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Thursday, 22 January 2009

What's your viewing pleasure? Andy D tells all

Many, if not all of you, watch films at home. With the prices for cinema tickets increasing and the credit crunch, it does save a bit of cash once you have all the kit sorted out to watch it. With that in mind I thought it would be cool to see how, where, what, why, when, if and more single word type questions that apply, people watch films at home. Are you DVD or Blu-Ray? Still holding onto VHS? Does download rule? Plasma, LCD or cathode ray? Surround sound or mono? Deckchair or luxury recliner? You get what I mean.

What I would like is for you to drop me a line with an answer to the questions at the bottom of this post. Also if you could include a photo of your setup that would be fantastic (I'll try and get some kind of form thing set up to make it easier for you to send the details, but at the minute email is king).

To get us started here is regular LFF reviewer Andy D's home cinema set up.

Andy, as a major user of the Blu-Ray format I understand you have devoted a room to all things blu-ray. Could you take us through your cinema room? I hear you have a rather cool sofa

The sofa was a genius find. I couldn’t believe how perfect it was when I saw it. I had just moved house into my current affair, which was where the idea of a dedicated movie room really began and I had minimal decent furniture from my old house to bring over, so it was a case of seeing the sofa whilst shopping at DFS and being blown away. It looked awesome, not just for its resemblance to the curved couch in the Millenium Falcon, but for the fact that it would span wall to wall of the room and neatly curved into and out of the bay window. The curve to the sofa enables all views to have a comfortable view of the TV on the opposite wall.

Tell us about the player and surround sound system.

The player is a Panasonic DMP BD30 which was the first affordable one to be released which bitstreamed true HD audio through the HDMI cable and had final profile compatibility (except the Ethernet thing). I previously had a Samsung BDP1000 which was the single most expensive waste of money I’ve ever experienced. Except for maybe the rusty left hand drive Toyota Surf I bought which blew a head gasket. The Samsung was a borderline impulse purchase which would only play first gen single layer Blu Discs, even after several firmware updates.

The cinema amp is an Onkyo TXSR 605 which was an upgrade from the bundle LG cinema system which Currys threw at me when I bought my first HD TV. The LG was a combined dvd player and amp and got binned when the Samsung Blu ray player came along. I bought the Onkyo because it was the best priced amp on the market that actually processed the HDMI signal, hence didn’t need a separate Optical lead or anything for audio. The magazines gave the Onkyo such a good review plus it heats the room up really well after a couple of hours of use! I landed on my feet with the Onkyo as it turned out it could process full HD audio and was capable of 7.1 surround, which is the best blu discs will put out. I gradually bought more speakers to put into the system and now it’s running the full 7.1ness. I have 2 tall floor standers behind the couch giving rear left and right, I have 2 floor standers either side of the couch giving exact left and right, two half decent Tangent monitors wall mounted either side of the screen giving the front stereo, plus a center speaker and a half decent Dale powered sub woofer. The whole thing sounds awesome when its cranked up.

Aren’t you going to ask about the TV???? I just need to tell everybody to buy plasma not LCD’s. I had a 42” Plasma that wasn’t full HD but it beat the Cr@p out of the 57” all singing full shebang 24fps, 1080p LCD screen I upgraded to. And all because of LCD motion blur. Even at a supposed 120hz or something the LCD leaves horrible traces on pans and fast movement. I should have spent more and got the big boy Kuro plasma instead. If I change anything I will change that, but not until I’ve got some spare cash to throw at it. I’ll stick with my choice for as long as it’s necessary.

What inspired the layout?

The room size and shape really. You can’t hang the TV on the wall with the doorway, or the one opposite the doorway (because you’d open the door into the back of the sofa) so it had to be hung on the wall opposite the bay window. That’s why I was so into the curved five seater sofa because that couch made the best use of the space in the bay. Space which would have been lost with a straight sofa. There’s nothing else furniture-wise in the room either, no coffee tables or cupboards to distract from the rooms purpose. Just a big TV opposite a big couch surrounded by speakers!!

What was the first film you watched when it was all set up?

Hmmm. Tricky one really because the set up has grown and warped. The first Blu ray movie I bought to watch on the BDP1000 was Open Season because I wanted eye candy and nothing else. The first movie I watched on my first HD TV was bound to be an upscaled DVD from the collection... it might have been Swordfish actually, again for the eye candy of the ball bearing explosion at the start.

The top 5 essential films people should own on Blu-Ray?

2001 Space Odyssey. Its just a gob smackingly beautiful film with an amazing soundtrack and tonnes of really interesting bonus features. This film will test your set up for the black and white contrasts of space and the glorious colour swatches in the opening sunrise vistas and the spooky audio.

Ratatouille: some amazing eye candy and some of the best HD surround sound. The scenes in the rain near the start use all the speakers and its 100% convincing that you’re in a rain storm. Plus a really good family film about one of my favourite topics (cooking/restaurants/food) set in one of my favourite countries (France).

I, Robot: Pin sharp and gorgeous in HD, brilliant intelligent sci fi story and packed with brilliant bonus features.

Batman Begins/Dark Knight combo. Brilliant films, brilliant extras, brilliant value for a 3 blu-disc set.

Finally, I think I’ll choose V For Vendetta just for the message ; )

If you were a real ale what ale would you be?

Is there one called Stink Foot?

What film most surprised you with its improvement on Blu-Ray?

I tend to buy Blu Rays that I don’t own on DVD because it’s hard to justify re-buying stuff like that. The only film which I have re-bought is Men In Black because I have a soft spot for that movie. The DVD I had was a pretty recent one so it was pretty good quality anyway so the upscale was decent and in hind sight I shouldn’t have bought it . How’s that for a non-answer? LOL

If you were Supreme Overlord of Earth what would your first decree be?

Obviously I already have detailed plans that would require several decrees but the first one I would instigate would be the removal of all nation states and their borders. All global disputes would then disappear in a puff of smoke and all we’d have to do is get on with our neighbours whilst my AI computer ran the global logistics of keeping everybody watered, warm, fed and safe from invading alien species and asteroids.

Either that or I’d ban organised religion.

Or, (bare with me), I would decree that all weapons manufacturers and government war budgets be redirected into exploring space and creating warp drives and antigravity and robots and stuff ... all for peaceful purposes of course.

If you were going to be killed by any movie villain or monster who or what would it be? What would your last words be?

The Stay Puffed Marshmellow Man!!!! At least it would be a soft and gooey ending. My last words would probably be “Mmmmmm... marshmellow”

Do you watch the extras on the films you buy? What have been the best? The most interesting? The worst?

I watch all them. I bleed the discs dry until I’ve sucked everything out of them. The best and the most interesting... probably I,Robot as mentioned above because the extras cover Robotics, AI, Philosophy and much more all in a proper full length documentary

The worst... probably one of the ones without any extras, LOL like the Predator Blu Ray. Does that count? LOL

Andy D thanks for your time.

There you have it. That's the format. Hopefully you'll send me details of your home cinema setup. Here are the questions - answer as many or as few as you wish and a photo would be cool:

-Describe the layout of the room where you watch films? Any unusual or cool pieces of furniture? -What inspired the layout?
-Tell us about the screen, player and sound system.
-What was the first film you watched with your current setup?
-The top 5 essential films people should own on Blu-Ray / DVD?
-If you are Blu-Ray what film most surprised you with it's improvement on the new format?
-If you were Supreme Overlord of the Earth what would your first decree be?
-If you were going to be killed by any movie villain or monster who or what would it be? What would your last words be?
-Do you watch the extras on the films you buy? What have been the best? The most interesting? The worst?
-Is there anything else you wish to share about your home cinema viewing?

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