Face Palm: Our HDMI Cables Produce Blacker Blacks!

This is the first of my Face Palm posts.  In these I'll discuss claims -- almost always Marketing claims -- so divorced from reality the only adequate response is a Face Palm.

Years ago a fun, parody publication, "The Journal of Irreproducible Results", featured a learned article on the recent invention of the Darkbulb.  The Darkbulb, in one practical implementation, looks exactly like a normal Lightbulb.  Except, when you screw it into the socket and turn it on, it ABSORBS light instead of emitting it.  With enough Darkbulbs, of sufficient wattage, you could plunge any size room into inky blackness!

I often think of the Darkbulb when I run into Marketing verbiage to the effect, "Our HDMI Cables Produce Blacker Blacks!"

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Quick Tip: Protect Your Center Speaker by Enabling Crossover Processing

One of the key upgrades with the coming of Surround Sound audio systems was the addition of the Center speaker; providing anchored sound centered right at the screen. For example, for dialog.

But it turns out Home Theater, Center speakers end up getting fried out of proportion to all the other speakers!  The culprit is excess bass.  In this post I'll explain why that happens, and what to do to protect against it.

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"Sita Sings the Blues" (2008) <-- Find a Way to See This!

In 2008, Nina Paley completed a 5 year project to create an animated presentation of the “Ramayana” -- the Sanskrit epic which forms such an important part of the cultural heritage of East Asia -- from Hindu traditions in India, through to Buddhist traditions in, for example, Thailand and throughout Indonesia.

And the RESULT is absolutely, staggeringly, mind-blowingly wonderful!

And yet . . . . it ALMOST never even made it out the door!

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Quick Tip: Speaker Pointing

This is the first of my Quick Tip posts.  These will include tips, tricks, or suggestions which don't need a lot of background discussion, or detailed explanation.

Pretty much regardless of the type of speakers you get, the output of your speakers will become more and more "directional" as you go up in frequency.  This makes speaker pointing a consideration in your audio setup.

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How Come Some of my Stuff Still Looks or Sounds So Awful? OR, That's Art from the School of Shoddy!

If you are serious about audio and video, know this:  The BETTER the quality of your audio and video setup the LESS forgiving it will be of crappy content!  ALL of the defects in your poorer quality content WILL now be seen and heard.

Upgrade your audio system?  You may find some of your favorite music tracks are no longer listenable.  Upgrade your video system?  You may find some of your favorite movie discs are no longer watchable.  And no amount of "enhancement" features in your electronics can "fix" such problems.  The creation of poor quality content results in a loss of information; a PERMANENT loss of information.  The most you can do for it now is "blur" the defects so they become less annoying -- at the risk of also blurring whatever's left that's GOOD in the content.

Things that strike you as odd or wrong in a piece may, of course, just be due to mistakes in the performance, or how it was captured, or in the authoring of the version you are playing.  Such mistakes do happen.  This is one of the reasons you want to confirm your setup using content of known correctness.   E.g., Calibration Discs.

You will also, from time to time, discover cases where the "Artistic Intent" of the material is simply not to your taste.  Just as with the story itself, and the acting, you may not like how the art and sound design of a piece are used to tell that story.

But that's not our topic for today.  Today's post is about trained professionals, intentionally doing stupid things because they thought they were a good idea!  This is Art from the School of Shoddy.  Let's check out the Curriculum, shall we?

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"The Big Trail" (1930) on Blu-ray, OR How Fox Set Back Widescreen Filmmaking by 20 Years!

"Ars Gratia Artis" -- Art For Art's Sake -- is all well and good, but one should never forget moviemaking is, at its heart, still a business.  And nothing is quite so good for business as an unassailable monopoly!

Over the decades, many different approaches to this have been tried:  Studios buying up ALL the movie theaters for example, and the whole "studio system" of locking talent into contracts.

In the late 1920s, William Fox, owner of Fox Film Corporation, came up with his own, cunning scheme to take over the ENTIRE film industry.

The result would set widescreen filmmaking back some 20 years!

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Understanding Audio Downmix and Surround Sound Processing, OR Wait! I've Got the Wrong Number of Speakers?

It used to be so SIMPLE, back in 1898, when Francis Barraud painted his brother's dog, Nipper, staring intently into the brass horn of a wind up phonograph and hearing, His Master's Voice!

One audio channel.  One speaker.  One dog.  And one enduring trademark!

One has to wonder how Nipper might react to today's Dolby Atmos installations for Home Theater (or any of its competitors); a technology designed to support up to 24 speakers at ear level, a special bass audio channel, and 10 ADDITIONAL "height" speakers overhead!  Would Nipper still stare in wonder?  Or would he dive under the sofa?

The answer to that question likely revolves around how INTELLIGENTLY those speakers were used!  In particular, what if the content you are playing has a different number of audio channels from the number the speakers you have installed?  This is the realm of audio Downmix and Surround Sound Processing, and that's our topic for today.

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A Field Guide to HDMI Failures. Collect 'em all!

It's still early days in my Blog, but here I am already, typing up my THIRD post on that wondrous in its Byzantine splendor, steam and string powered world of HDMI cabling.

Truly, if you are looking for things to confound Home Theater owners, and exasperate even skilled installers, HDMI is the gift that keeps on giving!  And I say that as someone whose history with digital video long predates even HDMI version 1.0!

Not the least of the problems is recognizing whether something going wrong in your setup might even BE an HDMI failure.  And in light of that, I present this humble Field Guide to HDMI Failures.

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"The Thief of Bagdad: An Arabian Nights Fantasy" (1924) on Blu-ray. They Just Don't Make 'em Like THIS Anymore!

Wow!  THIS is why we watch restored classic films!

Douglas Fairbanks' fantasy epic is presented here in a new digital restoration; the first output from the Cohen Media Group's acquisition of the famed Rohauer Film Collection in 2011.  This is a new, 2K scan made from two, separate, acetate dup negatives, struck from original nitrate prints in the 50s.  The scan has been treated to extensive digital restoration, and digital tinting matching the original print instructions.  And the results are flat out terrific!

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