Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Technology: The Enemy of a Good Photograph?

Oh, for a good quality manual camera again! I'm referring to flash pictures, which have become all too common since the advent of the digital camera, due to its automatic flash. This means that the lighting in most pictures is obviously artificial, overly harsh, or completely wasted--the latter owing to an extreme distance of the subject, or else because the sensor is spooked by a misleading shadow over the camera itself. It seems to me that if an average person were presented with one of the better cameras, he or she wouldn't have the faintest clue how to use it. This is because these cameras afford the photographer manual control over such settings as aperture, shutter speed, focus, and of course, whether or not to use the flash, whereas most modern digital cameras make all these decisions for you. "Quel domage," as the French say.

Friday, January 08, 2010

3D TV -- Coming Soon

For those of you who have been waiting for the advent of 3D technology for television, your wait may be over. The format will soon be here. Televisions are being made that will receive and display the 3D signal, with special glasses to separate the two images for your two eyes. The two proposed presentation formats are already in use by theaters. The one was developed by IMAX and involves switching the two sides of the glasses on and off. The other is the RealD format, which uses polarization of the two lenses 90° apart (vertical for one eye, horizontal for the other, or something like that).

ESPN and Discovery Channel are both launching all-3D channels for later this year, and other networks are expected to follow. If your set is not 3D-ready, there may also be converter boxes available soon. Check your local stores. But be patient, as this is new technology, and it might not be available right away.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hi Def: The Format War Heats Up

Many of you already know that there are two High Definition DVD-like formats. One is called Blu-Ray and the other is called HD DVD.

Now for the interesting part: When Sony came out with their PlayStation 3 (PS3), they built into it the capability to play Blu-Ray Disc and SACD formats. But now, not to be undone, Microsoft has weighed in on this competition with their own player which is an Xbox 360 add-on. The new Xbox 360 HD DVD player must be used with an existing Xbox 360 game console, so if you don’t have one, you will need to purchase both. There may also be a combination package available.

There’s no clear word on support of other formats (DVD-A, for example), but given the price tag and the fact that Microsoft is notoriously obtuse when it comes to including features people will want, my guess is that it’s only HD DVD compatible, not DVD-A compatible.

So, recapping, the two players are Sony PS3 (Blu-Ray) and Xbox 360 HD DVD player (requires Xbox 360 Console). Neither player supports both formats, so you will need them both.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Dual Disc: a Second Look.

It has been over a year since I last posted. But here’s an update on the Dual Disc format. What I said earlier is only half the story. True, Dual Disc has two sides, but it’s a lot closer to a dual-layer disc than a double-sided disc.

Here’s why: the two disc formats are placed back to back, but about as close as two layers of a DVD. This differs physically from the double-sided DVD, which is thicker because it is two discs, essentially, glued to each other, whereas Dual Disc is no thicker than an ordinary CD. So now I know what took them so long to come out with it in the first place!

There’s also a reason why the CD data must be on an opposite side. Unlike SACD, which was designed with the capability to support a hybrid format, DVD technology has been ever changing and updating. Nearest I can figure, if CD and DVD were put on different layers of the same side, most existing players would only be able to play the CD layer, and would ignore the DVD data entirely. To avoid this, Dual Disc was designed as a flip-side, rather than dual-layer, format. So yes, we still have to put the correct side in the player; and yes, there are no labels on Dual Discs. But this is the price you pay for backward compatibility.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Binaural with 4 Speakers

Many people haven’t tried this, but if you play a binaural recording on an ordinary stereo, you can split the output for each side and send each extra signal to another speaker. What this does is simulate the effect of headphones, so that the sound envelops you. Left rear speaker is left; right rear speaker is right. The acoustics take care of the rest.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Two competing formats.

As you all know, there’s two competing formats poised to hit the market for HD recordings. One is endoursed by the HD Forum (formerly DVD Forum) and is called—Dadut Dada!—HD-DVD. No surprise there. The other is an independent format that has contributions from 9 companies, including Sony and Philips, and is called Blu Ray. Though some may say two formats cause confusion, I’d like to point out that the two competing audio formats, DVD-A and SACD, are taking off, both of them, much faster than anticipated, fueled by—what else?—competition!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

If it’s stereo, why do I hear it behind me?

It’s actually a psychoacoustic phenomenon. Some of the acoustics, though not all of them, from the original recording session, made their way onto the disc, into the player, out the speaker, and into your ears. These are cues like difference (L-R), frequency spread, delay, and echo. In some cases, you may even be able to hear sound as if it’s bouncing off an imaginary ceiling. “But it’s only coming from two speakers!” Well? You only have two ears, not 5.1 ears!