of UHD or 4K TV. You don’t even need 4K resolution to enjoy the better color and contrast you can get from HDR video, but in most cases you’ll need to upgrade to a 4K set if you want a TV that will display the High Dynamic Range content – not because the two are required or connected, but just because the latest and greatest TVs, the ones that support HDR, just so happen to be 4K sets. There may be 1080p OLED TVs in the future that have support for HDR, but why would you upgrade to that?

HEVC

The last piece in the puzzle is our last ‘H’ acronym: HEVC or High Efficiency Video Coding. It is the successor to the standard H.264/MPEG4 AVC codec used predominantly for our current HDTV content and is the codec used most often to encode or transmit UHD content. It has twice the compression capabilities without sacrificing video quality, or it can be used to transmit much higher quality video, up to 8K resolution, in the same bandwidth currently used for 1080p HDTV content.

One important note about HEVC is that it is currently the only mainstream codec that supports HDR content. so while it is possible to get HDR in your 1080p HDTV movies, you’d need those movies to be encoded with HEVC, not the old-school H.264 codec you have now. So you’d need a TV and a player that both support HDR and HEVC to get the benefit of higher dynamic range. Since HEVC is typically associated with UHD, it isn’t likely that many manufacturers will introduce support for it in non-UHD devices. so while it might be possible to watch 1080p content with HDR, you’d probably need to do that on a 4k set anyways.

Conclusion

The move from tons of resolution options in the HDTV spec to essentially one in the UHD world should have made our lives easier, but content providers and manufacturers wouldn’t stand for it, so they gave us a bunch of new ‘H’ acronyms we’d have to worry about to keep us on our toes. The good news is that in a couple years, when UHD is commonplace and reaches mass adoption, everything will support all the new acronyms and it won’t really matter anymore. But for those of us on the early adopter curve, it can be tricky. For now, make sure you read the specs on everything you buy to make sure it’ll support what you want now and in the near future. And if you have any questions, give us a shout.

Download Episode #693

Posted by: htguys | June 18, 2015

Podcast #692: Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Receiver

Today’s Show:

Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Receiver

Both iOS and Android device users have easy ways to wirelessly transmit audio. For Apple users, Airplay sends music to the AppleTV and various Airplay speakers. Android users have Chromecast which has similar functionality. But what if you want to OS agnostic solution? Fortunately for you there is the Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Receiver (Buy Now $189).

The B1 streams high-quality audio from your Bluetooth enabled smartphone, computer, or tablet to any music system or powered speakers. Audioengine used the aptX codec which enables your mobile device to transmit 24 bit audio to the B1. The aptX® audio codec algorithm originated in the late 1980s at Queen’s University Belfast. The research was focused on bit rate reduction and achieved significant bit rate efficiencies while preserving audio quality.

Features:

  • Fast Setup
  • Plug-n-play, no software to install
  • Superior sound and extended range
  • Streams audio from any media player (iTunes, Amarra, Youtube, etc.)
  • Connects to any music system with an audio input

Setup:

The physical part of the setup is pretty straight forward. Connect power via USB and connect the audio, either RCA or Optical. Then pair your source device through its Bluetooth settings. That’s it! The entire process is less than 5 minutes. Then on your device you select the B1 in your bluetooth settings and anything you listen to will be routed to the device. That means all apps work with the B1. If you have a player that makes use of 24bit audio you are good to go! If your app is only 16 bits, the B1 will pad out the bits to 24 which will get you a better signal to noise ratio.

Audio:

We tested the B1 with four songs played on an iPhone, Macbook, and Samsung S5. We tried to find music that had a lot dynamic range, (Diana Krall – Fly Me to the Moon, Eagles – Hotel California) as well as some Rock from our youth (Van Halen – Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love) and finally some current stuff (Imagine Dragons – Its Time).

The sound was quite good. Highs on the first two songs were crisp and airy. You could swear the piano was in the room with you. The mid-range was smoother than a fresh jar of skippy. Bass was tight and felt full. In all you could close your eyes image the soundstage in front of you. The music was easy to listen to and didn’t sound cluttered or muddy.

Summary:

Now we’re not saying that the B1 made the music better or clearer but we are saying that it didn’t add any artifacts that would distract from listening to it. If you are looking for a cross platform cross device product that allows you to share your music in crystal clear quality, the Audioengine B1 is made for you.

Download Episode #692

Posted by: htguys | June 11, 2015

Podcast #691: 4DX: The Savior of Cinema?

Today’s Show:

4DX: The Savior of Cinema?

Movie theaters are faltering, at least in our opinion. The large format home theater has reached a price point where it is attainable for many of us. And TVs are so big, you can practically create a large format home theater with just an LCD TV. No need for a projector or a screen or the hassle of running wires to the back of the room. And if anyone can have a huge home theater, what’s the allure of the traditional movie theater?

We’ve talked for a long time about the cinema owners and operators needing to modernize. They can no longer rely on being the only game in town. To date, the biggest moves in making the old school cinema house more attractive have come at the concession stand. Full restuarants with in theater service, full bars with beer, wine and cocktails delivered to you while you watch. It totally transforms the experience and some of those theaters are doing really well.

Other theaters have renovated the room itself. They have larger, more plush seating that fully reclines, or small couches you can share with a date. The rooms themselves are more elegant, mores intimate than the giant sticky packed houses we’ve been used to in the past. Some even allow you to reserve your seat in advance so you don’t have to worry about getting bad seats. This helps, but even so, most of us would still prefer our couch at home.

4DX To the Rescue

But what if the cinema owners could differentiate on technology again. They used to be the only game in town for big screens, surround sound, booming subwoofers. But now we all have those. Then they were the only option for watching movies in 3D. Then that technology made its way home, where we all hate it just as much as we did in the theaters. The next big thing very well may be what South Korean company CJ 4DPLEX is calling 4DX technology.

If you’ve been to a 4D movie experience at a theme park, odds are you’re familiar with the concept. 4DX is more than just picture and sound. It combines 3D video and multi-channel surround sound with moving seats, wind, mist, and event scents and smells, al synchronized to the movie, to provide a totally immersive experience. Your chair moves in sync with the movie, wind blows when you’re moving or something flies past you on screen, It all works in harmony to bring you into the movie going experience.

A theater can be built or retrofitted with special equipment to support 4DX features, which include:

  • Seat Motion (tilt left, tilt right, tilt forward, tilt backward, raise up, drop down)
  • Vibration
  • Leg Tickler
  • Back Poker
  • Face Air Jets
  • Left and Right Neck Air Jets
  • Water Spray
  • Wind
  • Lightning
  • Fog
  • Scents (from a collection of 1000 scents)
  • Bubbles
  • Rainstorm
  • Snowstorm
  • Heated Air

Due to the complexity of the equipment needed to provide this total body experience, theaters must be specially built or retrofitted to accommodate it. In many cases, the work is so drastic theaters can’t even be retrofitted but need to be totally stripped down and rebuilt. And it isn’t cheap. In 2011, the cineplex company Cinépolis invested $25 million and partnered with CJ Group to open up to 11 4DX theaters. That’s roughly $2.3 million per room, and there’s no telling how much the partnership offset the total cost.

For starters, every seat has to move, and they all move independently. So you have the seats and the actuators to buy and install, and the wiring to the control unit to make sure they move on time. Then there are the fans and misters, some have these built into the seatbacks, so that’s already included, unless you’re in the front row. Then there are the scent bubble machines. And of course the controlling units to make sure all of these items fire at just the right time to draw you into the movie. It’s complex and complicated.

Getting 4DX at Home

So what are the odds we’ll ever get anything like 4DX in the home? That’s a tough one. Looking at the surface, it’s probably a long shot. But there are so many technologies in the home today that we never could have fathomed would be there had we took a guess 10 years ago, so if history has taught us anything, it’s that someone will find a way to make it happen. Entrepreneurs listen up. We’re looking for you to show up on Shark Tank with an idea, or set of ideas, for getting 4DX into the home.

There are multiple challenges in making this a reality. First are the chairs. Sure there are things like D-Box controlled seats available now, but the 4DX seats take it to the next level. And you have to have one for anyone that may come over to watch a movie. Its almost like the 3D glasses dilemma, but instead of a couple hundred dollars for a few extra pairs of glasses, you’re talking about tens of thousands to add additional seating. Braden’s family alone would need 7 chairs – not even sure 7 of them would fit in the theater room.

Next you’d need devices for the wind and mist and maybe even the smells.  You might be able to get away with one scent delivery unit to fill the whole room with an odor, but who knows if that would even work. And unless you want to soak the whole theater, you’ll need individual misters to hit each person or a small group of viewers. Same thing for the fans to control wind. Not a trivial install to say the least.

A reason to go out to the Movies?

So let’s assume we’re at least a good 5 to 10 years away from anything like 4DX appearing in our homes – at least at a price that would make it attainable for most of us, is the experience compelling enough to pull you out of your home theater and into a cineplex? For kids of course, they’ll love it. But they go to the movies anyways. For horror movies it could be great – get sprayed by mist when blood splatters off the screen. But for most movies it just feels too gimmicky. Like it would be fun for the first half of the movie, then you’d just want it to stop so you could watch in peace. Can you imagine a two hour long Star Tours at Disneyland?

Try it out

If you want to give it a shot for yourself, there are options out there for you. Maybe nothing close by, but if you happen to be travelling somewhere with a 4DX cinema, it might be worth checking out. According to Wikipedia, as of November 2014, the 4DX technology is currently active in 28 countries: South Korea, Venezuela, China, Cambodia, Israel, Thailand, Russia, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Hungary, Japan, Poland, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Taiwan, Chile, UAE, Croatia, Ukraine, India, Indonesia, United Kingdom and the Philippines, with new theaters being prepared in the United States, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Jordan, Bahamas, and Costa Rica.

There is actually now one 4DX theater in the US. It is at Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14 in Downtown Los Angeles – the first of many planned locations according to Regal. It is located at 800 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.

Download Episode #691

Posted by: htguys | June 4, 2015

Podcast #690: T.H.E. Show

Today’s Show:

T.H.E. Show

The Home Entertainment Show (The Show) was in Irvine last week and we had an opportunity to stop by and see some really cool products. The Show is like CEDIA and CES but on a much smaller scale and with a focus on high end audio. It is a much more intimate way of seeing some of the most expensive products in the home audio world.

Since the attendance is a fraction of what you would see at CES or CEDIA you get more hands on time with the gear and direct contact with representatives who can spend a little more time with you discussing their products as well as those of other vendors.   There were more than a hundred exhibitors from all over the world. Next year’s show will be June 3 – 5 and if you live in Southern California or are looking for a reason to visit you should start making plans now.

There were amps, speakers, turntables, headphones, cables and pretty much anything the audio lover would want to see and hear. Too many products to checkout in the afternoon that we had at the show. We want to highlight a few and recommend that you look for a reason to attend next year.

Woo Audio

We met with Mike Liang of Woo Audio and he gave us a great demo of their vacuum tube headphone amplifiers. These amplifiers not only sounded great but looked like art. The WA7 Fireflies goes for $999 with a solid state power supply and $1398 for the vacuum tube WA7tp linear power supply. They sounded incredible.

I (Ara) even had my daughters in on the action. This is a picture of myself and my daughter Stephanie checking out the equipment.

They had a prototype portable DAC that is also tube based and will run about $1,000 when it’s released. Its a bit bigger and heavier than the Audioengine D1.

But the coolest thing we saw at Woo Audio was their $16,000 WA-234 multiblock headphone and speaker amplifier. One for each channel. This amp comes with multiple tubes so you can optimize your experience based on the music you are listening to. An amp of this caliber required something more than ear buds and for today I used a pair of Abyss AB-1266 Planar Magnetic headphones (MSRP $5495). Imagine… I had $21,500 worth of gear creating music for my ears! I listened to Classical, Jazz, and Rock and was amazed at how full the music sounded.

Abyss AB-1266 Planar Magnetic headphones

These headphones do not go over your ears in the typical way. They are supposed to rest on your head and stay just off your ears. As a result the are extremely comfortable and can be worn for long periods of time. The frequency response on these phones go from 5 Hz to 28KHz. That would be overkill for most humans but the range I can hear sounded good.

ELAC Speakers

Elac showed a line of speakers created by noted speaker designer Andrew Jones called Debut. This was my favorite thing I saw for two reasons, one they sounded fantastic, incredible low end from a bookshelf speaker, and two, they are affordable. The frequency response on the bookshelf is 44Hz to 20KHz. A pair will run about $275.

They will also sell these as a set that supports Dolby ATMOS with a speaker that sits on top of the bookshelf or floor standing speakers and aimed towards the ceiling.

They also showed a subwoofer that can be calibrated via your Smartphone. Friend of the show Ray Coronado posted a video detailing the process:

Nordost Audio and Video Cables

Way up on the 14th floor where all the really expensive gear is was a cable company called Nordost. So we figured that a cable company on the 14th floor must mean really expensive cables. And boy were we right. Nordost showed off their ODIN 2 line of cables. Which just might be the most expensive cables you have ever heard. For instance:

  • RCA or XLR .6 M $20,000 for the stereo pair.
  • Power Cords 1.25 M $17,000
  • Speaker Wire 1M pair $30,000

It was a fun show. It had a completely different vibe than CEDIA or CES. There is little chance that we will ever be able to afford the gear that was demoed at the show. But for those who can afford it, there is plenty of manufacturers that cater to your needs. Most of the equipment is handmade with much of it made right here in the USA.

Download Episode #690

Posted by: htguys | May 29, 2015

Podcast #689: What is the Future of TV?

Today’s Show:

What is the Future of TV?

We came across an article written by Jason Hirschhorn posted at LinkedIn titled 7 Deadly Sins: Where Hollywood is Wrong about the Future of TV. It is a very well written, thought provoking article with a great deal of supporting data. And charts. Lots of charts. This is our re-tweet/re-linkedin of Jason’s post, with a bit of our own reaction to and discussion of his points.

“Over the past few years, the television landscape has been as dramatic and character-filled as the best of Game of Thrones episodes. To that end, it should come as no surprise that there have been threats that have gone unseen or under-addressed by the major and minor television networks. After a few lively conversations … we came up with “7 Deadly Sins: Where Hollywood is Wrong about the Future of TV”… Not every threat applies to every network – nor are they equally menacing – but as a whole, we believe they’re critical to both understanding and planning for the future of television.” – Jason Hirschhorn

1. By the Time You’re Ready for OTT, You’ve Already Been Supplanted

The article surmises that the traditional TV networks are still playing a wait and see game with respect to Over-The-Top content delivery. Not eager to disrupt the existing revenue model, they will hold onto their cash cow for as long as possible before making any drastic shifts in delivery. But this is a risky strategy. While they wait, the OTT providers are growing, expanding, generating more content and gaining viewers. It might even be too late already for some of the traditional providers.

“In the first quarter of 2015, Netflix’s 41M US accounts averaged nearly 2 hours of video on the service each day – making the “network” bigger than two of the four major US broadcasters and twice as large as the largest cable network. At its current pace, the OTT giant will become the most popular video provider in the US by the end of 2015. Not to be forgotten, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu are roughly 75th and 100th largest respectively, and continue to grow quarter over quarter.”

Our take:

We agree, this is certainly a risky move, but we do see the networks starting to embrace OTT. In fact, CBS’s Video Streaming Service Now Offers Live TV In Over 60% Of The U.S. Live TV is something the big OTT providers still aren’t doing. Nothing live on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. With the advent of time-shifting, live may not be all that important anymore, except for events and some contest shows. As long as traditional TV is the only place to get the content live, at the time it is occurring, they still hold a very strong hand. It’ll all go OTT eventually. But if traditional TV can hang onto the live content, or if Netflix and Amazon ignore that segment, traditional TV will still be in high demand, either via OTT or the good old living room set.

2. The Future of Millennials and Pay TV

Here the article discusses how the younger generations may not reach the point where they want to buy into traditional TV. The theory is that they all will eventually, when they make enough money, have a family, buy a house, etc. But what if that isn’t true? What if they decide the right way to consume content is the same way they’ve gotten used to since adolescence? What impact would that have on traditional TVs revenue model?

“However, Millennials and Gen-Z’s are first generations to have these non-traditional substitutes available – and they show levels of engagement with this content that far exceeds that of traditional TV. As a result, we truly cannot know what the future holds. What we do know is that young audiences love these substitutes today.”

Our take:

This is a genuine risk. Our children love the big TVs and projectors we have, and they demand watching movies and sports in the traditional way, however they watch a ton of content on their phones and tablets. Braden’s two year old is just as content with an iPad as he is with a 100” screen. And when they grown and have kids of their own, their kids will probably be fine with tablets too, so why go traditional TV?

There will always be the enthusiast, the one who wants a big screen and traditional TV for movies, sports, etc. But could this become the exception, not the norm? During the 2000s, pay TV service penetrated nearly 90% of US households. Imagine if even half the households in America didn’t have a traditional TV set. This would be a huge cultural shift, but would also be a gigantic blow to traditional TV. There’s no reason the big networks couldn’t go OTT and thrive in that model, but they’re behind.

3. Outdated Organization Model and Priorities

The argument here is that the model of thousands of channels to try to appeal to anyone and everyone at any time of the day is broken. Pay TV providers continue to add more channels in an attempt to gain more eyeballs. Love golf? We have a channel for that. Love game shows? Yep, we have that too. But with these extra channels comes a substantial increase in price. Something that is driving millions to cut the cord and drop traditional pay TV.

“In a digital environment, “TV networks” face none of the limits of the linear television model. There’s no limit to the amount of programming a network can offer, no cap to the number of genres and demographics it can serve, “no one size fits all” lead in show and no single performance metric. Netflix, for example, is targeting TV and film viewers of all kinds – even kids – under a single brand. This not only creates a simpler consumer offering, but provides Netflix with numerous strategic benefits, such as the ability to program for the individual, rather than a specific channel or genre. Though this approach defies years of industry beliefs around building audiences and launching series, the results speak for themselves. In the first quarter of 2015, Netflix delivered more minutes of video in the United States than two of the four broadcast networks, twice as many as the industry’s largest cable network (The Disney Channel) and more than the bottom 117 (of some 200) cable networks combined. What’s more, this figure is up an estimated 45% (or 38 billion minutes) year over year.”

Our take:

Netflix represents both the broadcaster responsible for generating content and the pay TV provider, like a cable or satellite company, responsible for aggregating it and getting it into your home. This advantage cannot be overstated. CBS generates enough content for their network. A standalone CBS app can’t compete with Netflix or Amazon. Same with NBC, ABC, FOX, and others. Either the broadcasters will need to work together to provide a single interface to aggregate all the content in once place, or they will continue to be outpaced by the large digital providers.

4. “Winner Takes Most” Competition

This point builds on number 3 and expands it somewhat. The thinking is that all networks benefit in the current model by being in the same distribution package. You can’t get just Viacom shows or just Time Warner shows. You get them all, whether you like it or not, and everyone gets paid, whether they deserve it or not. However, online the networks are currently running as separate apps, almost like a la carte programming. Users are free to pick what channels they pay for. This could really hurt traditional TV and make it very difficult to pick up new viewers.

“The average Pay TV household today watches roughly 210 unique hours of television each month, spread across only 17.5 of the roughly 200 channels it receives. Given the surplus of content available and the breadth of content offered by each of the major network groups (which count 13 to 25 24-hour channels apiece), many households will likely find they need only 2-3 consolidated offerings to meet their video needs. What’s more, the friction involved in paying for and managing multiple apps will give subscribers an incentive to watch more of the content they’ve already paid for instead of adding a third or fourth network for another $10 or $20 each.”

Our take:

This is a very interesting point that actually applies to any a la carte programming scheme. If you have to pay more to add a channel, will you really do it for just one or two shows, or will you instead find other shows you can enjoy on the networks you’re already paying for? This could have a dramatic impact on traditional TV’s move to OTT. Competing with the total volume of content available at the digital providers isn’t going to be easy. You may be able to pick up a few viewers who really love your shows, but probably not nearly as many as who would have watched something simply because they stumbled onto it while channel surfing.

5. The New TV Bundle

“Historically, the TV business has been an end in and of itself, but as Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe has demonstrated, video can also play a far more lucrative role: establishing or supporting a broader storytelling platform. In fact, many digital-first content companies already depend on brand extensions (e.g. events and apparel) to make video ends meet. As the TV bundle is reconstituted and diversified, what role will pureplay TV networks (as opposed to production companies) play? How much value will they be able to capture? How many can survive?”

Our take:

This one feels like a non-factor. We may have edited the list down to the 6 deadly sins. There’s nothing preventing the traditional TV providers from doing the same bundling available on the digital-first options. Sure, they need to figure out that model, but the only risk here is that they refuse to do so and try to just move the same pureplay content delivery style to OTT. Doing that would be foolish.

6. Loss of the “Middle”

This sin points to the fundamental difference between traditional TV viewership and on-demand viewership. In the traditional model, total viewers is king. Ratings are all that matter. Sure ratings in key demographics are important, but you really just want to attract as many viewers as possible. In the on-demand paradigm, user devotion or dedication is what matters. How passionate your viewers are, not how many there are.

“This shift has profound consequences for content monetization – and not just because it challenges decades of network television performance metrics (i.e. ratings). First, true hits will be more valuable than ever before (and thanks to OTT distribution, they’ll be bigger, too). Second, content that connects with a passionate but niche audience becomes an asset – not a missed opportunity or failure that needs to “broaden its base” to be renewed. However, the remaining content (shows people watch “if it’s on”, but never specifically look for or plan around; broadly targeted but “well-rated” series) will be severely squeezed. Not only does this “middle” content represent the majority of programming today, it dominates the industry’s most lucrative revenue stream: syndication. Similarly, the shift to on-demand consumption means that middling content can no longer rely on a strong lead-in program to boost or incubate its ratings. Finally, this tightening will also make select genres particularly hard to program. Much has been said about the death of the sitcom, but comedy tends to be the most particular of tastes. In the on-demand era, comedy lovers no longer need to settle for “I guess that’s funny” – making sitcom audiences inevitably small in size.”

Our take:

This is a very interesting point. The article quotes Amazon Studios head Roy Price and his claim that a lesser watched show with a more devoted audience is more important to him. He isn’t charging for advertising, his viewer has already paid for their subscription. He needs to ensure that user will continue to renew their subscription, which only happens if they have something on the service that they really want. If they’re somewhat lackluster about the content, they won’t be as likely to return. This is true in our own lives. We watch a bunch of decent shows because they’re there. But if we had to pay for them, we might reconsider.

7. The Original Series Crash

“In 2014, there were roughly 400 original scripted series on television, up from only 125 at the turn of the century. Though this growth is often attributed to the proliferation of television networks, the majority has stemmed from what might be called the “AMC Effect”. For nearly 25 years, AMC existed as a stable, if unambitious Tier 2 cable network. Ratings were reliable, but unexciting; content was strong, but also old; profits reliable, but far from lucrative. With the start of its original series (Mad Men in July 2007, Breaking Bad in January 2008), the network began a rapid turnaround that transformed it into one of the strongest, most prestigious brands in cable. With this newfound fame came increased ratings and added MVPD negotiating power that helped the network grow ad revenue by nearly 200% and affiliate fees by more than 75% over the next seven years.”

“Solving the original series crunch will therefore require a profound change to the television business model, as well as its key performance metrics (not that this isn’t already overdue #3). Consider the programming model today. For most of the major networks, programming efforts and spend focus on the “primetime” window, during which the US television audience typically peaks. Though the duration and type (scripted v. unscripted) of content varies, it’s the timeslot that defines the number of original series. For digital video providers such as Netflix or Amazon, however, there is no “right” or “required” amount of programming. Are 12 series enough? 13? 20? 40?”

Our take:

Obviously original content isn’t going away. But if the traditional providers can no longer rely on the primetime window to artificially boost the popularity of a show. And they can’t count on strong lead-ins, they’re going to have a glut of unsuccessful shows on their hands. This, for us the viewers, could be awesome. Shows will survive based on how good they are, how many dedicated fans they can draw. Shows we’ve loved, like Alcatraz and Backstrom, would have a high chance of survival, while other shows that have clearly outlived their prime, would be eliminated. We don’t want to see shows eliminated, but if that’s what it takes to keep the good ones, we’re all for it.

Download Episode #689

Today’s Show:

Vinyl Records: A Love/Hate Relationship

We have spent a lot of time discussing high vs low quality audio on the show lately. A full feature on the subject is still in the works and should be available sometime in the summer. But along the way we have had a few of you tell us that you still listen to Vinyl on turntables. At the same time we have seen a few companies reintroduce turntables to the market so figured why not take a listen and more specifically introduce some younger ears to how we used to listen to music back in the day.

The purpose of this is not to say vinyl is better or worse than digital, but to discuss how the digital age has totally changed how we listen to our music. There are some out there that say vinyl is better because there is no compression and it captures exactly what the artist wanted you to hear. Others say that it just sounds warmer. Regardless of what you think of the quality listening to music on vinyl is a dedicated experience that can’t be taken on the road or while you workout or pretty much anything else. The experience is about the music.

Pioneer PL-30-K

For our listening experience we chose the Pioneer PL-30-K Audiophile Turntable (Buy Now $299).

Features:

  • Full-Automatic Operation
  • Dual-Layered Chassis with 4 mm-Thick Metal Plate
  • Low Center of Gravity
  • Built-in Phono Equalizer

It took about ten minutes to setup the turntable. A nice feature of the PL-30-K is that you have an option to connect it to your receiver through a normal RCA input because of the built-in phono equalizer. There is also an adjustment of the amount of weight the needle puts down on your albums which is there to help in tracking and skipping. That’s something you don’t think about with digital files.

Experience

I (Ara) pulled out all my old albums, some in atrocious condition and some in nearly pristine condition. As a control I bought the latest Taylor Swift album, 1989. I needed something my kids would want to hear plus they are very familiar with the digital version so their young ears should be able to hear any difference in sound.

My kids were very amused at the spectacle of removing this large black disc and carefully handling it only by the edges and then placing it on the turntable. Then with the press of a single button the arm lifted and moved its way over to the first track which resulted in Taylor’s dulcet tones emanating from my Kef speakers. I was quickly taken back to when I was a kid. I grabbed the album cover from my kids and immediately started looking at the pictures on front and back and on the inside. I even showed my kids that they would put the words to the songs on the album sleeve.

My youngest was enjoying the song and her non-critical ears really didn’t hear any difference. That is until I pointed out some static that was barely noticeable on some quiet passages. This surprised me, even on a brand new album pressed in Germany I was hearing static. Perhaps the arm adjustment could have been made to eliminate/minimize the static, but I was not accustomed to hearing pops and clicks no matter how hard I listened for them in my music.

Then the song ended and my daughter wanted to hear a song that was on another disc. I hit the stop button, take the disc off the turntable and put it back into the sleeve, then I pull out the new disc place the correct side on the turntable, and finally raise the arm move over to the track she wanted to hear and miss the starting point. I lift the arm reposition it and lower the needle at the beginning of the song. My daughter laughs and says if I knew it was going to be so complicated I would have just listened to the next song. Sigh…

I explained that, for the most part, we would listen to albums in a linear fashion and that many albums tracks were selected in a particular order to convey some sort of meaning. Of course there were plenty of pop albums that had one or two good tracks and the rest were just filler.

My oldest daughter kind of liked the experience and wanted to have a party with her friends to listen to my old albums. I think it was more of a retro thing than anything else. But she could see how you could make an evening out of listening to music. When it was all said and done, I think there is no way my daughters will give up their portable music that can go anywhere they go and allow them to create playlists on the fly to compliment their mood of the moment.

Although my kids were done with the experiment I still had stacks of old LPs to listen to. So I dug through disco, rock, pop, and even comedy albums from the early 70’s to the late 80’s. And what I found was that I took atrocious care of my old LPs. On the stuff I listened to over and over in highschool you could hear pops and clicks that ruined the music. But still I had a smile on my face. The only thing I could think of was that not only was I listening to the music of my youth, which I can do at a moment’s notice on my iPhone, but I was ACTUALLY listening to the music of my youth. I fondly remembered sitting in my room playing my Japanese import of Cheap Trick at Budokan. Then it hit me… I was listening to the Japanese import of Cheap trick at Budokan! That goes back to the late 70’s and sure I had a pristine version on my iPhone and yes so do my kids (they love Cheap Trick). It sounded like crap but I was smiling. I even called my kids back into the room to take a listen. After listening for a few seconds my youngest said, “Poor Daddy, how did you guys ever make it through highschool without iPods?”. I explained that the albums sounded better when they were new. But I think her point was that it was so cumbersome to listen to music. After all, how did we setup party mixes?

I searched for my Dire Straits albums since they were among the last that I bought before I got my first CD player. I figured those would be in the best shape. Indeed they were! It was 1985 and thanks to MTV I had discovered that Dire Straits had more music than just Sultan’s of Swing. I went down to Tower Records bought a bunch of their old Albums. I remember that day very clearly because the guy at the counter made a comment that he was selling a lot of Dire Straits due to the popularity of the Brother’s in Arms album. Even buying music was an experience! I didn’t discover the song Skateaway for many years and as such was never really played on my old turntable so I knew it would be in perfect condition. It was and it sounded great! I sat there and remembered the old times and how much I missed actively listening to music.

Before my listening session was over I had listened to at least one track on almost all my albums. Some sounded great and some sounded downright horrible. Not due in any part to the turntable of course. This is what I learned:

At their best, vinyl sounds as good as CD. Is it warmer or more analog? I don’t know, but it does sound slightly different . On pristine tracks I was still able to tell which was digital and which was vinyl. But who cares, they both sounded excellent.

Listening to music on records is a dedicated endeavor. Sure you can turn on the turntable and play the A side of your favorite album while you pay your bills or clean the kitchen, but that’s not typically what’s done. Instead you find some time, pull out your music, and listen. No multitasking, just you and the music. Read the liner notes, look at the artwork, and drift off to wherever the music takes you. Yes you can do that with digital, but seriously, how many of you listen to an entire album on your portable music player? I am sure some of you do but you are the exception.

With all that said, I don’t think digital music has anything to worry about. As much as I loved going down memory lane, I hated how careful you had to be with records.  One slip or drop of the LP and your fantastic sounding record was ruined. Hearing pops on some of my old stuff brought back memories of being upset because a friend scratched my favorite album. Your digital files will sound as good 100 years from now as they do today. Listening to Surrender with static was fine once but not over and over. Then there’s portability, I can take my music anywhere I go. Not just a few albums but all my albums. Going back to my daughter’s comment about party mixes, it becomes trivial to setup a playlist that can run all night without any intervention. Its easy to buy, discover, and stream music with digital files. The list goes on and on. Even if you think the digital music sounds soulless, you can’t argue that it still sounds pretty good.

Here is my compromise. At $300 the Pioneer PL-30-K makes it possible for you to have the best of both worlds. Take your digital music on your runs or in your car. But when you want to really get lost in the experience, pull out your records and let the music take you away!

Download Episode #688

Posted by: htguys | May 14, 2015

Podcast #687: What to watch, What not to watch

Today’s Show:

What to watch, What not to watch

It’s that time of year again. The time when television executives clean the slate to prepare room for the new shows that will debut next fall. Also the time when you get to go through your scheduled or recurring recordings, your season passes, and clean out the ones that have been cancelled. Every year something gets cut too early. Hopefully one of your favorites isn’t on that list.

We pulled this data from http://tvline.com. Our sincerest thanks to them for assembling all the info in one place.

CBS

Officially renewed:

  • 2 Broke Girls: Officially renewed for Season 5.
  • The Amazing Race
  • The Big Bang Theory: Already renewed for Seasons 9 and 10.
  • Big Brother: Season 17 premieres June 24; Already renewed for Season 18.
  • Blue Bloods
  • Criminal Minds
  • CSI: Cyber
  • Elementary
  • Extant: Season 2 premieres July 1.
  • The Good Wife
  • Hawaii Five-0
  • Madam Secretary: Picked up for a full season; Officially renewed for Season 2.
  • Mike & Molly: Officially renewed for Season 6.
  • Mom: Officially renewed for Season 3.
  • NCIS
  • NCIS: Los Angeles
  • NCIS: New Orleans: Officially renewed for Season 2.
  • The Odd Couple
  • Person of Interest
  • Scorpion:Officially renewed for Season 2.
  • Survivor
  • Under the Dome: Season 3 premieres June 25.
  • Undercover Boss

Officially cancelled:

  • Battle Creek
  • CSI: Officially cancelled, but with a cool twist
  • The McCarthys
  • The Mentalist: series finale aired Feb. 18.
  • The Millers
  • Reckless
  • Stalker
  • Two and a Half Men: series finale aired Feb. 19.
  • Unforgettable: Officially cancelled. Possibly renewed by A&E for Season 4.

ABC

Officially renewed:

  • American Crime
  • America’s Funniest Home Videos
  • The Bachelor
  • black-ish
  • Castle
  • Dancing With the Stars
  • Extreme Weight Loss: Already renewed for Season 5.
  • Fresh Off the Boat
  • Galavant
  • The Goldbergs
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • How to Get Away With Murder
  • Last Man Standing
  • Marvel’s Agent Carter
  • Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • The Middle
  • Mistresses: Season 3 premieres Summer 2015 (minus Alyssa Milano).
  • Modern Family
  • Nashville
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Rookie Blue: Season 6 premieres Summer 2015.
  • Scandal
  • Secrets and Lies
  • Shark Tank

Officially cancelled:

  • Cristela
  • Forever
  • Manhattan Love Story
  • Members Only
  • Resurrection
  • Revenge
  • Selfie
  • The Taste

New shows:

  • The Astronaut Wives Club: Premieres in 2015.
  • The Whispers: Premieres in 2015.

NBC

Officially renewed:

  • The Biggest Loser
  • The Blacklist
  • Celebrity Apprentice
  • Chicago Fire
  • Chicago P.D.
  • Grimm
  • Hannibal: Season 3 premieres June 4.
  • Hollywood Game Night
  • Law & Order: SVU
  • The Mysteries of Laura
  • The Night Shift
  • Undateable
  • The Voice

Officially cancelled:

  • About a Boy
  • Allegiance
  • A to Z
  • Bad Judge
  • Constantine
  • Marry Me
  • One Big Happy
  • Parenthood: series finale aired Jan.29.
  • Parks and Recreation: series finale aired Feb. 24.
  • State of Affairs
  • Taxi Brooklyn

Unknown fate:

  • A.D.: A long-shot.
  • American Odyssey: A long-shot.

New shows:

  • Aquarius: Series premieres May 28.
  • Heroes Reborn: Premieres Fall 2015.
  • Mr. Robinson: Premieres Summer 2015.

Fox

Officially renewed:

  • American Idol: Renewed for a 15th and final season.
  • Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Bones
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Officially renewed for Season 3.
  • Empire: Officially renewed for Season 2.
  • Family Guy
  • Gotham: Officially renewed for Season 2.
  • Hell’s Kitchen
  • The Last Man on Earth: Officially renewed for Season 2.
  • MasterChef: Season 6 premieres May 20. Already renewed for next season.
  • MasterChef Junior: Officially renewed for Season 4
  • New Girl
  • The Simpsons
  • Sleepy Hollow: Officially renewed for Season 3.
  • So You Think You Can Dance: Season 12 (with a tweak to the format) premieres June 1.
  • World’s Funniest

Officially cancelled:

  • Backstrom
  • The Following
  • Gang Related
  • Glee: series finale aired March 20.
  • Gracepoint
  • Kitchen Nightmares
  • The Mindy Project: Officially cancelled; may live on at Hulu.
  • Mulaney
  • Red Band Society
  • Utopia
  • Weird Loners
  • The X Factor

New shows:

  • Bordertown: Premieres in 2016.
  • Wayward Pines: Series premieres May 14.

The CW

Officially renewed:

  • The 100: Season 2 finale airs March 11; Renewed for Season 3.
  • America’s Next Top Model: Officially renewed for Cycle 22 (to debut in 2015).
  • Arrow: Officially renewed for Season 4.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Season 3 premieres May 21; Already renewed for Season 4
  • The Flash: Picked up for full season; Officially renewed for Season 2.
  • iZombie: Officially renewed for Season 2.
  • Jane the Virgin: Officially renewed for Season 2.
  • Masters of Illusion: Officially renewed for Season 2 (to debut in 2015).
  • The Originals: Officially renewed for Season 3.
  • Penn & Teller: Fool Us: Officially renewed for Season 2 (to debut in 2015).
  • Reign: Officially renewed for Season 3.
  • Supernatural: Officially renewed for Season 11.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Officially renewed for Season 7.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Already renewed for Season 3.

Officially cancelled:

  • Hart of Dixie: Season 4 finale aired March 27
  • The Messengers

A&E

  • Bates Motel: Season 4 is a sure thing
  • The Glades: Officially cancelled
  • Longmire: Renewed by Netflix for a 10-episode Season 4.
  • The Returned: Season 1 premiered March 9; Season 2 could go either way.

AMC

Officially renewed:

  • Better Call Saul: Officially renewed for Season 2
  • Breaking Bad: Series finale aired Sept. 29
  • Halt and Catch Fire: Renewed for Season 2
  • Hell on Wheels: Renewed for Season 5/final season
  • TURN: Washington’s Spies: Season 2 premieres Spring 2015
  • The Walking Dead: Officially renewed for Season 6

Officially cancelled:

  • Low Winter Sun
  • Mad Men: Part 2 of Season 7/finale season to premiered April 5

CINEMAX

Officially renewed:

  • Banshee: Season 3 premiered Jan. 9; Renewed for Season 4
  • The Knick: Season 2 to premiere in Fall 2015

Officially cancelled:

  • Hunted: Season 1 ended December 2012; Spin-off miniseries in the works
  • Strike Back: Delayed Season 4/final season to premiere in Summer 2015

FX/FXX

Officially renewed:

  • American Horror Story: Renewed for Season 5
  • The Americans: Season 3 finale airs April 22. Officially renewed for Season 4.
  • Archer: Renewed for Season 7
  • Fargo: Renewed for “prequel” Season 2, to debut in Fall 2015
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 10 premiered Jan. 14 (FXX); Already renewed for Seasons 11 and 12
  • The League: Renewed for Season 7/final season
  • Man Seeking Woman: Renewed for Season 2
  • Married: Renewed for Season 2
  • The Strain: Renewed for Season 2
  • Tyrant: Renewed for Season 2
  • You’re the Worst: Renewed for Season 2 on FXX

Officially cancelled:

  • Anger Management: Series finale aired Dec. 22
  • The Bridge
  • Chozen
  • Justified: Season 6/final season ended April 14
  • Legit
  • Sons of Anarchy: Series finale aired Dec. 2
  • Wilfred: Series finale aired Aug. 13 (FXX)

Unknown fate:

  • The Comedians: Series premiered April 9; Season 2 is too early to tell
  • Louie: Abbreviated Season 5 premiered April 9

HBO

Officially renewed:

  • Game of Thrones: Renewed through Season 6
  • Getting On: Renewed for Season 3/final season
  • Girls
  • The Leftovers: Renewed for Season 2
  • Real Time With Bill Maher: Season 13 premiered Jan 9; Already renewed for Seasons 14 and 15
  • Silicon Valley: Season 2 premiered April 12; Renewed for Season 3
  • Togetherness: Renewed for Season 2
  • True Detective: Season 2 (with a new cast) premieres in 2015
  • Veep: Season 4 premiered April 12; Renewed for Season 5

Officially cancelled:

  • Boardwalk Empire: Series finale aired Oct. 26
  • Eastbound & Down: Series finale aired Nov. 17
  • Enlightened
  • Family Tree
  • Hello Ladies
  • Looking: Officially cancelled, with a twist.
  • The Newsroom: Series finale aired Dec. 14
  • True Blood: Series finale aired Aug. 24

Unknown fate:

  • The Comeback: Season 2 finale aired Dec. 28; Season 3 could go either way
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 8 ended Sept. 2011; Season 9 could go either way

SHOWTIME

Officially renewed:

  • The Affair: Season 1 finale aired Dec. 21; Renewed for Season 2
  • Homeland: Season 4 finale aired Dec. 21; Renewed for Season 5
  • House of Lies: Officially renewed for Season 5
  • Masters of Sex: Renewed for Season 3
  • Penny Dreadful: Season 2 premieres April 26
  • Ray Donovan: Renewed for Season 3
  • Shameless: Renewed for Season 6

Officially cancelled:

  • Californication: Series finale aired June 29
  • Nurse Jackie: Season 7/final season premieres April 26

Unknown fate:

  • Episodes: Season 4 premiered Jan. 11; Season 5 is a safe bet
  • Web Therapy: Season 4 finale aired Jan. 28; Season 5 is a safe bet

New shows:

  • Happyish: Season 1 premieres April 26

STARZ

Officially renewed:

  • Black Sails: Season 2 premiered Jan. 24; Renewed for Season 3
  • Da Vinci’s Demons: Renewed for Season 3
  • Outlander: Season 1B premieres April 4, 2015; Renewed for Season 2
  • Power: Renewed for Season 2
  • Survivor’s Remorse: Season 1 finale aired Nov. 8; Renewed for Season 2

Officially cancelled:

  • Magic City
  • The White Queen: Series finale aired August 2014; possible “prequel” series in the works

SYFY

Officially renewed:

  • 12 Monkeys: Season 1 finale aired April 10; Renewed for Season 2
  • Bitten: Season 2 premieres Stateside on April 17
  • Defiance: Season 3 premieres Summer 2015
  • Dominion: Renewed for Season 2
  • Lost Girl: Season 5/final season premiered Stateside on April 17
  • Z Nation: Season 1 finale aired Dec. 5; Renewed for Season 2

Officially cancelled:

  • Being Human: Series finale aired April 7
  • Continuum: Renewed for 6-episode Season 4/final season
  • Haven: Season 5a finale aired Dec. 5
  • Helix: Officially cancelled.

TBS

Officially cancelled:

  • Cougar Town: Series finale aired March 31
  • Ground Floor: series finale aired Feb. 10
  • Sullivan & Son
  • Men at Work

TNT

Officially renewed:

  • Falling Skies: Renewed for Season 5/final season
  • The Last Ship: Renewed for Season 2
  • Legends: Renewed for Season 2
  • The Librarians: Season 1 finale aired Jan. 18; Renewed for Season 2
  • Major Crimes: Season 3 finale aired Jan. 19; Renewed for Season 4
  • Murder in the First: Renewed for Season 2
  • Rizzoli & Isles: Season 5b premiered Feb. 17; Renewed for Season 6

Officially cancelled:

  • Dallas
  • Franklin & Bash
  • King & Maxwell
  • Perception

USA NETWORK

Officially renewed:

  • Graceland: Renewed for Season 3
  • Playing House: Renewed for Season 2
  • Royal Pains: Officially renewed for Seasons 7 and 8
  • Satisfaction: Renewed for Season 2
  • Suits: Season 4b premiered Jan. 28; Renewed for Season 5

Officially cancelled:

  • Benched
  • Covert Affairs
  • Necessary Roughness
  • Psych: Series finale aired March 26
  • Rush
  • Sirens
  • White Collar: Series finale aired Dec. 18

Unknown fate:

  • DIG: Series premiered March 5; Season 2 is a long-shot.

New shows:

  • Complications: Series premieres summer 2015.

AMAZON PRIME INSTANT VIDEO

  • The After: Pilot available; Season 1 releases in 2015. Series order cancelled.
  • Alpha House: Season 2 released Oct. 24
  • Bosch: Pilot available; Season 1 released Feb. 13
  • Hand of God: Pilot available; Season 1 releases in 2015
  • Mad Dogs: Pilot available; Ordered to series
  • The Man in the High Castle: Pilot available; Ordered to series
  • Mozart in the Jungle: Season 1 released Dec. 24; Renewed for Season 2
  • The New Yorker Presents: Pilot available; Ordered to series
  • Red Oaks: Pilot available; Season 1 releases in 2015
  • Ripper Street: Season 3 released Nov. 14 on Amazon UK; No U.S. date set yet
  • Transparent: Renewed for Season 2

NETFLIX

  • Bojack Horseman: Renewed for Season 2
  • Bloodline: Season 1 released March 20; Renewed for Season 2
  • Daredevil: Season 1 released April 10; Renewed for Season 2
  • Grace and Frankie: Season 1 to be released May 8
  • Hemlock Grove: Season 3/final season to release in 2015
  • House of Cards: Officially renewed for Season 4
  • The Killing: Season 4/final season was released Aug. 1
  • Lilyhammer: Season 3 released Nov. 21; Season 4 could go either way
  • Longmire: Season 4 to be released in 2015
  • Marco Polo: Season 1 released Dec. 12; Season 2 is a long shot
  • Orange Is the New Black: Season 3 drops June 12; already renewed for Season 4
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1 released March 6; Already renewed for Season 2

Download Episode #687

Posted by: htguys | May 7, 2015

Podcast #686: Dolby Vision

Today’s Show:

Dolby Vision

There has been a lot of talk about the HDR content for our new 4K TVs. There have been a lot of questions too. We decided it was best to go to a well respected source for some answers. On this podcast we speak with Roland Vlaicu Vice President of Consumer Imaging at Dolby and we discuss Dolby Vision.

A Dramatically Different Viewing Experience

Feel the drama of a blazing orange sunset over deep turquoise waters, or the power of red metallic muscle cars racing through city streets at night. Be moved as Dolby Vision™ images captivate your senses with astonishing brightness, incomparable contrast, and brilliant color you can feel.

With a wider color gamut and high dynamic range (HDR), Dolby Vision revolutionizes the viewing experience in cinema and on TV, complementing ultra high-definition (UHD) TV (4K), so even the best TVs get better.

More information can be found at Dolby’s Website

Posted by: htguys | May 1, 2015

Podcast #685: How to care for your HDTV

Today’s Show:

How to care for your HDTV

Most of us want to preserve the life of our home theater investments. Some, who want to upgrade, may not. For those, do the exact opposite of what we talk about. For the rest of us who want to protect our hard-earned investment, to make sure our televisions to last as long as possible, there are a few simple things to remember to make sure you get the most hours you can from it. Most of these apply to any piece of electronics you have in your theater: receivers, DVRs, Blu-ray players, projectors, you name it.

Keep it cool

Nothing kills a TV prematurely like heat. The TV, especially if you have a plasma, will heat up quite easily on its own. All this heat, if it can’t dissipate, can destroy the internal components of your television. If you don’t allow for adequate air flow or ventilation around the television, you may be killing your set off before its prime. Your television manufacturer will typically list ventilation requirements in your manual.

If you live in a very hot climate, you should be concerned about the life of your TV. Not that it needs its own cooling system or dedicated air conditioning unit, but if it is difficult to get heat to leave the room, it will be that much more difficult to get heat to leave the TV. Proper ventilation is key, but you may also want to consider installing some small fans, either in your TV cabinet or near the television, to make sure the air is always moving. Some after-market thermal controlled fans can be used to turn on only when a specific heat threshold is met.

It isn’t just heat, humidity can also cause severe damage to a television set. Liquid is the enemy of electrical components and humidity is no different. Do your best to keep the area clean and dry. If you don’t keep it clean, the moisture in the air could mix with the dust in the TV set and form some very damaging gunk on your sensitive circuit boards. More on keeping them clean later. But make sure you keep them dry.

While very cold temperatures can impact the performance of the TV, very rarely will they have a negative impact on the life of the TV, unless the extreme cold is also coupled with moisture of some kind. However, rapid swings in temperature, where the set goes from very cold to very hot and then back again, in a short amount of time, can wreak havoc as well. The electronics are tested for extreme temperatures, but assuming you’ll be in Arizona if its hot or Alaska if it’s cold. Try to keep the environment consistent.

Keep it clean

Dust and dirt are another plague on the extended life of an HDTV. As we mentioned before, dust, especially when mixed with moisture from humidity or anything else, can cause severe damage to the TV. The dust-moisture mixture can cause electrical circuits to connect to the wrong chips, shorting them or overloading them. It’s like the classic problem of “bugs” in mainframe days. Anything on the circuit board that isn’t supposed to be there can cause problems.

Proper ventilation is very helpful to reduce dust formation, but even with good airflow, dust still builds up on and around your television set. Routine cleaning is critical. Don’t allow the dust to build up long enough that it can cause an issue. Use a soft rag to remove the dust from the exterior of the television cabinet. If there are vents in the cabinet, blowing them out with a can of compressed air can be quite helpful. You’ll want to be careful with this, though. You don’t want to blow all the dust deeper into the TV and cause your own build-up mess deep inside the bowels of the television.

Keep the usage smooth

Your television likes to do what you ask of it. It likes to perform for you. But it doesn’t like to do tricks. The less you make your TV work, the longer it will last. For example, the climate issue of quick changes in temperature is not good for the TV. Keep the air temperature consistent  as much as possible. Also, constantly turning the TV on and off can cause problems. It shouldn’t. And all manufacturers test this (or at least should be testing it), but the power up/self test/initialize sequence can be intensive. Performing that rapidly and repeatedly could be problematic.

You should also look to keep the power going into the TV as smooth and consistent as possible. This more than likely means the use of a power center with power conditioning. Something that will sit between your TV and the wall outlet to make sure that a sudden jolt in power, or a momentary dip in power, won’t make it through to the TV. If you’re using a UPS to maintain power to the TV even if you lose power in your home, make sure the UPS provides smooth (sine wave) power, not choppy (stepped wave) power.

For many years to come

In the end some simple rules to follow and a couple quick maintenance steps can make sure you get the maximum life out of any HDTV, or any home theater component for that matter. Whether you want to preserve your TV or projector, receiver or amplifier, the rules are pretty much the same. If you’re in the market for an upgrade and need an excuse, ignore everything we said. In fact, do the exact opposite. Your TV will come to a screeching halt in no time.

It is important to remember that despite your best efforts, home electronics aren’t perfect. You may put all the love and attention into your television that you humanly can, and it can still fail. There may be a component failure that is completely outside your control. Chips fail, boards die, pixels stick. It just happens. Doing the simple things we talked about won’t guarantee your TV will last for a long time, but it will improve your odds significantly.
Download Episode #685

Today’s Show:

ZyXEL 1200 Mbps Powerline

If you have been with us for a while you know that we have been testing powerline adapters since the beginning. Our first product claimed that it could achieve 85Mbps. And in a controlled world it probably could, but in our homes we were lucky that we got 10Mbps. Still at the time, that was enough bandwidth to support Blu-ray players that didn’t come with built in WiFi. Fast forward to today and almost every device in your home theater needs an Internet connection and almost all come with WiFi. That should be good right? Well with all these connected devices and all your neighbors running wireless routers WiFi may not actually be enough, Especially if you want to stream 4K content.

The good news is that the Powerline technology has improved leaps and bounds from the early days, and now there are devices that support the new AV2 MIMO technology. We saw some of these devices at CES and were told they would be available in the Spring. And wouldn’t you know it, its Spring and we have one that is actually available for sale! The ZyXEL 1200 Mbps Powerline adapter supports AV2 and can be had for less than $95 (Buy Now $93).

The big improvement with this device is that it can use the ground wire to transmit data. The acronym MIMO stands for multiple input multiple output. Theoretically this improves speed and reliability of the connection. ZyXEL claims that it will double the speed and improve reliability by a factor of four of their non-MIMO (600Mbps) devices. But will that translate to actual results?

Setup

Setup really doesn’t need its own heading because it will only take a few words to describe. Plug one adapter into power and connect it to your router. Plug the other adapter into power near the device you want to connect and then plug in your Ethernet cables. That’s it! ZyXEL recommends that you do not plug the adapter into a power strip or even and extension cord. The whole process take about two minutes.

Performance

We can say that these devices have come a long way! ZyXEL have speed Indicator LEDs that let you know how fast your connection is. This is the LED that looks like a house with a plug in it. Green means greater than 80Mbps, amber is between 20 and 80 Mbps, and red is 0 to 20Mbps. Our device was green but when measured with our network tools we were getting between 65 and 75 Mbps. The error could have been in our tool but we feel that the device itself was over estimating the speed.

Regardless, 75Mbps is the fastest we have every seen over our power lines. Not gigabit buy a long shot but fast enough to stream 4K content, browse the web, and listen to music simultaneously. The fastest ZyXEL product we tested prior to this was the ZyXEL 500 back in Podcast #596 where we were able to get 48 Mbps out of it. We didn’t double the speed but we did improve it by 56%. At the time we tested the 500 it cost $75. Now two years later for 25% more money you get almost a 60% improvement in performance. Of course your mileage will vary depending on your wiring and devices you have plugged in.

Conclusion

There is no easier, or cheaper, way to bring a very fast wired connection to your devices. While it is unlikely that you will ever get gigabit speeds through one of these devices, it it very likely that you will have more than enough bandwidth to stream 4K content as it becomes available.

Download Episode #684

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