I know it’s been said before, but I (finally) have to echo what other bloggers have been saying about high definition: it’s STILL too bleeding edge for a lot of users. So, here’s a rant:
First, credentials. I’m about as bleeding edge as they come in home theater and high definition. As in, I have two networked PC media centers at home, running a wide variety of DVD and HD content, happily coexisting with a Mac HD editing rig, and sitting next to an HD-DVD player (yes, I cracked and bought one). I’ve been involved in surround sound and high end video since the early 90s, helping to design and bring to market the first upgradable surround sound processor and the first Media Center PC. I’m no stranger to component, VGA, DVI, and HDMI connections. I understand the difference between the various HD standards.
Ok, so you get the picture. I’m a geek.
But all that knowledge meant nothing when, on December 31, I tried to play an HD-DVD for our guests. Not a big deal. Or it shouldn’t be. It definitely shouldn’t devolve into an episode where I seriously considered throwing the HD-DVD player off of our back balcony.
Here’s what happened. First, the projector decided that it wanted to sync to the PC source we had on the DVI input instead of the HDMI input from the HD-DVD player. After trying to shut off the auto-search in vain, we finally convinced it that the HD-DVD player was, in fact, a valid input. Except it came up at 480p. Fine, switch res. But the projector, sensing a change in the HDMI input, switched to DVI. So we had to convince it to switch back so we could confirm the change on the HD-DVD remote. Fine, now it’s 720p. But 1080i looks better on our 720p projector, so another dance with the remote and the projector was needed.
Okay, so we have display. Friends are laughing and shaking their heads, now totally convinced they want nothing to do with HD-DVD. I explain it’s not that big of a deal, we’re weird, etc. They’re not buying it.
Now it’s time to run the HD-DVD. Oops, wrong one. Press the open button (right next to the Door button, don’t get me started on how hard it is to remember which you need to use), wait thirty seconds, and finally the disc comes out. Put another one in, wait sixty seconds, realize it’s a DVD. Pull it out. Another minute later, we’re finally looking at the right HD-DVD. Friends are now absolutely convinced that all home theater people are insane.
And now, here’s the kicker. No front channel audio. Just surround and sub. We’ve had problems with HD-DVD sound before, so I restarted the surround processor to no avail. Went through the sound menus on the HD-DVD. Nothing. By this time, friends are giving up on the movie. They agree it looks good, but they don’t want to wait around to see if I can kick-start the gear. I don’t blame them.
Now, the next day, I discovered the problem with the sound was a blown fuse in the amplifier–nothing to do with HD-DVD, but since we’d had sound problems before, it’s easier to blame the new component. I’m glad I didn’t throw it off the back deck, and now, with a new fuse, the amp is working fine.
But there are a whole lot of people who are now convinced that HD is too much effort. Sure, they’ll buy a panel, because they’re small and sexy, but they won’t ever see what HD can really do.
And that’s too bad. Because HD is really a mind-blowing experience. When it works.