by Terry Paullin
Not surprisingly, friends, readers, potential clients ask me "What T.V. should I buy?"
The answer they are looking for is something like " a 50" Binford 3000".
My first response is "There is no good, short answer to that question". Then I ask, "What is your favorite screwdriver?" After quizzical looks subside -
What's that got to do with the price of tea in China?
No, really, what's your favorite screwdriver?
Well, it depends .........
Well, first of all, do I need a Phillips or a flat blade or a Torx
and then of course there is a size choice .... and I don't
always have the wallet to buy all Snap-On, so sometimes I opt
for an economy tool from the Bargain Bin Hardware store.
"See", I said ... "no short answer".
When I engage with a Home Theatre client, I would never begin to answer "What T.V." until I have made a site visit. There I learn about the ambient light environment, seating arrangements and get a sense of the budget. Only then can I decide what display to put in the proposal. I used to ask about viewing choices and usage patterns, but I've stopped that for some time now. I have learned that that all changes when you get a decent theatre system.
For every time I'm asked that question, I imagine my friend Joel Silver is asked it 100 times, so I decided to interview him on this topic.
So, Joel, what do you say when someone asks you "What T.V. should I buy"?
(J) -Terry, as you mentioned the room environment is absolutely a key factor in choosing not only a TV brand, but determines the very TV technology that is applicable to the task at hand.
We often deal with sizable rooms that have fantastic views from really large windows. That creates quite a challenge, and often the best solution is a large flat panel for daytime viewing, and a much larger retractable projection for night viewing - that is the ultimate Day/Night "viewing mode".
(T) - Joel, we have taught in class for years that REAL contrast ratio is the biggest care-about amongst non-technical viewers who still know what pleases them when watching on-screen images ..... but contrast ratios can be relative. Are there some absolute metrics that folks should consider?
(J) - For dealing with ambient light professionally there are fantastic Contrast Ratio performance standards from InfoComm. They specify multiple contrast goals for different viewing applications. We use their "Full Motion Video" standard all the time when planning a media room system with ambient light issues, and then we audit our own installations when we are finished to insure and document performance compliance on site.
For light controlled home theaters there is a new Video performance document from CEDIA and CTA that details both minimum acceptable and aspirational contrast ratios.
We don't have opinions on video performance, we simply learn and apply industry Standards……..
Two really fundamental considerations that we find to be completely client dependent are two simple specifications - "how big should the screen be", and "how high should the screen be mounted".
(T) - Yes, I often find myself urging clients to the next size up. Although ability to accommodate can be a real issue, more often than not, it isn't. I have never had a client say "You know, I wish we had gone one size smaller" - on the other hand, the opposite has been expressed from time to time.
Field-of-view is important to cause maximum envelopment in the movie watching experience. What was the commercial theater analogy I've heard you use to answer those two questions for students?
(J) -Those fundamental personal questions are best answered by simply asking our clients about their favorite seats in their favorite commercial movie theater. We have been doing this a long time, and have found that people are absolutely dogmatic about how far back they choose to sit from the screen. Once we know their preferences, we can recreate their personal choices for their own optimum viewing angles for height and width in their own homes.
We have even found instances where spouses have provided us with different seating preferences, and have uncovered long standing and quite stressful movie going situations. We have not found resolutions for these situations, but if you are diplomatic you may end up doing additional residences for both spouses.
(T) - Indeed. Job security!
(J) - Another major topic is light output. For flat panel TVs this is a quickly evolving scenario. HDR and wide color gamut have raised the bar for what we can wish for in our homes. We can now deliver image quality in many rooms that was just not possible a few years ago. So the right answer about what HDR TV to buy is now the newest and top of the line one!
(T) - So true. HDR and all that comes with it takes us into a whole new realm of movie enjoyment. Still, the best HDR is closely linked to light output of the display. What is your take on the fate of front projectors and HDR?
(J) - For projectors HDR remains a challenge, but if we deploy enough light output and native color space we can now deliver the best images ever seen in homes. Do not expect to easily equal a studio HDR monitor with a 1000 nit image with projection, but we can easily exceed all our prior expectations - and a very large projection screen HDR wide color gamut image in a light controlled room is fantastic.
The real answer to "what TV should I buy" is best answered by a good demo. The recent stellar progress in image quality simply cannot be described in print - and mainstream retail demos of uncalibrated TVs in poor lighting show a mere hint of what is now possible.
The best of the new HDR digital video images live in rarified air. The few Dolby Vision theaters worldwide provide a superior new movie going experience that even non technical people appreciate. The few custom installers that have mastered "The Art of the HDR Demo" are now updating all their client's old systems. This is a new era of image quality - and right now is the best time in memory to buy a new TV!
(T) - Thanks Joel for your time. I'm sure our readers will heed your counsel and spend their money more wisely as a result.
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