Terms such as audiophile, videophile, or custom AV pro do not adequately characterize the skill of my late friend Steve.

Steve was an AV wizard.  He based the foundation of his craft on his assertion that “everything makes a difference.”

He would add that his objective was to “minimize the compromise” of the distorting differences. 

Steve meticulously hunted down compromising difference points.  He listened, viewed, and evaluated each difference-point, including the electrical outlets, all interconnecting cables, attached components, as well as the acoustics and lighting environment. 

Then, if economically and physically feasible, he modified, replaced, or removed the compromising difference points.  His methodical “minimize the compromise” process consistently delivered hair-raising results of frisson. 

Frisson (pronounced ‘free-sawn’) is a sub-category of the goosebump.  It is a goosebump chill or thrill triggered by music, film, or art. 

A simple song can activate moments of frisson.  The images and soundtrack of a movie can also induce frisson.  Steve’s frisson-able process sealed a bond with customers that competitors could not break.  

Sometime in the last century, an audio dealer was confronted by a customer who did not want to see or sacrifice floor space for a speaker system.  He was prepared to trade audio fidelity for his vision of room aesthetics and settle for lower, yet still pleasant, audio fidelity. 

This begat the custom in-wall/in-ceiling speaker.  Its understandable compromises — small woofer, attachment to a room boundary, and (often) above ear level placement — impede frisson.  

Although handicapped by the custom speaker, frisson can still be achieved if compromises are minimized, with a tailored recipe of amplification, audio/video sources, speaker placement, interconnecting cable, and acoustical modifications. 

Consider the following list of Steve-type ingredients. 

• Select a receiver/amplifier with larger and better-isolated power supplies. 

• Use high-resolution audio and HDR UHD video sources. 

• Install speakers as close to ear level as possible  If surround sound — at least the center channel.

• Engage ‘small’ or adjust the crossover in the speaker setup to avoid over-driving small woofers. 

• Reroute low-frequency audio to a sub-woofer. 

• Hide the sub-woofer (in a wicker basket?) while avoiding distorting room mode placement. 

• Install acoustic absorption at the ceiling 1st points of reflection and behind seating near a wall.

• Install carpeting or a throw rug with extra padding at the floor 1st point of reflection. 

• Reinforce sheetrock mounted speakers with a SandTrap.

• Reduce noise from the exterior and interior sources.  It is as simple as closing a window or as complicated as soundproofing the room. 

• Regarding video performance: minimize the influence of direct lighting, ambient lighting, plus any reflected color within the room.

• Calibrate the audio and video. 

Form an unbreakable bond with your customer.  Select applicable workable ingredients from the list.  Spice it up with your ingredients.  Stir, bake, and then install your custom concoction of frisson-able AV wizardry.


Captain Ed 

Saving the World from Poor Fidelity   Since 1972

Ed’s AV



Location, location, location

I lifted this blog from my website Ed’s AV  It addresses the challenging subject of how to choose a retail location.  It is a 9 step process that defines trade area boundaries, locates its trading areas, describes its demographics, and selects a brick-n-mortar home.  But before we proceed, let’s confirm three definitions for clarity.

1. Trade Area – the total geographical area in which your customers reside.
2. Trading Areas – locations within a trade area where the action of trading takes place.
3. Location – the address you select to trade in a trading area.

Step 1 Trade area map
Print a map of your prospective trade area with streets, major geographical features, and census tracts.  Select this link to select Lookups.

Step 2 Trade area barriers
A barrier placed between a customer and a retail location impedes their travel. People avoid barriers.  Even if a convenient bridge or underpass is present, they tend to drive to a business on their side.  Highlight natural and man-made barriers in the trade area that impede travel to trading areas; this includes rivers, freeways, railroad tracks, airports, mountains/hills, etc.

Step 3 Local routes
Seek and highlight popular local routes within the trade area to churches, schools, local government, post office, grocery stores, competitors, malls, commuter highways, hospitals, ballparks, and other destinations.

Step 4 Center focus
Select a feasible prospective location situated on a local route between your customer prospects and the competition.

Step 5 Circular mapping
Return to your trade area map. Draw a series of circles (feasible location at the center) with radii of 1 mile, 2 miles, 5 miles, 10 miles, 15 miles, 20 miles, and more if desired.

Step 6 Data spreadsheet
Return to Lookups.

Search for — and create a spreadsheet list of — the trade-area census tract data within the circled area as follows:
a. List trade-area census tract numbers in the first column.
b. Add the following demographic headings:
– population
– # of households,
– your targeted income groups
– your targeted age groups
– if relevant – your targeted gender
c. Insert the census tract data for each demographic.

Step 7  The guesstimate
Add this column heading “%” to the spreadsheet.  Inspect the census tracts within each region created and bounded by the circles.  Given the trade area barriers, your local route knowledge, and distance from the proposed location – guesstimate the % of households that will choose to travel from each census tract toward the proposed location versus competitors in the opposite direction.  Insert your guesstimate into its ‘%’ spreadsheet column.

Step 8  The factored sum
Return to the spreadsheet. Add an extra column next to each demographic.  Multiply each census tract demographic by the results of step 7.  Enter each result into its extra data column.
– (population) x (Step 7 results)
– (# households) x (Step 7 results)
– (income group) x (Step 7 results)
– (age group) x (Step 7 results)
– (gender) x (Step 7 results)
Sum each ‘extra’ demographic column.  The totals of each ‘extra’ column are your exclusive trade area demographics.

We’re almost home
You have drawn the trade-area boundaries, identified trading-area, and local routes. You have a clear demographic sketch of your customers. Now choose a home location.

Step 9 Head them off at the pass.
Next to committing money to the business, choosing a retail location may be your most taxing business decision.  In addition to practical functions, a retail location via its storefront can also become your most productive promotional tool.

The best locations are between customers and significant competitors.  In effect, the storefront signage “heads them off at the pass”.  This better location will cost more than alternatives.  But it will deliver an edge that alternative locations can only offset with increased promotional expenditures higher than the difference between a lower-cost location and a better location.

Next, create an annual profit & loss forecast.  Its operating expenses will include your budget for rent/mortgage.  But be prepared to entertain the idea of reallocating budgeted promotional funds to your rent or mortgage.

Enlist the guidance of a seasoned local Realtor who knows the local travel paths of the trade area.  As a rule, they are the gray-haired agents at a rear desk in a real estate office.  Present the agent with a list of your qualifying needs and wants.  Include your budget for rent or purchase.

A real estate agent is sufficient.  But also speak to other retailers in the trade area.  Take drives from different points within the trade area to the proposed location.   If your inquiries and trade area data confirm the store location is within budget, secure it with a lease or a purchase.



Fidelity without truth?

Several years ago, Samsung released a very good TV.  But this blog is not about their TV.  It’s about manufacturers misleading their customers and right vs wrong.

Let’s begin with a historical perspective.  In the fall of 2007 or thereabout, Samsung introduced an LED television.  At the time, I was perplexed.  I didn’t think real LED TV technology was ready for mass production.  After a frustrating search, I confirmed that it wasn’t.

To my ultimate surprise, Samsung impeded my search.  Although the term LED was ever-present in their advertising copy, they omitted the term LCD.  They buried any association between the terms LCD and LED in a hard-to-find spec page.  As is now commonly understood, that page revealed that LED referred only to LCD TV backlighting.

The campaign of misinformation was further advanced by the ‘big-box’.  The ‘box’ promoted the LED theme that minimized the term LCD.  They also parroted half-truths that slandered competing plasma TVs.  Half-truths such as the LED TV offered longer life than a plasma TV.  The LED TV was more energy-efficient than plasma.  The LED TV offered 120Hz processing.  Plasma did not.

In truth, an LCD or plasma panel has a half-brightness life expectancy of 15 years or more.  Their power supplies are more likely to die long before the TV panel.  LED/LCD is more energy-efficient than plasma, but only by an insignificant margin. Plasma did not offer 120Hz processing.  Well, plasma didn’t need it.  120Hz processing is an exclusive band-aid for slow LCD pixel response and continuous ‘on’ LCD backlighting.

In retrospect, I suspect the naive ill-informed on the floor ‘big boxers’ were also misled by their management and Samsung.  Therefore I am cutting them some slack.

In any case, Samsung’s campaign was successful.  Their promotional sleight of hand had differentiated their TV on crowded retail floors.  In my view, their campaign was a prominent factor in vaulting Samsung sales beyond the bigger players of the time – Sony, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Pioneer.  In fairness, the new TV did offer two popular features.  It was brighter plus thinner than the plasma and previous LCD TVs.  Thin and bright still sells a lot of TVs.

CES January 2017 – Samsung introduced quantum dot QLED TV.  Wait, I didn’t think quantum dot TV technology was ready for mass production.  I was perplexed.  After another impeded search, I confirmed that real-Q-Dot pixel TVs were not ready for mass production.  I found the truth at websites such as,,, and others.  I did not find it via Samsung.

Samsung’s QLED TV wasn’t new technology.  QLED primarily re-branded their 3rd generation SUHD models.  They promoted the placement of a quantum dot film in front of LED back-lighting.  The Quantum-dot film corrected the blue-leaning color of the LED.  That is, the film provided a more accurate white backlight.

Sony Triluminos LCD TVs had used the quantum dot film technique for many years.  The new Samsung as Sony was a very good UltraHD HDR LCD TV.  However, it did not support all UltraHD HDR formats.  This was an issue for consumers who wanted high-end video performance.

Sony supported Dolby Vision but lacked support for the HGL and Technicolor HDR formats.  Samsung did not support any of these formats.  And as with the Q-dot and LED truth, the HDR facts were not easily accessible.

Keep in mind – the primary theme of this blog is not about the TV.  It’s about the omission of essential facts by the manufacturer.  I’m tired of being misled.  I do not like folks who attempt to deceive me.  This blog is about right versus wrong.  It’s wrong to lie.

Samsung was not alone.  In addition to misleading TV facts, many manufacturers of AV receivers are misleading customers about power ratings – they’re lying.  Some manufacturers refer to a 3-inch speaker as a ‘woofer’ – What?  Some tout Bluetooth speakers as a high-fidelity product.   They’re OK – as a decent boom-box was in the 1980s.  But HiFi – no way.  I can offer more examples.  But, I think you get the point.

Look, I expect to be lied to by sleazy lawyers and politicians.  But I draw the line at my high fidelity AV world.  Fidelity should apply to how we behave — not just the picture and sound.  Without truth, how can there be fidelity?  Help me, save the world from poor fidelity,.


HDR Ultra-HDTV Part 7

Ed’s AV Handbook
Saving the world from poor fidelity

Part 7  System compatibility.
Ultra-HDTV home theater system compatibility is critical.     All components and interconnecting cables must be capable of passing a 18Gbps Ultra-HD video signal. This includes the source component,  AV receiver, AV preamp, plus the TV or Projector.

However the ISF’s Joel Silver has discovered that many     AV receivers and switchers lack 18Gbps bandwidth. Many squeeze a 13.5Gbps UHD Blu-ray down to a 9Gbps standard dynamic range image.  In some cases screens ‘blank out’ except for the text message “Incompatible Signal”.

TV setup is another issue.  The ‘Deep Color’ setting in the TV’s menu must be enabled for the playback of Ultra-HD HDR Blu-ray discs. This may also require a reboot of the TV.

Then beware of TVs advertised as “HDR enabled” or “HDR compatible”.  They may recognize HDR content. And they will produce an image.  But they do not process HDR content.  “HDR enabled TVs”  “de-tune” HDR content to standard dynamic range performance.  This process is referred to as “Color Mapping” or “Tone Mapping”.

Therefore I offer this recommendation.  Set up all UltraHD systems at your shop to confirm performance.  Even if the product spec sheets state all is good.  This simple rule will avoid an embarrassing situation.

Hurry up and get to the chorus
Customers do not pay for lectures.  They just want to have fun.  Indeed, you must meet, greet, and qualify customers. But keep buzzwords to a minimum.  Assess their wants and make your recommendations. Then, as they say in the music world, “hurry up and get to the chorus”. Let an HDR Ultra-HD home theater demonstration sing for itself.

That concludes this 7 part blog.


HDR Ultra-HDTV Part 6

Ed’s AV Handbook
Saving the world from poor fidelity
HDR Ultra-HDTV — Part 6 Ultra-HD sources   (3/17)

Ultra-HD sources currently include Ethernet rental/purchase services, Ethernet real-time streaming, and the Blu-ray disc.

Streaming services have a bandwidth issue. 25Mbps seems to be the download speed ‘sweet spot’ for Ultra-HD streaming. Yet the average consumer connection is only 15 Mbps.  Unlike streaming, download-only services avoid the issue by storing the data to a media server device (hard drive with user interface) for later playback.  Blu-ray discs also avoid the issue.  Just buy or rent a disc.  Load disc in the player.  Press play and view.

The initial Ultra-HD Blu-ray players and most TVs are limited to the HDR10 format. Many will soon offer Dolby Vision upgrades. The jury is still out on other formats.  Finally, Ultra-HD broadcast is currently limited to DirectTV and Dishnet via a limited selection of channels.  Off-air terrestrial broadcasts do not yet exist.

Ethernet real-time streaming and download purchase/rental services include:
– Netflix
Streaming Ultra-HD HDR10 & Dolby Vision service.
– Amazon Instant Video
Streaming UHD HDR10 & Dolby Vision Instant Video service.
– Vudu (Walmart)
Ultra-HD HDR10 and Dolby Vision download purchase or rental only service.
Currently limited to certain LG and Vizio 4K UHD TVs
– YouTube UHD
Streaming only service.
Uses Google VP9 compression (Not HEVC).
– Fandango Now
Streaming or download purchase/rental via Samsung & LG TVs, Roku, or Vidity storage devices.
– Google Play
UHD HDR download purchase only service.
– Sony’s Ultra 4K Movies
Ultra-HD HDR download purchase only service.
– Vidity Ultra-HD
Ultra-HD HDR for download purchase only service.
– UltraFlix
UlraHD download rental only service.

That concludes Part 6.   Next Part 7 System Compatibility.


HDR Ultra-HDTV Part 5

Ed’s AV Handbook
Saving the world from poor fidelity
HDR Ultra-HDTV    (3/17)

Part 5  More HDMI Tips
HDMI uses 19 pins to move audio and video from point A to B.  The pins offer other functions such as the audio return channel (ARC), an Ethernet path, and ‘remote’ control functions.  But that bloody ARC feature can drive many AV receivers crazy.
Tip – Go to the TV setup menu and turn ARC off unless you intend to use it.

A single 19 pin interconnecting AV cable is convenient.  But the primary purpose of HDMI’s 19 pins is to prevent unauthorized copying.  It does this via Transition-Minimized Differential Signaling.  TMDS interleaves video, audio, and data via three time-controlled digital packets.  How this actually works is beyond my pay grade. However, AV Pros should be particularly aware of Pin #19. It includes the 5-volt Hot Plug Detect function.  This pin carries 5 volts from the source component to the next components’ HDMI sink chip.  This is a critical.  If the voltage is corrupted the HDMI world stops – no picture, no sound.
Tip – DPL Labs’ Jeff Boccaccio’s rule #1. “Don’t mess with the 5 volts”.

HDMI has problems with cable lengths over 30 feet.  The problem can be solved with ‘active’ amplified cables.  However some manufacturers rely on Pin #19’s 5 volts to power their cable.  That breaks Boccaccio’s rule #1 “Don’t mess with the 5 volts”.
Tip – Install active cables with dedicated power supplies.

HDR bandwidth puts even more stress on Pin #19’s limited voltage.  The use of fiber optic cabling can avoid the issue.  Reasonable pricing plus easier-to-use terminating tools have made fiber a feasible choice.
Tip – Research the use of fiber optic cable for long cable run installations.

That concludes part 5. Next Part 6 Ultra-HDTV sources.


HDR Ultra-HDTV Part 4

Ed’s AV Handbook
Saving the world from poor fidelity
HDR Ultra-HDTV   (3/17)

Part 4  The High Definition Multimedia Interface
HDMI can be the bane of an AV professional’s daily work.  Blank screens, intermittent video, and noisy images caused by inconsistent manufacturing changing specs, and long cable lengths are all too common.  This blog won’t change that.  But it may add some insight that leads to possible solutions.

The ‘High Definition Multimedia Interface is a system (19-conductor interconnecting cable, dedicated termination, and microprocessing IC’s with software) that primarily prevents unauthorized copying.  The HDMI IC’s are installed in the source component, the display, and in any component in the system path (receiver/preamp/switcher).

The source HDMI IC pings the next HDMI IC.  That chip simultaneously responds with a return ‘handshake message’ AND pings the next chip (if any).  Each chip waits for the ‘handshake’ response.  Any incorrect responses result in a blank screen, intermittent picture, or noisy picture.  Solutions can include;
– Unplug and reinsert cable.
– Replace the cable. But not necessarily a more expensive cable – just another cable.
– Experiment by replacing electronic components.  Even if the component works in another system.  Some combinations simply don’t like each other.
– Set up all system components in-house to confirm performance before driving to an installation.

HDMI has evolved thru many versions.  Each is backward compatible which permits the previous evolution of video and audio to pass.

HDMI 1.4 & 1.4a (4,096 x 2,160 @ up to 24fps)
Version 1.4 supports HDTV plus the audio return and Ethernet channels.
Version 1.4a supports 3D.
– Recommend ‘High Speed’ (high bandwidth) cable.

HDMI 2.0 (3840 x 2160p @ 60fps)
Version 2.0 supports Ultra High Definition 18Gbps bandwidth @ 60fps.
It also provides for dual-screen video streams. (sort of picture in picture)
– Recommend ‘Premium High Speed’ cable.

HDMI 2.0a
Version 2.0a supports High Dynamic Range formats.
– Recommend ‘Premium High Speed’ cable.

HDMI 2.0b
Version 2.0b supports EOTF Dynamic HDR formats.
2.0b also provides up to 32 channels of multi-dimensional digital audio.
– Recommend ‘Premium High-Speed cable.

HDMI 2.1 supports 48Gbps bandwidth, 8K video resolution @ 60Hz or UltraHD @ 120Hz.
Support for 120 frames per second enables Virtual and Augmented Reality.  2.1 also supports Hi-Resolution audio, object-based surround sound, and E-ARC (audio return channel).
– Install 48Gbps bandwidth cable.

The first HDMI 2.1 product won’t be released until 2018.  Although 2.1 supports 48Gbps bandwidth, Internet providers are still trying to deal with 25Gbps.  So, don’t reach for your wallet yet.  But do prep your installations for cable replacement.  There is a lot to be confirmed.


That concludes part 4.  Next part 5  More HDMI Tips.


HDR Ultra-HDTV Part 3

Ed’s AV Handbook
Saving the world from poor fidelity
HDR Ultra-HDTV  (3/17)

Part 3  HDR Format War?
An HDR UltraHDTV must support the source HDR format.  If not, the image may be downgraded to standard dynamic range at less than Ultra-HD resolution or worse — a blank screen.  The issue is a standard format does not yet exist.

Several current TVs support more than one HDR format.    To date, HDR10 and Dolby Vision are the most prominent.  However a Technicolor/Philips joint venture is becoming an alternative; As is the BBC/NHK Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) format.  The following is a list of the competing formats being considered.

HDR10 (10-bit color) is a combination of the SMPTE HDR standard and Consumer Technology Association HDMI 2.0a spec.  It is currently the baseline format.   An enhanced HDR12 is also in the works that support Dynamic HDR as the Dolby Vision and HGL formats.

Warning: Beware of Entry-level Ultra-HDTVs advertised as “HDR-enabled or compatible’.  They may recognize HDR10 content and produce a picture.   But they DO NOT provide HDR performance.

12 Bit Dolby Vision
Dolby is a 12bit color format.  In comparison to 10bit formats — the 2 extra bits increases the color palate from one billion to four billion colors.  Dolby is also a dynamic format that continuously optimizes night and daylight images on a ‘dynamic’ frame-by-frame basis.

In addition Dolby Vision is compatible with the HDMI 2.0 and 2.0a standards (HDR10 requires 2.0a).  Dolby is also backward compatible with HDR10 sets.  In my mind backward to HDR10  says it all.

Phillips Technicolor Format
Phillips/Technicolor is a Dynamic HDR format that requires the HDMI 2.0a standard.   It has been reported that it may be more compatible with the library of standard-dynamic-range HDTV video broadcast and Ethernet streaming. (I’m not sure what that will actually mean on the TV screen.)  The jury is out.

Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG)
HLG is being promoted by the BBC & NHK as a broadcast standard that employs a Dynamic frame-by-frame EOTF process based on the display’s actual peak luma value.   HLG requires HDMI 2.0b.  This format may be the long shot winner in this possible war.

Is it a war?
The lack of a standard may produce a format war.  But don’t Panic – yet.   There are still other issues to be concerned about such as every AV pro’s favorite subject – HDMI.

That’s Next in part 4.


HDR Ultra-HDTV Part 2

Ed’s AV Handbook
Saving the world from poor fidelity
HDR Ultra-HDTV   (2/17)

Part 2 Buzzword Noise Reduction
This is an outline of the technologies that support the stunning images on HDR Ultra-HDTV screens. The objective is to clarify their definition and reduce the ‘buzzword-noise’ that obscures their significance and misleads many to pitch an HDR Ultra-HDTV as simply a brighter TV.

High Dynamic Range
High Dynamic Range is primarily about an expanded range of luminance – the difference between black and the brightest white light – that allows for a simultaneous display of bright highlights and dark shadow detail. But this breakthrough that “changes the nature of television as we know it” is achieved via three additional inter-weaved video elements: color space, gray-scale, and color gamut.

The Illuminating Details
The following sheds more light on the ‘interweaved elements. It also introduces many of their
underlying building blocks and video allies.  This includes Color Volume, Color Depth, Bit Depth, Deep Color, DCI P3, the Nit, Gamma, EOTF, frame rate, HEVC, and the CIE Color Chart.

The CIE Color Chart is the official chart of visible color. It is defined by the red, green, blue X, Y color mix points and their Z grayscale amplitude (brightness) points.  D65 specifies the brightest Z-point goal.  Envision the illustration as a three-dimensional cone. The CIE is an international organization.

Color Space is simply the total referenced space within the Color Chart cone.

Color Gamut is the color space allocated to video technology.  For example; the larger triangle defines REC 2020 Ultra-HDTV color gamut.  The smaller triangle defines REC709  HDTV color gamut.

Color Volume measures color gamut as a percentage of the total color space.  For example; Ultra-HDTV covers 75.8% of the total color space. HDTV covers 35.9% of the color space

Color Depth or Bit Depth is the number of computer bits allocated to create a video color sub-pixel.  The number of bits determines the possible range of color shades.  For example; 8-bit color provides up to 255 shades per red-green-blue sub-pixel for a total of 16.78 million colors.  10-bit color provides up to 1024 shades for a total of 1.07 billion colors.  12- bit as employed by Dolby Vision provides even more shades.

Deep Color describes 10 bit or more color depth. For example, 10 bit HDR10 and 12 bit Dolby Vision offer Deep Color potential.   Many new TVs can be enabled to reproduce Deep Color.

DCI P3 – The Digital Cinema Initiative P3 spec defines the color gamut of commercial digital cinema that covers 53.6% of the CIE Color Chart.

Note: Current TVs are limited to the DCI P3 specification.   Although we may look forward to the full CIE 2020 color space spec; the current library of movies is limited to DCI P3.  The good news is DCI P3 is a significant improvement over HDTV.

NIT – The NIT is a unit of TV screen brightness.  This is different from the ANSI lumen that measures the reflected screen brightness produced by a video projector. As a reference; the ISF’s Silver and Paullin stated; “Our old TV content was created thinking in terms of brightness at 100 Nits; this is what NTSC CRT reference monitors were capable of.  HDR monitors will be capable of 4,000 to 10,000 Nits.”

Different standards!

HDR LCD TVs and HDR OLED TVs are defined by different brightness standards. An HDR LCD TV must be capable of over 1,000 Nits peak brightness and less than 0.05 nits black level. An HDR OLED TV must be capable of 540 Nits brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level.
The LCD brightness spec is near twice the OLED spec. This will lead many to claim LCD is better than OLED. However HDR OLED black level is 100 times lower. If you want the TV with the largest dynamic range – the difference between peak brightness and black level; then HDR OLED crushes HDR LCD.

Note: The NIT is too light as the decibel is to the sound pressure level.
Similar to hearing, human vision is not evenly sensitive to the entire bandwidth of light.
The eye is most sensitive to green light, less to red, and even less to blue.  This subjective visual response is defined as luminance.  The subjective response to sound is called loudness.

Gamma is a fixed gray-scale luminance correction to accommodate human perception.  If you are an old audio pro – gamma is similar to Fletcher/Munson loudness correction.

EOTF or Electro-Optical Transfer Function is a dynamic (not fixed as gamma) frame by frame luminance adjustment.  The Hybrid Log-Gamma and Phillips/Technicolor HDR formats use this technology. (More on this later)

Frame Rates [frames per second] – The REC 2020 HDR UltraHD specification provides for 120fps or 60fps. The 120fps option is significant because it exceeds the frame rate requirement for Virtual Reality and Augment Reality.

HEVC – Ultra-HDTV broadcast and Blu-ray discs require High-Efficiency Video Coding compression. HEVC ‘squeezes’ video data within their limited bandwidth. Unaltered, Ultra-HD cannot fit within Blu-ray disc space or via future off-air broadcast bandwidth.  This is not a consumer issue. Content and hardware providers’ products will comply.

In an HDR nutshell
HDR luminance sets the table for an extended gray scale that creates a broader space of color.  The expansive gray-scale/color-space lays the foundation for a wider color gamut Ultra-HDTV specification.

The HDR breakthrough is derived from the combination of concurrent dark/bright light plus the expanded shades of color.   This is not about more pixels or a brighter screen.  This is about better pixels.

That concludes Part 2.    Coming Soon Part 3 – The possible format war.


Ultra-HD HDR Primer Part 1

Ed’s AV Handbook
Saving the world from poor fidelity  (2/17)
Ultra-HDTV HDR Primer
Many home theater enthusiasts will soon bathe in the ‘crazy good’ images of a new era of television.  Sadly, others will miss the picture as they drown in a deluge of misleading online and retail ignorance.  This seven-part blog aims to avoid the latter.  Part 1 sets the table. Succeeding parts 2 thru 7 will translate buzzwords, report on a possible format war, inspect the HDMI interconnect, offer HDMI tips, list available sources, and identify compatibility issues.

Part 1  Set the table
A Tangential Relevant Observation
It was once common for a manufacturer to engage independent retailers to roll out new technology.  Independents were typically more prepared to evaluate, demonstrate, and install new products.  In exchange, they were rewarded with a profitable window of exclusive distribution.  The arrangement was sustained until a market beachhead was secured.  Distribution was then expanded through larger retailers.

That’s how many manufacturers tested market waters.  Those days have long passed.  They now seek cheaper faster launches.  Proficient retailers have been swapped for lower-wage ‘big box’ staffs crammed with carefully scripted instant product knowledge to introduce their wares.  This is the backdrop for the inaugural screening of High Dynamic Range Ultra-HDTV.

Honest Breakthrough
Every once in a few decades an authentic breakthrough arrives on our screen.  The rollout of High Dynamic Range Ultra-HDTV is one those events.  Tom Burns at TVTechnology commented;  “……. While most people expected (UltraHDTV’s) resolution … 4,096 pixels/line x 2,160 lines … to have the biggest impact, its high dynamic range (HDR), higher frame rate, and wide color gamut (WCG) that come along with (HDR Ultra-HDTV) that are the technological and creative differences that the consumer can immediately see and gives consumers the visual proof they need to rush out and buy a new TV.”

This is what Joel Silver & Terry Paullin of the Imaging Science Foundation had to say;  “Implemented properly, HDR holds the potential to be the most meaningful improvement to our collective enjoyment of images on screen from disc, broadcast and even commercial theater since color TV was introduced in 1956.”

Again, Tom Burns regarding HDR;  “…… It’s like the Trojan horse that slips into our living room and completely changes the nature of television as we know it.”

There’s a fly in my HDR soup
The ‘big box’ is Ultra-HDTV’s most significant marketing conduit.   Their flawed demonstrations unwittingly sabotage HDR.  It is a condition that ‘dumbs down’ the value of HDR to the level of the disappearing curved screen and 3DTV.   It is a state of mind that misleads too many at the ‘big box’ to pitch HDR as simply a brighter TV.

If that ‘brighter’ TV is sold; incompetent installations unintentionally vandalize “the collective enjoyment of the images”.   Misinformed customers discover that their Internet provider cannot support Ultra-HD HDR streaming.  They may also discover that the HDMI jack of their home theater receiver is incompatible with the new Ultra-HD HDR standards.  Then their friends observe this predicament and decide to shy away from Ultra-HD altogether.

In addition, do you remember Beta vs VHS,  or SACD vs DVD Audio,  or HD-DVD vs Blu-ray?   Similarly, Ultra-HD is dealing with competing-HDR formats.  Although manufacturers may support one or more; the losing formats could possibly leave us with an obsolete hunk of metal and plastic.  Be wary of this pesky fly.  It could evolve into an ‘elephant in the room’.

Grab the rebound
It’s a dark day when someone who coveted a high-performance video experience exits a ‘big box’ dismayed and empty-handed.  On the bright side manufacturers, big promotional spending is drawing customers from their homes to the streets.   And that creates an opportunity for AV professionals to take a ‘free ride’ on their big spending and grab unfulfilled customers on the rebound.

It’s not easy.  It requires a disciplined innovative promotional strategy.  But when you do — be prepared to greet customers with a clear understanding of the relevant technologies, the installation requirements, and compatibility issues.  Then set a stage to demonstrate your expertise.  Part 2 ‘Buzzword Noise Reduction’ will lead the way.

Next / Part 2 


Ultra-HD Risky Crossroad

The transition from HDTV to Ultra-HD TV is at a risky unsettled crossroad. Should your customers cross now or later?  And when they act; Which direction should they take?  The answer is fraught with evolving specifications that could jeopardize their expectations and investment.  Yet the answer can also lead to an awe-inspiring home theater experience well beyond HDTV.  Before we address the question, let’s take an inventory of the unsettling evolving issues.

An element of the anxiety originates in the terms that have been used to describe video resolution beyond HDTV. This includes Ultra-HD, Super Hi-Vision, 4K, and 8K. For a time, the term Ultra-HD encompassed 4K, 8K, and twice HD resolution.  This issue has been resolved by the Consumer Electronic Association.

The CEA has officially defined Ultra-HD as video with a resolution of 3840 pixels per line x 2160 lines with a 16:9 aspect ratio.  In addition, an Ultra-HD television must have a least one digital input capable of managing 3840 x 2160 pixels.  This also involves a new HDMI specification.  More on that later.

The CEA seemingly resolved the confusion regarding resolution.  Yet some still refer to  Ultra-HD as 4K because 3840 pixels is almost 4000 pixels.  But Ultra-HD is not 4K.   4K is the Digital Cinema Initiative specification for digital movie theater cinema. The DCI defines 4K as:
– A picture with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio or Scope presentation with 4096×1716 pixels.
– A picture with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation with 3996×2160 pixels.
The DCI standards are only relevant to our Ultra-HD TV conversation in regards to color.  More on that later.

Note: Do not confront customers with the misuse of the terms Ultra-HD and 4K. AV Pros should simply continue to correctly refer to TVs with 3840 x 2160 resolution as Ultra-HD or UHD. Customers will eventually catch on.

Three Conditions
The CEA definition is a welcomed clarification. But fulfilling the ultimate promise of Ultra-HD TV is dependent on three conditions.
1. Support for the essentials: HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2, HEVC
2. An upgrade path: HDR, the C.I.E. REC 2020 Spec
3. Prep for Virtual Reality.

The Essentials
HDMI 2.0a
It is generally known among AV Pros that HDMI 2.0 is required to pass an Ultra-HD source at 60 frames per second to the TV screen.  HDMI 1.4 will not ‘make the cut’.  This includes video switching via an AV receiver or AV preamp/processor.  However a new version, HDMI 2.0a, is on the scene.      The ‘a’ in 2.0a designates support for HDR formats. (HDR will be discussed later.)  The essential point: Although HDMI 2.0 meets the minimum essential requirement; HDMI 2.0a will be the prerequisite for maximizing performance in the near HDR future.

HDCP 2.2
The next essential is HDCP 2.2 (high-bandwidth digital content protection).  This is an issue for early Ultra-HD adopters.  Many initial Ultra-HD TVs did not include support for HDCP 2.2.  This holds true for AV receivers.  HDCP 2.2 encrypted Ultra-HD video will not pass to the TV screen without HDCP 2.2.

The final essential is HEVC (high efficiency video coding).  As HDTV’s MPEG4, HEVC squeezes Ultra-HD video within the limited bandwidth of our video media.  It’s a decode prerequisite for source components such as the Ultra-HD Blu-ray player, media servers, streaming boxes, plus broadcast off-air, satellite, and cable TV.

Compression Notes:
1. HEVC has potential competitors: Google’s VP9, Mozilla/XiPh Daala, and Cisco’s Thor.  However it appears they may be limited, if used, to Internet streaming and personal computers.
2. HEVC has also proposed to replace the current MPEG4 audio partners of ACC and Dolby AC3 with MPEG-H and Dolby AC4.  The decoding will take place in the AV receiver, AV pre/pro, or source component.

Upgrade Path
Customers are justifiably concerned about product obsolescence.  Postpone their appointment with the recycle bin with a TV that supports High-dynamic-range (HDR) formats, and the C.I.E. REC 2020 specification.  This duo will dodge the bin while delivering more visible improvement than the increased resolution from HDTV to Ultra-HD TV.

HDR Formats
HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a moniker for several encode/decode digital formats that expand the range of luminance (the brightest light to the darkest black) well beyond HDTV or an Ultra-HD TV without HDR support. This isn’t about increasing the number of pixels.  HDR makes every pixel better via a broader palate of color, more shadow detail, and stunning contrast.  It produces a more life-like picture.

An HDR enabled TV is needed to reproduce a decoded HDR formatted video source.  The actual decoding takes place in the source component (Blu-Ray player, media server, cable box).  An HDR enabled TV is simply a TV capable of reproducing the dynamic range of the decoded HDR source.

There are several competing HDR formats: Dolby Vision, BBC, Philips, Technicolor, and VIDITY formerly called the Secure Content Storage Association.  The Blu-ray Disc Association has already announced support for Dolby Vision and the Philips formats. No format has yet been adopted for broadcast. Dolby has acknowledged that live broadcasting in Dolby Vision is currently not possible, though the company is working on it.  But Technicolor has successfully completed a HDR broadcast test.  Keep tuned for more news.

C.I.E. REC 2020 Specification
In 1931 the C.I.E. (an international commission on illumination) quantified a standard for the color range of human vision.  It is referred to as the C.I.E. ‘color space’.  As a reference; The HDTV C.I.E. REC 709 spec can reproduce 35.9% of the color space.  The DCI (digital cinema initiative) P3 reference covers 53.6%.  The new C.I.E. REC 2020 specification, (a pillar of HDR formats), increases color space coverage to 75.8%.

In addition to expanded color space, REC 2020 adds the frame rate option of 120 frames per second. To date (Oct 2015), we are still waiting for Ultra-HD TVs with HDMI 2.0a support that can handle up to 60fps let alone 120fps.  Vizio announced a TV that will offer HDMI 2.0a and it ‘may’ support 120 fps; it might even arrive on the sales floor by the end of 2015.

The fundamental upgrade point: HDR formats provide for the implementation of the C.I.E. REC 2020 Specification.  And the C.I.E.120 fps option opens a gate to the ultimate UltraHD future of Virtual Reality.

Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) is the portal to the AV frontier. Consumer head-set prototypes are currently focused on the high-end gamer. But the technology has the potential to expand into the arena of large screen TVs.   In there lies an upgrade path to an ultimate Ultra-HD TV home theater experience.

Virtual Reality is more than pixel counts, color space, and frames rates. VR developers have engaged an understanding of how our brain works.  They are employing a slice of science that sort of hacks the human brain. Consider this Virtual Reality scene.  You’re standing at the edge of a VR cliff. You attempt a virtual jump.  But you can’t.  You can’t because VR has targeted and stimulated your brain with specific flashed patterns of light that initiate your involuntary response to survive.  You can’t step forward even though you know it’s not real.  It’s simply amazing.

To date, the best of Virtual Reality uses an AM-OLED 90 fps display headset feed by a fast powerful computer.  So, how does a headset based product apply to a large screen TV?  Well, the headset doesn’t. But an off-shoot of VR technology does.  It’s called Augmented Reality.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a limited field of view version of VR aimed at gamers and commercial applications.  Some prototypes have moved this version of VR from the headset to the small video screen of a smart phone or tablet.  Although it is not as encompassing as VR, AR still creates an immersive experience. If Augmented Reality is successful; it is then reasonable to predict a future where AR exploits a 100 inch UltraHD REC 2020 full color space 120fps OLED TV. And that my friend puts the ultimate Ultra in Ultra-HD TV.

Ed, will you please answer the question?
OK …the risky evolving Ultra-HD issues have been identified.  Let’s address the question. Should your customers cross now or later?  When they do, which direction should they take?  The answer rests in the three conditions.  Each supports a different path of risk and performance.  Select a path that aligns best with your customer’s product-cycle-lifestyle: ‘early adopter’, ‘patient enthusiast’, or ‘family budget AV buff’.

If your customer is an early adopter; select a TV that supports HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, and the D.C.I. P3 color space specification.  That’s as good as it gets so far. Early adopters understand (at least they should) that their TV is headed for an early appointment with the recycle bin.  That’s OK.  By definition early adopters are eager to move on and buy the next better product.

If your customer is the patient enthusiast, ‘pull the trigger’ when support for HDR and the C.I.E. REC 2020 color spec arrives.  Confirm the essential of HDMI 2.0a.  If they can wait for a TV that supports 120 fps; then the door to Augmented Reality is open.  All of this should become available in 2016.

If your customer is the value oriented on a family budget AV buff; do not let them buy an Ultra-HD TV.  Save money, install a HDTV.  If they have a plasma TV, tell them to keep it.

AV Note: Home theater projectors are poised to benefit the most from Ultra-HD, HDR, and C.I.E. REC 2020.  Consider almost invisible pixels on a 100 inch or more all encompassing wide screen with the expanded color and stunning contrast.  Wow….!   Use the ‘three conditions’ and your customer’s ‘product-cycle-lifestyle’ to choose that projector.

The chicken & the egg
I have avoided the Ultra-HD elephant in the room –- the availability of Ultra-HD sources.  What can you watch?  Well not much Ultra-HD, yet.  Before we address the options, let’s add perspective to this Ultra-pachyderm.

Someone has to be the first to ‘crack the egg’ or ‘fry the chicken’.   I can clearly recall setting up the first 50 inch Pioneer rear projection 3-gun CRT HDTV.  What did we watch?  We gawked at a 15 minute HD program loop sourced from an exclusive Ku band (small dish) satellite broadcast.  We also added a set-top-box-line-doubler-scaler (@1/3 of the TV’s price) to produce an acceptable DVD picture.  NTSC to HD processing in the early generation HD sets was awful.  But compare that situation to 6000 very expensive black & white TVs in U.S. homes in 1946 with almost nothing to watch.  Or color TV programming in 1965 that was limited to prime time evening broadcasts; the only source of video.

UltraHD TV is in a much better state.  Over-the-air broadcast do not exist yet.  But pay per view Ultra-HD is available via DirectTV’s Genie.  The Genie uses a proprietary wireless ‘connection’ with a limited number of TV models from Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba.  A just announced DirectTV Genie Mini will work with any UltraHD TV that supports HDMI 2.0 @ 60fps and HDCP 2.2.   Comcast has launched an UltraHD app for Samsung TVs that offers NBC and the USA Network.  Comcast will soon offer a set top box that will be compatible with more brands of TVs.  Streaming via Netfilix and Amazon is available if your Internet connection can support it.  Sony and others offer media servers (hard drives with operating software) supported by Internet download services.  UltraHD Blu-ray should be on retail shelves in 2016.  And there is a huge library of 4K and 8K movies being prepped for all of the above.  Plus, don’t discount an improved High Definition picture on an Ultra-HD TV with expanded color space and good video scaling and processing.

The Quest
The objective is to improve the home theater experience.  Even if your customer does not buy an Ultra-HD TV; use their Ultra-HD interest as an opportunity to assess their room lighting, acoustics, video sources, and audio system.  Appropriate lighting will produce a better picture on any TV.  Better video sources (lower noise) will enhance the picture further. Assess the interconnects.  The HD cable box may still be using the composite video path. (This still exist.) Bigger better speakers, a more powerful amplifier, plus an address of acoustical problems will complement their enhanced video with an injection of sonic induced goose-bumps.

Minimize risk and maximize performance as you lead your customer across the risky crossroad of Ultra-HD TV.  Join my quest to ‘save the world from poor fidelity’.

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