Star Trek: TNG on Blu-ray & silver screen

14-May-12 9:55 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; Comments Off on Star Trek: TNG on Blu-ray & silver screen

As a geek, I may surprise you by not being beholden to the latest and greatest technology. In addition to cell phones and tablet computers, I'm not yet convinced of the need for Blu-ray DVDs. Their improvement over standard definition seems minimal, especially when a good BD player will upscale existing DVDs to take some advantage of a 1080p display.

However, it's hard for me to ignore the differences between the standard and high definition editions of a show like Star Trek. Having already remastered The Original Series (TOS) for Blu-ray, Paramount and CBS are now turning to The Next Generation (TNG). I hoped this announcement would not undermine my fairly recent investment in all seven seasons of TNG & DS9 on DVD, but this trailer suggests I am, in fact, missing out:

If you want a hands-on experience with TNG in high definition, a $22 sampler was released in January that included the show's two-part pilot, as well as episodes "Sins of the Father" and "The Inner Light". That disc apparently was sufficient proof of concept for the studio to commit to releasing the entire first season, hitting store shelves on July 24th with an MSRP of $118. But even that will have its own sampler — not on yet another retail purchase, but on the silver screen. TVShowsonDVD.com reports that, on Monday, July 23, 600 theaters in 49 U.S. markets will screen episodes "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "Datalore", in addition to some behind-the-scenes extras, as part of the show's 25th anniversary.

Star Trek series are becoming just like Star Wars: now you can own them again for the first time!

The Death of Analog

16-Feb-09 3:01 AM by
Filed under Television; 2 comments.

A reminder that, though most stations have been allowed to wait until June 12th, today is nonetheless the last day that some American television stations will offer an analog broadcast signal. If tomorrow your service ceases, you may need to upgrade or convert. Read Showbits' one-year advance warning on the topic for full details about who this transition affects and what you can do to accommodate it — or simply watch this video:

NTSC's Dying Light

17-Feb-08 12:00 AM by
Filed under Television; 1 comment.

One year from today, American television stations will cease their analog broadcasts, switching entirely to digital signals. This transition will eliminate the need for both signals, thereby freeing up half of the currently-used television spectrum for the FCC to auction. Any television sold since March 2007 already has the hardware necessary to accept the new, higher-quality digital signal. If your home theater predates that cutoff, you may need to prepare for a conversion.

Let me decipher the criteria for you. If you use an antenna to receive your programming for free, then you will definitely be impacted: "Analog television sets receiving free TV using an antenna will not work after February 17, 2009. Television viewers with these sets that are not connected to a pay TV service will need to take action before February 17, 2009, to ensure their TV sets continue to work." This information comes from DTV2009.gov, where you can apply for a $40 coupon toward the purchase of a digital-to-analog converter box. The FCC defines these adaptors as such: "converter boxes are for the conversion of over-the-air digital television signals, and therefore are not intended for analog TVs connected to a paid provider such as cable or satellite TV service."

In other words, you can buy one of three solutions: a new television; a converter box; or cable, satellite, or other pay service. But even if you get (or already have) that third option, you should inquire with your service provider how they will be handling this transition — just in case.

If you do buy a new television, you'll want to ensure it's backward-compatible with older peripherals you may not want to also replace. Wikipedia states that a television with only the newer ATSC tuner and not the traditional NTSC tuner "prevents older devices, such as VCRs and video game consoles with only an analog RF output, from connecting to the TV." In other words, it's probably cheaper to just stick with your current, tried-and-true television.

Although champions of this upgrade declare high-definition television to be a necessary and inevitable future, the two truths I am gleaning from all the above are these: 1) The upgrade will primarily affect the minority who receive free programming, who are being offered free converters; and 2) The FCC and its industry is benefitting more from this optimization than the consumers are. Of course, if those older wavelengths are repurposed to some useful end, then we all stand to gain — but that's too big an "if" to label it a motivation for this change.

War of the Formats

07-Jan-08 1:05 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; Comments Off on War of the Formats

The current buzz of the movie industry is Warner's decision to abandon the HD-DVD format in favor of Blu-Ray. That leaves almost no major studios supporting both formats, choosing one or the other exclusively. The only party left to get off the fence is us, the consumers.

I know competition is supposed to be good for business and that we always benefit from having a choice, but my limited experience suggests this high-definition trend just isn't catching on, unlike our last media storage generational leap. The move from VHS to DVD was dramatic, delivering improved audio and video, more content, and more control over how the movie is presented. I have not observed that either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD offer significant incentives in any of these three departments. The video quality of either compared to standard DVD is noticeable, but only to entertainment mavens whose budgets support the high-end, next-gen televisions necessary to take advantage of the player's capabilities. No other significant feature justifies the upgrade: Interactivity? Internet connectivity? This is a DVD player, not a game console! And appreciable differences between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray — well, nobody has demonstrated that to me yet.

What is a consumer to do while this format war is waged? We're already poor enough from the last decade. How many of us have already upgraded our VHS collections to DVD — or from DVD standard edition to DVD "collector's edition" (now with director commentary!)? I doubt I could restrain myself (or my budget) to be satisfied with standard definition if I knew I had a high-def player in the house. Do I therefore replace my highly functional 36" CRT, buy a $850 combination Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player, and begin replacing my hundreds of movies and TV shows at the cost of house and home?

Jeff Kleist suggest it's not really up to consumers to make such decisions; it's the retailers who hold the power, and they're likely to decide soon. That's fine for them. If not to decide is to decide, then I guess I've chosen my place on the fence. Though HD-DVD may go the way of the dodo, giving way for the superior species of Blu-Ray, we're farther still from the extinction of standard DVD. My DVD player turns ten years old this year and should continue to serve up new films for some time yet, and this old dinosaur is still an industry behemoth.