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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Video: Just Good Enough Shouldn't Be

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 12:05 AM

With all of the talk of 4K/Ultra HD TV and OLED coming out of CES this year, you might be fooled into thinking that people actually care about things like picture quality and performance. You might think that we wouldn’t keep getting these new formats and technologies that can deliver resolution so high that casual passers-by find themselves compelled to press their very eyes to the screen looking for even a single tell-tale edge or black space around one of the 8 million pixels if things like resolution didn’t matter. Or that sets that can produce sucked-into-a-black-hole black levels while simultaneously delivering retina-searing whites with color levels that may finally be able to reproduce the exact shade of red of a can of Coke and the dreamy blues and greens of the Caribbean were clearly something that consumers ardently cared about.

You might think that, but, sadly, it looks like you would be wrong. What the public really seems to be saying over and over again is, “We like the idea of quality, sure, but what we really want is convenience. And, dammit, we want that convenience no matter what the cost to quality or the expense in absolute performance!”

I’ll freely cop to being a home theater snob.

And, as my theater has gotten better—via the addition of the new Marantz AV-8801 pre/pro with 11.1-channel audio and Audyssey XT32 room correction, D-BOX motion seating, front height channels, and a Darbee DVP5000 video processor—my snobbishness has only expanded.

Let me put it plain: I don’t want to see a movie at your house. Don’t even ask me. Have me over to do anything else—eat, drink, play a heated game of Balderdash, whatever—just not to watch a movie. Because your system will be nothing but a letdown, and the whole time I’m watching the movie, I’m going to be agonizing inside about how much better the experience would be at my place.

In fact, even the commercial-theater experience is getting to be a disappointment. My wife and I went and saw The Hobbit on New Year’s Eve, and I was distracted by all the little things that kept pulling me out of the experience—I could see the perforations in the screen, the image looked soft, and a right side surround speaker was blown and crackling.

So, yeah, I’m a theater snob. And when I watch a movie, I want it to be an uncompromised, best-possible experience. I like the lights to be off, I like the room to be quiet, and I like all distractions to be put away.

I also know that I’m not alone in this desire. There are a lot of other people out there who love movies and take the experience seriously.

And at this point in time, the only way for us to enjoy movies in their maximum quality at home is on a Blu-ray Disc. Period. (Well, technically, you will get an even better image on a Prima Cinema server, as it uses 10-bit, 4:2:2 video, which has 50% more data and 25% more color than what’s found on a Blu-ray Disc. So, I amend my previous statement: If you have Prima, I want to come to your house to watch a movie. Thank you in advance!)

You can tell me how Apple TV or Netflix or Amazon or Hulu or Vudu “come close” or are “awfully good” or (the dreaded) “good enough,” or any other qualifier you like, but they do not measure up to Blu-ray—not in picture and especially not in sound. (Oddly, audio—which is far less data-intense than video—is the area where streaming services are making no effort to approach Blu-ray’s lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD-Master soundtracks.)  

But there is a lot of pushback against discs. An article on The Man Cave Cinema yesterday put forth the question, “Is Blu-ray Dying?”

The author wondered, “With the popularity of video streaming apps that can display HD quality video and Dolby Digital Plus sound, are people still buying Blu Rays?”

The answer is, “Yes.” In fact, according to the latest figures from the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG), sales of HD Blu-ray discs were up 10% for 2012. So, not only are people still buying discs, they’re increasingly doing so. (The DEG is also the group responsible for the best swag I took home from CES this year. So, much love, DEG! Much love.)

The Man Cave Cinema blog says, “It's so much easier to call up a movie or TV show from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon [. . .] than getting up looking for a BD and then sticking it into the player and then pressing play and then being assaulted by movie trailers you have no interest in. You may call us lazy or that we don't care for perfect sound and picture but at the end of the day is all that really important? Convenience sometimes reins [sic] supreme.”

Well, I for one say it is really that important.

Please continue reading this rant over at Theo's Roundtable. Every click is like a hug from a long lost friend...

Categories: January 2013, Movies, Rants

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