We finally have a more or less current TV

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 28, 2020, 8:45 PM | comments: 0

Among the many things about me that make absolutely no sense is the fact that I've never had a particularly state-of-the-art TV. The reason that's odd is that I began my professional life making pictures and sound for the box. I studied radio/TV in college (and double majored in journalism with mediocre grades, so suck it, over-achievers!). My first job after a dazzling but brief radio career was running a municipal government cable TV thing, starting with nothing. By 1997, I had digital video tape and cameras (DVCPRO!), and by 1998, non-linear, computer based editing (Media100!). I squeezed my budget to have the latest toys.

At home, this was never the case for televisions. My first TV was a cheap 20" RCA from K-Mart, which seemed big at the time, probably because it was so damn heavy. Shortly after Stephanie and I got married, she bought a Sony, maybe 32", and it was enormous and insanely heavy. Large projection TV's were the rage then, but even if I could afford it, I never wanted to fill a room with one. Many years later, 2006, I think, I bought an HDTV, with an LCD panel, maybe 46", but lighter. I kept that until 2010, when that TV's sound started cutting out. The replacement was a 55" Samsung LED-lit LCD TV, and until last week, it was still my living room TV. It lasted a decade and wasn't done.

But these being Covid times, where we don't get out as much, spend way less money, and watch a lot of TV, I had the itch. I never had plasma or extra thin or extra large or 4K (if you don't count the small inexpensive TV we bought for the playroom). I think I was pretty justified though, because with my critical eye, none of the TV's I have seen in recent years looked that much better than what I already had. Mind you, the average store pipes total crap into them, so it's hard to tell. But OLED TV's, basically giant panels that are like those in your phone, appealed to me because of their incredible dynamic range, and of course more dots. With the streaming services supporting 4K, it felt like a reasonable time to upgrade. The old Samsung has a bright spot in certain scenes that bothers me, and frankly we'd like a bedroom TV for the late night YouTube hits of late shows. That's where we put it.

So I sat on the idea for the last nine months, and finally pulled the trigger. We went a size up to 65", and it's an OLED 4K panel from LG. As is still the case, all of the default settings are shit, but once I got it dialed in and found some suitable action on Disney+, specifically the documentary series Rogue Trip, I was completely in awe of what it's capable of. That you can have something that remarkable, as a moving picture, in your home, is not something I will ever take for granted. It's unreal. Shadows have depth in the same scenes with bright things, and the texture in skin and hair is vivid. It's on par with a movie theater experience. (Sidebar: I'm using the same speakers I've had now for 20 years or more.)

Now, unfortunately, the firmware running the TV is total garbage. Allowing things like your FireTV or Xbox to automatically display the right resolution doesn't work. The audio return (ARC) back to the receiver causes a hijacking of the particular input, because the CEC protocol is tied to the ARC, so you couldn't switch inputs. If you change an input, it loses all of the settings you had for it. It's just end to end crap once you start plugging things into it. The solution is making everything manual, which as a Harmony remote user is fine, but it took two or three days of messing with it for everything to work as expected. All I want is a dumb display that shows 4K video in a pristine way as it was intended to be seen. I don't think the average consumer will get that.

Once I worked through all of those frustrations, I was thrilled with what I could see though. I especially give credit to Disney+ for having so much 4K content, including its signature shows and movies across the Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, Disney and National Geographic brands. It looks like there's quite a bit on Hulu as well, and unlike Netflix, they don't charge extra for it.

It's already strange to see movies for the first time in regular HD that you used to watch on VHS tape. It's fortunate that so many more recent movies have also been remastered to 4K, showing detail you never got to see. The digital world makes it a great time to be a fan of "film."

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