Our house is a three level home including a finished basement that, while not a ‘walkout’ does have full windows on two sides, the other side being built into the side of a small hill. My studio is one corner room, and the other corner with two windowed walls for years was the kid’s rec room AKA disaster area. Whenever I saw pictures on the news of some town torn up by a tornado I always did a double take, wondering at first how those pictures of our basement got on TV. The floor might not be seen for weeks on end. Four kids worth of Christmases, birthdays and other reasons to receive toys as gifts were the guilty parties in this debacle. It was impossible to keep this area clean when you have three times more stuff than you have room for in various toy boxes and shelves. Cleaning was an exercise in futility, and consisted of just moving things from one place to another.
As the kids became older and the need for a room full of toys and forts made from blankets and couches was replaced by instant messaging, football games and meeting friends for movies and malts, The Lovely Anna and I decided to reclaim the basement as usable living space. Anna got one section as a scrapbooking area, and the other became a bona fide home theater. Full front projector, in wall/ceiling surround sound, lots of blinking lights in the equipment stack, booming sound through 7.1 speakers and a great picture on a 103″ screen. This was the summer before last, took about 3 months and turned out quite well. Here are some pictures:
For some reason our neighbors went from ignoring us to dropping by with bags of microwave popcorn and buckets of Coca Cola.
On Thursday I replaced the regular DVD player with a Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player. Back in November I wrote this post about the high definition format wars between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. The jury is still a long way from being in on this, but based on current pricing I believe HD-DVD will easily beat Blu-Ray to the $299.00 price point on stand alone players. With the quality and features as they stand today fairly equal (Blu-Ray has better long-term potential with capacity, but that has little bearing now and in the foreseeable future to the average consumer), I think the first format to hit that price point and keep it there will win this war. If I’m wrong, no big deal. The $499.00 price on the A2 won’t break the bank and I’ll probably get an upgraded machine in a few years anyway, and that one will definitely be the format war winner. Blu-Ray stand-alones are still over $1000.00, and that is too much to gamble on a format that may lose.
So, I finally received and hooked up my HD-A2 and watched my first HD movie Thursday night, “Pitch Black”.
The A2 is a nice machine. It’s hooked via HDMI into my DVDO VP50 scaler, and from there into my Sim2 Domino projector (720p native). I did have a few sound issues right out of the box. I use the scaler as a hub and output both the video via HDMI to the projector and the audio via coax optical to the receiver. I had very low volume and was obviously missing some channels at first. This may have been a function of the scaler’s output of the audio from HDMI in to digital out, but not likely as it does no processing to the audio except to delay it to match the video if it is doing any scaling, which it is not in this case. I do not think the A2 was downmixing it properly. I then hooked the digital audio out from the A2 to the DVDO, assigned that audio input to the video input and then I got a very good sounding full DTS signal to the receiver. I know I am missing out on true HD sound, but my receiver doesn’t do HDMI (needed for the Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD sound formats) and the extra money for the Toshiba HD-XA2 (which has 5.1 analog out jacks) was out of the question. By the time I decide to replace my pre-amp, I figure HDMI will be ready and available.
Anyway, the picture quality was awesome on the screen. It wasn’t as sharp as some HD channels I get from satellite or my antennae, but I figure a transfer from film will never be as hyper-sharp as something shot using HD cameras. I think it was better than any HD movie I’ve watched via Direct TV’s HD channels. It might have been my imagination, but the sound seems clearer also even though it isn’t HD sound.
A very solid product. My only complaint is that is seems very sensitive with respect to standard DVDs. At least one DVD did not play and gave me an error message, when the same disk plays in another player we have here. In all fairness this disk was a bit abused and had some scratches, but it does play in other players as I said. So far other standard DVDs tested seems to play fine. As far as upscaling them, I’d say its a wash with the job my DVDO upscaler did with them previously. Now the DVDO just passes the 720p signal through, instead of upscaling the 480p signal to 720p as it did with the old Denon DVD player. Picture quality is about the same, which is a real compliment to the Toshiba’s built in upscaler.
Looking forward to watching more HD movies in the theater, and munching popcorn with the neighbors.
754 My cover art for the next issue of MAD, exclusive sneak peek from @entertainmentweekly website
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