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Entertainment &Hardware &Random Steven Kippel on 02 Apr 2009

What are you going to do about the economy?

What are you going to do about the economy?

Yeah, the economy sucks. We all know this. I’m sure we all know someone who lost their job this past year, or maybe facing a job cut later this year. I’m sure you’ve started buying more groceries and eating out less too.

So… What are you going to do about the economy?

So many companies are struggling to pay the bills they’re getting desperate for work. So many real properties are selling for a fraction of what they used to go for. It’s a buyer’s market.

Recently I discovered a high-end custom installation AV job I worked on just made it on the cover of one of the ultra-rich ego-stroking magazines this year. It’s an amazing house that cost over $55-million. But I’ll tell you what, this guy who owns the property made his billions investing in times just like this. Property values are so low, and interest rates are as well. Three years ago my brother-in-law bought a two bedroom house here in California for $200,000. Two weeks ago his neighbor’s house, a four bedroom, sold at auction for $50,000. A small investment made now can pay off in time.


But you don’t come here to read investment advice… what about movies? Well, right now is a great time to invest in your home theater as well. File taxes, get that tax return, and what the hell – blow it.

Every other week I get an email from a vendor with price cuts for their high-def LCD displays. The retailers are offering even further cuts. We’re also right in the middle of the model crossover to 2009 models so 2008 models are selling for a song (check out how cheap Pioneer Kuros are selling for now!).

You might not make your millions buying a bigger plasma TV, but you’ll enjoy life that much more while you wait for things to turn around.

Random Steven Kippel on 01 Dec 2008

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday

The Monday after Thanksgiving is Cyber Monday. Today is the day you can find all kinds of great deals online. For example, a pair of Polk floorstanding loudspeakers at are $99 today. You can also get an Onkyo TXSR706B receiver for only $479, normally $799.

Most online retails are also offering free shipping today, so you can take advantage of these savings as well. Buying online is certainly an attractive affair because the selection is larger, the prices are better, and often times they’re out of state so you don’t pay sales tax. Of course it’s a bear to get service most of the time, and returns are a pain, but for the smaller items I’m a fan.

Cyber Monday

I would suggest visiting Pricegrabber to find the best Cyber Monday deals online.

Random Steven Kippel on 11 Sep 2008

A day to remember

A day to remember

Today I want to talk briefly about the infamous day seven years ago when the whole world changed. September 11, 2001.

Even seven years later, this is a very emotional day. I still see the signs and stickers that say, “Never forget.” I doubt anyone will ever forget, they don’t need reminding. This has changed the way people live, the way they think and act.

This morning I turned on the television and one channel was playing the news footage from that morning in its entirety. I couldn’t handle it. Yes, it’s a terrible day, but I don’t want to relive it every year.

Many politicians and pundits have politicized the day, they’ve profited from one of the worst events in US history. But so many more have truly shown their character through the hard times, and have found common ground with one another. Some people talk about the unity that followed as if the tragedy was cause of positive change in our nation. I wouldn’t say it was good, it was different. This country has always valued unity, charity and community.

Though we should never romanticize this day, we should also never let it hold us back.

Blu-ray &DVD &Entertainment &Random Steven Kippel on 20 Jun 2008

One step forward, two steps back

One step forward, two steps back

Something is bugging me, so I thought I’d let you all in on it: People are idiots!

It seems like we’ve accomplished a lot in the last few years bringing a new high-definition format to the market that is well-supported and robust. Blu-ray Disc is finally offering a true cinema like experience in the home. But it seems like the lowest common denominator is the big news item lately.

Toshiba is attempting to promote DVD again with their Super Upconversion process to make near-HD quality images from normal DVDs. Apple TV, Xbox Live, Vudu, Netflix and other online digital delivery services are looking to be the future of home video. But it’s all a step back in quality.

While Super Upconversion may offer better picture quality, the audio is still the same Dolby Digital or DTS soundtrack we’ve known for over a decade. These just don’t compare to the new lossless compression technologies like Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. Why settle for less than the best?

Caveman watching DVDDigital delivery is really just a huge step backwards. It’s like a repeat of SACD all over again. A new high-quality format comes out that blows you away, and the market decides they would rather listen to the lowest quality audio possible on their iPods (through terrible ear buds on top of that). If the movies are actually in the right aspect ratio (most aren’t), they’re poor quality with stereo audio or highly compressed Dolby Digital. It’s not acceptable in a respectable home theater environment.

But what else is new? Convenience trumps quality every day. This is why McDonald’s is busy over the lunch hour while the French bistro sits empty. Or even worse, when time isn’t a factor people chose the Olive Garden over the local Cucina with far better food and service at comparable prices.

And it’s not for lack of trying, the industries spend millions putting out new technologies just for Joe Status Quo to watch movies on his iPod. This is why I’ve said the Blu-ray Disc Association needs to get Blu-ray in front of the consumer so they can experience the quality for themselves.

Maybe I sound like an elitist prick. Let me know what you think about my belief that you are a dolt.

Blu-ray &Random Steven Kippel on 28 May 2008

The Blu-ray bandwagon slowdown

The Blu-ray bandwagon slowdown

Sleeping Blu-rayOne strength I saw in the Blu-ray Disc Association over the course of the so-called “format war” was that they refused to actually engage in the war. While HD DVD would attack Blu-ray, the BDA would stay their course as if they were already the victor. Obviously this was all an act.

When Warner went exclusive to Blu-ray in January the BDA was cheering and declaring (once again) that their format was the victor. When Toshiba finally threw in the towel they once again made sure everyone knew they had won.

But now that we’re months past “mission accomplished,” I don’t see the same marketing push as in the midst of the throes of war. There were those who said the war was actually good for the high-def market – maybe these same people agree with Howard Dean and think the drawn-out primary battle is good for the Democratic party. I disagree with them and think the war caused a large amount of ennui and consumers were put off to high-def opting instead for upconverting DVD players. But I would have to agree with these same people if the BDA companies do not continue with at least the same effort as when they were engaged in combat.

While Blu-ray sales are increasing by about 20% a week, and consumer awareness is at about 70%, I see a strikingly low amount of effort to really push the format as a new standard in video and audio reproduction. For a while there I saw TV adverts for movies as “Blu-ray High-Def and DVD” with the Blu-ray box in the forefront. Now it is the opposite with “DVD and Blu-ray” featuring the blue case behind the DVD one. I’ve even seen fewer Blu-ray ads on HD Theater and other HD channels who frequently aired specifically Blu-ray ads for months.

The good news is we do see growth in the market, and custom integrators have been moving clients to Blu-ray Disc throughout their homes instead of just the media room. Panasonic has also introduced a single integrated chip for Blu-ray reproduction that replaces up to four chips which should bring the price of players down significantly.

It is simply my contention that in the midst of the summer movie season we should be seeing a much larger push for the savior of home video. Put it on screen before the summer blockbusters – or if you’re Mark Cuban actually sell the Blu-ray version of the film they just saw to them as they’re leaving the theater. Their message should be, “Bring the theater experience home!” It’s just not the time to rest in their sound victory and let the market soften.

Hardware &Random Steven Kippel on 20 May 2008

Pioneer Signature Series plasmas feature IP control

Pioneer Signature Series plasmas feature IP control

Pioneer logoI swear, this is not another post about Pioneer’s new line. This is actually a post about me tooting my own horn. I’m allowed to do this because I am great.

They should just send me truckloads of cash. Back in February I wrote about how companies should make their TVs plug directly into Crestron networks. While they’re not using the same technology I wrote about, Pioneer has added exactly this functionality into their new Signature Series plasma line.

This line was aimed at the high-end custom integrator. While part of it seems gimmicky – like the fact that these panels are “hand picked” – but they are the top tier in quality. 1080p Kuro plasmas at 2.5″ deep, plus they have advanced calibration controls to get them just right.

But the reason I’m writing today is because you now plug ethernet directly into these plasmas and they come with a Crestron module for IP control in your automation system. No slow RS-232, no more IR emitters glued to the front bezel.

Better bring me that money now.

Blu-ray &Random Steven Kippel on 03 Jan 2008

2008: The year of mudslinging

2008: The year of mudslinging

Format War 2007This week is exciting for two reasons: the upcoming Iowa caucuses and CES. This whole year seems to be dedicated to politicians battling it out for the most desirable address, spokesmen battling it out over high-def media, and fanboys battling each other because … well, I don’t know why they battle.

It seems as if the mudslinging has already started. Mike Dunn of Fox has been quoted by Home Media Magazine as saying, “Some of the blowout pricing seen by the other format appears to have been counterproductive, as software sales showed no dramatic increase.” With a bit more teeth he added, “Blu-ray is ‘future proof’ technology with the capacity to grow and evolve, rather than the one that faces near-term obsolescence.”

Craig Kornblau from Universal Studios must not have got the “mudslinging” memo as he said, “The HD DVD companies continue to stand behind our value proposition, which offers consumers a compelling and consistent high-def experience at the most affordable price.”

Meanwhile, New Line and parent company Warner Brothers have nearly identical points. Steve Einhorn of New Line claimed, “Dueling formats have restrained our ability to launch large-scale, industry wide marketing initiatives” and Warner’s Ron Sanders said, “Unfortunately, the dueling formats created an information logjam in what should have been our conversation with consumers.”

Hmm, perhaps it’s only Fox doing the mudslinging. I’m sure Hillary can get in on that. However, Warner’s position does seem a little different than it has previously been. They’ve been very vocal about how both formats are great and now they seem a little put off by the war. If I was paying close attention, it seems a lot like the way Paramount was speaking weeks before they dropped Blu-ray. I don’t want to make any claims or add anything to any rumors, just making an observation.

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