Tag Archives | HDTV

The Curse of 3D TV

(At Panasonic’s IFA booth: People using 3D glasses and monitors to watch the live women in front of their faces.)

If you determine the big story here at the IFA tech show here in Berlin based on raw square footage in the booths, there’s no question what it is: 3D TV is everywhere.

The massive booths of consumer-electronics giants such as Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and Toshiba are dominated by 3D. There’s 3D that requires pricey active-shutter glasses. There’s 3D that uses cheaper passive specs. (There’s even 3D from the Fraunhofer Institute that doesn’t need glasses.) There are 3D games and 3D Blu-Ray players and 3D soccer broadcasts and 3D LCD sets and 3D plasmas and 3D projectors and giant walls made out of 3D screens.

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Why I Said No to Free, Off-the-Air HDTV

No doubt, watching a TV show or mobile in high definition is miraculous. The picture is sharper than sharp (so much so that like it or not, you can see the pores on an actor’s face).

I’m a DirecTV subscriber, but I’m too cheap to pay their extra fee for high definition service, so I decided to try an HDTV indoor antenna.

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YouTube Leanback: YouTube That Looks Like TV

The average American watches five hours of TV a day. For YouTube, it’s more like five minutes–a fact which the folks at YouTube don’t like a bit. They think is due to it being too hard to consumer their service in mass quantities. So they’re launching a new service–which the company showed as a sneak peek back at Google’s I|O conference in May–called YouTube Leanback. (Yup, this is YouTube’s second new version of the day: I saw it and the new YouTube Mobile at a press briefing this morning.)

Leanback is an expansion of the basic idea in an earlier service called YouTube XL. It runs in any browser that supports Flash–iPads need not apply–and is designed to make watching YouTube feel a bit like watching a personalized TV channel with a really slick program guide that can be controlled by keyboard. Videos display in full-screen mode, and you press the Up Arrow key to search and the Down Arrow key to reach playback controls, a feed of videos tailored to your interests (which are search results if you’ve just searched) and a browsable directory of videos in major categories.

Unlike the revamped YouTube Mobile, Leanback isn’t trying to give you all the power of standard YouTube in a new format. It’s YouTube stripped down to its bare essentials, and judging from my brief hands-on time with it so far, it’s pretty nifty. Folks who have connected a PC to an HDTV will obviously be intrigued by Leanback–and it will run on Google TV devices once they’re available–but YouTube execs at the briefing said they think people who watch the service on a laptop or desktop PC display will like it, too.

Here’s YouTube’s video demo of Leanback–if you try the service, let us know what you think.


The Straight Skinny on HDTV Calibration

A while back I gave you some advice for calibrating your PC monitor or high-definition TV. I thought it was pretty good stuff, but the very foundations of the Internet began to rumble and experts started writing. (I never know who’s reading my newsletter.) Here’s what I learned.

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Consumers Put 3D TV to the Test

We’re hearing a lot about 3D television these days– from TV manufacturers, directors, journalists and pundits. But do consumers like it? And will they pay for it?

To find out, I convened a mini focus group of adults in their 30s, 40s, and 50s,; a teenager; and a pair of kids under 10. We met at the Samsung Experience store in New York City a few weeks ago. After watching a wild assortment of clips–from The Daily Show to a Dunkin Donuts commercial to Monsters vs. Aliens–they had a mildly favorable impression. But no one was jumping up to buy a new TV and a pile of expensive active-shutter LCD glasses.
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In Standard Def, Mass Effect 2 Has Trouble With Words

Count me among the legions of gamers who are totally sucked in to Mass Effect 2. It’s not the combat — a Gears of War-Star Wars cocktail — but the branching, choose-your-own dialog that hooked me. I’ve probably spent more time conversing with the galaxy’s countless creatures than I have shooting up baddies.

Unfortunately, players who own standard definition televisions — even big ones — complain that the text in Mass Effect 2 is too small to read. There’s a lengthy thread on the topic in developer Bioware’s forums, and Ars Technica’s Ben Kuchera, who picked up on the story, said he’s getting hit with e-mails from upset gamers.

High definition allows game developers to include text in smaller sizes, freeing up screen real estate for other, arguably more important things. But in Mass Effect 2, text is front-and-center. The game routinely bombards players with conversation choices, many of them crucial to the outcome of the game. In addition, players can spend hours in the game reading up on alien races, unexplored planets, historic locations, notable people and the (un)scientific phenomena that give characters their special powers. I can imagine how frustrating illegible text would be.

This isn’t the first time text posed a problem for gaming in standard definition. In 2008, players complained that the font in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts was too hard to read. Originally, developer Rare said the issue would be too expensive to fix, but they ultimately caved and released an update. I ran into this issue with several games a few years ago, before making the leap to HD.

The question is, should game developers put in extra man hours to accommodate standard definition text? For now, I think an option for big text is reasonable. Leichtman Research Group says nearly 50 percent of U.S. homes have at least one HDTV, not enough to leave stragglers out in the cold for a text-heavy game like Mass Effect. I don’t know the technical challenges adding optional large fonts to a game, but Bioware isn’t rushing; The company’s message board moderator said small text was a design choice, and said not to expect a fix in the near future.

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3D TV for the Rest of Us? Maybe Next Year

When Las Vegas cab drivers start asking you about the 3D TVs at CES, you know 3D is a big deal. The question is, how soon will it become a real deal for most of us?

There’s no question that 3D content is coming. Last month, the Blu-ray Disc Association announced the specs for 3D content on Blu-ray; ESPN plans to broadcast 85 events this year over a new 3D channel; Panasonic and DirecTV announced 3D delivery plans, as did Sony in conjunction with the Discovery Channel and IMAX.  Everyone is buoyed by the phenomenal success of Jim Cameron’s 3D blockbuster, Avatar, which is introducing many to the artistic possibilities of today’s sophisticated technology. “This is not your father’s 3D” was a mantra for attendees at a CES panel called 3D: Hope or Hype?

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