Dolby Atmos: A Sound Investment

My first Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 home theater experience was a brief video clip of a rainforest with birds flying around and rain falling from overhead. It sounded like someone was throwing a bucket of water on top of my head. It became clear at that very moment that Dolby Atmos was an entirely different home theater surround sound experience than anything I had ever experienced.

Unlike traditional 5.1 surround sound which associates a sound with a particular speaker on a horizontal plane, Dolby Atmos sound moves overhead and all around you in three-dimensional space so that you are inside the sound field. Sound can be localized with a specific speaker or panned around and above you creating a truly multi-dimensional and immersive sound experience.

To enjoy Dolby Atmos, you will need in-ceiling speakers overhead or Dolby Atmos upward-firing speaker modules that sit atop your front floor standing speakers. You will also need an AV receiver that supports Dolby Atmos. Currently, you may view Dolby Atmos titles with a Blu-ray player or with a Roku Ultra 4K streaming media player. A common concern is how much it will cost. The truth is the cost to add Dolby Atmos object based surround sound is marginal compared to the initial investment most have already made in their 5.1 surround sound home theater system.

One requirement to successfully deploy Dolby Atmos is a flat ceiling. It is best to have in-ceiling speakers so that the sound emanates directly from above. If you use upward-firing speakers, a flat ceiling allows the sound to bounce off the surface of your ceiling and back down to your ears. A vaulted ceiling will not properly reflect the sound back down to the listener.

Compared to your standard 5.1 speaker system, Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 surround sound when set up correctly provides a much richer and greater sound enveloping immersive experience. Dolby provides official speaker placement guidelines on its website. To learn more about adding Dolby Atmos sound to your home theater system, please contact us for a free consultation. 

OLED: Finding the Picture Perfect UHD TV

Are you looking to purchase the best picture producing flat screen UHD TV, but are finding that the LED-backlit LCD variants of today still lack the exquisite black level detail of decades old plasma TV technology? Well, I have very good news for you. After many years of LED-backlit LCD TV flat screen technology dominating the ultra-thin flat TV market, we finally have an alternative in the form of OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology.

Thinner and More Energy Efficient

We knew the plasma TV’s days were numbered some time ago when TV manufacturers phased out plasma TVs in favor of thinner and more green, energy efficient technology. The problem was that the LED-backlit LCD picture quality, while often brighter than plasma, lacked the wonderful rich deep blacks of plasma TVs. Fortunately, flat-panel OLED UHD TV technology now gives us the best of both worlds: excellent picture quality from almost every viewing angle, rich color, amazingly thin frames like an LCD TV, low power consumption, and most importantly that outstanding plasma like black level detail we have grown to love.

Rich Black Levels

OLED flat screen 4K UHD TVs provide outstanding deep oil painting like blacks arguably surpassing plasma display technology. The reason for this is that the OLED TV has self-lighting pixels that can switch off completely to achieve absolute black.

Additionally, with 4K under TV manufacturers’ belts, they have turned their attention to High Dynamic Range (HDR) which further improves black level picture performance. With HDR you can see even more nuance and detail in the dark and shadowy areas of the picture.

The New Game in Town

At last year’s CES 2015, LG showcased its HDR prototype OLED TV. CNET provides a well-written review about the new OLED display. LG launched the flat-screen OLED TV in 2015 and is releasing new versions in 2016.

Finally, when asked, I can say yes, there is a new flat-panel TV technology that provides deep rich blacks the likes of plasma and is sexy thin like an LCD LED-backlit UHD TV…and it’s called the OLED flat UHD TV.

Holiday Entertaining: Bring Joy to the World with an AV System

Everyone sing, “On the first day of Christmas, my dream home theater system came to me…” We tend to love many aspects of the holiday season, but things can be chaotic with all the shopping, decorating, cooking, traveling, and entertaining friends and family who sometimes stay a bit longer than expected. How can you better manage the madness, keep spirits high, and keep the Grinch at bay? Your audio and visual systems can help you create harmony at home as you entertain. Here are five ways to further enjoy the holiday celebrations with your home theater systems:

1. Stream holiday music throughout your entire home to get everyone in the holiday spirit.

2. Play a classic Disney movie in 5.1 surround sound in the kids’ playroom so that the adults can carry on a conversation and catch up after many years without being interrupted.

3. Watch a live game so that no one feels compelled to talk politics!

4. Turn on classical music in the kitchen while cooking to mask the sound of the children in the adjacent playroom.

5. Schedule your home automation system to turn on and off lights while away from home so that it appears as though someone is home for additional peace - on earth - of mind.

And, be sure to have fun playing music and dancing with the kids.

Happy Holidays from Immersive Experiences!

3 Tips to Improve Your Home Theater Gaming

Interested in having the best home theater gaming experience possible with your Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo Wii U? The following are three ways you can vastly improve your home theater gaming experience and in turn your game playing performance.

Listen with a full 5.1 channel surround speaker set

Avoid sound bar speakers that claim they will provide the same level of surround sound envelopment and sound location cues as a discrete 5.1 speaker system (five speakers and a subwoofer). If you want to successfully get the bad guys, you will need a complete set of speakers that will tell you where they are coming from with pinpoint precision. A proper 5.1 speaker system will not only give you the experience of being immersed in the action with the right audio cues, it will help improve your overall gaming performance.

View outstanding picture quality with a plasma HDTV

Despite plasma HDTVs’ reputation for burn-in, they are an excellent choice for game playing for a number of reasons. Plasma technology generally offers a much wider viewing angle than LEDs and LCDs, which means you can have multiple players viewing from extreme angles during game play. Also, because of how fast the phosphors in a plasma TV fire, plasmas are an excellent choice for sports and fast moving video game content. Also, today’s newer plasmas are less susceptible to image retention. The only case where it is advisable to go with LED/LCD technology is when there is direct light that may reflect off of a plasma TV’s glass screen. Otherwise, impress your gamer friends with superior black level detail and non-blurring picture performance with a plasma HDTV.

Get connected with the right cables

Always use an HDMI cable to provide optimum picture quality for your gaming video if your system allows it. Also, for Wii console owners, the Wii-to-HDMI converter by Sewell does an excellent job of sending the Wii 480p signal to a 1080p native resolution HDTV. If your only choice is component video, then simply connect your game console to an AV receiver that is capable of up-converting your analog component video to a digital HDMI video signal. Also, in your game console be sure to check in the settings menu that you have chosen the option with the highest video output resolution.

There are certainly many more ways to optimize your home theater gaming experience. We invite you to share your tips by commenting below.

Childproof Your Home Theater

Perhaps the only person who loves pressing buttons on a piece of high-end audio gear more than an adult is a three-year-old. The problem is that unlike most grownups, a child has no idea about the potential harm they can do. Of greater concern is the fact that HDTVs have grown larger while becoming lighter in weight, making them more prone to tipping over with a simple push. Wondering how to childproof your home theater? Here are a few ways to protect your child and your AV gear.

Secure Your HDTV and Speakers On-wall

Mounting your HDTV on a wall ensures that your child will not tip it over and potentially injure themselves. Also, securing your HDTV on-wall will minimize the sticky finger epidemic that is currently running rampant across the nation. You will no longer have to clean your HDTV after every play date because tiny hands have touched your HDTV screen. You may also mount speakers in-wall rather than use floor-standing speakers to avoid children knocking them over in a playroom environment.

Put Wires Out of Sight, Out Of Mind

Placing wires in-wall and neatly zip-tied inside of a cabinet will greatly reduce accidental unplugging of your AV gear. Also, wires that are not zip-tied and neatly put away can be a safety hazard for toddlers who love to put everything, including electrical power cords, in their mouths.

Keep Hands off the AV Gear

You may further keep your AV gear out of sight and out of reach from children by using a universal remote with an RF base station. A universal remote control gives you the ability to control your entire AV system through cabinet doors that are closed with childproof locks. Your children will no longer be able to accidently press buttons on the face of each device that can cause unintended device setting changes.

As you can see, there are many reasons beyond aesthetic consideration to have your home theater system seamlessly and properly installed. A properly installed home theater system will not only look fantastic, it will also provide your family with a safer and more reliable system.

For a free consultation about how to childproof your home theater in the San Francisco Bay Area, please contact us at (650) 321-7833 or

Improve Your Room for a Better HDTV Picture

Have you found after purchasing the latest HDTV, calibrating it, and properly connecting it to your Blu-ray player with an HDMI cable that you still find yourself wondering if you are getting the best picture possible? Well, it may be that your HDTV picture quality is suffering as a result of the room environment in which it has been placed. Here are a few ways you can overcome offending room elements to achieve the optimum picture quality that is possible from your HDTV in almost any room.

Ceiling Lights

Many times during ISF display calibrations, I have had distracting round ceiling lights reflecting off of the glass of top-of-the-line HDTV plasmas, making the picture almost unwatchable. If you find turning off the ceiling lights to correct this problem puts you in the dark, I recommend purchasing floor standing and tabletop lights to provide the desired room light level. It is well worth doing to ensure you have a quality HDTV viewing experience.

Window Blinds

One of the most important factors in determining perceived picture quality and resolution is dynamic range performance. This is how well your display is able to produce the lightest and darkest parts of the picture in a given room environment. If sunlight directly hits your HDTV, the picture’s dynamic range will be reduced, making your display appear washed out, lacking depth, and eliminating shadow detail. Window coverings such as blinds or drapes will ensure that you see those wonderful inky deep blacks that give depth to an image from your HDTV picture.

Paint Color

Room wall colors are important in a home theater HDTV viewing environment. Conflicting colors within the field of view while watching a movie on your HDTV can distort your perception of colors in the image. More often than not, the room many people have their HDTV in is white. Although white may not cause picture discoloration as other brightly colored walls, it is highly reflective. Neutral colors and using a matte or a flat paint finish will help reduce unwanted glare that may compete with your HDTV picture.

Automating Room Control

Human nature is such that if it becomes too much of a chore to adjust lighting and close the blinds every time you want to watch a movie or TV, you most likely will stop doing it. Automation makes these otherwise repetitive tasks easy and manageable. A Universal Remote Control is a robust and reasonably priced solution to automatically adjust lighting and blinds to optimize your experience every time you watch your HDTV.

Control Your Home with Universal Remote Control

Have you ever wished for a home automation system like you see in designer home magazines that controls everything in your home? A system that enables you to hear your favorite music anywhere in the house, watch your favorite programs, dim lights to set the mood, and see who is on your front doorstep? Would you say yes, if only such a home automation control system was a bit more reasonably priced? Well, that day has come. You may be familiar with Universal Remote Control (URC) for their over 20 years of making first rate universal handheld remotes for single room home theater system control. Now URC has an equally reliable and user friendly home automation control system, URC Total Control.

We recently installed a complete URC Total Control system and were very impressed with its performance. I have installed a number of home automation control systems over the past 12 years, and for the price point URC Total Control is unmatched in providing reliable and complete home automation system control. In addition to its handheld remotes that we have come to know and love, you can control your home with in-wall touch screens, iPhones, and iPads.

Here are a few more reasons we find URC Total Control to be an excellent choice:

It’s all about the music

Unlike most whole house music control systems that often reduce the audio quality for around the same price point, URC Total Control provides high quality uncompressed audio streaming to every room in your home over your existing home network. Also, because URC Total Control is home network based, you can stream from the web your favorite music and radio stations, from your local jazz radio station to a live radio broadcast from Paris! Something really special about URC Total Control is that it allows you to connect your legacy record player (turntable) to the URC Total Control system and network stream your favorite old Cat Stevens vinyl records to every room in your home.

Start with a single room and expand

Another great thing about URC Total Control is that you can start with home theater system control for a single room and then later easily expand music to every room. Or, you can start with music and then later add control of thermostats, lighting, drapes, security systems, and surveillance cameras—the list is endless.

Program in hours, not days

One major advantage of URC Total Control is the speed with which a professional programmer can program the system. When we implemented a system that consisted of multiple zones of music, lighting control, and a surround sound home theater room, it took a matter of hours, rather than days to program. This saves you time and money. Also, once your system hardware is set up, you can grant your programmer access to make changes to your system over the web with a secure connection. No more waiting at home for someone to arrive to do ten minutes of programming.

If you would like to learn more about URC Total Control and how you can control your home from anywhere around the house or the globe, please contact us.

3 Ways to Optimize Your Home Theater Network

Are you streaming digital iTunes music throughout your home, viewing Netflix HD video from the Internet on your HDTV, or listening to Internet music stations such as Pandora? If so, then you should be doing everything you can to optimize your home network for the best possible audio and HD video performance. Proper network device settings and configurations can mean the difference between uninterrupted high quality HD video streaming and aggravating stop-and-start “buffering” low quality video streaming. While your megabits per second downlink speed coming from your ISP certainly plays a vital role in uninterrupted HD video streaming success, so does the amount of data that can be transmitted over your local area home network in a given amount of time. Much like the size of a water pipe, the greater the bandwidth size, the more data you will have flowing to your network-connected HD device. If your home network is set up correctly, then, like constant water pressure, you will experience uninterrupted full HD video streaming picture quality.

Here are a few steps you can take right away to improve your network HD video streaming:

1. Purchase a router equipped with QoS (quality of service). When streaming HD video, data must be transferred in a steady flow to prevent video from stuttering. QoS detects video streams and gives them priority by allocating more bandwidth to your streaming HD video device.

2. Avoid overlapping channels with your 2.4 GHz wireless router transmission that can cause channel interference. This interference can drastically reduce wireless performance and speed. To avoid overlapping channels, use only channels 1, 6, or 11. If available, choose “Auto” for your 802.11n wireless router’s channel transmission.

3. As a general rule, choose 20 MHz with 2.4 GHz transmission in your wireless router settings. Only use 40 MHz with 5 GHz frequency transmission. When many neighboring access points are present, there is no guarantee that operating at 40 MHz will work best for you. Also, 40 MHz mode is not supported if backward compatibility with 802.11b is required.

If you are in the Greater Bay Area and would like professional help optimizing your home theater network for high quality HD audio and video streaming performance, please contact us at (650) 321-7833 or

2012 Home Theater Holiday Stocking Stuffers

It’s that time of year again. Are you wondering what gifts you can give to the home theater enthusiasts in your life? Here are three of our staff’s favorite 2012 home theater gadgets that will fit in your holiday stockings and put a smile on even Ebenezer Scrooge’s face:

Apple AirPort Express – Stream Music Over Your Wireless Home Network

Already have a home Wi-Fi network in place? Use Apple AirPort Express to wirelessly stream music from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or PC computer with the iTunes app to any speaker system location in your home for music listening.

In fact, you could purchase several AirPort Express base stations, which would give you a whole-house iTunes streaming music system. We have installed many AirPort Express base stations. It is a wonderful gift for streaming music from your iOS device to your existing theater speaker system.

Disney WOW: World of Wonder Disc – Optimize Your HDTV Picture Settings

The Disney WOW: World of Wonder Blu-ray calibration disc is a wonderful introduction for the home theater enthusiast who wants to see first-hand what a visible difference proper picture adjustment provides.  Although this Blu-ray disc alone will not produce the picture quality results of a professionally ISF calibrated HDTV, it will get you started walking down a more picture-perfect road. This disc will allow you with the included test patterns to set black levels with brightness control, white levels with a contrast control, and set your sharpness control correctly to improve your HDTV’s picture right away.

Keep in mind that professional TV calibration services use other test patterns not included in this disc to perform gray scale tracking for proper color management control.  Also, for gray scale tracking adjustment work, a professional calibrator uses a special piece of gear called a color analyzer to set color adjustment controls properly. Still, this is an excellent first step to eliminate some of the common picture setting problems you may encounter with a new HDTV.

RedEye Universal Remote – Control Your Home Theater from Your Smartphone

One of my favorite very well priced, yet powerful, home theater remote control solutions is RedEye, the next step in universal remote control by ThinkFlood. By leveraging your existing smartphone (iPhone, iPad, Android, or even your PC and Mac computer’s web-browser) and home Wi-Fi network, RedEye allows you to control your entire theater system.

The remote’s program is stored in the RedEye Wi-Fi docking base station. This means that any Wi-Fi capable smartphone with the RedEye app can instantly retrieve the program configuration from the RedEye base, and allow you to control your home theater system. I recommend hiring a professional to help you program the RedEye for optimum performance.

Please share in the comments section some of your favorite small gadgets that pack a big entertainment punch!

Home Theater: Go Wireless

Do you wish for a 5.1 surround sound home theater system in a room that does not allow for in-wall wiring? To help you overcome slab concrete floors and cinderblock walls, a wireless home theater solution can be high quality and elegant, without the visible mess of wires. No matter what your room obstacles may be, here are three AV wireless solutions that will make it possible to have a complete 5.1 surround sound home theater system:

1. Wireless High Definition Video

To transmit HD video content from a source device, such as your Blu-ray player, to an HDTV wirelessly, you will need a transmission box that sends a wireless signal to a receiving box connected to your HDTV. One solution we have used with success and reliability is the IOGEAR Wireless HD Kit that sends full 1080p HD 60Hz video and digital audio to your HDTV. You may place your HDTV anywhere that best serves the room layout décor.

2. Wireless Surround Sound Speakers

For a wireless surround sound speaker system, the iCast by Soundcast offers an excellent solution to deliver the analog signal to your surround speakers. The iCast system requires an iCast receiver, an iCast transmitter, and a small two-channel amp with stereo line level inputs to drive your surround sound speaker pair.

For your left, center, and right speakers, I highly recommend using floor standing speakers directly wired to your AV receiver. For your center channel, locate it on top of an open cabinet, just below your on-wall HDTV, and house all of your source devices (Blu-ray player, Apple TV, etc.) on the lower remaining shelves. On the sides of your AV cabinet, place your floor standing left and right speaker pair.

For iCast and the small two channel amp to work for your surround sound speakers, be sure to have an electrical AC outlet on your back wall where your speaker pair will be located.

3. Wireless Subwoofer

For a wireless subwoofer solution, Velodyne offers an excellent product called the Velodyne WiConnect system. The WiConnect allows any subwoofer to receive the analog audio input signal from your AV receiver wirelessly. This system has four selectable channels that will not interfere with other Wi-Fi devices in your home and a transmission range of 50 feet.

Additional Recommendations

Please keep in mind, this approach assumes you will have a cabinet just below your HDTV to store your AV gear and the center channel speaker will sit on the top shelf of your cabinet. I highly recommend going with a pair of front left and right floor standing speakers. As a general rule, a pair of floor standing speakers in their own enclosure will provide superior sound reproduction and a better sound stage than in-ceiling speakers for the same price point.

If given the choice of wired or wireless speakers, by all means use a wired speaker cable from your front of room amplifier to your rear surround sound speakers. However, do not let a slab concrete floor, no attic, and perhaps even cinderblock walls stop you from having a full 1080p HDTV picture with 5.1 theater surround sound for your home.

Looking for more wireless tips or help to implement a solution in the San Francisco Bay Area? Immersive Experiences offers custom home theater design and installation services. Please call us at 650.321.7833 for a free consultation.

House Hunting: Your Home Theater Checklist

Are you searching for a new home? You know to look for foundation issues. However, what about the viability of running low-voltage wire throughout your new home?

If you would like high quality sound and video distributed throughout your home and to have a clean appearance with equipment wires hidden in the walls, taking a close look at the home's home-theater readiness can help you anticipate the investment required. To help you successfully implement the whole house audio and video system of your dreams, here are a few considerations:

1. Look for existing home wiring

Check to see that the home has structured wiring in place. Residential structured wiring usually takes the form of a home-run with wiring runs from a central point (often in a closet or a basement) going out to all other rooms in the home. Check for the following low-voltage wiring to each room:

• Voice, Internet, streaming media: Cat 5, Cat 5e, or Cat 6 wire

• Satellite and digital cable: coax cable

• Speakers: speaker wire

2. Determine how easily wire can be run to each room

Does the home have an accessible crawlspace and attic? Ideally, you will have a home with a crawlspace and an attic to run wire whenever and wherever you need it. Even if none of the rooms currently have any wire ran to them, with a crawlspace and an attic, a home theater professional can run the wire for you. If the home does not have an accessible crawlspace or attic, a home theater professional can still run the wires, although it will require some sheet rock removal and drilling through studs to place the wire where it needs to go.

3. Plan ahead for new construction and remodel homes

If you are planning for new construction or will be remodeling a part of your new home, you have the unparalleled opportunity to run wire almost anywhere you want while the walls are open. Once the walls are up (sheet rock attached), it becomes more difficult and time consuming to run wire.

• Run as much high quality data communication and speaker wire that you may need at this point in the construction phase

• If you have slab concrete with no crawlspace and no attic, run wire and conduit (tubing to hold wires) while it is still possible

• If you are on a tight budget, commit the majority of the money you spend to putting wire or conduit inside the walls and cover unused outlets with blank faceplates. Later when budget allows, you can easily retrieve the wires from inside the walls.

Now that you have your home theater checklist, the possibilities are limitless for how you can design your home theater system. Before you move in or begin construction, consider contacting a home theater professional for a free consultation to review your options.

What home theater-readiness do you look for when house hunting? I welcome your ideas.

Top 10 Home Theater New Year’s Resolutions

1. Fix it or maximize what you already own

You put your hard earned money and time into your home entertainment system. Don't you want the best picture and sound quality possible from your investment? A professional video calibration is an excellent first step, as it will noticeably improve your display’s picture quality.Also, I recommend having an installer look over your existing home theater wiring. Why? Too often while looking over a new customers existing system, I discover they are using the lowest quality (composite) video connection possible. The second I connect their live HDTV satellite box to their display using an HDMI cable, their jaw drops from the 720p image clarity.

2. Tame your home theater system wire mess

Doing so may be the difference between high performance and no performance. Too often the wiring is such a mess that when you go to remove one piece of equipment for repair, unintentionally you disconnect another piece of gear in your theater system. Also, trying to plug a new piece of gear in can be quite frustrating when you cannot see what you are doing. In the long run, a great deal of time and money will be saved if you have your home theater wiring neatly zip-tied and organized.

3. Go whole house with your digital music collection

The great news is that you more than likely already have a digital music collection in the form of iTunes on your PC or Mac. What makes iTunes on a computer powerful is when it is paired up with a whole house audio speaker system. Every time I complete an installation of a whole house speaker system, the customer will say it has brought them even more joy than they had ever thought possible. There are makers of whole house music systems that send your music over a standard wired and wireless networked home such as Sonos. Other high-end music server systems like Audio ReQuest, allow you to listen to your home music collection when you are away from home by streaming your music over the internet.

4. Get the advice of a professional for any home theater system installation

If your goal is for home theater to be your hobby, you can have fun with it. However, it is likely to be an expensive hobby through a process of trial and error. If your goal is to relax and enjoy the entertainment experience, enlist the help of a home theater professional. Home theater professionals have the advantage of decades of accumulated knowledge, on-the-job installation experience, and certified training.v.

5. Get a single universal remote to control everything and stop using five remotes just to turn on your favorite HDTV show

A single remote that controls everything may be the single most important purchase you make apart from choosing the right home theater display. The cost of an entry-level handheld remote is no more than an entry level DVD player, and the benefits are tremendous. It will allow you to Control your entire system throughout the home with a single remote. You will never again have to aim your remote at the equipment, or try and remember several different input selections for each playback source device.

6. Protect your high-end home theater devices with a power conditioner with surge protection

I can't tell you how many times I have seen a very high-end system break down simply because all the source devices plug directly into a standard wall outlet. If you have several grand invested in good equipment, you owe it to yourself to keep it in good working order by having it plugged into a quality surge protector.

7. Add some home theater automation - Controlled lighting, HVAC, and security with a home automation system

There are now so many well priced scalable home automation systems that there really is no excuse to not get your feet wet. You can start with some lighting control and add on other control later down the road. For example, using a z-wave light switch in your home theater room is a great start. As long as your remote can control z-wave devices, lighting control can be set up in minutes.

8. Put together a single page system operation reference sheet for family and friends

Although operations of your remote may be familiar to you, it is always a good idea to have a remote operations reference single sheet around for family and friends. It will prevent them from getting irritated with operations and shaking their arms up and down, only to realize they just shook up the innards of your brand new touch screen remote in the process.

9. Stop putting off acquiring your very own home theater system

Don't be a victim to the all or nothing approach to life. Start putting together the essentials of your home theater system today, and start enjoying your music collection right away. I recommend starting out with a pair of quality floor standing speakers and an integrated receiver to get you started with high quality music playback. Then when you are ready, purchase a projector or flat panel display and the remaining speakers to give you a complete 5.1 sound system.

10. Stop paying late fees, driving all over town to drop off or mail back rented movies, and start streaming HD movies today!

For around a hundred dollars you can purchase the Roku XL HD streaming unit and start watching movies wirelessly on your large flat panel. I finally purchased one of these with a Netflix streaming subscription, and I must admit this is a very impressive way to choose from cover art hundreds of movies to instantly watch in HD. Simply, amazing!

2010 Holidays: Is Now a Good Time to Buy an HDTV?

An oversupply of LCD and plasma TVs is causing significant HDTV flat-panel price reductions right in time for the 2010 holiday shopping season. According to the research firm, DisplaySearch, starting in October and continuing through the end of the year, prices will be 12 percent below 2009 levels.

If you have been saying, “I’ll install the home theater system I have always wanted… once displays are more reasonably priced,” then now is a prime time to buy. In fact, with display savings this good, you may have money left over to enhance your viewing experience. Specifically, you can maximize your home theater investment with proper system design, system installation, and professional audio and video calibration.

A home theater professional can ensure that your system is installed to optimize its audio and visual performance with proper placement, accessories, and calibration. Having a trained Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) technician calibrate your new flat panel to industry standards will provide you with the best picture quality possible. In fact, a display properly calibrated will often outperform a higher-end display that has not been adjusted.

I welcome an overall price reduction in flat panels if it means more people allocate the extra capital towards enhancing their home theater experience. If you are interested in having the best picture and sound possible for each dollar spent, then working with a custom home theater installation company to install and calibrate your new display for the holidays is essential.

Summer Is Here: Is Your Outdoor Home Theater Ready?

A dedicated home theater system is no longer relegated to inside your home. You can now remodel your backyard into a first-class outdoor home theater system. For some, the appeal of an outdoor home theater is the nostalgic reminder of the drive-in theater. I have even heard swimming pool owners refer to it as their dive-in movie theater. For others, the appeal can be as simple as watching the game outside with your buddies while puffing on a Cuban cigar. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to watch a basketball game by the pool or a movie under the stars? An outdoor home theater is an innovative solution for the sports and movie lover who wants to regularly enjoy the outdoors.

The Display

To implement a large outdoor display, I recommend a few approaches that look classy while protecting your display from the harsh elements of the outdoors:

• Recess a flat panel display into your backyard’s awning that flips down for viewing

• Recess a projector screen into your outdoor awning that rolls down for viewing

• Store your large display inside a waterproof unit and use a motorized lift to slowly carry the display into full view

No doubt, having your large flat panel plasma display slowly rise up from out of the ground has a certain cachet about it. Heads will turn as the screen appears to rise to its full extension.

The Speakers

You have many options for producing a great sounding system in your backyard:

• Use a freestanding waterproof wireless speaker such as the OutCast from Soundcast

• Hide your speakers inside faux rocks for a natural look with Rockustics speakers

• Install a 5.1 speaker system into your outdoor patio with outdoor speakers such as the Voyager outdoor series by Boston Acoustics

The OutCast speaker by Soundcast is one of my current favorites. It allows you to listen to Mahler's 10th symphony outdoors while having a Mojito on your patio or even on your boat. The greatest thing about this speaker is that it is truly wireless - no power cord, no speaker wires, and it has a rechargeable battery that works for 10 hours. You can move the speaker closer to you to keep the noise level down for the neighbors or place the speaker several feet away so that you can play kickball with the kids.

If you are interested in putting together an outdoor system, please contact me. I would be happy to provide a consultation to discuss the possibilities with you.

Top 3 iPhone Apps for A/V Media Control

Did you know that you can control many of your favorite audio and video media components with your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and other web browser capable wireless devices? Downloadable software applications from the web can transform your iPhone into a first-class wireless touch screen remote. I am happy to say that many multimedia device manufactures have generously provided the apps for free and only take a few seconds to set up.

Our staff’s top three favorite free media control apps compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad are:

1. Sonos Controller – for Sonos Systems

The Sonos Controller lets you do the following:

- Browse your entire music library - Quickly search for your favorite artists - View album cover art - Stream music and radio stations from the web - Select the room or zone to play the music

To download the Sonos Controller, visit the Sonos website.

2. i.TV – for TiVo and Roku Players

The i.TV app is primarily for TV and movie listings. The more exciting thing the i.TV app will do is act as a remote control for your TiVo HD DVR and HD Roku player.

To download i.TV, please visit Apple's website.

3. Remote – for iTunes and Apple TVs

Remote by Apple allows you to control your iTunes library for music playback from anywhere in and around the home. A short list of the control benefits are as follows:

- Control the music on iTunes and Apple TV - See the album artwork on your Remote - Create and update Genius playlists - Edit playlists in iTunes - Search your whole iTunes library - Control your AirTunes speakers

To download Remote, please visit Apple's website.

As a result of these free apps, I have had a change of heart. I guess sometimes the best things in life really are free!

Tell us what your experience has been with these and other iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch media control apps.

HD Blah Blah Blah!

When you go to your local movie theater, the screen size and seating distances are such that you will have a viewing angle ranging from 26 to 40 degrees. A full HD 1080p display makes it possible for the picture detail to be maintained while you sit close enough to recreate the same degree of visual envelopment you experience at your local cinema. If you would like to optimize your viewing experience at home, you can choose a display size, resolution, and viewing distance to replicate the movie theater experience. THX recommends a 36 degree viewing angle of the image, which in turn determines the seating distance location. From the prescribed THX seating location, you can then determine what resolution you will need to maintain optimum visual acuity (the ability of your eye to see and distinguish fine detail)..

To help you achieve the best picture possible in your home, try this TV Viewing Distance Calculator. It will help you determine the best size display and resolution to use with the desired viewing distance in your home. Enter your display information into the calculator. It will then provide you with the seating location for the recommended field of vision coverage and the maximum distance you can be away from your display to still benefit from a 1080p resolution picture.

If the image appears to be a bit too close for you, use the “Maximum recommended SMPTE viewing distance (30 degree viewing angle)” to provide you with an acceptable seating location. A 30 degree viewing angle will still provide you with enough of a movie theater visual envelopment that you should feel immersed in the action.

Please keep in mind that 1080p native resolution alone does not guarantee a high quality image reproduction. A picture can be compromised greatly by video noise, artifacts, poor-quality sources, and improper video adjustment control setting. Our home theater company is ISF trained and certified. I will blog on exactly how a professional display calibration noticeably improves picture quality at a later date.

HD blah blah blah!” echoed thunderously throughout an upscale Menlo Park Italian restaurant from an older gentleman seated at the bar. Hearing this man’s home theater battle cry made me realize that perhaps some clarification on the value of a 1080p native resolution display was in order. If you are currently creating or updating a home theater system, a 1080p display can be vital in delivering a high resolution, larger-than-life movie theater picture experience to your home.

3D HDTVs - A Game Changer for 2010

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2010 conference in Las Vegas, display manufacturers heavily promoted 3D HDTVs. More recently, Panasonic broadcast live to a movie theater the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in 3D HD for free to the general public.

It is very exciting to see manufactures' collective push to bring 3D displays to the consumer market this year. When sports fans see how incredible the 3D HDTV picture looks when watching their favorite team play live, I believe we will see increasing interest for 3D HD displays.

The plan is to broadcast live sporting events in 3D HD, making owning a 3D HDTV very attractive for avid sports fans the world over. Because the public has seen how realistic 3D can be while attending recent IMAX movies such as The Polar Express, U2, Avatar, and now Alice in Wonderland (2010), it is my feeling that 3D HD will now successfully make the transition to the home theater market.

What are the next steps in consumer 3D HDTV movie and live sports broadcast viewing? Well, the good folks at Mitsubishi have already been selling 3D-capable laser displays since 2008, including the 833 Series and all Mitsubishi Home Theater TVs. Mitsubishi is using active shutter glasses to achieve the realistic 3D HD image. Active shutter glasses have a layer of glass containing liquid crystal wedged between a polarizing filter. When voltage is applied to the glasses, the liquid crystal darkens, creating an alternate-frame sequence between the monitor and the glasses. This provides each eye with a different image, producing an impressive quality 3D HD experience. No more of those goofy red/blue glasses which essentially eliminate color, and are not “true 3D”. Now the job of 3D HD display makers is to convince enough content providers to do their part to complete the circle.