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  • Two New LG HD TVs

    Two New LG HD TVs

    February 1, 2013 | Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Lots of cool stuff from the new LG flat-panel TVs, great for your home theater or media room.  Just a few notable points:

    LG Smart TV

    • Sensor optimizes the picture to the lighting and color conditions in the room
    • No motion blur in sports and video games

    LG Cinema 3D

    • Edge-to-edge sleek
    • Control 3D depth
    • Flicker-free glasses have no batteries
    • Glasses affordable – buy for the whole family
    • 2D to 3D conversion feature
    • Play 2 games at the same time!
  • CES 2013 (Consumer Electronics Show)

    CES 2013 (Consumer Electronics Show)

    January 18, 2013  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    CES is a technology geek's playground.

    Interesting, but not ready for prime time (in our opinion), was the Displair—a touchscreen that floats in the air.  A "screen" of miscroscopic drops of water are shot upward from a fairly large tabletop unit, and a projector can display onto this water-vapor screen.  Most intriguing is way that the projected image responds to touch.  At $10,000, this seems more like a prototype and needs work.

    There was a lot of talk about moving PC gaming from your desktop to your living room.  What can be better than high-definition video on a life-size screen with life-like surround sound?  Agreed: nothing.

    Of course, OLED and Ultra HD were probably the most talked about.  Not yet affordable for the masses, they're on their way.

  • Bargain Brands

    Why Bargain TVs Aren’t a Good Investment

    June 29, 2012  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    High-quality TVs are typically good investments in technology, and you can count on getting many good years out of them.  But more recently, the market has been flooded with “bargain TVs,” and these need to be carefully considered before you buy on price alone.

    • Durability – Good displays have about a 4% or lower failure rate.  Bargain brands have failure rates as high as 20%.
    • Integration – Good brands offer lots of inputs and control options like VGA and RS-232.  “Deals” offer far fewer of these options.  And these options are key in allowing you to get the most for your money.
    • Viewing – Better brands use better (more expensive) video processors, high-contrast glass, and other quality components that provide the best picture.  Bargain brands typically utilize the cheapest components possible.
    • Reliability – High-quality TVs can be repaired by just about any qualified service outlet.  Bargain displays usually have no service centers.  So, many are “disposable,” and must be trashed when they break.
    • Technology – Higher quality = more R&D.  Lower-end brands may be a year or more behind the technology curve.
  • Connectivity

    Connectivity in the Home: Wired, Powerline, and Wireless

    January 8, 2012  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    Connectivity in the home is growing.  And if you’re not connected, your home may not be technologically up to date.  Devices that have typically functioned independently are now being made with added benefits that can appreciated only when connected to other technology in your home using a broadband connection.  Our clients are networking the electronics in their home and offices, sharing information among their products, increasing the products offerings and functionality.

    Games, movies, music, and photos can be stored on a PC anywhere in your home, and can be accessed by any number of other devices (on the other side of the house), as long as the infrastructure, or wiring backbone is in place.  Our clients can control their home theater, security, and lighting from a smart phone or iPad.  They can even adjust their home thermostat from their office, so that the temperature is comfortable when they arrive home.

    Direct-connected or hard-wired networks offer the greatest reliability and speed.  Running data along a wire (as opposed to wirelessly) will ensure the fastest speeds, with the least amount of interference.  Installation runs more than a wireless system, because more labor is required for a wired network system.  But the end product is very secure.

    Powerline control (PLC) is another form of wired connectivity that uses existing electrical runs to communicate broadband.  While it runs more slowly that Ethernet, powerline control is still much faster than using a wireless system.  The devices that are used on either end of the powerline control system (plugs and switches) are the most expensive part of installation, but do save time and labor costs.  This alternative is very convenient and is secure.

    A wireless network is the most convenient way to get connected.  Much of the equipment manufactured now comes with access points that make the units ready for Wi-Fi.  What you lose with a wireless system are speed, capacity, and security.  But, it makes each device, like a smart phone or iPad, very mobile in the home.

    We’ll be happy to talk about which option would work best for you.

  • Surge Protection

    Surge Protection

    December 23, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    Last year, Brett Shipp with WFAA (Dallas) wrote a story about an unfortunate woman who lost every home appliance, thanks to her local electric company (I’ll be kind and not name names).  They were repairing a transformer near her home, when a surge resulting from their effort created an in-home fireworks display that fried over $10,000 worth of her home electronics.  (Hers was not the only home affected.)  Apparently neither the electric company, nor the insurance company, helped her with her claim.  So, she had to replace appliances that included home entertainment electronics and flat-screen TVs.

    The damage may not have been as extensive if she had installed whole-home surge protection.  Be mindful: there is a difference between surge suppression and surge protection.  Surge protection is the mac daddy.  But both have their places.

    Surge suppression is less expensive—not as robust.  It’s most commonly used to protect individual devices or small systems, like a home entertainment system.  Suppression limits a surge—knocks it down—but doesn’t stop it.

    Surge protection is more expensive, and stops just about everything but a direct hit; i.e.: a lightening bolt to your roof.  We have a SurgeX surge protection panel installed at our electrical panel to protect our whole-home entertainment system.

    Since the largest surges come from outside your home, it makes sense to install either surge suppression or surge protection at your high-voltage electricity panel.  (You get the biggest bang for your buck when you install protection at your panel.  No pun intended.)  SurgeX and Torus are the top-of-class manufacturers of surge protection and suppression.  Other great products come from Furman, APC, Panamax, and Ditek.

    Pricing starts at $30 with Panamax, and reaches $9,000 from Torus.  Your cost will be determined by the level and type of protection you need.  Please visit these sites for technology specifics: www.apc.com , www.ditekcorp.com, www.furmansound.com, www.panamax.com, www.surgex.com, and www.toruspower.com.

  • DIY: Painting Metal Speaker Grills

    DIY: Paint Metal Speaker Grills

    December 9, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    For years, DIYers and contractors have sought our opinion about the best way to paint metal speaker grills used on in-wall speakers.

    Faux-finished walls have been popular for so many years, and it was easy to replicate the mottled finish of the wall on speaker grills.  Our process: thin the paint 4:1 paint and water.  Brush onto the speaker grill, and using canned air, force air through the grill holes to clear them of paint. 

    Recently, we were challenged to find a new way to apply paint to grills that would result in a smooth finish.  We found one at Sherwin-Williams.  It’s called PreVal Spray Gun.

    The unit is no bigger than a can of canned air, with a 16 oz. glass paint reservoir attached to the bottom.  It has a thinning guide, and can be sued with auto paint, lacquers, acrylics, primers, and varnishes.

    It delivers a very light paint mist to the speaker grill.  It may take several thin coats, depending on the original color of the speaker grill, and the paint color being applied.  Our applications filled only a handful of the holes in the grills, and we easily removed the paint with a sewing needle.

    www.preval.com

  • 3D Formats Explained

    3D Formats Explained (kind of)

    November 17, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    This is a great thing to research right now—there are four, count-em, four different 3D formats.  It boggles the mind to consider what this will mean when integrating and connecting sources.  It was also incredibly difficult to gather the information for this entry.  I’ve spent quite nearly two hours talking, searching, writing, editing, and I’m still without a cohesive, well-written article.  A cut-and-dried list will have to do for now, and I’ll offer some links that are great.

    Side-by-Side Progressive 3D – this format is proving good for gaming applications.  Because of the 60p frame rate, it can handle the animation easily.  It is a 1080p HD format, with the right and left viewing angles included side by side in each 1920 x 1080 frame.

    Side-by-Side Interlaced 3D – this is 1080i, where the signal is divided side-by-side into left- and right-eye segments.  The resulting resolution is 960 x 1080 pixels when the pairs of odd and even fields are viewed together.

    Top/Bottom 3D – 720p, utilizing the top 360 for the right eye, and the bottom 360 for the left.  A 720p resolution results at 60 fps.

    Frame-Packed 3D – the current standard for new Blu-ray players.  Of the four standards, this provides the highest source resolution at 1080p for each eye.  It keeps 1920 x 1080 pixels for both eyes, but adds two normal 1080 frames within the same time span.

    Now, if you’d like to learn more, these are some helpful sites:
    http://www.practical-home-theater-guide.com/3d-tv-formats.html
    http://news.cnet.com/3d-tv-faq/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_television

    We’ve integrated several 3D TVs in the past two years.

  • Budgets

    Budgets

    November 2, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    We have the absolute delight of working for clients who have typically had much freedom in their homebuilding/renovating budgets.  Of course, there will always be those who are unaffected by the peaks and valleys of the economy, but we’re seeing budgets viewed and reviewed more carefully these days.

    As always, we respect our clients’ limits.  Last year we developed a budget review process that works undeniably well.  Not only does it show our clients just about every type of home technology we provide, it offers a way to systematically arrive at how much a client wants to invest in each.

    For instance, under the “custom lighting control” category, there are three price ranges: single room from $500 - $3500; 2,000 – 6,000 square foot home from $5,000 - $20,000; and 6,000+ square foot home from $15,000 - $300,000.  These are only ranges and starting points—a place for a conversation to begin about the special technology needs and desires of the homeowners.

    Please call us if you’d like to run through a budget review in person!  We’ll be glad to help you get an idea of what your technology upgrade/update ideas might cost.

  • On the Road

    UltraMedia on the Road

    October 12, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    This is not educational—just interesting.  For the second time in as many weeks, I’ve gotten a reaction from a fellow driver.  It’s got to be the UltraMedia sign on the back window of my truck.  It’s not what you’re thinking . . . this wasn’t the middle-finger gesture! 

    This was: driving south on Coit in the rain, a fully-loaded brand-new pick-up inches just in front of me to the right.  A handsome guy rolls down his window (in the rain!) turns around to look at me, smiles, and waves—in the rain!  Then he pulls off.  I hate to say that I didn’t recognize him.  That was last week.

    Yesterday?  Same thing!  Different car, different driver.  And it wasn’t raining.  But the driver made sure I saw him when he waved, and then gave me a thumbs-up. 

    Are we becoming celebrities?  You tell us!

  • Anamorphic lens

    An Anamorphic Lens Installation

    October 1, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    Thought it might be fun to run through a project.  This particular challenge involved a family of avid movie watchers who had been using a JVC Model 21U projector, and a Screen Research 16x9 motorized screen for a few years.  Having recently purchased a Blu-ray player, they wanted a solution to the black-bar problem they now had.  (Blu-ray players display in the original theatrical version, which means they’re in a wide screen format—typically a 2.40:1 as opposed to a 1.78:1 ratio.)

    In order to eliminate the black bars above and below the picture (when showing the 2.40 on a 1.78 screen), we decided to use an anamorphic lens and video processor, much like the theaters do with film.  This meant it was a great time to upgrade to the JVC RS-2 as well.

    A second reason we encouraged this change: if you’re showing the black bars, you’re giving away the performance capabilities of the projector.  That is because the black bars are unused pixels on the video chip set of a modern digital projector.  When you go to the trouble to eliminate the unused pixels, the picture is larger, brighter, and full resolution when viewing the wide-screen formats.

    We chose the Panamorph lens.  First, we measured price against performance, and Panamorph won over Schneider.   And, Panamorph offered a kit that matched our client’s new projector model. 

    We replaced the 16:9 motorized screen with a combination 1.78 / 2.40 motorized screen with masking.

    We added a Lumagen Luminance Radiance XD external video processor, and automated the control with an Elan touchscreen.  Bye-bye to multiple remotes. The client was juggling five to just watch TV, and this upgrade would add four more.  The client asked for a single touchscreen with full control—to set each source to any format at any time—while keeping it simple to use.   We used macros for each input; for instance, the screen defaults to 1.78 when selecting satellite TV, with overrides to 2.40.  And the reverse with the Blu-ray player: it’s set to 2.40 with the ability to switch to 1.78.  All other sources default to the most recent choice, but the touchscreen provides icons to select either format as desired.

    Our client is happy.  Can’t hurt that they also added Vienna Acoustics Musics (and monoblocks) with a Poetry center channel, and two REL B-1s. 

    www.panamorph.com

  • Mirrored Televisions

    Seura Television Mirrors (great for bathrooms)

    September 18, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    Yesterday we had the pleasure of a visit from the Seura (see-ra) rep.  Seura manufactures television mirrors, and water-proof mirrors for bath and kitchen.  They offer five product lines.

    The Enhanced Series offers vanishing technology (high definition LCD vanishes when powered off), and the mirror is optimized for accurate reflection.  It closely mimics a traditional mirror.  The Enhanced Series is best used in bathrooms over tubs, and as vanity mirrors.

    The Premier Series also offers the vanishing television technology.  In this series, the mirror is optimized for a vivid television picture, with a designer tint and soft reflection.  This series is often used in great rooms, bedrooms, and dry areas of kitchens.  In this series, the mirror is a decorative piece in the room when the television is not in use.  Seura offers over 60 frame options for this series, from contemporary to traditional, along with several beveling options.

    The Deco series is a non-vanishing television, meaning that the LCD is visible when off.  This is a traditional silvered mirror.  Again, it comes with 60 frame options.

    The Lumination collection offers both lighted and television mirrors.  Lighting can be fluorescent, white LED, or color changing.  There are twelve designer patterns, and several designs available with televisions.  These are preferred in bathrooms, bedrooms, and dressing rooms.

    The Hydra line is a waterproof HD television.  Seura offers two standard colors, but the bezel can be customized to any Pantone color!  (3,000?)  The completely waterproof seal is excellent for television in bathrooms, showers, and kitchens. 

    Depending on the series of television mirror chosen, sizes range from 10” (the Discreet Display) to a 65” LCD.  Profiles range from 1” to 4”.  Most of their television mirrors come with waterproof remotes.

    According to design requirements, television mirrors can be surface mounted or recessed.  In recessed applications, Seura will provide preparation specifications for the builder or remodeler.

    In certain rooms, clients want not only the television mirror, but other mirrors to match.  Seura will make mirrors to match the television mirror, according to the designer’s specifications.

    http://www.seura.com/

  • Theo Kalomirakis

    Home Theater Décor at its Best: Theo Kalomirakis

    September 1, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    TK Theaters may save you a lot of time—and money!  Not too long ago we worked on a project involving a Theo Kalomirakis theater.  Theo sells no components--when he sells a theater, he sells the décor—the theme, or the “feel.”  And this décor is over-the-top amazing.  We handle the technology, and Theo handles the look.  His work can begin with an outer lobby, and move to the theater itself.  He offers pre-designed themed theaters, or will create a custom design.  Just like us, Theo does not require a certain-size installation.  Just like us, what matters most is the experience.  Please visit his website at http://www.tktheaters.com.  If you decide that you are interested in one of his signature theaters, please let us know.  We would be happy to team with him to provide a total home entertainment experience for you.

  • SonicPrints

    SonicPrints by Auralex

    August 16, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    We are wrapping up a job in Frisco—for the size of the lot, it’s a modest home at about 6,000 square feet.  A beautiful Texas contemporary, it houses a wonderful theater.  This theater was our largest Auralex job yet.  (It also sports a Wolf Projector.)

    Auralex manufactures and installs acoustical panels: sound treatments.  I must say that we thoroughly enjoyed working with the folks at Auralex.  They flew a manager and two installers in for the week-long installation.  They were at the same time professional, but very relaxed and easy to work with.  It was clear they love their work as much as we love ours.

    In addition to traditional custom-designed acoustic panels, they offer a line called SonicPrint.  A SonicPrint looks like art on a canvas, but has the added benefit of sound control.  Just like their custom counterparts, they help control excessive reverberation and echo that are caused by hard surfaces like drywall, concrete or wood.  Strategically placing SonicPrint panels in any room in the house will absorb unwanted sound energy so you can hear your music and movies as they were intended to be heard.

    Auralex offers SonicPrints with licensed art, or you may upload your own personal images.  See more at www.auralex.com/sonicprint

  • Wikipedia: The Cloud

    The Cloud: Now Defined in Wikipedia

    August 2, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    Wikipedia now describes “the cloud” for us: “internet-based computing whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid. The term “cloud” is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on the cloud drawing used in the past to represent the telephone network, and later to depict the Internet in computer network diagrams as an abstraction of the underlying infrastructure it represents.”

  • Room Acoustics

    Room Acoustics

    July 27, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    From the editors at CEPro magazine: 
    Setting the Record Straight on Room Acoustics 

    CEPro Advantage Series • June 2011  •  Road to Better Audio

     “One of the most overlooked aspects of establishing a quality listening environment is the room you will be sitting in. For decades audiophiles have searched for the Holy Grail of sound. Most of their efforts focus on equipment changes that range from swapping out amps and cables, to turntables and CD players, to loudspeakers. With endless equipment combinations and tweaking ability, most of those audiophiles are in a neverending quest. Tony Grimani, president and lead consultant at PMI, Ltd., as well as a principal at MSR Acoustics, has spent over two decades educating electronics dealers about pitfalls of home acoustics. We talked to him about the importance the room itself plays in the listening environment. It’s an aspect to the Holy Grail search that gets lost amid the turntables and speakers.

    Understanding Acoustical Products

    Grimani says that when someone examines the solutions available in the residential acoustic product market, they should learn what they are buying before the make their purchasing decisions. He says that it’s been his experience that many of the bass traps in the market don’t actually improve the performance of in-home, small-room acoustics. “We have found that a lot of bass ‘traps’ are in fact nothing more than absorbers for mid-bass frequencies and they are often ineffective below 100Hz,” he points out. “Most home theaters and listening rooms have standing wave resonance problems in the 40Hz to 80Hz region, therefore most of those bass absorbers aren’t going to cure low-frequency issues.” He says what someone should look for when considering the addition of acoustical products in their homes are products the control room reflections down to 500Hz. This means that absorbers should be at least two inches thick, and preferably four to six inches thick. He adds that manufacturers should back up their claims with test results from reputable independent labs, and that only a quarter of a room’s walls should be covered with absorbers or else the room will be overly dampened.

    A Closer Look at Solutions

    One thing that would help consumers and pros better understand the category, Grimani theorizes, is a redefining of the products used in the field. “For bass traps, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the term means nothing at all, while it means everything too,” he explains. “Most absorbers work through a process of friction of air molecules against fibrous materials. Frictional absorbers are basically a chunk of material that absorbs sound and in some cases the sound being absorbed is bass, but it is not being ‘trapped,’ it is being absorbed into the fibrous material.” A product that does “trap” low frequencies, he notes, is commonly known as a Helmholtz resonator. “A device that really does ‘trap’ bass sound is actually a resonator device that uses a tympanic membrane or a ported resonator enclosure [often known as a Helmholtz],” says Grimani. “This trap uses resonating technologies to convert bass into heat.” When it comes to diffusers, Grimani says he usually breaks them down into two types of designs: 2D and 3D. “A 2D diffuser is one that turns an oncoming sound vector into a two-dimensional hemidisc plan, and is best used toward the front half of a room’s side walls,” explains Grimani. “A 3D diffuser turns an oncoming sound vector into a three-dimensional hemisphere, which is good to use on the back half of the side walls and the back half of the ceiling.” One final point about absorption panels, Grimani mentions, is the misuse of the term dampening. He says that dampening is defined as the act of putting water on something, whereas damping is the act of reducing a resonance. Grimani’s point in noting the verbiage is that putting acoustical panels on a wall damps a room’s reflections, echoes and reverberation, they don’t dampen the room.

    Tackling the Equalization Myth

    Another development that’s happened within the consumer audio market has been the advancement of room equalization (EQ) technologies. These products are designed to overcome the typical sound quality problems associated with reproducing audio within media rooms, and over the past few years they have become increasingly popular with A/V receiver manufacturers. Grimani says that while these EQ technologies have become quite sophisticated, they are not a fix-all solution for homeowners. “To get great sound you need a room with the right proportions and the right amount of absorption, diffusion, bass absorption; you need to sit at the right location in the room, the speakers have to be placed correctly in the room, and you need equalization as the final touch to tie it all together,” he emphasizes. “Simply put, you must have an equalizer [because] all rooms are going to affect the voicing of a loudspeaker, and its response needs to be equalized for the room … as for auto EQ, I guess that technology is fine for low- to middle-end systems. Anything above that should be measured and adjusted manually, and it should be listened to carefully for proper results.” Explaining why EQ isn’t a complete problem solver, Grimani adds that homeowners cannot strictly rely on the measurements of an analyzer because electronics don’t hear like human ears, and software doesn’t fix other elements that need to be addressed in the home. “Equalization cannot get ride of sound echoes, so on the front all bets are off,” he warns. “However, equalization can mitigate some of the audibility of bass standing waves and is therefore worth doing even if the homeowner cannot afford acoustical engineering or treatments. It’s one of the tools, and you may as well use it if you have no other choice.”

    Overall, Grimani stresses the importance of treating a listening room’s acoustics, because bad sound deprives someone of experiencing the full impact of their system purchase. “I would say you’re only getting half of your sound quality if you don’t design and tune the room correctly … you could be wasting 50 percent of your investment.”

  • HDMI in Home Technology

    HDMI in Home Technology

    July 11, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    HDMI is not the only cabling option there is.  There are many.

    HDMI is on the tip of most audio/video installers tongues, because it is relatively new, being introduced to the AV industry in 2002. The editors at CEPro magazine have done a wonderful job of offering some more information on what has ended up being a changing and in turn, frustrating technological development.

    The following is a direct quote from their recent White Paper:

    Q. There seem to be so many choices in the market for HDMI cables. How do I know which cable is right for my application?

    A. There are five types of HDMI cables available in the market today. Prior to the HDMI Specification Version 1.4, there were two cable types: Standard (category 1) and High Speed (category 2). Today, the HDMI cable types include:

    HDMI Standard Cable: Video resolutions up to 1080i at 60 frames per second (fps) are supported. 

    HDMI Standard Cable with Ethernet: Resolutions up to 1080i/60 as above plus the optional HDMI Ethernet Channel feature are supported.

    HDMI High Speed Cable: 2D video resolutions up to 1080p/60 with 16 bit color, as well as all HDMI 1.4a 3DTV and 4KTV formats are supported.

    HDMI High Speed Cable with Ethernet: This cable supports the same feature set as HDMI high speed cables, plus the optional HDMI Ethernet Channel.

    HDMI Standard Automotive Cable: This cable and the Type E connector support the enhanced environmental requirements of the HDMI Automotive Connection System.

     

    Q. What is an HDMI Adapter?

    A. Technically there is no such thing in HDMI terminology as an “HDMI adapter.” However, the flexibility of the HDMI Specification allows for manufacturers to build products that can transport HDMI over a different medium. These products are categorized as either converter cables (if they have an HDMI plug on both ends) or an HDMI repeater (if they have receptacles on both ends). There are different performance requirements in terms of signal drive depending on which configuration is used; the repeater is tested as a source or sink on each respective end, and as a result can work in combination with regular wire HDMI cables to provide signals over a long distance. Converter cables are primarily tested for their ability to pass signals when connected directly to sources and sinks, and are not specified to work with additional wire cable lengths connected serially.

     

    Q. What types of HDMI adapters are available?

    A. There are a number of options available. Technologies include copper wire alternatives (including CAT 5/5e/6), optical cables, and even wireless solutions. Each solution has advantages and drawbacks in terms of range, stability, ease of installation, power requirements, etc. Cat 5/6 cable-based adapters (also known as baluns) are typically used for longer in-wall runs where traditional HDMI cables will not work; products in this category are marketed to work to 150 feet and more. Optical cables have the potential of running even longer distances.

    Wireless-based HDMI adapters are a possible option when cables cannot be run in an install. Wireless products are offered from a number of companies and use a few different radio technologies, each of which has distinct applications.

     

    Q. What does HDMI technology have to do with 3DTV?

    A. 3DTV has been around for many years; it is a clever way to get your eyes to believe they are looking at 3D content on a 2D screen by giving each eye a slightly different perceived-depth view of a video image. Broadcast- and disc-based content sources encode each eye’s information separately, while 3DTVs display the separate eye information (typically using glasses) as the content author intended to generate the 3D effect. The HDMI Specification has defined a number of formats that allow 3D content to be transmitted in an interoperable, predictable way so that all HDMI 3D-compliant devices from any manufacturer can share this information and create the desired effect for the viewer.

     

    Q. Do I need special HDMI cables to support 3DTV?

    A. There are five mandatory HDMI 3D transmission formats; HDMIenabled source devices must support at least one, while display devices must support all five. Each of these formats is specified to be compatible with HDMI High Speed or HDMI High Speed with Ethernet Cables. Today’s HDMI 3D-compliant video sources, including Blu-ray Disc players and 3D broadcast set-top boxes, will work with an HDMI 3D-compliant display when connected by a compliant cable of either type.

     

    Q. What is the maximum length for an HDMI cable? Will longer cables degrade signals?

    A. The HDMI Specification does not dictate cable lengths; rather, mechanical and electrical requirements are specified to ensure compliance with the Specification. Compliant cables have passed the testing requirements of the Compliance Test Specification, will have the cable type tagged or printed along the sheath, and will show the corresponding HDMI cable name label on the product packaging. In practice, passive wire/cables typically are good up to around 10 meters, and active cables up to about 30 meters.

     

    Q. Cable prices vary widely. Is a $100 HDMI cable better than a $30 HDMI cable?

    A. HDMI Licensing, LLC does not mandate pricing or establish MSRPs; each manufacturer or reseller is free to set the price for their cable. Suppliers may provide extended warranty or enhanced cosmetics for their increased price. To prevent problems in the field, beware of using counterfeit products that do not have proper HDMI labeling and logos. If the price sounds too good to be true, it may not be a certified cable.

     

    Q. I see cables in packages touting them as “hyper speed,” “3D-ready” and “advanced.” Is there really a difference?

    A. Cable makers and resellers try various methods to differentiate their products. If a cable is compliant for one of the five types (standard, standard with Ethernet, high speed, high speed with Ethernet, standard automotive), it will work in the intended application.”


    Taken from the CEPro Advantage Series, June 2011.

  • Lutron’s Experience Center at the Dallas Market Center

    Lutron’s Experience Center at the Dallas Market Center

    June 1, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    Lutron has opened an Experience Center at the Dallas Market Center.  This is a wonderful location for us to show you the many different energy-saving (green), time-saving, and convenient home technologies they have developed for you.  You’ll be able to experience whole-home dimming, and automated sunlight shading with an extremely quiet automatic shading system, for starters.

    On site they demo RadioRA 2, HomeWorks, QS Wireless Shades, as well as several other technologies.

    Dallas Market Center
    2100 North Stemmons Freeway
    Suite 3301
    Dallas, TX 75207

     If you’re interested, we can meet you there!  It’s by appointment only, and we will be glad to set one up.

  • Buying Security Cameras via the Internet: Any Savings?

    Buying Security Cameras via the Internet: Any Savings?

    May 25, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    We all enjoy getting a deal on the Internet.  What about buying home technology?  Can you get a good deal?  Maybe.  But is it smart?  Maybe not.  Here’s a recent email exchange with a client for whom we’re installing cameras in his 17,000 square foot home.

    Client:  Pat, is your supplier high on the camera price?  Here’s what I found on the Internet.  (Link to site.)

    Pat:  I will check it out with the rep. They are selling well below my wholesale.

    Pat to our distributor:  Please see what this seller is doing—what’s up? They’re selling BELOW wholesale. They say they’re an authorized seller. Any thoughts? Or is this not legit?

    Our distributor:  This is not an authorized reseller. We run into these guys a lot.  See this information on unauthorized resellers: http://dwcc.tv/UnauthorizedResellers02182011.asp 

    Zero warranty, and no factory support. That’s not competing. Just predatory.  If purchased from them, it voids all warranty. They do not purchase from the manufacturer.  They do a bait-and-switch. 

    Pat to client:  I’ve had calls and emails with our distributor.  It’s what I thought.  This seller you found on the Internet takes your money, then declares that the items are backordered when you wonder why they haven’t been delivered.  Then they try to get you into a different brand to appease you.  I have seen several sites like this on the AV side of the business.  Some even call me to try to side-sell them high-end equipment.

    Client:  I don't understand how Amazon can sell this stuff under your cost.  Help me feel I'm not being overcharged other than I'm taking a chance on overnight delivery.  How do these people obtain this equipment and not be distributors?  I have bought electronic devices before on Amazon and filled the warranty paperwork out (I never have had the need for warranty work though) and I never heard back from the manufacturer that I would not be covered.  It doesn't make sense they would ignore their warranty on a new product. I'm just trying to figure out how this all works.   

    Pat:  Frustrating, definitely—and especially so for the manufacturers. Here is what I found on the manufacturer’s website; http://dwcc.tv/UnauthorizedResellers02182011.asp  Amazon is only as reliable as the company backing the sale, since Amazon is just a middle-man.  I’ve use Amazon, and have never had trouble, but I always do business with only major-name stores and I confirm that they are not on a list like this one, where the manufacturer is actively pursuing legal action.  I buy cameras from the factory-authorized distributer in Carrollton, TX.  They are probably charging me 5-10% markup for handling since I’m not factory direct.

    After reading the information on the link about unauthorized resellers, and you feel comfortable making an online purchase, it will be a way to save money. Perhaps you could try buying a single item first (from someone not on ‘the list’) and see how it goes.  If it works, great!  Then order the rest.  Remember the warranties, if needed, would have to flow through the place you purchase them from since the manufacturer tracks serial numbers.

    Hope this helps.  It is why UltraMedia and other service/labor-based companies are getting high on labor.  The margins are almost gone on the items we sell. Keep the questions coming!

    Client:  Great job doing the research on this.  It’s not worth the risk, and you guys have never let me down.  Please order the cameras and recorders.  Thanks for your time and patience answering my questions.

    Weeks later: the cameras and recorder were installed on the job site.  The clients have still not moved in yet.  There have 4 attempted break-ins.  Between the alarm system, and the recorded images, nothing has been stolen from the home, and the police have excellent images from which to work.

  • Today's Home Buyers Expect Home Technology

    Today's Home Buyers Expect Home Technology

    May 18, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    What are homebuyers looking for these days?  Intelligently designed, energy efficient, green technology-based homes that are loaded with added technology features—and they’re willing to pay extra to have them.

    This is true in both the auto industry, and the home-building industry.  Once considered a luxury, these home technology features are now being requested by home buyers of all income levels.  (Remember, a long time ago indoor plumbing was considered a luxury!  As were power windows on a car!)

    Home buyers are looking past the expected, and are seeking technology that will makes their lives easier, safer, and more enjoyable.  And they want to control all the home technology from their fingertips.  Many technologies have been around for a while, but they were separate systems, and controlled separately.  Now, the best home technology systems integrate entertainment, internet, music, lighting, security—the list goes on.  Again, this can be done from a single source such as in-wall touch screens, handheld remotes, or iPhones and iPads.

    Drop in and visit with one of our skilled designers!  See how you can bring your home systems up to date!

  • The Beauty of Home Technology Today

    The Beauty of Home Technology Today

    May 11, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    Do you want to know the most beautiful thing about home technology today?   The guys at UltraMedia might say it’s the nearly paper-thin TVs we’re installing.  Or the super-hip-looking grills on our new Vienna on-wall speakers.

    But, as I toured two 17,000+ square foot homes we’re doing final installations on in Dallas right now, I thought: what we do is becoming more and more invisible all the time.  I saw so many wonderful features in these homes—theater doors from a castle in France—custom cabinetry that took my breath away.  Designers readily design with technology in mind now.  Homeowners want a TV in their bathroom.  They want to access the internet while sitting beside their pool.  They want to display their photos on every TV in the house when entertaining.  And so much of this technology can be had can be had, literally, invisibly. 

    Drop-down projectors and screens.  A painting canvas that rolls up to reveal a TV.  In-wall speakers that are faux-finished to match the walls.  Speakers that are aimed to project sound from almost any unseen nook.

    Amazing.  It’s fun to be on the cutting edge of all this new technology.  It changes every day.  Call us to get the latest updates!    972-238-9888.

  • Elan's 10" In-Wall Touch Screen

    Elan's 10" In-Wall Touch Screen

    May 4, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geure


    Elan has offered 7” and 4” touch screens for some time now.  We’re happy to say that next month we will be able to offer you a 10” version. 

    “The new TS10 Touch Screen provides dealers and consumers with the ultimate touch screen experience,” Lautner said today.  “It combines a ‘touch and swipe’ design with a larger Active Matrix LCD screen for viewing television through the analog video feature, and larger easy-to-read icons for aging eyes.  It’s ideal for watching television in the kitchen or the bathroom,” says Joe Lautner, ELAN Manager of Business Development & Product Management.

    You’ll be able to watch TV on this touch screen.  And, it has a built-in speaker and microphone—the modern update to the old intercoms we used to love so much!

    We’ll be able to specify this new touch screen in white, almond, light almond, ivory, and black.

    Touch screens like this allow you to control your media, lighting, climate, security, video and much more.

    We were also thrilled when Elan added the HR2 handheld remote to their line.  Until then, we were relying on RTI to get the job done.  RTI is a fantastic handheld remote—we are glad to specify it, and will continue to do so—but it’s nice to have a same-manufacturer option now.

    Elan g! also has mobile applications for the iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad.  (Just like the Lutron systems we sell.)

    Visit us in person.

  • Elan g! Home Control System in the News

    Elan g! Home Control System in the News

    April 27, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    Elan g! was recently featured on NBC.  The story featured a Long Island family who enjoys the many benefits of a high-tech security system that‘s greatest asset is its ease of control.  The system they’re talking about is Elan g!, a system we install.  The family talks about how easy it is to use Elan g!, and how well it works on familiar interfaces like their iPhone or iPad. 

    The homeowners appreciate being able to set or check their security system from anywhere using their iPhone or iPad.  And, when the man of the house is at work or out of town, he can easily check the home’s integrated camera system and see what his two-year-old is up to. 

    They pointed out that the only places we once saw sophisticated control systems like this were in 20,000-square-foot homes.  Now, this level of sophistication has its place in any home—no matter the square footage.

    Watch the segment: http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Home_Security_With_Just_A_Touch_and_A_Swipe_New_York-121293219.html



    Please visit our Products List for a link to Elan, and their new Elan g! home control system.

  • SpectraCal on 3D Viewing and Active Shutters

    SpectraCal on 3D Viewing and Active Shutters

    April 20, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    What follows is a very good article from SpectraCal—we buy our video calibration equipment from them.

    “With the advent of the 3D display we have all been left wondering: What is relevant in a 3D display? How do active shutter glasses affect viewing? What should we look for in a 3D display? What procedure should we use to set one up?  This Tip is designed to answer these questions. 

    Why is it relevant to calibrate a 3D Display?
 First let’s understand the concept of 3D. We have been bombarded with 3D imagery for years. In the beginning there was just the shift of two colors, usually Red and Green, offset at just enough left and right eye creating a pseudo-depth of field. This was great for the motion picture industry. This craze filled drive-ins and movie theaters with people willing to put on cheap paper glasses with two separate pieces of colored Mylar for lenses. Why did this work? The human eye can’t see depth of field! It’s the placement of both the left and right eyes (roughly two and a half inches apart) seeing two separate images that is processed by our brain and perceived as depth of field. A 3-D display emulates this same concept by showing each eye the same image but from two separate perspectives. This, in essence, tricks our brain into thinking it’s seeing a real image.   

    How do active shutter glasses affect viewing? 
When we are watching a 3D movie we are effectively looking through sunglasses. Whether active or polarized passive (or anaglyph), the glasses not only cut a substantial amount of light, but they may create a measurable color shift. Active 3D glasses rely on liquid-crystal shutter elements. These elements will vary in transmission efficiency and color transparency based on the quality of the materials employed. For active 3D viewing, the display should operate at a minimum of 120Hz, alternating between right and left eye, to eliminate any perception of flicker, This means that for 1/120 of a second, the left eye will be dark and the right eye will be “on,” and for 1/120 of a second, the left eye will be “on” and the right eye will be dark. This shuttering creates the high-quality 3D effect: During every 1/60 of a second, both the left eye and right eye will be presented with two distinctly different images, separated by a very brief “dark time.” 

This alternating presentation of left eye and right eye content is another big factor that impacts the brightness of 3D imagery. Specifically, 50% of the time, your right or left eye will be viewing a dark field, thus reducing the effective light output by about 50%. In addition, active 3D glasses are only   80-90% efficient in their transmission of light. This leaves a 10 - 20 % of light being lost to the viewer. The color loss is directly related to the lenses color, usually a slightly greenish/blue and the display pushing red to compensate! As one would guess, this imagery isn’t calibrated to proper specifications!

    So now that we understand how and where the problems of light loss and color shift are created, we need to compensate for these losses in our calibration.

    What should we look for in a 3D display? 
While there are increasing libraries of 3D content coming online, 3D HDTV's will still need to display a lot of 2D material. Thus, having multiple memory locations is imperative, since we will need to calibrate for both 2D and 3D modes. Most HDTVs are capable of retaining dual calibration presets for color temperature, light output and basic calibration settings, as well as provide enough additional light output (maximize backlight and contrast on LCD-LED) to overcome the substantial loss of perceived brightness when viewing 3D content. For the best 2D and 3D experience, select an HDTV with ISF Day and Night modes or other discrete memory locations. This allows you to store calibration settings for both 2D and 3D in their own memories.”

    Please visit www.spectracal.com or our Video Calibration page for more information on HD and calibration.

  • Question from a Client: JVC vs. Wolf Projectors

    Question from a Client: JVC vs. Wolf Projectors

    April 13, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Q: Looking at the specs on the JVC and the Wolf, the JVC has a lumens rating of 1300, while the Wolf is 750.  How can the Wolf be brighter?  Contrast is the same for each projector. 

    A: Specs-manship is an interesting game in our business.  Manufacturers often post numbers that may (or may not) have much resemblance to imaging reality.  ANSI lumens is truly one of those unregulated areas that can mean anything and often does.  One video manufacturer I know posts peak white ANSI numbers that could never be achieved, especially with the given lamp wattage and optics in use.  It’s sorta like theoretical top speed of a car . . . on a good day, downhill, the wind behind your back, you MIGHT hit 180 MPH.  

    Like politics and statistics, even engineering specs can be skewed for or against a position. In this case, reading measured lumens from a projector on marketing lit makes comparing one projector to another very difficult. They usually leave out what standard of measurement was used (there are multiple standards—both US and International), what distance from the light source the measurement was taken, and how long that brightness can be maintained at that level.  What I like to quote is how many foot-lamberts (fL) of light are reflected off of the film screen using a specific screen, projector, lens, and distance—all under a specific light level in a room.  It seems complicated, but it reveals the truth about the performance of the system instead of just the parts individual specs.

    FL?  That’s the right way to measure projectors:  how much peak white light [calibrated to 6500K] measured as reflected off a defined screen surface/size.  The test screen size common in performing baseline fL measurements is a 72” wide 16/9 screen, 1.0 and 1.3 gain surfaces.  The fL numbers are typically posted using the 1.3 gain material.

    ANSI lumens has no defined set of standards behind it so it’s more marketing fun than comparative . . . reminds me of receiver/amp wattage before the FTC stepped in and made us define wattage per channel, into what load, what frequency range, total amount of THD etc., etc.

     A lamped product *might* hit those numbers at the beginning, day 1, calibrated to 6500K.  Many manufacturers actually ramp up to ~12,000K since blue-shifted white measures “brighter” [aka bluing in laundry soap – makes white “whiter” huh?].  It measures higher but it’s wrong in fidelity.  A UHP lamp begins its rather rapid decline to half-life output typically within 300 hours or so.  Even after 100 hours, a UHP lamp may be down 30% from the starting point, and will continue to degrade over the next 1200-2000 hours until a lamp replacement is required.

    Another concept that relates to visual output is color accuracy and depth.  UHP lamps are significantly red deficient so it takes a great deal more output (plus heavy diachromatic filtering) to achieve the correct chroma balance for HD viewing.   LED emitters are so broad and accurate in chroma imaging fidelity that the eye “sees” what appears to be a bright, more intense image throughout the extended color gamut. 

    Last point – Wolf started off around 750 ANSI as measured and published last year.  Each production cycle they’ve achieved +10-15% in peak white performance improvement.  They’re now measuring ~1100 ANSI performance off their lampless LED platform, and will be publishing that number going forward.  Truly astonishing, and it will of course retain that peak white performance over the life of the emitters [30,000 hours under warranty, “a movie a night for 17 years…”].

    Before I recommend products I always go to the demos that the manufacturers host. Then, no matter the specs, I can say which unit looks the best to the human eye at a specific price point.

    My picks are always changing, but here are the current winners:  1) Epson for entry-level small systems,  2) JVC for the middle-range systems, and 3) Wolf for the premium systems.

    I have looked at five ‘high-end’ projector lines in the last two months at events. No one has beaten the price-to-performance of my list yet this year. I have had three JVC projectors in a row in my theater. The Wolf beat them out, so I switched.

    Please feel free to ask a question: the REAL guru’s address is: pat@ultramedia.biz.

  • The Connected TV

    The Connected TV

    April 6, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Heard a brief conversation around the office today about the term ‘connected TV.’  Apparently there are a lot of software developers who are investing money in their belief that the TV will eventually become the primary device for connecting to sites like FaceBook and LinkedIn, surfing the web, and keeping up with local weather and stock values.  They say that the ‘connected TV’ market is very young, and investors are expecting “meteoric growth.”  Are we moving to a hybrid TV/PC world?  Who will dominate that market?  Who will be left in the dust?  Will it even happen?


    Care to join the conversation?  Call the office at 972-238-9888.

  • HDMI Comparisons (Detail)

    Question from a Client: JVC vs. Wolf Projectors

    March 30, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    In a recent email blast, VidaBox offered a great explanation about the different releases of HDMI.  (As they say, “In plain English.”)  Let’s see if this is helpful.

    In short, the differences are in the feature available and which audio-video formats can be transmitted through that connection.  To start - practically ALL AV devices manufactured today (DVD players, set-top boxes, etc.) have HDMI1.2 as the minimum standard, providing audio + video on one cable. 

    Here's what the newer standards provide.



    HDMI1.3 adds support for the 7.1 lossless HD audio formats, such as Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD, and DTS-MA (Master Audio).  This is of particular importance for Blu-ray since this is the minimum requirement to be able to enjoy to these new audio formats in a home theater.  When a client is asking for the best audio quality possible, make sure your setup (source & receiver) has HDMI1.3. 
Another feature that HDMI1.3 adds is "Deep Color" - but at the time of this writing, there are still no sources for "Deep Color."  So, if a customer asks about this, it's a somewhat moot point as there are no commercially-made Blu-ray titles taking advantage of this feature.


    HDMI1.4 adds support for native 3D over HDMI, assuring a "plug-n-play" 3D experience.  It also provides support for 4k x 2k resolution support, which appeals to digital signage and large multi-display installations.

Other features added with 1.4 is an Ethernet and audio return channel, but in most multizone AV installations, there are other (easier) methods of carrying this out, and avoid the headaches that HDMI generally brings to installations.” 

    English or not, we understand the language of AV, so give us a call if you need help translating!

  • HDMI Comparisons (Overview)

    HDMI Comparisons (Overview)

    March 23, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    What are the primary differences between HDMI 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4?

    HDMI 1.2

    • minimum standard spec for current AV devices
    • carries audio and video
    • release date: 2005

    HDMI 1.3

    • supports new 7.1 Lossless HD audio formats: Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD, DTS-MA
    • adds “deep color”
    • release date: 2006

    HDMI 1.4

    • native 3D over HDMI, with 4k x 2k resolution support
    • adds Ethernet and audio return channels
    • release date: 2009

     

  • Sanus Furniture

    Sanus Furniture

    March 16, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    I recently wrote about Sanus rack systems.  Sanus also carries a line of furniture called Sanus AV Foundations. 

    Sanus’ AV cabinets are made to work specifically with flat-panel TVs.  The cabinet can hold up to 200 lbs. when mounted on the wall, and up to 350 lbs. when placed on the floor.  That accommodates a nice-sized screen! 

    From the front, the AV cabinets are stylish, constructed from rich hardwood, some with sliding glass doors. (Several options of style and finish.)

    From the back, the AV cabinets are practical, with rear cable management channels that keep cables hidden and organized.  Nice for the client in two ways: aesthetic, and ease of service.  The shelves are deep enough to house standard AV components.

    See more! www.sanus.com, or please give us a call: 972-238-9888.

  • OmniMount TV Mounts

    OmniMount TV Mounts

    March 9, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    To be fair, I must also mention OmniMount.  They carry flat-panel wall mounts, projector mounts, rack systems, and audio mounts. 

    We’ll focus on their TV mounts for the purpose of this blog entry.  Their TV mounts come in three styles: fixed, cantilever, and tilt.  They all offer height adjustment at the mount head for post-installation fine tuning.  In addition, the mount can be shifted laterally, to fine-tune the left-and-right position of the flat screen.  The mounts also provide integrated cable management to hide wires our clients do NOT want to see!   

    Mounting profile?  3.5” for panels up to 75” and 250 pounds.

    Feel free to have a look: www.omnimountpro.com, or keep it easy and give us a call: 972-238-9888. 

  • UltraMedia on the Road Again

    UltraMedia on the Road Again

    March 3, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    About 9 months ago I told a funny story about waves we were getting while driving our company vehicles.

    I must tell you, it happened again!  We were heading east on LBJ when a woman passed us to our right and quickly put on her brakes, bringing her neck-to-neck with our truck.  Out pops a customer we hadn’t seen in years.  She was hanging the whole top half of her body out her window . . . waving, smiling!

    Made our day, and brought a smile to our faces that lasted a good, long time.

    We are very grateful to our staff for ensuring that we leave our clients as happy as they’ll let us.  We are very grateful for our clients.

    We invite anyone who hasn’t yet, to give us a try. 

  • Modular Rack Systems

    Modular Rack Systems

    February 23, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Because we are a custom AV company, we are not married to particular brands.  We are not committed by contract to promote particular products.  We sell what we believe in. 

     

    We recommend a couple of different AV rack systems.  One is Sanus.  Sanus has recently added a professional rack system to their Foundations Component Series.  Their super-solid units are available in a variety of modular designs.  Their engineers have focused on security and ease of installation in this new release.  We can start with a basic rack, and add accessories as needed, keeping your rack design completely custom, and tailored to house your AV system components.  All racks include vented side panels (essential) for maximum airflow (add one of our fans, and heat will not be a problem).  These rack systems also come with pre-installed rear rack rails to help keep labor costs low. 

     

    Get the picture:  www.sanus.com

  • UltraMedia Showroom gets its First 3D TV

    UltraMedia Showroom gets its First 3D TV

    February 16, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    A few weeks ago we installed the first 3D TV in our UltraMedia showroom.  It’s a Sony Sony XBR 46”, and with it we got Alice in Wonderland in 3D, and two pair of 3D glasses.  What fun!  The 3D experience was certainly different.  I recommend giving it a try.  I think the technology has room to grow . . . the 3D glasses cut out a lot of light, and we found ourselves eliminating every contributor to ambient light in the room to make the image easier to see.  It felt a lot like wearing sunglasses indoors.  Very enjoyable movie, with the technology to made it even more exciting—especially for someone who had never seen the original version. A definite recommendation for your foray into 3D technology.

     

    Visit www.sonystyle.com  to view their full line of consumer electronics.

  • Why use Top-Quality Cables and Connectors?

    Why use Top-Quality Cables and Connectors?

    February 2, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Cables don’t garner the same respect that other products like flat-panel TVs and awesome-sounding speakers get.  To many clients, cables are no more important than staples and wire ties.   However!  That couldn’t be further from the truth!  Read on!

    1.    Cable basics:  The reason UltraMedia uses better cables is because high-quality cables permit less noise and distortion to enter the system.  That’s why a system with better cables performs better, hands down.

    2.    All cables in the system are important, just like all tires on the car are important.  Further, that means interconnects as well as in-wall video and speaker cables must be of the highest quality, to ensure that all of the information passes through the media system unhindered.

    3.    All of UltraMedia’s systems are built on a strong foundation of high-quality cables. Just as you’d never build a great home on a cinder block foundation, it would be unreasonable to think we can build a great home theater or AV distribution system on cheap cables.

    4.    Short cables are like dating. If you change your mind and want to upgrade from an inferior cable to a high-quality one, it’s easy to make a change. Long cables in the wall are more like marriage—changes are difficult, painful and expensive. You want to get the wiring done right the first time!

    5.    We are often asked, “What is the secret to better performance in the AV industry?”  Our answer:  “In photography, it’s lenses. In cars, it’s tires.  In the AV world you get the greatest performance bang for your buck with better cables!”  

    The fact that we insist on using only the best in wiring infrastructure differentiates UltraMedia from our competition.  Our clients win with better, more reliable cables and better performance. We reduce labor expenses when we install cables that are more reliable and easier to pull and terminate.

    To learn more, visit Tributaries.

  • What CEDIA Offers to Electronic Systems Contractors (ESCs)

    What CEDIA Offers to Electronic Systems Contractors (ESCs)

    January 26, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Not all AV companies are Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) members.  Like Residential Systems’ editor Jeremy Glowaki said, “CEDIA is the glue that binds this industry together.”  As Mr. Glowaki pointed out, many ESCs believe the cost is too high, but many, like us, disagree. 

    CEDIA is open to four different types of electronics systems contractors: custom integrators, custom retailers, installers, and service providers.  CEDIA customizes its offerings based on these different types of members.

    CEDIA offers extensive educational opportunities, starting in the United States, and reaching into Canada and Latin America.   CEDIA offers different avenues for training: specially targeted on-site courses at the annual CEDIA Expo, Boot Camp for installers, e-Learning, and Power Lunch webinars.  Not to mention many white papers and other research articles.

    One very important offering of CEDIA is the annual Expo—a tradeshow where members like UltraMedia gather to talk shop, take classes on technology and installation techniques, and do business with the hundreds of vendors that show up to display emerging technology.

    CEDIA protects the interests of its members with its Government Affairs team.

    CEDIA will soon begin promoting the home audio/video installation trade with a new TV show called Hollywood Wired

    Last year CEDIA initiated a Career Center, where job openings and resumes were posted free of charge, offering a wonderful opportunity for employers and job seekers to connect.

    For more information, please visit CEDIA.

  • Elan: HC-12 Multi-room Controller

    Elan: HC-12 Multi-room Controller

    January 12, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Let’s get down to brass tacks:

    •  integrated IP, serial,  and infrared control
    •  easy plug-n-play with TS2 touchpads
    •  high-resolution on-screen graphics support
    •  2-way IP control allows for quick, up-to-date, feature–rich interfaces
    •  built-in 250 GB hard drive for music, photos, and CCTV DVR
    •  support for two phone lines and eight voicemail boxes
    •  four onboard relays provide additional automation capabilities
    •  compact 1U design

     

     Overview:

    • IT-based backbone
    • easy for homeowners to use
    • truly scalable, allowing a lot of installation flexibility
    • impressive connectivity for RS–232, RS–485, relays, and IR and the two–way driver collection
    • two audio–outs with built-in audio server capability for local music and optional Internet radio streaming
    • built-in photo viewer turns televisions into digital picture frames

    www.elanhomesystems.com

  • Leon: SEVEN Series Speakers

    Leon: SEVEN Series Speakers

    January 5, 2011  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Leon’s SEVEN Series speakers are considered best in class, and are completely customizable.  There are several configurations available in these speakers.  Leon offers:

    • left-center-right for large televisions,
    • left-right on-wall,
    • left-right freestanding, and
    • center channel, and timbre-matched surrounds.

    Each speaker has Hexacone woofers — up to four per channel for the center channel, and silk dome tweeters for highly refined sound reproduction.  All are built with solid aluminum baffles, and are braced with solid-core birch.

    Included in your Leon Speaker purchase is a 3D rendering to illustrate the impact on the architecture and design, and 2D CAD drawings of the final product before its built.

    Learn more by visiting www.leonspeakers.com  .

  • Wolf Cinema Projector in Our Showroom

    Wolf Cinema Projector in Our Showroom

    December 22, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    UltraMedia loves the Wolf projector line so much, we installed one in our showroom.  It was such a hit at our last demo, four of our clients began the process of upgrading.  If you’d like to see the new Wolf Cinema projector, we show it by appointment only.  Or, if you’d like to come to our next demo, please call the UltraMedia office, and we’ll put you on our guest list. www.wolfcinema.com

  • Stewart Filmscreen: New Cabaret Screen

    Stewart Filmscreen: New Cabaret Screen

    December 29, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    The Cabaret screen is an exciting new addition to Stewart’s line of electric retractable screens.   With new housing, the Cabaret offers an innovative approach to motorized roll-down screens.

    Stewart Filmscreen’s Cabaret is perfect for creating media rooms within family rooms, game rooms, or any living space in the home.  The removable aluminum valance  comes in various finishes, and can be customized with the color of your choosing. 

    Mood lighting is also available in cobalt blue or white, which slightly illuminates the room, making the Cabaret an attractive light fixture as well.   Its sleek and contemporary design and unique mounting system make front projection possible in both new and retrofit applications.   The Cabaret screen is available with a variety of Stewart’s front- and rear-projection materials including FireHawk, StudioTek 130, and GreyHawk RS.

    For additional information on Stewart Filmscreen, please call the UltraMedia office or visit www.stewartfilmscreen.com .

  • We Knew Lutron was Special!

    We Knew Lutron was Special!

    December 8, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Each year, CEDIA names an individual to receive its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.  This year the award was presented to Joel Spira, Lutron founder, and inventor of the solid-state dimming device.  This award shines the spotlight on someone who has made outstanding contributions to the electronic systems industry.  “Joel Spira’s contributions to the industry distinguish him as an early leader in bringing lifestyle-enhancing technology into the home,” said CEDIA CEO Utz Baldwin.  “CEDIA is proud to honor Mr. Spira with its 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his many years of outstanding innovation.” 

    Lutron recently made a substantial contribution of 50 years worth of technology to the Smithsonian Institute, in their Electricity Collection.  “The donation of the Lutron collection really allows us to bring the Electricity Collection, that consists of over 25,000 objects, from the last century into the new century,” said Hal Wallace, associate curator of the Electricity Collection.  www.lutron.com 

  • We Love the Holidays!

    We Love the Holidays!

    December 1, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    What a crazy, busy time December is!  This is the busiest month of our year.  Not necessarily in revenue, but in the number of house calls we make.  Our clients are ready to make changes and upgrades to their home entertainment systems, to be prepared for parties and houseguests.  It can be a stressful time for our clients, and we do our best to be as responsive as possible.  We often work overtime, squeezing in last-minute requests for help.  Please don’t hesitate to call—we are eager to help you put the special, final touches on your home this holiday season.  Happy Hanukah!  Merry Christmas!

  • New Key Digital Processor

    New Key Digital Processor

    November 24, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    KeyDigital’s KD-VP800 is a universal digital video processor capable of scaling VGA/RGBHV sources to component output, and VGA/RGBHV pass-through.  The KD-VP800 allows connections of a VGA/RGBHV source to component video display.  It supports most interlaced and progressive video formats, such as 480p, 720, 576p, 1080i/540p, and 50Hz.  It allows connection of VGA/RGBHV source to component video display and supports most interlaced and progressive video formats.  Please call the UltraMedia office for translation, or visit www.keydigital.com .

  • Furman: A Great Place to Work

    Furman: A Great Place to Work

    November 17, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    We had several drop-in visitors yesterday.  Among them was a client picking up a hot-off-the-line Integra receiver.  He noticed the Furman power conditioner we have installed in our office media system and asked one of our designers about it.  The designer told him how much we like Furman, how reliable their product is, and how well priced it is.  This morning I read that Furman was voted one of the best places to work in California’s North Bay area.  Selection is based on criteria such as anonymous employee survey results, diversity, benefits, and community involvement.   To some degree there must be some correlation between happy employees (good working environments) and good products.   www.furmansound.com

  • The Cloud: What is it?

    The Cloud: What is it?

    November 10, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    These days we hear more and more about “the cloud,” and the growing roll it will play in tomorrow’s technology.  Taking the term in the most literal sense will help you understand the term.  Rather than having a cabinet full of VCR tapes (what?), DVDs, or CDs, entertainment data is stored, well, out there somewhere.  Some examples of “clouds” are: a Netflix streaming movie, television from Hulu, music from Pandora.  These resources allow users to select from an endless array of entertainment while taking up virtually no space.  Perhaps just a small interface necessary to transfer the information.

    There are skeptics of course, that say the general public won’t turn away from the quality that a Blu-ray or a CD provide. 

  • Technicians Finalizing Training on Elan g!

    Technicians Finalizing Training on Elan g!

    November 3, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Elan g! is a new product from Elan.  Our technicians began training on the new technology a few weeks ago, and should be finished by the end of the year.  UltraMedia is committed to providing ongoing training for the products we support, and new technology we think will have a positive impact on our clients.  g!’s new handheld remote is a great TV remote, with whole-house control built in.  It offers instant-on, is super responsive, and has a logical layout that both our technicians and clients appreciate.  Elan g!’s Configurator Toolbox was developed to enable our technicians to get more programming done in less time—which is best for our clients.

    Learn more at www.gbyelan.com.

  • UltraMedia and the Dallas Wind Symphony

    UltraMedia and the Dallas Wind Symphony

    October 27, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    UltraMedia has been a supporter of the Dallas Wind Symphony for three years now.  The relationship began when one of the symphony directors hired us to retrofit technology into his home.  Together, we decided that their youth program could use a boost.  And together we created an information display that patrons are encouraged to visit at each performance.  This display offers information about their youth outreach program, and we do our part by providing a wonderful display screen for their program presentation.

    This year we very much appreciate the season tickets they’ve offered our clients.  We’ve got two seats for each of the upcoming performances, so if you’d like to attend a great show, please call the office and we will set it up.  (Provided no one has beaten you to the seats, of course!)  For show dates and times, please visit:  www.dws.org

  • Retrofit Work on the Rise

    Retrofit Work on the Rise

    October 20, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    UltraMedia noticed an increase in the requests for retrofit work a couple of years ago.  Many residential AV contractors have avoided retrofit work at all costs, because it is difficult, and always presents an unexpected challenge or two.  We have grown to pride ourselves on our retrofit capabilities.  It takes a talented team to anticipate and overcome the situations that are unique to each custom home AV installation.  More often than not, a retrofit AV job requires us to cut into walls to run wire, which will require the client to patch and paint after the installation is complete.  Often, the existence of firebreaks will further complicate the ability to run wire for the home technology. 

    Again, we are fortunate to have some wireless solutions like lighting control from Lutron. 

    And there are wonderful wireless touchpanels, such as those from RTI.

    See examples of some our handheld remote solutions at  www.rticorp.com.

  • Good Article in CEPro about Lutron’s RadioRA 2

    Good Article in CEPro about Lutron’s RadioRA 2

    October 13, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    In June I wrote about the installation of Lutron’s RadioRA 2 in our home.  It is wonderful.  We’ve made some minor adjustments to the programming after living with it for a while, to better suit our habits.

    Lutron is introducing some upgrades to the RadioRA 2 program, to improve energy management.  Specifically, lighting and shade control.  I was amazed to learn that they can control Venetian blinds!  You know, the ones that tilt!

    Best if I just give you the link to the article that reviews these features: http://www.cepro.com/article/lutron_plans_whole_house_energy_control/#When:15:54:38Z

    Visit Lutron at www.lutron.com.

  • CEDIA Annual Awards to Audio/Video Manufacturers

    CEDIA Annual Awards to Audio/Video Manufacturers

    October 6, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    Each year the Consumer Electronics Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) selects the top products from that year’s manufacturer participants.

    They are as follows:

    Product Hall of Fame Inductees
    Sound Advance SA2 Invisible Speaker
    DL/Dinky Link IR Receiver Model 480

    Best New Product
    Actiontec Ethernet over Coax MoCA Network Adapter
    Autonomic Controls Mirage Media Server
    Certified Cyber Solutions Home Cyber Shield
    ihiji invision
    Lutron RadioRA 2 Lighting Control System
    Savant iPad Automation Application
    iPort In-Wall Control Mount
    Trufig Solid Surface Solutions
    SurgeX XN120 Protection Unit
    Runco D-73 3D Projector

    Sustainable Lifestyle Product Innovation
    Crestron Viridian - Environmental Management and Control Software

    Horizon Award
    Crestron UFO 4.3" Handheld Wireless Touchpanel

    www.cedia.net

  • UltraMedia Attended CEDIA EXPO 2010

    UltraMedia Attended CEDIA EXPO 2010

    September 29, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    CEDIA EXPO is the audio/video industry’s annual technology exposition.  This year, EXPO highlighted technological advances in TVs, Apple products, home health care, and old-fashioned turntables!

    Many manufacturers demonstrated further evolution of the television.   TVs are getting thinner and thinner--one was so thin it folded!  Speakers are following suit—thinner, to match the TVs with which they will be paired.  Both TVs and speakers can be flush-mounted.  Televisions are becoming more multifunctional; mirrored, and available in every color imaginable. 

    Several manufacturers sported technologies using the popular Apple interfaces.  Use your iPhone and iPad to control of nearly every home system: televisions, house music, broadcast photos, lighting, and energy management.

    Featured in the spotlighted Technology Pavilion was home health care, which will become more and more important as baby boomers age.  Manufacturers of this technology asked us why interior designers aren’t jumping onto the “aging” bandwagon.  Monthly, there are new milestones in making getting older easier.  For instance, relatives can monitor an aged loved one’s vital statistics, movement from room to room, and whether medications are taken on time. 

    Surprisingly, there has been a resurgence in the interest of vinyl records!  Audiophiles are deciding that nothing sounds better than old-fashioned LPs.  Interior designers should be prepared to design around the wide array of new turntable systems that are gaining popularity.

    While there was not a revolutionary technology revealed, CEDIA exhibitors showed their commitment to fulfilling the ever-growing demands of the clients the AV industry serves.

    www.cedia.net           

  • Replacing HDTV with 3DTV?

    Replacing HDTV with 3DTV?

    September 22, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    I couldn’t help but wonder . . . will our clients jump on the new 3D TVs?  And if they recently purchased an HDTV, will that dull their interest in 3D?  Or, if they are happy with their HD flat panels, will they be interested in this new 3D technology?

    According to a recent survey in Britain, half of the 700 HDTV consumers surveyed indicated they are likely to upgrade to 3DTV soon.  In fact, people who jumped on HDTV early on are even more likely to get on the 3D bandwagon now.

    Even those 6% who didn’t yet have HDTV said they would likely upgrade to 3DTV in the next year. 

    It would seem that many people actually enjoy the changes in technology, and know that replacing equipment is part of the fun.  Please call us for any kind of video need: HD, flat panels, or 3D.

  • Ultra-thin Flat Panel Speaker Solution

    Ultra-thin Flat Panel Speaker Solution

    September 15, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu


    We sold our client a super-thin TV.  “Super-thin” is the reason they selected that TV!  They need a very low-profile solution.  But then what to do about TV-mounted speakers?  (If there is no in-room option.)  Most TV-mounted speakers are much thicker than the ultra-thin flat panels, and negate the aesthetic of the slim profile.  

    Check out this solution!  It came out a year ago and is Rev3.  (We prefer the likelihood of better stability of later revs.)  The latest change is a new bracket that ‘thins up’ the installation even more. This speaker is only 1.5” deep.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking.  How can you have any deep bass from a 1.5” speaker?  Well, you cannot.  So, add one of these solutions and you have full-range sound, and a happy client.  (The guys around here often call it the WAF, or Wife Acceptance Factor.)  Really, WAF is all about good taste!

    Leon Speakers

  • Green? Calibration!

    Green?  Calibration!

    September 8, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    There are many reasons to calibrate your video displays.  We have a whole array of good reasons cited on our own page, “Video Calibration.”  But I had no idea that calibrating LCD and plasma TVs improves energy efficiency up to 50 percent!  Again, the “dynamic” or “vivid,” from-factory mode is intended to get your attention in a brightly lit retail environment.  However, it’s not appropriate for a home environment, and apparently gobbles up your energy, unnecessarily.  (And gobbles up the life of your TV!)

    Also, 2010 has ushered in some new Energy Star standards.  You can see these when you visit http://www.cepro.com/article/tvs_will_become_more_energy_efficient_in_2010.

    Even still, the calibration process is said to offer even bigger energy savings.  It’s best to calibrate a video display once it reaches its final destination—your home.  That way, all of the influencing factors like ambient light and even room décor can be taken into consideration when optimizing the video display.  Please call us for a calibration quote!

  • Sony’s New Distribution Strategy

    Sony’s New Distribution Strategy

    August 25, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Sony offers a group of products they call their ES, or Elevated Standard, products.   The ES products consist of receivers, Blu-ray players, Sposato architectural speakers, VW series front projectors, and other Sony higher-end products.

    In the past, Sony’s ES products could be purchased through not only custom electronics installation companies, but online through websites like Amazon and Crutchfield, or over the phone through telesales.   In a renewed effort to support the custom installation market, and the client too, Sony’s ES products will no longer be offered online or through telesales.

    For the consumer, this means that Sony’s ES products can be purchased through only custom electronics installation companies (such as UltraMedia), who are authorized to sell Sony products.   This change benefits the end user because custom installation companies are well versed at helping their clients determine which products will best suit their needs. And, if the end user chooses to take advantage of custom installation, he or she can rest assured that the product(s) purchased will properly integrated into the rest of the entertainment system.

    For more information on Sony and their product offerings, please visit the Sony website at www.sony.com

  • Building Quiet Environments

    Building Quiet Environments

    August 4, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    UltraMedia , Inc. will present a class called Building Quiet Environments at METROCON10 on August 12 and 13, 2010.  Attending this hour-long class will earn attendees (which will consist of interior designers, builders, and architects) one Continuing Education Unit (CEU).

    In today’s hectic and fast-paced world, homeowners need and want a space that is peaceful and tranquil—a quiet environment where they can relax and enjoy their home without noisy interruptions.  Our course, Building Quiet Environments outlines the fundamentals of sound control and gives examples of noise pollution affecting today’s society.  Participants will discuss key principles related to sound isolation and the “why, what, and how” of components associated with controlling sound.  Construction materials, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing considerations will also be discussed, while the participant is guided through the step-by-step process of building a media room.  Attendees will learn how to locate an Electronics Systems Contractor (ESC) (which is what we are) and what questions to ask when partnering with an ESC.

    Course presenter (our employee), Brent Thomas, said, “I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned about managing sound in homes.  Each home presents a unique set of challenges with regard to sound.  But when designers, architects, and builders are aware of these challenges going into a project, they’ll find a variety of ways to manage it at each step along the building or remodeling process.”

    Brent should present a great class.  He’s a semi-retired stand-up comic, and is bound to put his shine on the course material.  We’ll have about 90 attendees.  I’ve contacted our sound-control vendors, and have a wonderful array of examples—everything from ceiling suspension brackets to floor de-couplers, to sound dampening wall treatments. 

    Please see www.kinetics.com  and  www.auralex.com for more information.

  • CEDIA’s Survival of the Fittest – The Value of Training

    CEDIA’s Survival of the Fittest – The Value of Training

    July 14, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) offers many opportunities for education, and I took one of their seminars today. (CEDIA-certified companies have met vigorous industry standards and have been formally educated and specially trained.)  Yes, we are a CEDIA-certified company, and have been since our inception. 

    Today’s topic was the advantage of CEDIA education.  CEDIA classes are set up like a university, with 100- to  400-level courses, and a test at the end of the educational requirements.  CEDIA has five colleges: Electronic Systems Business, Electronic Systems Customer Relations, Electronic Systems Designer, Electronic Systems Project Management, and Electronic Systems Technician.  Within each college there are different tracks.  For instance, in the Business College, you may choose from tracks that include finance, human resources, operational management, and entrepreneurship.  Each college offers core curriculum and electives that allow an individual to receive an education that will help them most in their particular career. 

    As one of the two guest presenters said today in the webinar, “We are certified professionals.  Not just a bunch of guys doing their hobby.  We are working in our chosen career.”  Our passion does drive us, but we must keep up—for many in the AV industry, passion makes keeping up with the technical aspect of the business fairly easy—at least as far as motivation goes.  But not all AV company owners are as passionate about running a business.  But you’ve got to run your business if you’re going to stay in business.  Education is essential for business to stay alive.

    As the second presenter put it, “We are not of the trunk-slammer variety--the only way they can get the job is to lower their bid.  We know we can’t stay in business without at least 35% profit.”  And, “Without CEDIA we would not have the level of professionalism we have in the industry right now.  CEDIA guys will be the ones that will survive this economic crisis.”

    We want to understand, learn and know everything we can--especially in a small company like ours, where job responsibilities overlap on a regular basis.  Please learn more about CEDIA at www.cedia.org.

  • Free HD TV from DirecTV

    Free HD TV from DirecTV

    June 30, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Anyone who has high definition service through DirecTV should call and ask for free HD service for 24 months.

    DirecTV is currently advertising free HD for life for new customers.  But what they aren’t advertising (to my knowledge) is that existing customers may qualify for a $10-a-month credit to span two years.  The requirement: autopay; you must either have it currently, or agree to sign up for it.  And, of course, a caveat: if you already have monthly credits appearing on your account for other things, you may not qualify for the free HD until the existing credits expire.

    You can sign up for auto-pay online at: http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/content/My_Account

    The $10(plus sales tax)-per-month savings is better done with a phone call to DTV Customer Service: 800-347-3288.

    Doing what we can for our clients!

  • Hunter Douglas

    Hunter Douglas

    June 16, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Met with the Hunter Douglas reps this week.  They decided to pull their shades down on resellers like Home Depot. 

    The reason?  While the manually operated shades sold well, they were definitely entry level.  And the motorized shades they sold?  Well, Home Depot could them install them with no problem. 

    But what about control?  The customer had no way to control their new shades when the installers left, because the installers didn’t know how to integrate the control of the motorized shades into the house system. 

    Because it is Hunter Douglas’ policy to not leave a customer hanging due their own choice of unqualified reseller, it was getting more than problematic, trying to find one-off solutions for individual customers faced with the integration challenge.

    The solution?  Target custom installation and control companies like UltraMedia to sell their shades.  We sell the shades, we install the shades, and we make sure they are programmed and properly integrated into the house system.

    (This challenge is replicated across most do-it-yourself technology-driven installations.  Clients call because they bought a TV on sale at Best Buy, but they can’t get it to work.  Or the cheap mounting bracket broke after two weeks.)

    Scoop on Hunter Douglas: endless shade color choices.  Basically, they can produce a shade in any Benjamin Moore paint color.  Like all shade companies right now, they are looking for motor solutions.  Low-voltage motors are easier to wire for and install, but the high-voltage motors are quieter.

    We currently carry Lutron shades.  Hunter Douglas hopes that we’ll consider selling their shades.  A little more research before that decision is made.

    To learn more about the motorized Lutron shades we offer:
    http://www.lutron.com/Products/ShadingSystems/Fabrics/Pages/Overview.aspx

  • DirecTV Trumped U-verse

    DirecTV Trumped U-verse

    June 9, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    We started seeing some clients switch to AT&T’s U-verse for the movie-sharing feature that U-verse offered.  First trump: not only can you now share recorded programming between receivers, it can be done in high definition.  U-verse is limited by its bandwidth—can’t handle unlimited HD.  Second trump: DirecTV is very control friendly; U-verse’s control poses problems at best.  U-verse’s units are designed to sit on top of a box TV.  When asked what they plan to do about the majority of TVs that are now hanging on walls . . . no answer.  Control from a universal remote is problematic—even moreso when using IR.

    On the other hand, DirecTV’s Whole-Home DVR allows you to share recorded programs among all of your receivers.  You’ll have to get at least one new DVR receiver if you don’t already have one with an Internet connection on the back.  You can share among as many as 15 receivers.  DirecTV offers more information their website: www.directv.com/wholehome.

    From the beginning: about a month ago, we loaded the beta software onto our showroom DVRs—the shared files appeared in italics.  Some remotely-viewed recordings were jittery, and the control signals to and from the remote receivers was frustratingly delayed.  This seems to be resolved with DirecTV’s revised software.

    When we decided to commit to the $3 monthly fee, for $99 DirecTV replaced the dish’s LNB (the piece that catches the reflected signal off the dish), the multiswitch, and all the adapters on the DVRs/receivers.  That was a better deal than our own wholesale cost.

    Requirement: you must have at least one HD-DVR, and the other sharing units can be HD receivers only.  At least one location must have Internet access, and one coax jack.  This eliminates the need for 2 coax jacks for the dual-tuner recording feature of the DVR.  So, TV locations with just one coax and no Internet?  No problem, as now the Internet comes across the coax and plugs into the DirecTV receiver after being split out by the new one-wire adapter.

    It might be easier to explain over the phone.  Please call if I’ve left you confused!

  • Lutron in the House

    Lutron in the House

    June 2, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Pat went to Lutron training, and came away so excited about their new RadioRA 2 system that he bought two demo packages for our home.  Out with the X-10!  The biggest challenge was the beta software.  Why do manufacturers release beta anything?  It is only bad advertising.

    Anyway, we hired our electrician to switch out the switches.  In our 2100 square-foot house, it took less than a day.  Not bad, for a job well done, and done well.  We used the new Lutron switches as we would normal switches (decora style, of course), and waited for Pat to do the programming.  The majority of time invested in this project was  1) determining what lighting scenes we wanted; i.e.: evening, cleaning, romantic, panic; and   2) dealing with beta software, which was a matter of getting an experienced Lutron tech support person on the phone (5 times) and a firmware update.  (I’m only telling the truth.)  The final step was labeling the buttons on the keypads.

    Automated lighting offers some great features.  For instance, we were out of town for nine days, and by using “vacation” mode, we were able to make it look like we were home in the evening.  There are other beneficial options: “panic” mode will flash the outside lights, making it easy for emergency personnel to find our home—it will also turn on all the lights in the house to provide adequate lighting for moving from room to room in an emergency.  Of course, there’s the sheer ease of “evening,” “romantic,” and “party.” Really, the possibilities are endless, and we keep coming up with new ideas.  There are many styles of keypads and touch screens, and custom colors available for switches and wall plates.

    Visit http://www.lutron.com/Products/WholeHomeSystems/RadioRA2/Pages/Overview.aspx for information on the RadioRA2 system.  But don’t forget to visit the home page, to see the other innovative products Lutron offers.

  • Vienna Acoustics

    Vienna Acoustics

    May 26, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    I feel dishonest.  My pen name is A. V. Geureu, and it couldn’t be further from the truth.  So, I must confess.  I’m no guru.  In fact, as the company bookkeeper, it makes very little sense for me to blog about technology.  But blogging has been added to my job description.  And, it will be a wonderful opportunity to learn.  I’ll become an expert at interviewing the technically savvy ones here.

    This entry will be on my own.  We just added a wonderful pair of Vienna Acoustics Musics (with a Poetry center channel) to our showroom.  We’re down to one sub, but I’m sure there is another on the way.  In the beginning, like so many, I was against floor-standing speakers.  I thought they took up too much space, and couldn’t be designed around.  I lost that argument a long time ago, and over time, have come to appreciate the beauty of in-room sound.  These Musics are amazing.  Not only are they crafted of beautiful sapele wood (a hard wood from tropical Africa), but they sound heavenly.  From anywhere in the building!

    Not having the special ear so many in the industry are gifted with, I decided a long time ago that I needed my own litmus test for a good speaker.  This may sound absurd, but for me, it’s how it sounds when you’re not in the sweet spot.  How does it sound three feet away from the sweet spot?  Two rooms away?  In the bathroom?  It doesn’t matter where I am, the sound these Musics create is impeccable.  I don’t know how they do it, but where cheap speakers make sounds unrecognizable and unbearable from the next room (or behind a closed door), these Vienna Acoustics manage to deliver not only reference-quality sound in the sweet spot, but incredibly clean and full sound no matter where in the building I travel.  I really, really like that—and recommend a listen!

    Vienna Acoustics

  • We Celebrate Our Second ISF Video Calibration Certification!

    We Celebrate Our Second ISF Video Calibration Certification!

    May 19, 2010  |  Author: A. V. Geureu

     

    Two weeks, and we’re still congratulating PatM on his recent ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) certification.   (PatJ already has his.)  And with all that PatM’s been doing lately, it’s quite a trophy for him.  We upgraded our ISF calibration equipment at the end of last year, and that, of course, involved not only a large expenditure, but an equally large investment in time to learn the accompanying new software.

    We love to ISF video displays.  Projectors, flat-panels, CRTs. 

    Some readers may appreciate an introduction: ISF video calibration will produce the most accurate image, with the truest colors, film-like picture qualities, and often brings with it much longer life to the display being calibrated.  A well-done ISF can make a home theater look like a system costing thousands more.

    Speaking of green, your flat panel will use up to 40% less energy (and your friends will be green with envy).

    A little background: when TV programs are produced, then transferred from film to DVD, the process is precisely monitored on video displays calibrated to industry standards.  Your video display can accurately reproduce the full, original quality of those programs only if it is calibrated to the same industry standards.  You can enjoy the full quality of your new (or older) TV, monitor, or projector with professional calibration. 

    Some installers claim that they’ve adjusted a new TV/projector for its best performance (using only their eyes?), but unless the unit has been professionally calibrated, it won’t look as good as it can.  Remember how different all those TVs look at the store or the sports bar, when all were receiving the same feed?  This demonstrates the non-standard adjustment of each display.  Manufacturers adjust their models to look as appealing as possible (brightest) next to competing models on a showroom floor.  They usually set the user and technician service controls for the highest apparent light output.

    Why aren’t the units calibrated to industry standards before they ship?  Let’s blame it on environmental influences, beginning with shipping.  Just moving a unit can cause a shift in performance.  Also influencing the output are initial aging (the first hours of use), and even the unique lighting effects of the viewing room.  Setting each unit to industry standards before shipping would add greatly to the cost of your unit, and would need to be reset anyway!

    A video display is the last step in the visual experience.   Source gear, distribution, and cabling all contribute to the final picture quality.  But if the display isn’t set to industry standards, you’re not seeing exactly what was intended by the filmmakers.   A precisely calibrated video system does full justice to the high-quality video signal.  It can give you picture quality approaching, or even exceeding, that of local cinemas (usually the latter).  And, a mis-calibrated display mangles the picture miserably.  Calibration is one of the most effective and least expensive upgrades you can make to your video system.

    A calibrated display will:

    • display a sharper-focused, full-resolution image;
    • show full detail in the darkest and brightest parts of all scenes;
    • be properly matched to your video system and viewing environment;
    • maintain accurate color balance at all picture light levels;
    • produce a full range of accurate colors, including flesh tones, grass, sky, and sports jerseys;
    • have a cinema theater “film look;”
    • minimize picture artifacts (distortions);
    • be easier on your eyes; and
    • last up to twice as long as a display with factory default settings.

    We’ve priced our ISFs competitively, starting at $300.        www.imagingscience.com