I’m here to talk about Oklahoma! which is available, as I said, in two versions. The first version is the CinemaScope version that most of us have seen over the years. It was filmed separately from the second version, the Todd-AO version..
CinemaScope used 35mm film, anamorphic lenses, and 24 frames per second.
Todd-AO, in 1956, used 65mm film, spherical lenses, and 30 frames percent (reducing flicker to virtually nothing).
The Todd-AO presentation is encoded on blu-ray at 1080i/60. The resulting playback i like looking through a window. This version of the film was mastered in 4K and a 4K DCP was shown at the TCM festival last month on the big screen. It was universally praised.
The picture looks astonishing...harkening back to the heady days of laserdisc when this version of the movie was first released to home video. This was also released to DVD, but that is generally regarded as a bad-looking release.
Since I first wrote this article, an unbundled version of Oklahoma1 has been released along with The King and I. The only R&H movie to not get a single release from the Amazon box is State Fair.
The extended version was restored by none other than Robert A. Harris, who was one of the co-restorers of Lawrence of Arabia. It will include most of the footage from the 1990 laserdisc, new footage discovered with and without sound, audio discovered without picture, and the police calls that ran during intermission. It will also include Overture, Entr’Acte, and Exit Music.
This is my holy grail of blu-ray discs. You can read more about the features at the Criterion site, and follow the entertaining, ongoing discussion at Home Theater Forum.
Google pointed to many people having the same problem, and having little success getting Mitsubishi to remedy the situation. It’s apparently a very common problem, when the microscopic mirrors on the DLP chip die a premature death.
It is also a costly repair if the TV is out of warranty. You might as well get a new TV.
Mark found a tutorial video that explained how to replace the DLP chip. After consulting with our electrician friend Mike, he decided to buy a replacement chip for around $200 and attempt the do-it-yourself installation, with Mike’s assistance.
I decided to join in the fun, although I was mostly a third-wheel. I figured since I have two Mitsubishi DLP sets, I might have to go through the same procedure.
Mark had the tutorial video queued up on his iPad, and he and Mike took disassembly pictures with the iPhone (which were photo streamed automatically to the iPad).
This is what it looked like with the back panel off, just before the light engine was removed.
This is the light engine. It is comprised of the lamp assembly, lens, lens shroud (already removed) and the DMD board which contains the DLP chip.
This is the DMD board, removed from the light engine. The DLP chip is lower right.
The chip was held in place by a screw that you turned and locked into position. It was easy to replace.
Throughout the disassembly, the video was consulted and pictures were taken. When reassembling the light engine, the pictures were used to verify the location of screws and cables.
Only one screw got lost, and one connector housing broke off, but the connector could still be pressed into place.
This is the back of the set prior to putting the light engine back into place:
Mark carefully brought the light engine over to Mike, who reinstalled it and attached the connectors. The back panel was reattached, the TV was plugged in, and after a moment of a blinking green indicator light, the TV powered on and the picture was, in a word, perfect:
All in all, it took four hours, including a trip to Fry’s for some microfiber cloths and thermal paste. The cloths were for cleaning the new DLP chip, which had smudges on the glass surface. Ultimately, Mike used an antistatic computer cleaning cloth to remove the smudges. The thermal paste was used between the back of the DLP chip and the heat sink that was on top of it.
So my friend gets a like-new TV for under $200, the annoying white dots are gone, and the only thing left to replace will eventually be the lamp (which is not a complicated production, as it is accessible from an access panel on the back of the set.)
I actually documented this process with photos, and someone today on Home Theater Lounge reminded me of this.
I replaced the CLD-701 with the Pioneer DVL-909, a combination DVD/LD player, that already supported AC-3. This player is still in my main equipment rack, although it was unplugged until this past weekend. Last weekend, I got the urge to see the Pioneer Special Edition of 1776 which I originally owned when it was first released in 1992. But water damage to most of my laserdisc collection ruined the cover and molded the discs. So I paid $20 for a used copy of the laserdisc on eBay. The disc played fine except for the last side, which had a scratch--and there were white lines on screen for that reason (fortunately, not for the entire side).
The CLD-701 is in a box in the garage. I used it to capture Star Wars and Song of the South and I made DVD’s from that. My Star Wars DVD even restored the line “Close the blast doors, close the blast doors!” which was in the movie when I saw it in 1977, but lost on every home video version until the Special Edition release. The CLD-701 side flipping stopped working, so I should probably just recycle the hardware and get rid of it. But that AC-3 upgrade was something I was proud of, and I hate to just throw that away.
As for my laserdisc collection, the old and moldy discs are in boxes in the garage. I have some pristine box sets that I replaced, some DTS laserdiscs, and a few sentimental favorites, like the original Star Wars Trilogy in CAV and CLV (the big box with the book, the Faces editions, and the Special Editions box set). These discs occupy a place of honor in custom shelves in my home theater.
And I’ll probably unplug the laserdisc player from the rack, so it will survive a lightning strike.
Flash forward several years. Apple made the Apple TV gen 1, with high definition video output, and the ability to play content from iTunes. It had a bigger footprint than a Mac mini, and was about 2/3 the height. But it stored its content on a hard drive, and in the case of mine, it was only 40 gigs. It had HDMI out plus component video and an optical digital output, plus Ethernet connectivity and WiFi. It eventually started locking up--probably a dying hard drive.
Apple revised the Apple TV gen 1 with a larger hard drive, then totally revamped the design and made it into a streaming-only little black square hockey puck.
This Apple TV 2 was capable of 720p high definition video. It had HDMI and optical digital out, plus Ethernet and WiFi. You could see YouTube, Netflix streaming, Major League Baseball, and the NHL, in addition to streaming from iTunes.
The Apple TV 3 came next, similar to the Apple TV 2 except it was capable of 1080p. Apple added trailers and Hulu Plus to the mix. A few months later, Apple did a silent internal-only upgrade, changing the CPU and WiFi chips. But the specs remained the same.
I have one of the first rev Apple TV 3's (model A1427) on my upstairs TV. It is connected via WiFi, and it handles everything I throw at it bandwidth-wise.
I recently acquired one of the refreshed Apple TV 3's from Amazon (model A1469). Setup was a breeze--I plugged in an HDMI cable that ran directly from my TV (as opposed to my Monoprice HDMI switch, which does not work with Apple TV). I plugged in a spare Ethernet cable, although I could have used WiFi, and I powered it up.
It asked me my language preferences, and auto detected network settings from Ethernet. I then updated software, and signed into home sharing. I was then able to watch video and listen to music from my iTunes library. I signed into Netflix and Hulu Plus. It was easy.
I watched Django Unchained. It resumed play from the place I left off on the iPad. I watched one of my high-def rips, the musical Memphis. I listened to music from my iTunes library. I tried out Netflix and Hulu Plus. You can even purchase and rent movies and TV shows from the Apple TV.
The minimalist Apple Remote Control was easy to use, and very lightweight. It requires line-of-sight to the Apple TV.
There is a Remote app for iDevices. You can select music and video from the touch screen.
You can use AirPlay to play back content on the Apple TV. You can use AirPlay mirroring to mirror the screen from your Mac or iDevice.
All in all, the Apple TV 3 is a slick device, perfect for the Apple ecosystem.
And then along came Roku. Last year, Amazon had a Gold Box sale on the Roku 2 XS 1080p streaming player. I picked it up and added it to my TV upstairs. But I ran out of HDMI inputs on my TV, so I disconnected the Roku.
Then, silly me, I realized that I had a spare HDMI input on my downstairs TV's HDMI switch. Unlike Apple TV, the Roku works with HDMI switches. I used WiFi for the Roku, although it also has Ethernet.
The Roku has "channels" that you select from a channel store, over 750 of them. This is a far cry better than the Apple TV. Like the Apple TV, the Roku has Netflix and Hulu Plus. Unlike the Apple TV, the Roku has channels like HBO Go, Amazon Video (including Prime Instant Video), Vudu (which means Ultraviolet), Pandora, Spotify, news channels like NBC, and even Amazon Cloud Player. The Roku even has the Vevo channel of 75,000 music videos (that, granted, you can access from YouTube on the Apple TV).
HBO Go has complete seasons of shows like The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, even The Newsroom. You have to be an HBO subscriber to receive it. Hulu Plus and Spotify require a monthly subscription. Amazon Cloud Player stores all your Amazon-purchased music and 5 gigs of free storage for additional songs. You can store more music for a yearly fee, but it does not support all music formats that iTunes does.
The Roku 2 XS has since been replaced by the Roku 3. It has similar specs as the Roku 2 XS, with the addition of dual-band WiFi and headphones on the remote control. The Roku 3 is missing the analog audio/video out of the Roku 2 XS, so it loses some of the flexibility of being capable of hooking up to standard definition TV's, or to TV's without HDMI (there are still older sets out there that fit this criteria).
Setup of the Roku requires access to a web browser to activate some of the channels. The Roku displays a code and you have to enter it. The Roku detects the code entry, then activates the channel.
The Roku remote is larger than the Apple Remote. It is a Bluetooth remote for the Roku 2 XS, which means it will work without line of sight. It is motion-control capable for games like Angry Birds (Roku 2 XS) and Angry Birds Space (Roku 3). The remote is WiFi direct for the Roku 3. Both the Roku 2XS and Roku 3 have IR ports for use with universal remotes.
The Roku remote is laid out differently than the Apple Remote, but it is easy to use. There are two game buttons for gaming functionality. I tried Angry Birds, and thought the iOS variant played better.
Roku has an iOS and Android app that allows control of channels, remote control of the unit (the screen mimicking the layout of the remote) and access to the Roku channel store, where you can add channels to your device.
Until the Apple TV supports HBO Go, I'll be using the Roku. I'm not a heavy Spotify user, but I like having that on the Roku, as well. The Roku 2 is due a software update that will revise the user interface, so the temptation to buy a Roku 3 is minimal. However, the Roku 2 will work with my father's TV, so I could gift it and get him into Netflix streaming and I could get the latest and greatest.
This led to me wanting to play back and get the maximum benefit of the higher-resolution audio.
My first step was to buy an inexpensive USB DAC and headphone amp that plays back high resolution sound from my Mac. I acquired the Nu Force Icon uDAC 2 from Amazon. Sound through my Sennheiser HD-280 pro headphones was out of this world, so I continued to download more high-res music.
To play back the music on the big rig upstairs, I burned a BD-R disc with the FLAC files, and played this disc through the file manager on the Oppo BDP-93. This worked. But then I realized that the Oppo could be a UPnP/DLNA client, and I found this FAQ.
All I needed was a UPnP/DLNA server that worked on my Mac. That was easier said than done. I tried five different servers, even paying for one based on a review, but they all failed to work. So I Googled some more and found a recent thread on AVS Forums where someone had gotten something to work with his Mac and Oppo BDP-105.
I downloaded the trial version of this software, Playback, and it recognized my Oppo immediately. I configured it to point to my high-res music folder, and went upstairs to try it out…and it worked like a charm. I was getting streaming high-res music to my Oppo blu-ray player, and was playing it through my good sound system.
I paid the $15 registration fee for Playback, licensed the software, and went back upstairs to listen to more.
Unfortunately, the wifi connection to that Oppo is 2.4GHz with only 48% signal strength. When I tried to play the 24bit/192kHz music, it would stutter. So I decided to try a wired Ethernet connection to the Oppo. I used to have Ethernet wired in that room, but for some reason, unplugged it at the router. Fortunately, I had a tone generator, and I tracked down the Ethernet run and plugged it back in to the router. I am still wireless from the Mac to the Time Capsule, but wired all the way back to the Oppo, and the throughput was fine.
I resumed playing 24bit/192kHz content with nary a skip or stutter.
By the way, if you sign up for HDTracks mailings, they send coupon codes for new releases every week (so far). I got the new David Bowie and Eric Clapton for 15% off, and Kenny Rogers The Gambler discounted as well.
Meanwhile, Sony is trying to drum up interest with its first 4K software releases for its 84-inch, $25,000 4K TV. They will loan you a player with such 4K demo material as Bad Teacher, The Other Guys, and That’s My Boy. I am not making this up (sure, there are other titles, I would just hope for my $25K that it would be exclusively A-list titles.)
As I settled into my house, I got switches to control the ceiling fans, and I got better software called Indigo, which allowed better control on the Mac. I eventually settled on Indigo 2, which I ran from an old iMacDV (the grey translucent CRT model with FireWire inputs). Indigo provided a web server and a graphical interface that allowed control of your system through a web browser. I set up a web cam that showed a ceiling fan and its lights, which could prove that the commands I issued remotely worked. Then I used mobile Safari on my original iPhone to control it all. It was geek nirvana.
For various reasons, I stopped using X10 in that setup. This past weekend, I decided to see what it would take to get it running again. The light and ceiling fan switches were still installed. I had de-installed the lamp modules (and replaced the bulbs with CFL, so the old lamp modules would no longer work). The old iMac still functioned, but was obsolete. The Indigo software was three versions out-of-date.
I went to SmartHome and they wanted $189 for the latest version of Indigo 5. There was no option for an upgrade, so I went to the Perceptive Automation site and found that there was an upgrade option for $99, plus they sold the interface I needed to control X10 and the newer INSTEON modules. I ordered the software upgrade and the interface.
I migrated the Indigo installation from the iMac DV to the smaller, and soon-to-be-headless, Mac mini 2010. The software recognized my module database, and even the graphical interface that showed the lights and ceiling fans on a floor plan of my house. One thing that was cool about Indigo 5 was that it included an iPad and iPhone app to control your setup either from a list of modules, or from that graphical interface, only available via WiFi from inside your house.
I ordered some INSTEON modules for the lamps and a couple of other things from SmartHome. I should have ordered from MacHomeStore.com, the store front for Indigo, because they turned out to be local and the shipping was overnight (at least, for the computer interface).
I got the computer interface today and hooked it up. After downloading a serial driver, I was in business, and the existing X10 controls worked like a charm. I can turn on/off lights from the computer or from the iPhone and iPad. Indigo allows timers to be set based on sunrise/sunset, so I can set my outdoor lighting based on the light outside.
Next up, install the new modules so I’ll be in business around my entire house!
One, I listen to daily as it is hooked up to my computer. It is the Logitech Z-680 5.1 THX sound system. Receiving optical digital from the Mac, I play my iTunes and the occasional DVD through it.
Two, is the Polk SurroundBar and matching subwoofer driven by an old Yamaha DSP-A1. This is mated to my downstairs TV. The display on the Yamaha is on the blink, and the receiver shuts off sometimes without warning. But this serves as a fine sound system where critical listening is not a requirement.
Three is the “big rig” in the home theater room upstairs. At the heart is the Denon 5803 A/V receiver. It’s old, but it has two sets of 7.1 discrete inputs, so I can get high-resolution multichannel sound from blu-ray and HD-DVD. As for speakers, I have a JBL N-Center (Northridge series), two JBL S120PII Studio Series subwoofers, and six JBL ND-310’s (Northridge series again). The ND-310’s are towers, and they work well for both MC music and movies. They are arrayed as left/right, surround, and surround back speakers. Thus, I have a full 7.1 sound system (and there are more blu-rays released in 7.1 sound every week, which the Oppo BDP-93 decodes).
At long last, on blu-ray, Little Shop of Horrors - The Director’s Cut is being released, with the original ending intact.
THe disc is supposed to be delivered by UPS on Tuesday. I can’t wait to see it in color and fully restored!
The disc is a wonder. The movie comes on a single disc, and the supplements are on another. The movie is 2.20x1 widescreen, and the picture quality is outstanding…colorful, good grain structure, great shadow detail. The DTS HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is as good as I have ever heard it….not as showy as modern surround soundtracks, but still quite good. The music sounds like it was recorded yesterday.
All for around $20 shipped from Amazon.co.uk. The domestic release won’t be until November 13th.
The main problem is the timing of the broadcasts, delayed by a day, and playing from 4:00am to 6:30pm. It’s too early to watch, and during the weekdays, it interferes with work and I can’t watch it.
Oh sure, if I had a DVR, I could record it, but I don’t have a DVR on that TV.
It seems that these broadcasts are being strategically timed to not interfere with the prime time broadcasts. I’d watch more 3D if it were in prime time, but then I would not be watching NBC. So no 3D in prime time.
I have seen the opening ceremonies in 3D, after getting up at 4:00am Saturday morning. I stayed awake for over two hours, then went back to bed. When I woke up, they were repeating the ceremonies at about the point I left off. So I finished off the ceremonies and got to see Sir Paul in 3D (from a much better vantage point than the times I saw him in concert).
Today was Friday’s track and field. Not too exciting. I’ll probably watch some 3D tomorrow, but at a reasonable hour.
And then it’s back to 3D blu-rays.
I called Verizon to see what I would need to watch 3D programming on my 3DTV. At first, they said nothing, until I explained that I did not get FiOS on my 3DTV. Then they said that I needed an HD set top box for $11.99 a month, after they verified that they indeed are broadcasting the Olympics in 3D. Apparently, I was the first person to call about it.
So I ordered an HD set top box (nothing fancy, just the receiver) and went to the local Verizon Plus store to pick it up. They were busy, with lots of people returning equipment. After a 45 minute wait, I was waited on, and got my box and a free upgrade to my internet speed. I got home, rearranged the wiring, and even hooked the box up to my A/V receiver so I can get 5.1 sound.
I found the Olympics 3D channel. It was broadcasting a test pattern. I also found the ESPN 3D channel. I selected it, and it said I needed to subscribe, which I chose not to do. But it did try to display the channel placeholder in side-by-side 3D, so it looks like 3D works.
Even more impressive is Robert Harris’ long-running thread about all things Lawrence, and many things not. Starting with this post, Harris goes into details about the long, arduous process of assembling the restoration that was released to theaters in 1989. After several pages of this, Sony’s Grover Crisp has been added to a dialogue that goes into details of the home video incarnations of Lawrence. Coming up is a discussion of the new 4K restoration, and upcoming blu-ray release.
It is compelling reading.
I tried giving the DVD’s a spin on my old Toshiba HD-D2 HD-DVD player, but the player locked up on me once and would not even spin one of the discs. So I used my trusty fat original PS3 and it played back fine upscaled to 1080p.
I watched The Artist by myself and with friends…it ran several people off who either weren’t feeling well, or weren’t into mostly silent films. I still think Hugo was a better movie, and should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. (Hugo, by the way, is stunning in blu-ray 3D.)
Next up, the freshly released Outland, or High Noon in space with Sean Connery as the sheriff. Early reviews of this blu-ray are positive, which is a relief considering the abomination that was the original DVD (which was sourced from a poor laserdisc master). The last time I saw Outland look good was in the movie theater during its original run.
I also have Chariots of Fire, another blu-ray of the same vintage, and Altered States, which I liked a lot on HBO as a teenager. We’ll see how well it holds up.
Oh, and I saw Disney / Pixar’s Brave theatrically in an auditorium featuring the new Dolby Atmos sound system (with speakers arrayed along the walls and ceiling). Much ado about nothing--I could hardly tell that there were special sound effects in the movie. And I paid $14.75 for the privilege of seeing it. For a few dollars more, I could have just bought the blu-ray when it is released. And for a few dollars beyond that, I can get it in 3D.
Photo from CNET:
File this away in the killing the format before it was born file. $99 for a USB stick? $299 for a hard drive? Please!
4K will get me to the movie theater, but I have no need for it in my home, especially since I just upgraded my home theater to a large-screen 1080p 3D DLP set last year.
Evita - 15th Anniversary Edition was released last week on blu-ray. Finally, I can retire the lackluster DVD release from 1998.
Evita is the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical that won multiple Tonys in 1980. It tells the story of Eva Peron (Madonna), who rose from poverty to become the first lady of Argentina, stepping over every obstacle with determination. Appointed the “Spiritual Leader of Argentina” she was equal part sinner and saint. The entire show is seen through the eyes of Che Guevara (Antonio Banderas), who plays a multitude of roles throughout the musical.
While light on the history, it makes an entertaining 135 minutes. The music is good, and the lyrics are intelligent. Madonna’s performance won her a Golden Globe (the movie also won a Golden Globe for Best Picture-Musical/Comedy.) A new song “You Must Love Me” won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
The 2.35x1 picture is wonderful, and puts the old non-anamorphic DVD to shame. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is powerful, and is quite crankable.
Extras include a making-of documentary, a music video, and a teaser trailer. The bulk of the supplements on the Criterion Laserdisc, including a commentary by director Alan Parker, are missing--it looks like I will have to keep the laserdisc.
But when I want to marvel at the picture and sound, I will pull out this blu-ray!
Hondo is a missed opportunity, being the only 3D John Wayne movie released during the Golden Age of 3D. Unfortunately, Paramount chose to release this in 2D, when a digital 3D restoration was already done a few years ago. I had already chosen to boycott the purchase of this title since it was not released in 3D. At least, I did not have to buy it.
I watched Hondo on the smaller HDTV with the lesser sound system. It’s the story of a half-breed calvary scout, Hondo Lane (John Wayne) who comes into the lives of a rancher, Angie Lowe, played by Geraldine Page, and her son Johnny. It is a time of unrest with the warring Apache tribes, who have ignored treaties and have been killing settlers. They try to make the story something beyond the White Man Good, Indians Bad stereotype by making the Indian leader a blood brother to the young boy, and by his offering male Indian companionship while Hondo and the woman’s husband are away.
I did not care much for the story. I was distracted by my iPad a lot. There was a long battle between the Indians and what was left of the settlers and calvary towards the end. It must have been something to see in 3D.
And it was very apparent that Hondo was supposed to be in 3D, with knives, spears, and guns projecting outwards. With the 3D restoration already having been done on Hondo, I can’t understand why Paramount did not make this the first of the Golden Era 3D movies to be released on blu-ray. Instead, Warner will have that honor with the upcoming 3D release of Dial M for Murder.
Picture quality was variable. Framed at 1.85x1 (or close to it) the picture had numerous shots that were soft and grainy, like duplicate stock was used. Other times, the film was clear as day and night.
Sound quality was fine. I listened to the default soundtrack through my SurroundBar.
Supplements include an introduction by Leonard Maltin, a commentary, a making-of documentary, a tour of the Wayne vault (from an 90’s episode of Entertainment Tonight), a trailer, and more.
The price is right on Amazon if you collect John Wayne movies. But I would personally hold out for the 3D version.
This thermostat replaces my 12-year-old semi-programmable thermostat with all sorts of new and innovative features. It remembers my schedule as I set the thermostat, and programs itself. It automatically adjusts when I am away. It detects the humidity and turns off the AC, running only the fan, when conditions merit. It is controllable from my iPhone, iPad, and computer. The Nest.com website has more.
It was a snap to install. First, I watched the video from Lowes.com. Then I snapped off the cover to my old thermostat and checked the wiring to see if it matched what Nest said I could have. It did (there were four wires), and it was even color coded correctly.
Then I went to Lowes, where they had a display on an end-cap, made my purchase, and sped home. I turned off the power to the AC units. The fans ran for a while after that, so I waited until they stopped. I removed the Nest from its box (nicely packed) and read the instructions., a rehash of the installation video I had already seen. Then I removed the old thermostat, stripped and straightened the wires a bit, and installed the Nest back with the optional mounting kit that covered the screw holes in the wall. I snapped the Nest unit onto the back, powered on the AC, and it was done!
The Nest had a guided setup that was very easy to follow. It detected my WiFi network, allowed me to enter the password (by turning the dial, selecting letters/numbers, and pushing), asked for my zip code (so it could receive local weather reports), and allowed me to name the unit. I chose “Downstairs” since the other one will need to be named “Upstairs.” It asked if I was setting up the heater or the AC. Then it asked what the extremes of temperatures I would like it to set while I am away. I said 50 degrees for heat, and 84 degrees for AC. I may set it higher, or turn the AC off. It then set the temperature to 75 degrees, and started cooling. I turned the dial up to 78 degrees, and a green leaf appeared on the dial, indicating that I was saving energy.
All in all, the installation and setup took less than 30 minutes.
I then downloaded the Nest app on my iPhone (it automatically appeared on my iPad) and signed up for an account on the Nest website. I then had to activate that account on the Nest unit. When I went to see it, it was already asking if I wanted to associate my account with it. I clicked, indicating yes.
The Nest promises to save energy costs over the lifetime of use. With that in mind, I think the investment will pay for itself in 3-5 years.
The Sting is the story of a small-time grifter in 1936 whose partner is killed after both unknowingly scam a courier for a numbers runner, a big New York boss. The grifter, Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) flees to Chicago, where he joins with has-been big-con expert Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman). The two work together to scam the New York boss, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).
The con is on, with twists and turns that no good person can give away. If you have not seen The Sting, you are in for a treat. If you have seen The Sting, seeing it again is like visiting an old friend. The Sting is the first movie I ever saw twice as a child, once with my father, and the second time with both my mother and father. I’ve owned the laserdisc, two different DVD’s, and the HD-DVD.
The new transfer is a mixed bag. It looks fine on my 57-inch DLP set, but reports on Home Theater Forum complain about artificial softness present on large, projected displays. If your set is not too large, you won’t notice it.
Sound is DTS-HD MA 5.1. The original mono track is absent. Marvin Hamlish’s Scott Joplin ragtime music sounds great in 5.1. Dialogue is centered, as it should be.
Supplements were ported over from the 2005 DVD release in 4x3 480p, including a 3-part hour-long documentary called The Art of The Sting, and the post-Oscar theatrical trailer. New supplements in 16x9 1080p include 100 Years Of Universal: Restoring The Classics, 100 Years Of Universal: The ’70’s, and 100 Years of Universal: The Lot.
The DVD includes the movie and the 480p supplements. The digital copy can be redeemed with iTunes or Vudu, but not both.
The Sting is an all-time favorite movie. It’s a shame that Universal did not improve the picture quality, but for $12, I’ll live with it.
The Amazon blurb says that the blu-ray has been newly restored and remastered from the original film. I hope so. (The Peter Gabriel website has more information about the restoration.)
Meanwhile, I have been watching Peter Gabriel New Blood Live in London in 3Dimensions. It’s a slightly different setlist than the show I saw last year, but it is still quite good and the 3D effects are great.
I got Star Wars - The Complete Saga when it was first released last year, and watched Star Wars and Empire right away, then got busy doing other things. Over Memorial Day weekend, I pulled the set out again and watched the first five movies in release order (just as I saw them in the theater). I’ll watch Revenge of the Sith this weekend.
First, let me say that I am a Star Wars fanatic. Especially the first movie, which as a 12-year-old, I saw three times theatrically--a record for me. I’ve owned every incarnation of Star Wars on home video, from VHS, to pan&scan laserdisc, to Japanese widescreen laserdisc, to widescreen domestic laserdisc, to the big black box CAV laserdisc set with book, to the “heads” CLV laserdiscs, to the special edition laserdiscs, to the DVD box set, to the DVD tin set.
I did not see Empire until its first theatrical re-release. I saw Return to the Jedi on the day after opening day, getting to the theater hours early with a friend to get good seats. My home video collection is similar for these two movies.
I saw the charity premiere of The Phantom Menace spending an exorbitant sum on tickets. This was at The United Artists theater in Dallas. I also bought a lot of toys (loved those battle droids!) I acquired the Japanese laserdisc of Phantom Menace and the video CD. There was no day/date home video DVD release. But when it came out on DVD, I got that.
Clones and Sith I saw theatrically in DLP at the nice Cinemark Legacy 24 on their lucky screen 13, which at the time was the biggest digital screen with best sound in town. I bought the DVD’s when they were released.
Which leads us to the blu-ray release. First, I like the different versions that you can purchase--the ultimate box set with all six films and three discs of supplements, and two separate sets of the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy if you only like one set of movies, or don’t want the supplements. Of course, I had to have the complete set.
The movies look outstanding. Even Star Wars, filmed in 1976-77 looks like it was made yesterday. Phantom Menace, which was a DNR’s mess on DVD, looks great. In fact, I can’t find fault in any of the video that I’ve seen.
The English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound is a thing to behold. It gave my big rig quite a workout. The audio for the original trilogy was better than I had ever heard it. For the prequel trilogy, the theatrical sound was a notch better, mainly because the theatrical subwoofers were better than mine.
There are copious supplements, including commentary tracks on each feature. I did not have time to get into the supplements, but I will one day.
Never mind that the original versions of the movies were not included. That’s hardly a deal-breaker. If I ever want to see them, I can spin the laserdiscs or the DVD’s that were made from the laserdisc masters. Of course, you have to see the special editions or later to get my favorite line from Star Wars: when the stormtroopers are chasing Han and Chewie in the Death Star, one of them says “Close the blast doors!” As the doors close, Han and Chewie jump through them to the safety of the other side. Then a stormtrooper says “Open the blast doors, open the blast doors!” Trust me on this, the “Close the blast doors” line was missing from every home video version of Star Wars until the Special Edition.
And now you can hear the line on the blu-ray!
In this fascinating thread at Home Theater Forum, industry insider “paidgeek” says that we shouldn’t ignore 4K for resolution issues.
Okay, I’ll ignore it because I bought an HDTV last year, and I expect it to last ten years or more!
I’m not going to invest in 4K after a significant investment in 1080p and blu-ray. Granted, 1080p isn’t even 2K (although it is close). But in my environment, 1080p is good enough for me.
I used to shop exclusively at Amazon. I paid for Amazon Prime, and used their all-you-can-eat 2-day shipping extensively.
But now Amazon is opening up a distribution center in my area, and that means they are going to start charging sales tax. That makes them no better than Best Buy.
The last time I visited a Best Buy store was to pick up some 3D blu-rays. Amazon’s prices were not competitive. Unfortunately, the Best Buy was not well-organized or stocked. I picked up my 3D discs and have not been back.
This week, Amazon is selling True Blood Season 4 for $49.99. Best Buy has it for $39.99, plus shipping, plus tax. You still come out ahead buying it from Best Buy.
So now I’ll be shopping around for the best prices, especially since sales tax has entered the equation.
Update 5/30/2012…but Amazon dropped the price of True Blood to $34.99. I ended up ordering it from them.
I just downloaded the Kindle book of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which I plan to read since I really don’t want to touch/harm my collection of autographed Douglas Adams books. I just listened to the original first series BBC radio shows, and enjoyed them again immensely.
Oh, and I asked Siri a question…she had the appropriate answer!
The DVD is of the documentary “Under African Skies” which has played film festivals, and NYC/LA, and is going to air on A&E starting tomorrow night. There is also a separate blu-ray release of the documentary, but it is ridiculously expensive.
I remember getting this CD back in 1986 and really enjoying the world music vibe. (I also like Peter Gabriel for similar reasons.)
Almost 26 years later, Graceland still holds up.
Tuesday saw the release of Sherlock Season Two on blu-day and DVD, after airing on Masterpiece Mystery over the past three weeks. I started watching this on Masterpiece until I realized that the shows were trimmed by around eight minutes each.
I had the British release from Amazon.co.uk, but it was 1080i/50 and will only play on my Oppo blu-ray player. The U.S. release is converted to 1080i/60 (although the TV shows it at 1080p). The only time I could tell a difference in the video was during the credits roll. On the U.K. release, the credits did not scroll smoothly. On the U.S. release, they did.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock in this modern-day take of the original Holmes stories, set in present-day London. Martin Freeman, soon to be seen in The Hobbit, plays Dr. John Watson. Instead of documenting Sherlock’s exploits for the Strand magazine, he writes them in a blog.
There are three 90-minute episodes per season. Season One ended in a cliffhanger with Jim Moriarty threatening Sherlock and Watson. Season Two, in an episode titled “A Scandal in Belgravia,” takes up where Season One left off.
The other two episodes are titled “The Hounds of Baskerville” and “The Reichenbach Fall.” I watched Baskerville last night, and plan to watch Reichenbach tonight. Steven Moffat (of Doctor Who and Coupling fame) and Mark Gattis (who shares co-creation credit/writing duties and plays Mycroft) have written entertaining takes on the original stories.
Based on a quick scan of the Belgravia episode, there is no editing for time. Also missing is the introduction and logo for Masterpiece that was inserted into each episode for its U.S. broadcast. There is a Masterpiece Mystery logo at the beginning of each disc, along with ads for different BBC product (and the new Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie).
Picture quality is good all around. The conversion from 1080i/50 to 1080i/60 is flawless. Sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448KHz. I listened through TV speakers, so I can’t comment on the quality of the sound beyond that.
Supplements include a 20-minute documentary and two commentary tracks. I listened to the commentary for Belgravia, and it was quite entertaining.
Not to be outdone, CBS is developing a Sherlock Holmes show set in NYC with Lucy Liu playing Watson. I think I’ll stick to the British version.
When I was a kid, I thought “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” was by The Beatles. I guess I was close!
I’ve been collecting the McCartney deluxe editions since the release of Band on the Run, so it stands to reason that I will be getting the deluxe edition of Ram. Now I just need to find shelf space for it!
Of course, never mind the fans who bought the initial releases on blu-ray, and are awaiting a handful of movies to complete their collection. The question I have is how long it will take MGM/Fox to split up this box set into individual discs, because I am certainly not going to buy all those movies over again.
Then last month, I upgraded to the iPhone 4S. I was interested in getting a phone with the 64 gig capacity for more iTunes, and I wanted Siri.
Of course, I’ve had more fun with Siri than actual use. Oh, I do use Siri to set my morning alarm and to check the weather. But mostly, I ask it silly questions.
Here is her eventual response to “Tell me a story.”
You have to be persistent to get her to tell it.
Then I tried:
Then I asked a line from Pulp Fiction:
This is what Samuel Jackson should be saying in his Siri commercial!
Apparently, this will be released as a big box of stuff, and a disc-only version. The release date has yet to be announced, but since the movie just had its 4K digital premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, the blu-ray announcement can’t be far behind. Besides, this is the 50th anniversary year, and we all know how anniversaries lead to blu-ray and DVD releases.
I took a day off work in 1989 to see the first showing of the 70mm restoration of Lawrence at the AMC Glen Lakes 8 in Dallas. They had decorated the inside of the theater with sheets to make it look like the inside of a tent, and the workers wore Arabian-style costumes. During the movie, I had a severe flashback to my childhood during the quicksand scene. I realized that I had seen the movie before, in edited form, at the Will Rogers Theater in Tulsa. It was re-released in 1971, which would have made me 6-7 years old at the time.
Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing this again on blu-ray!
I have an aging Denon AVR-5803 AV Receiver, and the aforementioned Oppo BDP-93 3D blu-ray player. While the Denon does not have HDMI, it does have two sets of discrete 7.1 inputs. The Oppo has discrete 7.1 outputs, and handles in-player Dolby TrueHD decoding (and also DTS-HD Master Audio, among others). So I am ready for Advanced 96k up-sampling.
(Thanks to Home Theater Lounge for the story.)
I ordered the disc, and it showed up yesterday. So I popped it in the PS3 and watched it.
Zodiac tells the story of the infamous late 60’s early 70’s California serial killer who taunted the police with letters and ciphers, all while eluding capture. No one is certain as to exactly how many people he killed, since he took credit for murders that might not have been his.
Rather than focus strictly on the whodunit aspects of the story, Zodiac focuses on the people responsible for the investigation, including police detectives and journalists. One of the journalists, a self-professed Eagle Scout, is Robert Graysmith, a political cartoonist who decides that the Zodiac story deserves a book.
David FIncher’s direction is first-rate. Since most of us don’t know the supposed resolution of the story, the twists and turns of the movie are suspenseful and unexpected.
It is worth noting that this is a single-disc edition, whereas the first blu-ray release was a 2-disc edition. This disc also includes a lossy Dolby Digital track at 640kbps. I’m not sure what the first blu-ray disc had sound-wise, since I don’t have it. But the sound was acceptable. The dialogue was easy to understand, and the music soundtrack was fine.
The single 50-gig disc includes over three hours of supplemental documentaries, all in high-definition. There are two commentary tracks. The picture quality of the movie was quite good, the picture shot mostly digitally, and processed to have an older look. The supplements did not look as good as the movie itself, but since they were not the main feature, I was not bothered.
Hopefully, with David Fincher’s stock on the rise after The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, we will see Zodiac go back in-print in the United States. Meanwhile, this U.K. edition is a fine substitute.
I played games on it and did some simple programming. Then I sold it and pawned a bass guitar to get a Commodore 64. The C64 got me through college between 1984 and 1986, with a 300 baud modem and an Olivetti Ink Jet printer.
I frequented bulletin boards in the area, and played lots of Infocom text adventures (which you can still play on iDevices thanks to a program called Frotz).
I used the Macs and laser printer in my school’s Computer Resource Center for serious work, like my resume. But that was not nearly as fun as the Commodore products!
So I went on a quest to get one of the Airport Expresses to transmit music to my old iHome iH6 Clock Radio in the bedroom. The iHome has a 1/8 inch stereo line input. The Airport Express has a 1/8 inch stereo line output (that also works with 1/8 inch optical cables, but I did not need optical for this project).
I needed an extension power cord, which you can order from Amazon, but I ended up ordering an iPad power adaptor from Apple, because I needed another one of those and could use the extension power cord from that. I also needed a 1/8 inch stereo patch cable. I’m sure I have one in the house somewhere, but be damned if I could find it! So I ordered one from Amazon.
I got all the cables yesterday and plugged everything in…the Airport flashed green…i selected a song from my iPhone, directed it to the Airport…and it did not work.
Damn. This is Apple. It’s supposed to be simple!
It turns out, the iHome was not plugged in. Once it was, the aging 60 gig iPod in the dock started to charge, and the line input started to work.
The only thing left is controlling the music. That takes a simple “Remote” app that runs on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. The Remote app can control an iTunes library, and direct music to any networked device, like the Airport Express.
So now I have my entire iTunes library available in the bedroom at the touch of a button. I went to bed last night listening to The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, streaming from iTunes. Cool!
I started web sites in 1995 with The Power Macintosh Resource Page, back when I had a problematic Power Mac 7500. That site evolved into The DVD Resource Page in 1997, which started when DVD made its debut in the Dallas-area test market. That site continued for three years.
HDTV Resource started after that with the purchase of the domain, and a couple of years later, with content. If I can find it, I will upload it for old time’s sake. At the time, I was into HD-DVD and I wrote several reviews, although they were not much compared to the 300+ reviews I wrote for DVD Resource.
Times have changed, too. There was nothing for me to get angry about with HDTV…that kept me going for the Power Mac and the DVD sites (remember DIVX? Ugh…)
HDTV is not all that controversial. My first HDTV, a behemoth Mitsubishi 65907 purchased in 2000, lasted nearly 11 years, before the convergence went out and the set would no longer power on. In 2006, I bought a smaller DLP Mitsubishi for my downstairs living room. It has not been perfect, but I liked DLP, so when I went to replace the original Mits, I bought a larger (screen-wise) DLP Mits for the upstairs home theater. Of course, the new set only weighs 100 lbs, where the old set weighed 400. I’m just glad the installers were able to get the old set down the stairs without hurting themselves.
My new DLP set is a Mitsubishi 73838. It was 3D-capable out of the box, with the use of DLP link 3D glasses and a software update. With a trusty Oppo BDP-93, I’ve been able to watch great 3D content like Avatar and Hugo, and even listen to my legacy SACD and DVD-Audio collection. (Did you know you can still get SACD’s?)
As for 3D, I’m a fan, but I recognize that not everyone is. For one thing, people complain about having to wear the glasses. I understand that sets not requiring glasses have been in development, but I don’t see them coming to market anytime soon. Instead, we have two types of 3D technologies on the market today, those that use Active Shutter glasses, and those that use the passive glasses (like the ones you get in most movie theaters). The passive glasses are much, much cheaper than the active-shutter glasses. There are advantages and disadvantages to both technologies, as covered by CNET.
Of course, the advantages of the technologies are moot as long as the content on blu-ray is limited. It’s been a good couple of months since I have last acquired a 3D blu-ray. I don’t care as much for 3D conversions (those movies that were not originally filmed in 3D) although I saw The Avengers in 3D and it was pretty good. The only movie filmed in 3D on the horizon that looks any good to me is Prometheus.
So anyway, this is the first of hopefully many posts on a little bit of everything, including HDTV, blu-ray, and all things digital. Enjoy!