“We won’t launch a 3D projector until we think the time is right.” That’s the message from Epson UK’s Sue Burgess. Speaking at an exclusive brand takeover of the spectacular 85 Swains Lane property in London’s Highgate, Burgess added that with no appreciable 3D content in the market there was little incentive for the world’s biggest projector manufacturer to leap into the third dimension. Instead, Epson has thrown considerable R&D into what it claims is the most advanced LCD (2D )projector yet, the £6,600 EH-R4000. My hands-on review follows after the jump…
Using innovative no-light-leakage 3LCD Reflective technology, the EH-R4000 offers a huge bump in contrast ratio, claimed to be 1million:1, and it’s all there to be seen on screen. With a wider pixel aperture there’s barely any visible grid structure to its image. This creates a supremely cinematic viewing experience. I spend hours with the model, which made its UK debut at the event last night, watching a variety of content including the preternaturally Dark Knight and Dexter on Blu-ray.
My conclusion is that this is simply the best 3LCD projector ever made. Incredibly bright, yet capable of near perfect black levels, it brought out hitherto unseen levels of shadow detail in Batman’s cowl and cape. The neon skylines of Gotham twinkled with bright peek whites, yet remained dark and foreboding. It is, quite simply, jaw-dropping.
The projector itself is surprisingly small, has a centre-placed lens and is very easy to install. There is a 2.1x power zoom and a wide lens shift range – 90 per cent vertical and 40 per cent horizontal. Delving through the menus, it’s clear that there is a raft of features which can be tweaked to bring out the best in the product. Particularly interesting is a Super Resolution mode which makes dynamic improvements to image sharpness which are quite effective. It appears to work in the same way as Resolution+ by Toshiba. The EH-R4000 is ISF calibrated but has no THX preset – which I would regard as its only missed opportunity.
The EH-R4000 will be officially launched in the UK in Jan. Look for a full review then. For more click here.
October 31st, 2010 · Comments Off on Awards season: so who put on the best bash?
If the recent round of industry Awards events is anything to go by, the UK consumer electronics industry is in surprisingly good health. The sheer scale of the recent T3 Gadget Awards was awe-inspiring. With 500 attendees, Stephen Fry and Jimmy Carr as hosts (the latter jumping in as a late replacement for a no-show) and Sky News in tow, it was quite some achievement. Along with everyone else in the room, I played Guess the category winner on my table. I came joint first, which was quietly pleasing if financially unrewarding.
I didn’t do so well guessing the winners at the Hi-Fi Choice Awards, held at the altogether more compact Pizza Express Jazz Club in London. A more eclectic bunch of winners you couldn’t imagine. Still, the food was predictably delicious.
However my inaugural Steve May Media prize for best industry bash (of the year so far) goes to What Hi-Fi? Sound & Vision. The magazine’s black tie event, sponsored by Hi-Spek (celebrating an impressive 25 years in AV retail), took over London’s Dorchester for a lavish party that certainly warranted dusting down the cummerbund.
The pre-Awards set from comedian and musician Tim Minchin was particularly entertaining. Providing a refreshing change from the usual stand-up fare, Minchin regaled us with his unique brand of piano-based wit, opening with the crowd-pleasing Inflatable You before moving onto more bespoke hilarity. Clearly the ivory-tinkling star had done his industry homework, and his astute demolition of all things 3D brought the house down (even those who should know better were weeping with laughter).
At the conclusion of the Q ‘n’A, after the sportsmen were ushered out the faux dressing room set lovingly created by BT’s PR operation, a fight broke out between two sports writers from rival tabloids. There was a lot of pushing, shoving and bad language – not something you tend to see at tech press events, to be honest. Frankly, the pair were old enough and big enough to know better. Quite exciting to witness though…
I was sad to hear about the demise of Ken Cranes AV stores in the US. The name will be very familiar to long in the tooth AV enthusiasts. Canes was a popular source of laser discs for UK and European AV fans back in the day, when all video was analogue and a 12inch silver platter was as good as it got.
The 62-year-old Californian store chain said it had been ‘powerfully affected by the nation’s unusually severe and continuing economic downturn… (and in) a steep, relentless decline in same-store sales activity led to the difficult decision.’
Even as the AV biz moved on from laser disc, the family business was a big retailer of home theatre and large screen TV on the West Coast. Company president Casey Crane
has been quoted by TWICE as saying: ‘This is unquestionably the most painful business decision our family has ever had to make. ‘We have been a home for employees, a place of trust for our customers and vendors, and a source of pride and leadership among our competitors for many decades. As painful as this is, we plan to end this as fairly as we can for all concerned.’
Pam Crane said: ‘In the past, we have been able to weather these kinds of economic storms because people tend to stay home more, tap into their home equity, upgrade their home entertainment systems, and wait for conditions to improve. But with financing drying up the way it has, people haven’t had that option. They’re not doing upgrades like they normally would.’
Not only is Eurovision good fun, it’s historically been one of the best HD transmissions of the year. But I’m not so sure about last night. Sure it looked great, but I felt there was rather more noise and artifacts than previously. Is this an example of the BBC’s infamous HD bit-choking? My reservation is tempered though by the fact I was watching this on a different screen than 2009 – a Samsung 9000 Series 3D job.
I’ll probably have to compare my Blu-ray recordings to really find out how they differed.
Anyone else come to the same conclusion? For what it’s worth, very happy the UK came last (why do we get saddled with this garbage?), loved Turkey and very much enjoyed Romania and Armenia (Apricot Stones’ singer Eva Rivas pictured below) for obvious reasons.
I recently attended a fascinating briefing session organised by Samsung to provide background to the brand’s first range of 3D TVs and 3D Blu-ray player. R&D chief Simon Lee has been taking his team around Europe, doing similar sessions with various media. The event was notable for a couple of reasons.
In an effort to push the brand’s on-the-fly 2D-3D conversion technology, the engineers used the 2D release of Avatar on Blu-ray. We were shown long sequences of the world’s most famous 3D movie, released in flat-o-vision 2D, then dimensionalised back into faux 3D by Samsung. The convolution of the demonstration made my head spin.
What was curious is that I didn’t think it looked half-bad. I haven’t seen any TV 2D-to3D conversions that I’ve liked, and I certainly wouldn’t seek out the tech in a 3D TV, but…
Perhaps it’s because the original cinematic composition fit the process? Whatever the reason, the demo proved to be a pretty good advert for Samsung’s tech.
Jim Hill wearing those upside down 3D spex
Simon and the Samsung team then compared their LED 3D against an early (US release) Panasonic 3D plasma. As an aside, Lee casually let slip that the 3D glasses for both brands were interchangeable if the lens were reversed (ie worn upside down). I tried it and it worked. Shortly before I left, I quickly took the opportunity of snapping fellow tech writer Jim Hill wearing Samsung’s glasses upside down.
A couple of hours later I posted this on homecinemachoice.com – and the story went nuts. Popping up all over the web. Poor old Jim, his be-goggled visage went everywhere!
Predictably, some commentators took it all a bit too seriously. For the record I wasn’t suggesting this as a serious solution to the 3D glasses incompatibility issue buyers must now contend with. Firstly, the glasses won’t even turn on unless a same brand TV is disgorging IR activation pulses in the same room. But what it does show is just how close the AV industry came to getting the 3D hurdle right, before falling at the final eyewear fence.
May 4th, 2010 · Comments Off on Celebrating Free Comic Book Day 2010
Did you celebrate Free Comics Book Day this weekend? I sure did! I started my search for free comics by visiting my local library. Several years ago they made a half-hearted attempt to support the initiative which I thought was great. But I knew something was amiss when I went it. The place was as quiet as the grave with no FCBD books to be seen. When I enquired I received nothing but blank looks and eventually a glare of disdain.
Thankfully my local comic book store, Calamity Comics in Harrow (twenty-three years and counting), was buzzing. Star Wars Stormtroopers (from the charity-based 51st Garrison) were handing out flyers in and around the store, while a weird promotional character wobbled nearby, and the shop seemed way busier than normal.
Interestingly Calamity was bundling one of the free books with a selection of back issues to create healthy looking freebie packs. These were limited to one per customer. My daughter, writing a story about FCBD for her Bournemouth University website, interviewed co-owner Eric Van Genderen and picked up a War Of The Supermen pack, I grabbed a Thor/Iron Man bundle. The selection of books seemed a little limited, but it’s quite possible a stack had had already gone by the time I got there.
Van Genderen seemed excited about FCBD. ‘It gives something back to the people who’ve come here for many, many years,’ he told us. ‘It’s also a chance for us to bring new people in and it gives them a chance to see something new.’
When quizzed Vabout the lack of interest in FCBD from libraries, an Genderen added:‘They’ve been poor really,’ he agreed. ‘We’ve been in touch with libraries for a number events and the reaction’s been less than enthusiastic. You would think they would want to encourage more kids to read. It is a hard road to plough. It’s hard to find people that want to connect to something different.’
Overall though, the man from Calamity remained positive. ‘It does definitely work in getting people in to comic book stores. It’s not as good as it used to be but it brings in new clientele. You have to get youngsters involved or (the hobby) dies out.’
BTW Did you see the promo video for FCBD voiced by Kevin Smith? It was written by Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston and shot and edited by my mate Brendon Connelly (of /film).
Could ITV scupper the launch of Blu-ray recorders in the UK? As I exclusively revealed in my review of Panasonic’s amazing new Freesat Blu-ray recorder, the DMR-BS850 (click the link above to read it), the broadcaster is still flagging its hi-def Freesat content as Copy Never. Unlike the BBC, which has moved all its transmissions to Copy Once (and is even promising to adopt a policy of Copy Always during the Summer), ITV material cannot be archived onto Blu-ray media. This even applies to old back catalogue movies.
Although ITV does not contribute a massive amount to the monthly HD content on Freesat, its co-operation is vital if Blu-ray recording is to take off in the UK. Consumers simply won’t understand or appreciate why it is possible to archive Last Of The Summer Wine from BBC HD but not a Martin Clunes documentary from ITV HD. They’ll simply decide “Blu-ray recorders don’t work” and move on.
David Preece, who heads up Panasonic’s AV marketing operation, acknowledges the situation, telling me “It’s too early to give a definitive answer” about ITV HD’s strategy, adding “this doesn’t mean that there will be no change – simply it’s in progress of discussion.”
Panasonic continues to have discussions with Freesat on the matter. Watch this space.
Comments Off on Will ITV HD wreck the launch of Blu-ray recorders?Tags: Uncategorized