Sight And Sounds

980 David Road, Suite G

Burlingame, CA 94010

650.697.7081
 

 

 

 

 

 

Sight And Sounds Newsletter

December, 2008

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Great Christmas Idea: Access To Media

 

Christmas is a great time of year, with kids on vacation and events among friends and family. In today’s economic climate, we all want to make the most of our Christmas holiday, along with the dollars spent on our gift giving. Here are two great Christmas gifts that can really enhance your holiday season without breaking the bank.

Most of our clients have home theater systems with surround-sound capabilities. Quality flat-panel displays selling at record-low prices, many of you have taken the opportunity to pair a modern display device with your home theater system. If you don’t have the home theater experience in your own home, it is not too late to call us in for the task prior to the Holidays. For those with home theaters, online streaming entertainment is really making a hit this season. Netflix just announced that an extensive HD content library will be available prior to the New Year, and currently much of this HD content is available to all Xbox Live subscribers.

Yes, HD movies available from the internet. We have this in our own home, and it is amazing.

 

$99 Roku Netflix Player

Roku manufactures a $99 Netflix streaming device that connects to the internet and your system. At $99, this is like giving a DVD player and movie rental store all-in-one. About the size of a stocking-stuffer, this product has all the necessary audio and video outputs for any modern home theater. It is revolutionizing the way we access media content in our household. Here is how it works:

You sign up for a Netflix account. The fee is about $9/month for the most regular service. You can sign up on the www.netflix.com website, and they provide a free trial period. On the Netflix website, you browse and select up to 500 movies onto your queue. Once you build your media list, you then access the chosen titles directly from your playback device. The Roku player (http://www.roku.com) is one of several products that playback the streaming content, and I have listed the other compatible appliances on this newsletter's right column.

The user interface is very straight-forward, controllable from AMX and Control4 systems, with the ability to sort through your queue based on how the list is set within the Netflix website. My son has an IPhone, so he logs into Netflix at the sofa, arranges his queue, and then accesses the stream simultaneously on our theater system. The response is immediate from logging in via IPhone, desktop, or laptop, then to browsing titles on our plasma TV.

We have become addicted to this system. Our first experience was to download the HD television show Heroes (http://www.nbc.com/Heroes). This is an amazingly well-produced sci-fi thriller series with all sorts of character and plot twists. Most of the kids in my son’s school have become fans of the series, and the online component builds a greater mystique to this program, since much of the script involves flashbacks and time shifts. During any one point within an episode, we can instantly access another scene from a previous episode and compare situations. Another huge benefit to online television programming is the total lack of commercials. That’s right, no annoying Viagra spots.

Over the weekend, I watched several concert videos, including The Who, Genesis, Steve Miller, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Peter Frampton, King Crimson, and Blues Traveler. I also spent time browsing movies, which is constantly growing.

Think about this: we have a Blockbuster two blocks away. Whenever I go in there, I pay from six to ten dollars on movie rentals. Blockbuster normally carries a couple thousand titles per-store. Your local store may be slightly higher or lower than that, but nowhere near 12,000 titles like Netflix Online. For nine dollars, I have a whole month to view an entire video rental store the size of a typical Home Depot with Netflix Online. I simply log onto Netflix with my laptop, select the movies I want to add to the queue, exit the site, then access the queue on my home theater system.

Also, have you been in a Blockbuster lately? Try renting Michelangelo Antononi’s “Blow Up,” Federico Felini’s “La Dolce Vita” or “8 ½.” Forget it. You’re dreaming. Netflix has 12,000 titles available and growing. When I have the time to watch a film, I want to watch material I am in the mood for now, not yesterday or the day before. I have never been a fan of renting Netflix or Blockbuster films via mail, simply because my tastes change with my mood, which has an hourly flux. On the other hand, Netflix Online fits the instant gratification requirement perfectly.

Blockbuster has their own new online service and accompanying “Media Point” player, but they are far behind the curve. Firstly, they are late to the table with no HD content on the immediate horizon. Secondly, if their online service succeeds, they will be responsible for drying up their own store revenues, forcing a downward infrastructure investment cycle - which is very bad corporate planning and could implode the business model. Lastly, Blockbuster charges a rental fee per-movie, which is the worst decision they could ever make, since Netflix is surging ahead in the online market, and customer support will build Netflix’s growth with a flat-rate fee structure, furthering the gap in market share.

I predict you will see a complete industry sea change within a year’s time, with Blockbuster fading into relative obscurity and Netflix becoming a household word. In fact, if things go as I predict from my own Netflix Online experience, Netflix may soon see their online viewing surpass what they provide through mailed-out DVDs. This Christmas is the time to jump in. The water’s warm.

 

What You Need For Netflix Online

  1. An active Netflix plan that includes unlimited DVD rentals

    If you are on a Netflix unlimited plan (from $8.99 a month), you can instantly watch as much as you want on your TV via a Netflix ready device.

  2. A broadband Internet connection

    You need a fast Internet connection with a speed of at least 1.5 Mbps (such as a mid-level DSL connection). 3 Mbps is recommended for best performance and quality.

 

$349 Netgear EVA 8000

It may be hard to upstage the $99 Roku Netflix player, but the Netgear EVA 8000 is an amazing product. The Netgear EVA 8000 connects to your home network, and once configured, has access to nearly every type of media content stored on your system, and this includes ripped DVDs. At $399, this is the ultimate media player. Most importantly, Control4 has written an IP driver that supports the EVA 8000 to access media meta data from Control4 user interfaces, such as remotes, touch screens, touchpanels, and LCD keypads.  

The EVA 8000 does not need a computer in order to playback media. In fact, if you have a very simple NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, like a Buffalo or other common manufactured products costing as little as $100 for 75 Gigabytes, you can store and play media files with the EVA 8000.

Here is the list of playable media types that the EVA 8000 can stream from your network:

    - MP3 up to 320 Kbps or variable bit rate (VBR) 
    - WMA8 and WMA9 files up to 192Kbps or variable bit rate (VBR) 
    - WMV up to 1080p  
    - Internet Radio (streaming MP3, WMA) 
    - Video Formats: MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI, WMV, Xvid
    - Audio Formats: MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, FLAC 
    - Photo Formats: JPEG, BMP, PNG, TIFF 
    - Playlist Formats: WPL, ASX, WAX, WVX, PLS, M3U, RMP

 

Our Test Drive

We recently purchased an EVA 8000 for our portable demonstration kit. Since potential clients often don’t have time to visit our peninsula showroom for demonstrations, we though it would be appropriate to build a system that would allow for a quality demonstration at a customer’s home. Additionally, Control4 recently announced its integration with the EVA 8000, so we decided to use this and a DVD player as our selectable sources. This was a great move, since the EVA-8000 allows us to demonstrate Control4’s onscreen list of DVDs that are stored in the onboard demo kit network storage device, along with providing playback of streaming radio stations and high-quality audio formats.

Performance has proven to be excellent, with very easy-to-follow navigation screens. You can read about the EVA 8000 by following this link:

http://www.netgear.com/Products/Entertainment/DigitalMediaPlayers/EVA8000.aspx

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Netgear made a deal with Netflix? The addition of Netflix online content streaming would make this product an all-in-one device, short of cable or satellite live video. It already plays nearly every digital format available, including HD. If you added online content, it would completely eliminate the need for any physical software products, such as CDs and DVDs.

I suggest getting both the EVA 8000 at $399 AND the Netflix Online Roku device at $99.

 

Our Christmas Holiday Savings Offer

If you choose to purchase and install either product within the holiday period of December through January, we will offer a half hour off of our installation time for each device.

If you are looking for a new DVD player, get either the LG or Samsung. If you are planning on giving a game console to your kids, get the XBox. If you desire inexpensive Netflix access, go for the Roku. If you are already shopping for gifts, pick the right one – and benefit from online Media capability, plus a discount on our labor. If you are already shopping, why not shop smart?

We are convinced that these new products will change your home theater experience. With a relatively small investment, you can have what nobody else has had before--almost limitless access to quality media, along with a strong graphical interface to access and choose the right movie, documentary, television show, photograph, song, or radio station to fit your exact needs.

Enjoy the Christmas and New Year’s Season.

 

We look forward to hearing from you. Here is our contact info:

 

outlook@sightandsounds.com

www.sightandsounds.com

650.697.7081

 

Cliff Roepke's Personal Page:

http://www.sightandsounds.com/cliffroepke/index.html

 

Cliff Roepke's Music Page:

http://www.sightandsounds.com/cliffroepke/index-4.html

netflix

Netflix Announces HD Content Online

Netflix announced on November 18, 2008, that it is taking the first step in instantly streaming movies and TV episodes in high definition with the introduction of approximately 300 HD choices that will play with standard definition audio via the Xbox 360. The company said it intends to increase the number of HD choices available and will eventually add multi-channel audio. Classic, adventure, musical, foreign and comedy movies now available to watch instantly in high definition include "La Vie en Rose," "Flawless" and "Heroes." SOURCE: Netflix, Inc.

 

Roku Netflix Player - $99

This is the most affordable solution at only $99. It has all of the compatible outputs necessary for connection to any home theater system. (click image for web page)

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LG BD 300 BluRay Player - $349

This is the more affordable of the two BluRay Players. (click image for web page)

LG

 

Samsung BDP 2500 - $399

The Samsung provides a little better specs than the LG. (click image for web page)

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Tivo HD DVR - $299

The If you are a fan of Tivo, this is the fit for your needs. (click image for web page)

Tivo

 

 

XBox 360 - $199

The XBox is a very popular HD gaming console. (click image for web page)

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Netgear EVA 8000 - $399

The EVA 8000 is a fantastic product, with the ability to play nearly every type of digital media. (click image for brochure)

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Controlling The EVA 8000

Since Control4 has the ability to communicate with the EVA 8000 in the IP network environment, control is fast and reliable.

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Experience 24-Bit Audio Quality

In its introduction, the Compact Disc was promised to be “perfect sound forever.” It didn’t take long for music lovers to find that CDs were far from perfect. I remember my first CD experience, and it sounded very harsh, even though it had less pops and hiss than LP records. Since that time, the industry has improved digital recoring technology. There are two critical foundations for quality digital audio recordings – Bit Rate and Sampling Frequencty. Bit Rate defines home many channels of 1s and 0s containing audio information get processed into digital signal and out again as audio signal. Sampling Frequentcy is the speed in which the digital information is processed. In short, bits are like lanes on a freeway and frequentcy is the speed of moving traffic. A large superhighway running at high speeds will carry more than a smaller two-lane country road. CD has 16 bits running at 41,000 hertz. High-resolution digital recordings have 24 bits running at 48,000 hertz. This is a huge improvement in sound quality.

I have been working with a Brazilian duo, Rebel Tree, using high resolution 24-Bit recording equipment and quality microphones. Feel free to visit my personal website (http://www.sightandsounds.com/cliffroepke/index-4.html) and take a listen to the music. One of the great attributes of the EVA 8000 is its ability to play these high-resolutin 24-Bit recordings on a quality home theater or hi-fi system. Download and enjoy!