Why do I Have to Watch Ads before my Blu-ray Movie? OR, "Oh Noes! PUOs!"

Movie discs, be they SD-DVD, Blu-ray, or UHD, have many advantages:  Superior picture quality and access to the best audio tracks, for example.  They are also permanent:  Not subject to the temporary nature of Studio content licensing contracts, which can leave you in the lurch when the “streaming” content you thought you had "purchased" suddenly stops being available!

But that doesn't mean discs are entirely free of annoyances!  And right at the top of most anybody's list of complaints would be that most movie and TV show discs try to FORCE you to watch commercials before you get to see your show!

In this post we will discuss the mysterious and frustrating world of Prohibited User Operations (PUOs, or sometimes, confusingly, UOPs).

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Why Won't My Movie Disc Restart Where I Stopped It? OR, A Steaming Mug of BD Java!

One of the biggest, conceptual changes introduced with Blu-ray discs (and continued with UHD Blu-ray discs) was the idea the Studio could include computer program code -- software -- ON the disc, which would load and run whenever you played that disc, and which would CONTROL that playback.  No longer would disc playback be strictly limited to the "user interface" features implemented by each, different, Blu-ray player!  So long as the player could run the on-disc software, the DISC could invent its OWN user interface!  There was nothing like this for prior, SD-DVD discs.

This on-disc software would be written in a variant of the Java programming language to be called "BD-J" (Blu-ray Disc Java).  The expectations for how Studios would use BD Java were truly grand -- to begin with.  All sorts of fancy features were proposed to "enhance" the customer value of these discs.  The actual result has been rather a mixed bag.  In particular, some Studios seem to be most keen on how BD Java can be used to make a disc really difficult to copy -- something which has NOTHING to do with the customer’s experience.

In this post I'll talk about BD Java, and how it relates to the perennial complaint: My disc player won't let me do Resume Play on my movie!

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Check Your Speaker Distances and Polarity, OR, "A Chorus of YUMS! Ran Round the Table!"

Most Home Theater setups these days will include some variant on Surround Sound speakers.  Indeed, a major factor in the enjoyment of modern movies at home is the ability to hear an "aggressive" Surround Sound mix as it was INTENDED to be heard:  With key sounds originating from specific points all around you, and with blended sounds, such as the musical score, filling the entire sound field.

In this post I'll discuss the two most common ways people screw this up, and how to avoid doing that!

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Dealing with Radio Frequency Interference, OR "Hiss, the Villain!"

In my previous post on Ground Loops and Power Line Interference Hum, I mentioned another common complaint in Home Theater setups:  "Hiss" from your speakers.  Hiss comes from Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) -- i.e., higher frequency signals emitted by something in or near your Home Theater setup.  If these emissions get past the shielding of your electronics they can result in audible Hiss from your speakers, even when you are not playing anything!

If you'd like  more info on what's going on, and suggestions for how to deal with it, this post is for you!

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Just Bought a New TV, eh? Time to Extinguish its Torch Mode Settings!

OK, so you just forked over the cash for a brand new TV.  You wrangled it out of the box, got it positioned in place, cabled up, plugged in, and Voila!, you've even got a picture!  Pretty cool, eh?  Time to kick back, relax, and enjoy?

Not so fast, Bunky!

One of the dirty little secrets of the Consumer Electronics biz is that the "out of box", Factory Default Settings on just about every TV ever sold are flat out WRONG for best quality viewing!  There's no real mystery behind this.  The default settings are deliberately chosen to make the TV stand out -- to catch your eye -- from a distance, when buried amidst a whole wall of competing TVs, under garish, store lighting conditions.  THESE, my friend, are the so-called (and rightfully infamous) "Torch Mode" settings.  And if you are reading this, know that your FIRST task, should you choose to accept it, is to douse all of them!

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Yikes! All my Shows are Shocking Pink / Ghastly Green!

Does the world seem rather "off" to you today?  Does everything look like you are seeing it through rose colored glasses?  Or perhaps through a refreshing glass of limeade?  And you don't even LIKE limeade?  Is that what's bothering you, Bunky?

Well congratulations!  You've stumbled into the exciting, new, high tech world of HDMI Handshake Failures!  For a handle on what's really going on -- and what to DO about it -- read on!

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Dealing with Ground Loops, OR "Bah! Bug Hum!"

Most Home Theater users have experienced a "Ground Loop" at some point, even if they have no idea that's what it's called.  A Ground Loop is garbage voltage which travels between the devices in your system -- over the cable shields of the cables connecting them -- looking for a path back to Ground so that current can flow.  In the process, it can cause havoc with various different parts of your system.  The most common symptom is an annoying "Hum" from your Subwoofer.

Getting rid of a Ground Loop can be a trying experience -- made more so if you are operating in the dark about what's going on.  So in this post, we'll talk about Ground Loops:  What they are, where they come from, and how to squelch them.

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Lip Sync, OR Why Are Her Lips Still Moving After She's Stopped Talking?

Certain flaws in your Home Theater viewing are bound to take you out of the moment -- flaws just too annoying to ignore.  And Audio out of sync with Video is certainly one of them!

We've all seen examples of poorly "dubbed" movies, where the lip-sync error is so humongous it's comical.  But errors even more subtle will still leave you with the irritating feeling that something is just, OFF.  And once that sync error is corrected, there's that Ahhh! moment as you settle in and realize this is finally RIGHT!

In this post we will talk about Lip Sync errors -- where they come from, and what you can do about them.

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Video Compression (SD-DVD Edition!)

All of the Digital Video you watch in your Home Theater is "compressed".  ALL of it!  Whether it comes off an optical disc, or read from a media file you play, or as a program you stream from an Internet service, or even as a program you watch from a local, on-air, Digital TV station.  Compression reduces both the amount of space necessary to store the video, and -- often more important -- the data rate needed to transmit that video or to read it off of storage.

But too MUCH compression will damage picture quality in ways difficult to ignore!  In this post I'll cover the basics of video compression, along with a case study of video compression as applied to SD-DVD movie discs -- where the sins of poorly implemented compression are rife!  I'll end with some recommendations on what to look for when picking up an SD-DVD title to maximize your odds of getting great picture quality.

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The Great Connector Conspiracy! OR, Why Won't My Cables Carry Some Audio / Video Formats?

One of the enduring mysteries of Home Theater is how to connect your gear together so that the audio and video you WANT to pass between devices will actually get there!  It sometimes seems like every path is strewn with potholes.

Restrictions can be technical, historical, and even legal (content licensing prohibitions).  In this post, I'll attempt to demystify the most common restrictions.

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