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Movies and TV

Problems, now in high def!

Tonight I set about setting up my HD DVD player. I had an HDMI cable hanging around, a free HDMI port in my receiver, and I figured out a way to map all of the different cables needed to get where I wanted to be.

DVD to HDMI Input 1

TV/Sat to TV/Sat Component and Optical

Xbox to Video 1, Component and Optical

Media Center to HDMI and regular audio

After downloading my manual and going through it, I found out that my receiver only does HDMI switching for video, no audio! CRAPPY. Also, I only have 2 Optical inputs, and 1 Coaxial input.

This also made me realize that I have to get a Coax cable for my Cable Box’s audio, and I’m totally out of HDMI and Optical slots, meaning no PS3 or Blu Ray player in my future.

So after several hours (literally from 8pm to 11pm) I finally managed to hack something together. First I had to dig up the remote from the basement so that I could get at some of the advanced features which require complicated button mashing to get what you need to do. Once I had figured out the button dance that you need to do to get this input assigned to this function I was actually feeling rather proud of myself.

Then it was on to my universal remote.

I’ve got a Harmony 880 universal remote, which replaced our old 660 when it died. I haven’t had to upgrade anything in ages, so I went in to the software (which is awesome), and did all of my changes, renaming things and making my life easier.

Then I tried to update the actual remote, but I kept getting an error saying I needed to upgrade the firmware. A quick firmware upgrade, and I tried again, only to get the same darned error.

Thinking maybe it was a software problem, I went to the Logitech site and downloaded the latest version of their software, and all seemed to work (I was 2 versions behind).

After trying out the remote I found a couple of things that didn’t work perfectly, so I adjusted them, until I was happy.

Then it was just a matter of testing everything. There’s some level issues with regular TV, but so far everything is pretty good.

I admit it now. High Definition DVD is freaking cool. The quality is incredible, but that’s not the REALLY cool part about HD DVD. Menus. Yeah, menus! Unlike with a standard DVD, HD DVD menus overlay on the movie you’re watching, and you can move around in them while the movie plays in the background. Chapter Selection is particularly cool that way. It makes those little menu screens that you’ve come to expect in movies kind of redundant.

The quality is pretty amazing too. I threw Star Wars Episode III in to compare to 300, and the difference is pretty spectacular. I’m still not convinced that Joe Q Public, who brings a $3,000.00 TV home and shoves the plug from the wall right into it, is going to really notice the difference, High Def is still an early adopter’s toy.

The player does what I really wanted it to do though, it upconverts standard def DVD’s really well. I was quite impressed with the difference in Star Wars between my HD DVD player and even my Media Center (which does a decent job on its own).

Time will tell though if the money that Sony spent to kill off HD DVD was good or not. For now I’m pretty happy with my little find, and once the prices for media plummet I’ll be even happier!

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{democracy:3}

By Brian Garside

Brian is a digital experience expert, and part time internet superhero. He focuses on digital first design, digital strategies, content management, website usability, and user experience. He was part of the team behind BalanceDo, the co-founder of All New Comics, and the chief strategist at NorthIQ.

3 replies on “Problems, now in high def!”

I have to agree with you here. I always kind of thought HD was something the industry wanted us to do…but people weren’t really all that excited about. Some people get excited — and you definitely need it for the new big screens — but generally, I never thought ‘wow, I HAVE to have that’.

What I find with our HD set is, you never really notice the quality of the image (meaning bad) when you had standard def, until you have see some of the channels that get HD, and get it right. Now when we watch TV on the main level it doesn’t look as good as it used to. So my advice for anyone is, if your set looks fine now, don’t get HD unless you want the other to look crappy.

True, but the main problem with HD is that there’s still so little over the air HD content. On any given night of the dozen or so HD channels we get, there are one to three shows that are concurrently being broadcast in true HD.

Some channels like SportsNet upconvert everything, but that just means that they stretch and squish SD signals to fake HD on them.

When you DO get a true HD signal, like I stumbled across for the Academy Awards, it is incredible. It turns your TV into a window instead of a screen.

Like I said though, the real problem is that a regular old fashioned anamorphic DVD is “good enough”, and most consumers won’t care enough to replace their DVD collections for High Def versions.

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