I bet you have a pretty sweet TV. It’s probably big, and bright, and connected to the internet. It plays movies and TV and streams stuff and is probably paper-thin.
And that’s the problem for TV manufacturers. Your TV is more than good enough. But they only make money when you buy a new one (unless they’re Panasonic. selling ad space on their menu screen). So imagine their desperation to get you to think your awesome TV is worth discarding in favor of a new, several-thousand-dollar model.
Oh, wait, you don’t have to imagine—because the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is happening right now in Las Vegas, the land of let’s-see-if-too-much-of-a-bad-thing-turns-out-to-be-a-good-thing.
It’s not that it’s impossible for a new TV to be announced at CES that would actually improve your movie watching experience at home, but that’s not the actual motivation of the manufacturers.
Last year, it was all about 3D. You must have a 3D TV! What are you, an animal? This year, Vizio, one of the largest TV manufacturers, announced that it is dropping 3D completely.
Dolby announced Dolby Vision, an HDR display method that allows crazy-bright images. While this might be fun for some special venue projects (where the creator dictates the exhibition method), I doubt it will become a standard for movies or TV. But it sure is a wonderful distraction from the simple fact that blacker black levels would be a much better way to improve our home viewing experience—and would require no new standards.
What we should want from our TVs is accuracy, but that’s hard to sell. An accurate TV placed next to one in torch mode would look positively sad.
3D didn’t work last year, so this is the year of 4K. Actually, it’s the year of Moar-K—with Sharp announcing that they can type just about any number followed by a K into a press release.
There’s nothing new to say about 4K in the home—it’s stupid, just like it was last year. Seriously, go back and read this article. Here’s an update: I’ve since set up my home theater. I chose a high-end 1080p projector from JVC, the RS46U. My screen is 132“ diagonally, and my seating distance is about 12.5 feet. The universal reaction I get is ”wow, it’s so sharp!” That’s because the JVC has a great lens, and industry-leading black levels. Eventually you’ll be able to buy an affordable 4K display with no compromises in black levels, but that’s probably a couple of years out. Heck, maybe by then there will actually be some 4K stuff to watch. But beware: there will be a lot of crappy 4K out there as the technology is introduced. Good 1080p (from a low-compression source, like Blu-ray) will beat crappy 4K every time.
Sometimes these new TV gadgets demo well. But that often has little to do with their staying power. Beware the Cream Soda Effect.
CES is also a great time to be reminded that people use TVs for all kinds of stuff, not just watching movies. Many of the announced technologies might make sense for displays used in hotel lobbies and museum exhibits. Keep in mind that manufacturers are trying to create buzz in a more-is-more environment. If they happen make something that’s good for filmmaker or film-lovers, it’s a happy accident.
Oh, and the photo above? It’s a 40-foot-long road-cutting chainsaw that was parked in front of my hotel one year at NAB, also in Las Vegas. It’s really fun to look at, possibly of use to someone, undoubtedly quite expensive, and would be stupid for me to buy. And I didn’t have a photo handy of a 4K TV.