Streaming Movies

Streaming movies

Streaming movies is becoming easier as time goes on, taking into account how cheap streaming services are, why would want to rent a movie anymore? If you know how to turn your TV on and off and have some basic knowledge of navigating your TV or streaming box, you should have a streaming account.

The only problem with today’s technology is that there are so many ways to stream movies, so what is the best way? To answer that, where do you plan the play the content? In a home theatre room? A lounge room where only a soundbar is connected? A bedroom? Different situations will allow or even dictate different technologies to use.

Streaming sites like Netflix or Stan are available on many Streaming Standifferent devices in the form of an app. They are accessible on a smart TVs, Blu-ray players, Apple TV, Xbox, Sony Play Station, Google Chromecast, Telstra TV, Fetch TV, any many more devices. There are other streaming sites like Curiosity Stream that currently is only available on Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox, and through Google PlayStore.

As 99% of movies are transmitted in surround sound and some even in 4K (on Netflix with the correct account), staying with the mainstream content providers like Stan and Netflix, what room are you play content in? If it is in a home theatre room, one of the best ways to stream is using a smart Blu-ray player. A Blu-ray player is the sole reason to play movies, in high-resolution and surround sound; this would be your best option, follow that would be a gaming console like PS4 or Xbox, using a TV will most of the time (check the TV specs) down convert surround sound to stereo. For the living room or lounge room where and sound quality is not as important, streaming directly from the TV is ok, the same can be said for the bedroom. The time you would mainly use an Apple TV or Google Chromecast is when the content being different or is directly related to the device you are using, for example streaming Curiosity Stream or casting a phone or tablet screen onto the TV to show photos. It is also possible to use these devices to stream Stan or Netflix but check the specs; not all devices will output 4K or surround sound, so user beware, there are some helpful links at the end of this blog.

Streaming free content is also possible, but Seebo Maxxdepending on how the material is used, this will dictate if it is legal or not. With current laws (early 2017), if content is downloaded and stored locally, that is illegal, but if the content is streamed and not saved, that is 100% legal. There are a few ways this can be archived, the easiest way we have found is using a device called Seebo, this is a plug and play solution like Apple TV, just connect it to the internet and away it goes. With Seebo there so no monthly fee, just purchase the box and that is it. The upside of Seebo is that the content is free, it can playback in surround sound, the downside is currently it does not support 4K and the content can vary in quality, overall worth looking at.

ACMA – http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/streaming-services—get-the-full-story

Seebo – www.seebo.com.au

Apple TV – https://support.apple.com/kb/SP724?locale=en_US

Google Chromecast – https://www.google.com.au/intl/en_ie/chromecast/tv/chromecast/tech-specs/

Samsung Blu-ray player – http://www.samsung.com/au/audio-video/uhd-blu-ray-player-k8500/

PS4 Q/A – http://blog.us.playstation.com/2016/09/08/ps4-pro-the-ultimate-faq/

Disclaimer: At the time of writing this blog not all devices will output 4K, HDR or Dolby Vision picture. Not all TV’s will output surround sound audio and many devices will not output Dolby Atmos immersive audio.

TV lifter

TV and projector lifter

TV coming out of the floorHiding away a TV with a TV lifter is a practical solution to a potential eyesore, even hiding away a projector and even a projector screen is an excellent solution to uncluttering a room to make it truly multipurpose. There are many devices available that can archive this, but it is not as straight forward as you think, a professional A/V installer will be required for this kind of work as depending on your requirement, the amount of work will vary to install the device required.

There will be some situations due to the cavity space that a particular process may not be possible, or a different type of solutions is needed for the same outcome, worse case would be, for example, a flat roof where there is very little to no ceiling space.

Other solutions that can overcome this problem may be available, for instance, the TV to come out of the floor, or if it is in the bedroom, to have it come out at the end of the bed.

Common DesignsTV from Ceiling

Standard TV lifter designs are lifters that are installed in a cabinet. These types of lifters are common and can be straight forward to install. There types of lifters for TV’s and projectors and installed within the ceiling space. These situations where a television or projector lifter is to be installed in a ceiling space, the timber frame in the ceiling may need to redesign to accommodate the lifter.

Other Designs

TV coming out at the end of the bedOther designs available are TV lifters at the end of the bed that can raise out of a large bed frame. Also, that lift out of the floor, and out of a door frame too is possible. Each solution will raise its individual levels complexity to integrate, and they will vary amounting to the work required to complete.

Now we cannot leave out electric projector screens; they too are also possible hide away. There are a few different ways to do this, one being flush mount with the ceiling and the second will be to build a bulkhead around the case to hide away the casing of the screen.

We can help you with any TV or projector lifting solution.

HDMI over fibre optics lead

long HDMI runs, over fibre optics cable

HDMI cable has come a long way from the early days where they were first HDMI logointroduced. Originally HDMI cables only supported video and required a second cable to carry the audio, and then not to mention the limitations on distance. Though with addition equipment, that all be overcome, but some good news is on the horizon. A manufacturer has developed a hybrid HDMI cable and although there are other versions available from different manufacturers, what sets this one apart from the rest is it has been certified to transmit 18Gbps (in line with current quality HDMI leads), it has been developed and is currently for sale. HDMI over fibre optics is a relatively new technology, and as all HDMI cables currently use copper conductors to transmit the video and audio (with 19 conductors/wires in each lead), there is a lot of information that needs to be transmitted. However, with the advent of HDMI over fibre optics, distance limitations are virtually eliminated, there is only a single lead which also makes the lead much thinner as well.HDMI over fibre optics lead

How HDMI over fibre optics work is that there is a microchip in the head of the connector on each end that transforms the electrical signals into light and back again on the other end. Light is used to transmit the information as opposed to copper conductors, this is why distance is eliminated, copper wires can induce interference and the longer the cable, the more the signal degrades as well. So most cables will be designed to be directional and will be marked, the physical size of the microchip of a fibre optics HDMI lead is also no bigger than then size of a standard sized plug so really the only way to know if it’s a fibre optics HDMI lead will be either the lead is over 20 meters long, or the cable itself will be thinner than usual.

HDMI over data cableThere are other systems on the market currently that extends HDMI signals over 20 meters, but they use external transmitters and receivers which in some cases is unrealistic to use and not to mention bulky as well. The head of the new HDMI leads is still about the same size with the microprocessor built-in, it still looks like a conventional lead but comes in various lengths.

At the time of writing this blog, the only downside with this new type of lead is the price; a 12-meter lead can set you back $450, a 30 meter is about $890, then for those really long runs, a 305 meter lead is $2,800.

Conclusion

This type of lead is a very good idea if you need a high definition picture to a TV outside from your home theatre system or in another room where conventional HDMI lead is unable to reach, it will simplify the installation with a single lead without worrying about any other converters or boosters.

Sources

http://www.hdmi.org

http://www.soundandvision.com/content/dpl-labs-certifies-new-tributaries-optical-hdmi-cable-18gbps#8FyXBJAzXAhjddUH.97

http://www.tributariescable.com/products/UHDO

THX logo

Just like Dolby Digital, The THX experence

What is THX in a nutshell?

THX is a set of specifications, it’s comes fromStar Wars DVD cover George Lucas, the producer of “Star Wars” and was developed after “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” to enhance the experience of movie watching, George hired an audio scientist by the name of Tomlinson Holman to look into ways of improving audio capabilities from the movie set to the theatre and from there THX was born.

THX stands for Tomlinson Holman’s eXperiment.

THX also includes a sets guidelines for room acoustics, reverberation time, background noise, and noise isolation to ensure that every detail of the sonic presentation is accurately delivered the way the filmmaker intended. But it’s not just about sound. THX sets standards for viewing angles, projectors and onscreen lighting levels, to make sure that the best possible image is THX diagramalways displayed.  It is designed to be played at a reference level, these are just the basics and can get very involved.

What is Reference Level?

Reference Level is a specific loudness (when turning the volume up, the volume will reach “0” and keep going +1, +2 ect, “0” is reference level for all THX Certified Receivers) where no detail in the audio is lost and no artefacts like audio clipping or distortion is introduced, the system can be driven at this level without any effect at all. This level of loudness could annoy your neighbours and some family members so at times it is you may necessary to turn the volume down below reference level.

Listening to below Reference Level.

It maybe necessary to listen to a movie below reference level so as not to annoy other people around you in other rooms, doing so at times is a must but you as the viewer experiencing the movie will suffer, when lowering the volume you also lower the bass, the surround effects, and then the experience. To combat this problem THX has come up with THX Loudness Plus. How loudness plus works is when you adjust the volume below reference level, the surround speakers are changed automatically so detail in the audio is preserved and you still can experience the all the effects at any volume setting.

What types of THX certifications are there?

THX have a number of certification and there based on room size;Marantz Receiver

THX Select2 – this requires a room size of 56 cubic meters with a viewing distance of three to three and a half meters.

THX Ultra2 – this requires a room size of 85 cubic meters with a viewing distance of three and a half meters, THX Ultra2 is a 7.1 extension of the original THX Ultra specification.

THX I/S Plus Systems – Certified Systems (AV Receiver + Speaker Bundle) have the power to fill a small home theatre or room where the viewing distance from the screen is 1.8 to 2.5 meters.

Why use THX certified speakers?

There are many categories of THX certification when it comes to speakers, but reasons to choose any certified speaker over a stock stand speaker system is;

  • Crisp, clear sound fills your room: THX Ultra2, MK Sound SpeakersSelect2 and Multimedia speaker certification categories deliver amazing performances based on your room size.
  • Intelligible dialogue and ambient sounds: THX Certified Front Speakers feature Controlled Directivity, both vertically and horizontally for the best audio experience wherever you sit.
  • Smooth panning from your TV: THX Certified Surround Speakers feature THX Technologies to ensure the best possible playback experience.
  • Powerful studio volume: THX Reference Level delivers studio volume and fidelity with low distortion and noise.
  • Easily mix and match brands: With a single standardized bass configuration, you can easily and confidently use any THX Certified product together.

THX Video games

Some video games are produced in THX, the results will speak for itself when playing an action game with effects from the sides and behind, it’ll make your head turn.

Conclusion

There are many sound systems on the market and they are NOT all created evenly, so serious considerations need to take place of your requirements of your new home theatre system, is the room dedicated for the home theatre or are you using your lounge room? Are you willing to spend a minimum of twenty thousand dollars and of course much more if required to product the correct environment? Do you want to create an experience or just make some noise? Lots of thought needs to go into a system before even thinking of starting, and consulting an expert that will come out to your home is an absolute must.

Sources

http://www.thx.com/

http://www.thx.com/press-releases/new-thx-certified-games-added-in-2004/

http://www.audioholics.com/audio-technologies/thx-select-and-thx-ultra2-certification-general-questions

Heos Soundbar

How To Select The Perfect Soundbar

There are many soundbars on the market these days. From a standalone basic soundbar to soundbars that can be connected to the internet and incorporate all the bells and whistles of a full home theatre system. However, selecting the correct one to suit your lifestyle can be confusing, so which is the right one for you.

The base model, standalone soundbarBoston soundbar

A basic soundbar will consist of the soundbar itself and a remote control, very basic indeed. Prices usually start from $369 for a quality basic model like the Boston Acoustics TVee 10, but you will find other “no frills” brands cheaper. How they work is a fibre optics cable out of the TV and straight into the soundbar. To adjust the volume on the soundbar, the remote control that came with the soundbar is used. The next model up will come with a subwoofer to give you better sound effects, some more oomph to the movie. The subwoofers are wireless from the soundbar itself, so only a power point is required.

Soundbars with processing power

Next, in the list are soundbars with some kind processing. They will incorporate features like Bluetooth or NFC (near field communications), HDMI inputs, USB inputs and different sound effect settings. They will also start boasting about all the technologies behind them like audio beaming, auto lip-sync and even Dolby Atmos, as well as other technologies alike. You would expect to pay around $500 and more for a quality brand, of course, less for “no frills” brands.

Heos Sound BarThe networkable soundbar

For those that want a flexible soundbar that can do just about everything except wash the dishes. A networkable soundbar like the Denon Heos HomeCinema is what you might need. They incorporate everything above including networking capabilities. What this means is the soundbar can be controlled off a smart device like an iPhone/iPad, Android device. They can access internet radio as well as directly stream music from your device. Volume from the TV can be controlled directly from the TV remote so no second remote control is needed. The Heos soundbar is $1499, other equivalent brands with will vary in price around this figure.

Conclusion

Depending on your budget and requirements, there is a soundbar that will suit all situations. There are many different brands; they come in many different sizes as well. They can also come custom built to suit your TV perfectly if you are willing to spend the money. However, do not think for a second that a soundbar is as good as a home theatre system. Do not get sold on the idea that a soundbar will sound as good as a proper full home theatre system. They never will, for example, a Dolby Atmos soundbars will never work properly because the room it will live in will never be the right shape for the audio to bounce off. There has been a few article from ACA is an excellent demonstration of retail store attitude is to only SELL SELL SELL. A soundbar is an excellent solution to a common problem and should only be used as a substitution for TV speakers only. The reason being is that TV’s now lack the depth for decent size speakers and, as a result, they lack sound quality. A soundbar will always entirely fill that position. So next time when your shopping for a soundbar, consider what you want to achieve first before purchasing one.

Soundbar testing

https://www.choice.com.au/electronics-and-technology/home-entertainment/home-theatre-systems/reviews-and-tests/soundbars

Wi-Fi Vs Hard Wired Home Network and the Internet

With the advancement of wireless technology, how relevant is hard Marantz LAN backwiring your home to access the internet? You may be surprised to hear but it’s more important than ever. It is extremely important to ensure data passes through without interference to your Foxtel box, home theatre system, your TV, gaming systems like the PS3 or PS4 to enable streaming services like Netflix and Stan and stream music without dropouts too.

More and More internet capable equipment

We only need to look back about 5 year ago at how many devices we had that connected to the internet and then wireless devices in general, not as many as today right. Today we have everything from TV’s, home theatre systems, gaming consoles, phones, tablets (iPad and android), multi room audio systems and now even our watches can connect to the internet (apple and android watches), no doubt future internet capable fridge’s and washing machines will become a lot more price comparative, and then who knows what else will be internet capable.

So as more technology is introduced into our homes, our use if the internet will only increase, we cannot escape that, so a well-built infrastructure is necessary to maintain proper connection otherwise problems from slow to no connection at each/all devices will occur.

A well designed system

So we’ve established that the infrastructure is important, but where and how to start? If a device has both options to hard wire as well as wireless, always choose the hard wire option first if possible, only then will you be guaranteed that you will have the best connection possible, wireless should only be used as a last resort or if you cannot hard wire your device like a phone or tablet.

Apple TV backDevices like Foxtel boxes, TV’s, home theatre systems, computers, gaming consoles and most portable music systems (multi room audio systems) are all capable of being hard wired, if they are not hard wired, issues can develop from the device constantly buffering (trying to catch up) to the connection failing, especially noticeable if streaming HD movies from a NAS system internally (within your home) or externally using services like YouTube, Netflix or Stan.

The work involved to hard wire your equipment

Hard wiring your devices is not as simple as it sounds, unless your equipment is in the same room as your modem/router you can go ahead and plug it in and away you go. Australian standards in wiring rules exist everyone and if these are not followed, hard wiring your devices will become a waste of time and money. Without confusing you too much, data talking is like fax tones and for those of you that remember what a fax machine looks like and sounded like, it’s the same idea, if noise is introduced into the cabling due to poor installation, this will interfere with the sending and receiving data and hence being a waste of time and money.LAN port

Conclusion

Wi-Fi is a great idea but should only be used as a last resort, hard wiring all other devices will give you the best results for internet and data access, most equipment has a choice of either being wireless or hard wired, some are wireless only and some are hard wired only like Foxtel boxes for example.

HDMI to Cat6 Tx

How to send a Foxtel box into another room via HDMI, TV antenna or Data cabling part 2

Disadvantages are;

  • There is no built in option to change Foxtel channels from the second room without purchasing addition equipment.
  • HDMI modulator will cost more then an AV digital modulator, AV digital modulator use the yellow/red/white leads, there is a very noticeable picture quality difference between the two standard definition and high definition digital modulates.

Addition equipment to think about; if you would like the ability to change the Foxtel channel from the second, third, fourth ect room, there are devices available to connect to the TV antenna cabling to transmit the remote control back to the Foxtel box.

HDMI over cat6 data cable for multiple Foxtel boxes and longer runs

This option can solve all of the problems listed above, Single HDMI extension kitthere are also a few different options we have available by converting the HDMI into data cable.

The first advantage is, if you have a need to only transmit the Foxtel to one room, we can mix the HDMI signal from the Foxtel box on to a single data cable and then run the data cable up to 70 meters to any TV your home or outside into the man cave. This option is ideal for long runs and only to a single TV.

The second option is, locating all your Foxtel boxes in a single room/cupboard/comms cabinet so they are all out of sight and then mixing them all into a matrix bHDMI to Cat6 matixox. This type of system is too complex to explain in this blog but it can be expanded for example up to 8 inputs and 8 outputs, all 8 TVs have the ability to see all 8 inputs/devices connected, so in simple terms you could input up to 8 Foxtel boxes and HDMI to Cat6 matrix plantransmit to 8 TVs OR input 4 Foxtel, 2 Blu-ray players and a PS4 (as the PS4 uses Bluetooth for the controllers, you would have to be in the next room for this to work) and leave the last one spare for future use. This option gives you the ability to also change channels as well from all the rooms.

Disadvantage;

There is only one disadvantage, if you have an old TV connected and it is only a standard definition, the matrix will down scale the image to suit the oldest TV (to eliminate and conflicts in the picture), this means if you have a new HD TV or UHD TV, you will see the image in standard definition, this is only because if the old TV, once all the old TVs are updated, only then will the matrix transmit in full HD.

Summary;

Depending on your requirements will depend on the equipment need, there is no reason why you can not do any of this yourself, but you need to understand that the more complex the system you go the more critical it is to correctly install the equipment, if not done correctly damage can occur to the equipment or the equipment connected. we always recommend something like this be install be a repeatable home theatre installation company.

HD digital modulator

Send a Foxtel box to another room via HDMI, TV antenna or Data cabling part 1

Setting up Foxtel in another room is all legal so you don’t have to worry, setting up a second, third or more room without a second set top box has its advantages and disadvantages, but it is a great way for you to save money in the long term with a little bit of outlay upfront, there are a few different ways to achieve and this and it will all depend on your overall requirements. From running a single HDMI cable to another TV in another room, to mixing it in with the TV antenna system to using a 3rd party device specially designed for long cable runs and distribution.

HDMI cabling

The simplest and cheapest way is to run a HDMI lead from the Foxtel box to the second TV, but there are limits involved and some extra equipment is needed as well. If cheap and easy is all you want with high quality audio and video, then this option is all you will need, though on the back of the Foxtel box there is only one HDMI output, so how do we split the signal? Easy, we use a HDMI splitter. So to sum up this process we take a HDMI cable out of the Foxtel box and into a HDMI splitter, then one lead will go back into the original TV or amplifier and the second output lead will go into the new TV in the other room.

The advantages are;4 way HDMI splitter

  • High quality video and audio to both TVs.
  • Cheapest solution with without compromising the video and audio.

The disadvantages are;

  • All TVs will see the same channel.
  • HDMI has a limit of 20 meters, the longer the HDMI cable is, the more the will signal degraded, so the second, third or fourth TV would need to be in either in the next room or so for this fix to work.
  • There is no built in option to change Foxtel channels from the second room without addition equipment.

Addition equipment to think about; if you would like the ability to change the Foxtel channel from the second room, there are devices available to transmit the remote control back to the Foxtel box.

Mixing it with the TV antenna

Mixing the Foxtel in with the TV antenna eliminates some of the problems from the first solution. Once the HDMI signal form the Foxtel box (or RCA signal, the yellow/red/white lead) is mixed in with the TV antenna through a digital modulator, only then will every TV HD digital modulatorantenna point be able watch Foxtel on a digital channel, and because we used HDMI to mix into the TV antenna, we will see the Foxtel on all the other TVs in a high definition channel (unless we used the yellow/red/white lead, we will then only see it in standard definition).

Advantages are;

  • We are not limited to distance as much.
  • We can send the signal to all the TVs in the house.

See the Disadvantages on part 2 of this blog.

Different TV screens

What to look for when purchasing a new TV – TV Contrast Ratio, Part 2

Specifications to look for;

When looking at specifications, you’ll see numbers like 800:1 or 4,000:1 or 10,000:1, what this means is for example with the first ratio, the white section of the screen is 800 time brighter than the darkest black, so for projector you’ll see figure from 10,000:1 to 600,000:1 or even more, the bigger the number the larger the range is, and the better the image will be, a projector in a dark room is a very good example, but as soon as you turn the lights on, the picture gets washed out, so then to your eyes the contrast ratio will dramatically decrease as there is too much light in the room.

The controversy about contrast ratio;

You’ll see some websites stating that contrast ratio is not very important. We believe there wrong because a low contrast ratio TV will display a poor quality image (in gray scale) compared to a high contrast ratio screen. Why does this matter? It matters because in a dark seen you could very well likely see differences between one shade of gray/black to the next and this could become very annoying as compared to a high contrast ratio screen where all the black levels will blend in much better. You’ll notice when walking around a retail store that the TVs all are play bright scenes or cartoon movies, doing that is a lot easier to hide poor contrast ratio TV. Also taking the TV out of “shop mode” and into “home mode” will also make a difference to the picture quality.

Conclusion;Screen Contract

So to sum up, when looking at the contrast ratio between different manufactures, don’t just take note of the number numbers, find out how the that ratio was achieved as each manufacture will measure it differently.

TV Contrast Ratio Buying Advice;

Use the following as a general guide to comparing contrast ratios between HDTVs:

  1. Use contrast ratio only when comparing HDTVs made by the same manufacturer. For example, Sony to Sony, not Sony to Samsung.
  2. Compare either static to static or dynamic to dynamic but don‘t compare static to dynamic.
  3. Remember that contrast ratio as just one of many factors to consider when buying a HDTV. As measurements aren’t consistent from manufacturer to manufacturer, only then use your eyes to determine if the contrast meets your visual needs between different manufactures.

Sources;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrast_ratio

http://www.cnet.com/au/news/contrast-ratio-or-how-every-tv-manufacturer-lies-to-you/

http://www.rtings.com/info/contrast-ratio-tvs (you’ll notice the higher the model, the higher the contrast ratio will be)

http://tv.about.com/od/hdtv/a/contrastratio.htm

Contrast Ratio Part 1

Screen Contract

What to look for when purchasing a new TV – TV Contrast Ratio, Part 1

Contrast ratio – what is it?

Wikipedia defines it as “The contrast ratio is a property of a display system, defined as the ratio of the luminance of the brightest colour (white) to that of the darkest colour (black) that the system is capable of producing. A high contrast ratio is a desired aspect of any display. It has similarities with dynamic range.” A contrast ratio of a TV or projector is one of the important aspect of what makes up good a display as this is what will be most noticeable, When we look at buying a new TV nobody really looks at the specifications any more and in a retail environment we’re told to look at different screens to see what looks good to us.Contrast ratio

A basic explanation;

To basically explain what contrast ratio is, it is basically the difference between how black the dark images can get compared to how bright the white images it can get, and this is express as a ratio, so we would all think the higher the figure the better the picture, right? Unfortunately it is a bit more complicated that just that. There is no true standard measurement for measuring contrast ratio as there are a few different ways it can be done and each way will produce a different number while taking in conditions in like what pictures are on the screen that are measured and other factors like the lighting conditions.

When we look at a TV that is really bright, really vibrant the picture can look washed out and it will have really poor black levels, this is when the contrast settings on the TV are turned right up to max, and then the picture mode would be set to something like Dynamic. Although this may look like a good picture to the untrained eye, but in fact this kind of picture will have a blue ting to it, this is what’s setup in a retail environment to only sell TVs, only when when the contrast is turned down to the correct level as well as the brightness, then the TV will have better black levels and will not be as bright, only the will the colours will begin to look true. So these days it’s really hard to judge a “value for money” TV, the only real way to get the full benefit and realistic colours from your TV is to get the TV calibrated professionally.

How measurements are done;

One way to measure it is called “static contrast ratio”, this is measured with a full black screen and then a full white screen, the second way is “dynamic contrast ratio” this is done with a black and white checker board pattern which is a more real world situation as you’ll never watch a full white or full black image, it’ll be a mixture of both. Both ways will produce different results because the second way (checker board) will “leak” light into the dark areas as compared to a full dark or full white screen, and then there are the lighting conditions, are the lights on or off while the measurements being done? This will effect results as well.

Contrast Ratio Part 2.