To Serve and Project

Choosing a Projector!

For some people, “big” means REALLY BIG. I’ll be
the first to admit it: I’m one of those people. I like my monsters big. I like
my explosions big. My favorite natural phenomena are stars, oceans, and
mountains, in that order. My ideal pizza is one the delivery guy can’t fit
through the door.

I refer to the Giant Squid as “Medium Squid”.

It turns out, I’m not alone. Lots of home theater owners
aren’t willing to settle for the mere largeness of a plasma screen. For these,
my comrades in bigness, I submit the following guide to the biggest thing in
any home theater: projectors!

Know Your Projector
Types

There’s three types of home theater projector: LCD, DLP, and
3LCD.

LCD (liquid crystal display) projectors work a bit like an
LCD TV screen, passing light through an LCD chip, creating a vibrant, sharp
image. Since it’s really creating a composite from three differently colored
beams, this image is subject to color breakup (the “rainbow effect”)
around the edges, as well as the “screen door effect” of seeing individual,
separated pixels at times. These are best suited to dimly-lit rooms,
auditoriums, and boardrooms.

DLP projectors (short for Digital Light Processing) use a
single digital chip, effectively projecting a digital screen through a single
beam. Great for HD video, with high contrast ratios, and not much pixellation.
These are ideal for home theaters.

3LCD projectors function similarly to LCD projectors. It
shines a single beam of light through three LCD panels, and the light is then
recombined through a prism into a single beam, which comes out of a single
lens. Because the colors are recombined and projected as a single, bright image
(they call this “accurate color registration”), you get the vibrancy
of LCD without the rainbow effect. 

Projector Qualities

There’s a few qualities you’ll see in projector specs that
it’s good to pay attention to.

Projector Resolution: This is the sharpness and clarity of
the picture. It’s measured by the number of pixels, and is often expressed as
the number of vertical pixels used (720p = 1280 x 720 pixels, 1080i = 1920 x
1080, etc). More pixels, more resolution, sharper image! 

Throw Distance: This is how big an image a projector can
create from any given distance. Most manufacturer websites have throw distance
calculators, which are very useful to anyone setting up a home theater and
shopping for a screen.

Keystone Correction: This is a feature that lets you adjust
the image to account for the angle between the projector and the screen. It
“skews” the image accordingly, resulting in a perfect projection
image from an odd angle. 

Contrast Ratio: The difference between the lightest white
and the darkest black the projector can manage. A higher contrast ratio is
always a good thing.

Lumens: The measure of a projector’s illumination. This is
an official measurement established by the American National Standards
Institute (ANSI). More lumens mean a brighter image. Who doesn’t want a
brighter image? 

So Which One?

There’s a lot of projectors out there, all with different
stats and prices. Choosing the right one, as usual, comes down to your own
situation, depending on how much you care to spend and the room it’s intended
for. You might care more about keystone correction than resolution, or be more
concerned with cost than lumens. Hopefully, this little breakdown will be of
some help!

Plasma vs. LCD: FIGHT!

If you’re shopping for a big screen TV, there’s advice all
over the place on which to get. My blog is no exception! This is coming purely
from a home theater point of view. If you don’t care about colors, viewing
angles, or size (say, if you plan to use it to watch Bloomberg Television), my
conclusions might not be what you’re looking for. However, if you want to watch
Lord of the Rings and have your eyeballs melt… then read on!

What are LCD and
Plasma Screens?

An LCD screen is made up of liquid crystal pixels pushed
between glass plates. Current goes through the pixels, and a controlled picture
is created. This is how a digital wristwatch works, basically, only with more
colors and smaller pixels. It’s important to note that the pixels are backlit-
they don’t light up on their own.

A plasma screen, on the other hand, uses millions of little
cells filled with neon and xenon gas. When electricity zaps these cells, the
gas turns into a plasma (hence the name). Each cell is coated in phosphors
(red, green or blue), which fluoresces when the plasma gets charged. Think of a
plasma screen as a sheet with millions of tiny, tiny fluorescent light bulbs,
because that’s basically what it is.

Plasma: None More
Black

One big difference a lot of people find between LCD and plasma
is the deepness of blacks. Plasma screens get a deep, true black, because it’s
made up of tiny lights. Turn the lights off, and you get the absence of light,
which is as black as it gets! LCD screens have a constant backlight, however;
LCD blackness is thus achieved by setting the pixel to block as much light as
possible. There’s always a little leakage, though, so you never get true black,
especially at certain angles.

This viewing angle is another big issue with LCD screens. If
you’re looking at it from the wrong angle, the colors distort and the black
gets even lighter. This has to do with the polarity-shifting mechanism of LCD
technology. I’m told they’re getting better at this, but it’s still annoying,
in my opinion. My new laptop is LCD, and while it’s bright and crisp, the top
and bottom of the screen are usually a little discolored compared to the
middle, because I’m viewing the top and bottom at the wrong angle. I can turn
the screen to fix this, but then the middle’s at the wrong angle.

Plasma TVs are also usually bigger. Most LCDs top out at
about 50″, barring a couple new (and costly) 70-inch models, whereas
larger plasmas are easy to find.

 LCD: More Pixels,
Less Juice

Why would anyone go with LCD TVs? Well, for one thing,
they’re cheaper than similarly-sized plasma models most of the time, and
they’re getting even cheaper by the day. LCDs also usually have a much higher
resolution. More pixels can be better!

There’s also the issue of burn-in. The phosphors used in
plasma screens wear out over time (a long time- 30k to 60k hours). Ever seen an
old arcade machine, where the title screen was still visible even when the
picture changed? Same deal. It’s usually not that bad these days, of course,
since most pictures move around more than a Galaga high-score list, but any
plasma screen’s days are numbered. LCD screens die, too, but usually much later
on in their lives, and there’s no risk of ugly, mucky burn-in.

If you care about power consumption, and you should, it’s
worth noting that LCD uses far less power (as much as 30 percent less than
plasma). That adds up to a lot of clams.

So, which one should
I get?

If you’re talking about a TV screen, and not a computer
monitor, I’d suggest plasma. The viewing angle issue alone should seal the deal
to anyone who plans to put the TV in a family’s living room, and the lack of
true black is, in my experience, not very cool.

LCDs tend to be lighter and cheaper, though, and are fine
for a lot of smaller applications like computers. Cheaper does go a long way,
too; that’s extra money to spend on speakers, DVDs, or  a whole lotta beer. Not to mention the lower
power draw, which (in this age of utility bills gone mad) is a gift that keeps
on giving!

Ten Ways to Recreate the Genuine Moviegoing Experience at Home

You’ve got the curtains, the projector screen, the seats… yet it’s
not quite the same as a night out at the movies. Your home theater is better than going out to see a movie, sure, but is it an accurate reproduction of the genuine moviegoing experience? Well, having worked in a movie theater for years, I’ve come up with the following list of ideas to help you get the true multiplex experience in the comfort of your own home:


10. Turn on the hallway lights, and
prop open the door to the home theater room.


 

9. Tune a radio to the most annoying
talk radio station you can find. Use it to prop open the aforementioned
door.


 

8. Invite a friend over to watch the
movie with, and tell him the radio in step 9 is an advanced new radio
that actually turns itself off if shushed at loudly, pointedly, and
frequently.


 

7. Leave your soda, candy, and some
wadded-up tissues in the cupholders after the movie. If you can still
conceivably fit an actual cup in there, add more
tissues.


 

6. Drizzle a fine squiggle of maple
syrup on the floor, and sprinkle lightly with a garnish of stale popcorn. Don’t
worry about attracting bugs; realism is the goal here,
people!


 

5. Set your ringtone to “My Humps,”
order a wakeup call for twenty minutes from now, gently toss your phone over
your shoulder, and let the movie magic begin.


 

4. Buy the brightest emergency exit
sign you can. Two or three, if possible. As a bonus, this might also help you
find your phone in the dark after following step 5. Let’s be honest, there’s
only so much My Humps a person can take.


 

3. Don’t waste water cleaning those
old gym socks. Wedge ’em between the seats, right next to your head. Save the
environment and smell the ambiance!


 

2. Watching a noisy horror flick?
Babies love those. Give mom the night off!



And finally,
 

1. Four words: Fart in a Can.

The Great Man Cave Home Theater Hunt

There’s a new contest over at HTmarket.com! Here’s the press release:

CHICAGO, Illinois, May 5, 2008— The leading online home theater marketplace, HTmarket.com, is pleased to announce the first-ever Great Man Cave Home Theater Hunt. Starting on May 5th, brave home theater hunters can go to HTmarket.com, follow the clues, find the codes, and win great prizes to take back to their own Man Cave!

Since the dawn of time, mankind has hunted to equip his cave with the essentials of caveman comfort. It wasn’t long before the most sought after prey of all became those of the genus Home-Theaterus Equippus, which included such beasts as home theater seating, projector screens, home theater speakers,and even elusive popcorn machines. It was held that the greatest of Man Caves should contain a home theater replete with many trophies of these hunts, so that a caveman could relax comfortable after a busy day of cave-painting and fire-questing!

Now you, too, can embark upon The Great Man Cave Home Theater Hunt and equip your Man Cave with everything a home theater requires! To play, quest over to HTmarket.com and search the product listings for cave paintings. Click on any cave painting you find, and you’ll be given a clue. Following this clue will lead you to the page where the Man Cave Code is hidden. Enter this code, and you’ll win a gift certificate valued from $25 to $500!

You can read more about the Great Man Cave Home Theater Hunt at the official contest page. Each Man Cave Code can only be used once, so be the first to follow the clues, find the code and win!

About HTmarket.Com:

Since going online in August of 2000, HTmarket.com has emerged as the premiere online home theater marketplace. Offering the finest home theater products and accessories available, from popcorn machines and home theater seating to projector screens and HD-DVD players, HTmarket.com specializes in bringing the compete theater experience into homes across the globe. With a steadily growing catalog featuring over 6,000 products and unsurpassed customer service, HTmarket.com has been given a Top Rated Yahoo Store score of 4.5 stars by their own customers.

HTmarket.com is located at 5100 N. Ravenswood Avenue, Suite 100,
Chicago, IL 60640. For direct orders, call 1-888-764-9273, fax 773-728-8162, or email sales1@HTmarket.com.