NOTE: For three days in March, Your Humble Content Marketing Manager at CEDIA® attended the training session called “Home Theater Boot Camp” at the association’s HQ in Indianapolis. Here’s a summation of Day Two. (Find Day One here
, and here's
Day Three.) 8 a.m.
Today we’re going to begin by talking about flat-panel TVs; the “loudspeaker” portion of the course has been pushed to Day Three: Jeff Gardner, soundman, musician, and leader of ESPA
, will talk audio tomorrow.
Per instructor Ken Erdmann, this is a great laugh-break when you’re stressed. Look up extra-large (as in, 100”-plus) flat-panel displays on your favorite web-based retail store. Then scroll to the comments. Some examples: “I bought this TV on Monday December 26th, 2016. I loved it so much that I filed bankruptcy on the 27th so that I could keep it and not pay my other creditors.”
“I don’t regret anything about buying it. Sure, the loan sharks broke my legs and I had to get a second mortgage on my house, but other than that it’s great.” 9 a.m.
Add this one to the alphabet soup: HDR, or High Dynamic Range. Simply put, when a color once described by 8 bits is then described by 10 or even 12 bits, the available range of colors jumps from the millions to the multi-billions – and that means that digital displays are marching ever closer to the spectral range that film’s capable of, a natural look. 9:30 a.m.
Now we’re talking display types: LCD TVs are liquid crystals backlit by fluorescent lighting. LED TVs are also crystals, they’re just backlit (or side-lit) by light-emitting diodes. OLED TVs are another leap – they’re organic crystals with native light. They’re slim and light, but they still need boxes of “guts” for the unit, and real estate for inputs and outputs. The other issue? OLEDs’ mortal enemy is moisture, so bathroom and exterior installations are out. “Burn-in” can be a problem, too, especially when the display’s used in a gamer-heavy home: Borders and scoring boxes can create permanent outlines on the screen. 10:00 a.m.
On to projectors: DLP, DLP: TI, single-chip, three-chip, LCOS – the bulbs on some projectors can get pricey, and their lifespan is pretty short. 10:30 a.m.
We’ll be mounting TVs and projectors in CEDIA’s working, on-site home theater lab rooms this day, so we’re covering the nuts and bolts (pun intended) of the necessary hardware. Erdmann tells us that to be on the safe side, he purchases mounts that are one size up from the recommendation on the box that contains the set. He stresses load ratings: a fixed mount should be able to handle at least four times the weight of the TV it will hold. For a fully articulated mount, you’ll want hardware that can carry eight times the weight of the television.
Erdmann’s got a 55-gallon drum back at his place full of all the bolts he hasn’t used – he’s never at a loss for the right hardware.
We learn about the “VESA” standard bolt-patterns on the backs of displays, proper viewing angles, and the like. 11:00 a.m.
Horror-story time: metal studs? Snap toggles? Televisions that have pulled sections of sheetrock down with them because they weren’t attached to anything even remotely stable? Ken’s seen it all. 11:30 a.m.
Deep into projector placement – throw factors, lens shift, offsets, centering. Erdmann’s got tips and tricks for everything, it seems. 1 p.m.
After lunch, it’s time to hang the gear. We’re now in groups of three, and Jeremy and I are joined by Selena, who hails from the Lone Star state. We’ve got a room to ourselves. After a bit of head-scratching (the instructions are a little less than crystal clear), Selena and I figure out the configuration of the “ears” of the bracket that’ll hold the TV in place. Up it goes – and I hang on the hardware to double-check. Jeremy’s got the projector hardware all set, and that goes in place next. After two hours or so, we’ve gotten images on both the display and the motorized screen that covers the TV when the projector’s in use. Everything looks properly centered (with a bit of image “overrun” on the screen to account for anomalies and slight movements), and we’re ready to calibrate. 3 p.m.
Most flat-screen TVs are set up to look good in a big-box store, often under the harsh glare of overhead fluorescent lighting. The result’s a brightness and colorimetry that’s none too pleasant in the home – and a lot of sets have “auto functions” that give results inferior to what a trained technician can achieve. Tint, brightness, grayscale, and other metrics will be addressed as we work, and the benefits aren’t all intuitive:
- Proper calibration can reduce energy usage by roughly a quarter.
- That drop in power consumption can help extend the life of the unit.
- And the ability to properly adjust the look of an image? It’s expertise that can be marketed as an added value only an expert can provide.
Tomorrow we’ll perfect the sound that goes with these images.