Home Theater

HDTVs, projectors, and surround sound systems.

Could I replace my set top cable box with something else that's less expensive?

Paul from San Diego, CA

Episode 1075

Paul wants to cut the cord as he's tired of his cable bills getting higher and higher. Can he replace the set top box and save a little money? Leo says that he recently bought a TIVO that can take a "cable card." This is a card that can plug into the DVR. The cable company is supposed to support it by law, but they aren't very helpful in getting it because that set top box is a big revenue stream. So he needs to know if he can get one from his cable company. Leo says to go down to the cable store and get face to face with them about it.

Scott Wilkinson

Episode 1075

Scott Wilkinson went to see the world premiere of the Johnny Depp film "Transcendence," which was shown in Dolby Atmos, which is able to steer the sound in ways that aren't channel based and go way beyond 5.1 or even 7.1. It was shot in film and then converted to digital, which is becoming more and more rare. But it has some wonderful grain and dynamic range. Leo wonders when it became noteworthy that film is being used over digital? How did that happen? Scott says it's a philosophical choice.

How can I cut the cord on my satellite service?

Debbie from Pennsylvania

Episode 1073

Debbie is looking to cut the cord and cancel her satellite service. Leo says that the good news is most of the programming on TV, except live TV, is available over the Internet through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vudu, etc. With all that, who needs satellite or cable? Debbie wants to know how she can get that content from the internet on her TV.

Can I attach a second DVR to a cable box?

Judy from Seal Beach, CA

Episode 1073

Judy wants to know if she can buy her own DVR and use it with the same cable connection as the rest of the apartment. Leo says she could get a TIVO or a ChannelMaster that would do this, but since it won't have its own cable card from the cable company, it would need to connect to the set top box that's already there. This means she'll need an IR blaster so that the DVR can communicate to the cable box to change channels at the appropriate times. Some set top boxes have a link cable that the TIVO would understand, so she could hook it up that way.

Scott Wilkinson at NAB

Episode 1073

Scott Wilkinson

Scott is back from NAB in Las Vegas, where he says the show has become more for content creators and not just for broadcasters. GoPro had a huge presence there, as did Blackmagic, Canon, Panasonic, JVC, and Sony, which all had broadcast quality consumer cameras. Scott likes that the technology he sees there ends up trickling down to the consumer market.

Can I use a VPN to get around ISPs throttling Netflix?

Episode 1071

Steve from Summerville, MA
Netflix

Steve signed up for a VPN in order to bypass the bottlenecks brought about by his ISP and Netflix. Leo says that's an interesting solution as the data would be encrypted and the ISP wouldn't know what the data is. Leo says ISPs are slowing down the traffic by 33%, and it's terrible that they do it. VPNs could be a solution to that. However, it also delays his signal because of the overhead of encryption and decryption that would be required. Since Netflix is paying Comcast now for preferred traffic access, a VPN would actually slow the signal down.

Why does AT&T's U-verse look so compressed?

Episode 1071

Rob from Fairfield, CA
AT&T U-verse

Rob has AT&T UVerse and looks really compressed. Leo says he hears that complaint all the time. It's likely that U-Verse does use a lot of compression, even though it's fiber, so they have no loss of bandwidth. On top of that, channels also are compressed. So there's compression all along the line. This is why broadcast HD is always the best, because there's no compression over-the-air.

Scott Wilkinson and NAB in 4K

Episode 1071

Scott Wilkinson

Scott is heading to NAB this week to see what the professionals are doing with 4K. Scott is interested because it will largely impact the standards of ultra high definition moving forward, and that will greatly drive the consumer market. But how will content be graded by pros to take advantage of the new standard? That hasn't been determined yet and Scott will see where it's going at NAB. There's also trends in high dynamic range and color gamut, which are going to provide a broader range of colors with ultra high definition.

Amazon Launches Fire TV

Episode 1071

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon announced Fire TV this week, a device that is positioned to compete with AppleTV and Roku. Leo says it pretty much does the same things, but for an extra $40, you can get a wireless game controller to play games on it. Leo says it's essentially a computer running an Android OS; a smartphone minus the screen. It runs a quad core Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM, and will play Android games. Apple and Roku plan to implement this as well, but Amazon beat them to the punch.