Lights in a Box? JS page 2

NTSC is an "interlace" system. In 1939 we couldn't make a TV that could write fast enough to show 525 lines in 1/60 second. The solution was simple---write the odd-numbered lines in the first 1/60, and write the even-numbered lines in the next 1/60. We then see a whole picture every 1/30 second. No problem, except picture quality! We only have half the lines on the screen at any moment in time. The DVD, like your computer monitor, has all the lines every time, every frame, in a "progressive scan" display. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8...all together at one time in their proper order, not 1-3-5-7-9...and then a little later 2-4-6-8. Once again, a huge difference in picture quality! The problem is, mainstream TVs need an interlaced signal. Once again, we'll have to degrade the DVD quality for the mainstream, but not for high-end display devices. We already do progressive scan imaging with line doublers.

You're right when you say that letterboxing a movie loses many lines. When we stretch the picture into a taller image to fill our viewing screens with a letterboxed movie to eliminate the black bars on the top and the bottom, we also throw away both top and bottom lines of resolution along with the black bars. We also stretch apart the remaining few lines when we do this. The "anamorphic" format sends us a vertically stretched, badly distorted "skinny" image that can use all the lines. If your TV can simply stretch out this image horizontally, exactly undistorting it, this neat trick lets you have widescreen images with no loss of vertical resolution. And---you guessed it---the DVD has anamorphic capability. If your TV is not a high-end device that can do this horizontally stretching trick, once again, you don't get the picture. Well, Steve, do we sound like high-end yet?

The "quest" for the perfect illusion of live entertainment in the home that you speak of is what makes high-end audio environments attractive to video companies. That "culture" inherent within your manufacturers, dealers, and consumers is precisely reflected by like-minded individuals (like Yves Faroudja, Sam Runco, and others) within the electronic high-end imaging world. We seek High-Fidelity Video. We wish for our images to accurately reproduce the artistic intentions of the producers and directors.

We appreciate that the recent roots of your community lie in two-speaker presentation, but remember: mono wasn't that long ago. We're not audio professionals, but we've heard fabulous multichannel audio presentations in the Snell and Madrigal facilities that were certainly musical, and well in keeping with your "quest." In that "quest," must you limit your tools to two speakers? Remember that the original Bell Labs work in three-channel sound failed only because of the difficulty in getting three channels out of vinyl. (Does your word "illusion" imply anything visual?) We admire the goals that you define for high-end audio, but find your conclusion that those goals must be met with specific limitations on technology to be flat-out narrow-minded.

The high-end audio market was and will be a niche market. The rapid growth of Stereophile's readership to record levels speaks for the validity as well as the vitality of this niche. Home Theater is an opportunity for your community to enrich the enjoyment of another entirely new audience and a huge world of popular software. Reaching out to that market will make new clients aware of the unique qualities of the product lines in your industry. Only by growing and prospering can your small audio companies continue to fund R&D.

The video market was 25 million unit sales last year. Why do you think Stereophile publishes a separate Stereophile Guide to Home Theater? When television first came on the scene, the radio stations were convinced the end was near, but radio thrived alongside of television. When Pay-TV and videotape came along, the movie theaters felt they, too, were doomed. Video has been the best thing that ever happened to the movie business, and theaters are thriving. We have trained hundreds of audio professionals in video-display-standard seminars. We expect their Home Theater presentations to complement, not replace, their audio business.

High-end electronic imaging is a science, easily replicated with test patterns and instrumentation. High-end audio remains an art, one that your community does best. Whether you thrive or survive in purist audio, Home Theater is not a cancer, but the very introduction to the broader market that your industry certainly deserves.-
--Joel Silver