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The following article originally appeared in Wide Screen Review (WSR) magazine and is being republished courtesy of the author, Terry Paullin.


... searching for the truth

... handicapping the handicappers

... beware the potion

It's that time of year again when H.T. pundits, ivory tower consultants and I-got-nothin'-better-to-do bloggers put pen to paper - O.K., fingers to keyboards and make all kinds of predictions, forecasts and wild speculations based on the last "customer survey" they saw regarding the future of Home Theatre.

I wish just once I could hear from someone who actually worked where the "truth" lies - that is, the junction of product and end user.

In a different life I managed large sales organizations. We would constantly talk about the need to stay close to the truth. We would drag development engineers and other company execs out to the important (read that large with money) client sites to hear firsthand what they thought of our products, what they would like to see in the next generation and what they hoped we were working on for the longer future. In other words, come out and meet the truth. Inexplicably, too many companies skip this step. A smart guy once told me "A company can only survive by building products people want to buy" - a simple, but ultimate truth in itself.

It's not so different in our world. For products targeted at Home Theatre, the best truth can be unearthed not by reading what some analyst inferred by looking at real (or not) trended data, but by simply talking to a significant sample size of Custom Installers. These are the guys who talk to end users every day, generate proposals that mate available products with the needs expressed and then fine tune the final configuration to fit a practical usage model. In other words, THEY know the irrefutable truth and deal with it on a daily basis.

I have been lucky enough to sit on a couple of Advisory committees of companies who clearly understood the merit of seeking the truth. One company was Fortune 500 and the other is fast approaching. So it is with a bit of a leg up, I contend, that I offer my take on what's happening now and in the process (sorry, I can't help it) throw a bit of cold water on some of the things I've seen in print recently.

Firstly, let me agree with the preponderance of opinion that 3D is not what many had hoped for on either side of the cash register. Said differently, it hasn't generated the incremental revenue that boardrooms across Japan and Korea had bet development dollars on. Never mind the dearth of content, annoying and expensive glasses, images that are dimmer and difficult to calibrate, the bottom line deliverable is still more gimmicky than convincing. It simply isn't "cooked" yet. What advocates point to is the growth in sales of 3DTVs. I can tell you, that at least to the segment I sell to, it is purely an attempt at future proofing ( I say attempt, because when the real deal comes along, it will, of course, require all new hardware) if it is intentional at all. Anyone truly interested in (2D) image quality and is willing to pay a premium for it, can't avoid buying a 3D monitor - it's simply part of the feature set the marketing department insisted on for the upscale models. So yes, sales of 3DTVs are up, but it has little to do with 3D.

Next, to kill two forecasts with one "truth", if you can stand the butchered metaphor, I've read that both plasma TVs and projectors are on their way out. Really? I beg to differ. A less aggressive nay-sayer might say "Well, at least the numbers are getting smaller". I'm thinkin' that dog don't hunt either. Indeed, a case may be made for both categories to point north next year over 2012. Here's why.

This readership, more than most, must appreciate the fact that there is a substantial group out there who are willing, indeed happy, to pay a premium for quality. Yet it is absolutely true that the general populous cares more about price and convenience than quality. So how does the premium side grow? Mr. Thrift might go over to Mr. Quality's house and see what 20% more could have bought. Or, he might pick up a copy of this magazine (and others) and learn what makes the difference, or become enamored with things that "are the best that they can be". I'm guessing most of us, somewhere in our lives have found real merit in spending a little extra for higher quality. Clearly cinema grade projectors and plasmas are good examples in our realm. My contention is that continued education about imaging science, spotlights on emerging technologies and consistently decreasing prices will enable the Mr. Thrift to Mr. Quality transition to continue to grow. My experience is that most clients, when presented with real facts, get it.

A final note on projectors. They are not just high-end display devices. They are a lifestyle. They transport one to a different planet. Nothing says "We are about to be entertained" better than the dimming of the lights, the opening of motorized drapes and the appearance of (insert your favorite action figure) on screen bigger than life from 12 feet away! Try that with a 50" edge lit LCDTV!

The cloud is coming, the cloud is coming! ... and indeed it may be for many applications, but the little shiney disc will be around for a good time to come at my house and those of my clients. Just as we have begun a second library of BDs next to the "old fashioned" DVDs, we will soon be adding a third wing of 4K versions and beyond. We like to hold 'em, we like to loan them, we like to read the jackets, we like the special features that come with them, but yes, we also simply like the pride of ownership.

Finally, to the new magic elixir, 4K, or UDTV as some prefer. It was the buzz at last year's C.E.S. (Consumer Electronics Show) and is bound to be louder this year. I understand that technology must move on and many, myself included, want to be the first kid on the block, but ..... "DANGER, Will Robinson" ... this may be a treacherous journey for awhile.

Early adopters, consider the following "journey"; you press the 2K/4K button on your brandy new up-converting BD player - more resolution is good, right? ... especially when mated to that Quad-ro-color 64" panel you got last year for your birthday. This should be great!! So the BD player, which looks hard but can only find 2 million pixels on the disc is conflicted and not wanting to disappoint makes up another 6 million pixels to go with the 2 million REAL ones and delivers 8 million pixels as requested (that's the operation called up-converting). Remember, the definition of a video artifact is anything that wasn't in the original master. So now this mess, 3/4 fiction, heads for the display. The display, seeing this huge package coming says "Whoa ... I'm just a 1080 guy", but also wanting to oblige says, "O.K. I'll just throw away three fourths of this stuff so I can show something on screen". What do you suppose the chances are of two boxes from different manufacturers agreeing on which pixels are the genuine ones? Remember, the BEST processing is NO processing. Match source to display whenever you can.

Lastly a note that seemed to demand noting. This month's column comes to you from the intensive care unit of a northern California hospital. You can call me many things (and you have) but "not dedicated" isn't one of them.

Posted by Terry Paullin, January 24, 2013 7:33 AM

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About Terry Paullin

After 25+ years as a Silicon Valley Executive, most recently as President and C.O.O. of Crosscheck, Mr. Paullin decided to follow his passion to the emerging Home Theatre industry. In 1994 he formed Front Row Cinema to design, build and calibrate Home Theaters for private residences. Nearly 600 theaters later, he remains engaged in the Industry in the following ways.

Builds dedicated (single purpose) Home Theaters and "Theatre Environments" (rooms used for other purposes as well).

Teaches Imaging Science and other courses for the Imaging Science Foundation. Mr. Paullin has taught CEDIA accredited classes to the installation community at both AVAD and ADI.

Consults to Industry on the topic of Imaging Science (Pioneer, Optima, In-Focus and several others under non-disclosure). Mr. Paullin has served on the Board of two companies and the Advisory committee of two others.

Has written articles/product reviews for major industry publications, including Widescreen Review, The Perfect Vision, The Ultimate Guide to A/V, WIRED magazine and CEPro and has maintained a monthly column (One Installer's Opinion) in Widescreen Review for the past eight years.

Mr. Paullin has a B.S.E.E. degree from Long Beach State University and performs ISF monitor calibrations for private individuals.

Mr. Paullin also maintains 3 theaters in his home for testing, comparison, performance verification, and reference viewing.