by January 6, 2012 0 comments



Movies

Karma, Nagina, Naam were the top grossing movies in the theaters for 1986, with Karma grossing at Rs. 16.0 crs. Ironically, what is considered, as the birth year of home-entertainment, almost killed the film industry. The success of films upto 1986 was followed by a general down-turn in the film industry, primarily on account of pirated video cassettes and later CD/DVDs in the home-entertainment segment.

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It was not until this century that the film industry (and thus the movie section of home theater), started bringing about commercial success into multiplexes. “3 idiots” in 2009 topped the box office with the collections of Rs. 326 Crs.

While mainstream movies still rely on high-end cameras and studio equipment, recent commercial success of movies like Tarnation (budget $218/Gross $592,000), Paranormal Activity (budget $15,000/Gross $1M on worldwide rights) — have proved that the power of making movie content is now available to general masses.

In 1986, movies had very recently entered the homes, through the VHS (VCP/VCR) format. In the neighborhood, a few ‘elite’ members owned this and were obvious talk of the town. VCD standards had to wait till 1993 to be created, but were an instant hit, its success can be gauged from the fact that in the year 1997 in China alone, more than 8 million VCD players were sold. After 3 years of test run in western world, in 2000 DVDs finally entered the Indian market and it paved way for integrated (books, music, movies) and interactive format of video.

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While prototypes of Blue Ray existed since 2000, it was not until 2006 that they were introduced in the market. “Fifty first dates”, “The fifth element” were one of the first titles to be released in 2006. In this year, when the Blue Ray players were costing were touching almost Rs. 20,000, I chose to buy Sony Play Station 3 — a gaming console with an inbuilt Blue Ray player. For my disk-based media media players are effective means of sharing and viewing the media files.

My Play Station 3, powers the 60” LED TV along with the integrated 5.1 channel sounds, still resides gracefully serving many hours of home entertainment. Additionally, (discussed later in this article) using a media player — xbmc, I can ensure that all my movies are shareable across the home to all members of family.

Photography

Not ice cream parlors, not outside movie theater, in 1986 my favorite hang out used to be one “Chander Photographer” about 2 streets away from my home. I was fascinated by the “Dark Room” and in my tenure as an informal apprentice, had made several visits to Chandni Chowk to get the chemicals required for processing my own photographs. Who better to teach you than the friendly neighborhood shop-owner. The color roll films were just becoming affordable and my monthly pocket money got me 36 shots in a month, and one had to figure a way to catch all your snaps within this given number. The shooting spree lasted for about one week (with one roll) and about 2-3 weeks later I was able to get about 20 odd ‘passable’ snaps. Neatly, we would put them away in photo-albums to adorne our living rooms.

A lot has changed in today’s world. The point and shoot digital cameras and the D-SLRs cameras, instant take and retake, affordable re-takes, have all pushed the art of photography; out of the ‘dark-room’ and into the common man’s hands. Now, I have more to practice and choose from. Erstwhile esoteric aspects like Macros now find main stream use. As a photography junkie, I am thoroughly enjoying the power in my hands.

Interestingly photographs, that were hitherto not necessarily a part of home entertainment, has now converged along with movies, TV shows, games and music. The latest gizmo I have is the WDTV-live, that not only plays a host of media, but also hosts the pictures in a cloud — and allows me to use an Android client to carry more than 100GB of photographs on my handy mobile phone! The world is my living room now.




Music

Walkman had become so popular that it officially entered the Oxford English dictionary exactly 25 years ago. It would not be wrong to say, that I had lusted for a Walkman in my growing up years. And I was not alone, more than 30% people surveyed then, said their exercise regimen increased significantly by the use of Walkman. But that was that, in the ensuing years, images of young folks swinging to a huge ‘boom-box’ on his right shoulder became the mainstream of music-entertainment. The period between 1990 to 1995 saw many audio formats trying to establish supremacy, but the common language of mp3 was born in 1998. Since then, mp3 has reigned with comfort.

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The usual catching up game of recording device vs the playing device has been on for some time. While the playing system has now grown to upwards of 7.1 channels in the home segment, the content availability of this format is still largely divided into stereo and 5.1 channel format. Some purists believe that the current affordable home theaters (within Rs. 20,000) do not give pleasure to a discerning fan of music. However, the current music systems in the range of Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 15,000 definitely fit the bill of more than 80% of people and almost 95% of the available sound content. Blue-tooth, and falling memory prices (thus usb memory sticks) are pushing the connect technology beyond the one big home theater concept. Many mobile phone models available today, boast of high performing audio. Combine it with reducing memory cost and you have a nice content based personal mobile system. In today’s world, one of the features that many of us hunt for — when buying a car — is whether it has a blue-tooth based music system.

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In the new world of easy access to technology, creation of music has increased manifold — cutting an album, is no longer in the realms of high end studios. Several tools, at home enable you to produce some very professional sounding music, that can entertain millions, all you have to do is to know how to leverage the Internet.

My home theater choice was determined by the ability to have network connection and Bluetooth integration.

However, at my home, democracy is over-rated. My wife and two daughters seem to have more than the equal votes in the house. And hence, one home theater did not cater to different choices in music each of us had. Thus, a better design was expected for the music lovers.

The DIY kit for Personal Music System for Each Family Member

Storage – NAS (with disk) — Approx Rs. 5,000
Media Server — (Built in on the NAS server) essentially DLNA player. – Nil
Network: One swtich and simple wifi access points — Approx Rs. 4,000
Sound devices — IP Radio box in kitchen and shower – Approx Rs. 4,000
Sound devices — LED TVs that can play network media.
Personal play devices — Each of our phones

With the above setup, we have more than four channels being ‘aired’ always from the central music repository. Each of us maintains our own play list, music files in one common, but virtually separated server. The kitchen and rooms have a Wi-Fi based IP Radio devices (available for around Rs. 2,000-5,000 each, on any online store). Depending on the mood and choice, one can switch to any channel of his/her choice. Additionally, since most of our mobile phones also connect to the home network, one can also ‘plug-in’ the mobile phones to this network and enjoy the same. In the master room, the home theater also picks up the same, through its network and thanks to the new generation TV sets, now they can too play the music wirelessly through the network. And so, Mobile phone, TV, Piped music in kitchen, main home theater in the main room — all can play multiple personal channels. Of course, they still have the ability to play any of the roughly 10,000+ IP radio channels any time.

TV Shows

The first Indian soap opera “Hum Log” was two years old, and immensely popular, it had to be – it was the only TV soap opera on the only channel. (Trivia: Krishi Darshan is till date the longest running show in Indian history — started on 26th Jan, 1967)

Much later in 1991 the Indian Government allowed the entry of private broadcasters to operate in India and since then India has never looked back. International content (like HBO, Star World, Disney channel) entered Indian markets in the early 2000 and the choice palette changed in India forever. India today has world’s largest available TV channels — more than 550, as of early 2011 and it is continuing to grow.

Once watching Chitrahaar, Samachar, Mahabharat were a family affair, today, one tries to catch the various programs, while keeping up the daily routine — thus scheduling of recording, re-play of the last week’s programs are becoming more and more relevant. The recent advent of High definition TV channels are taking shape.



During this journey — the reception in TV started with FM radio waves and skeleton looking TV antenna used to adorn all house tops. With the advent of cable TV, in 1993-94, TV antennas fell out of fashion — specially in urban India — only to be replaced by DTH satellite dishes in late 2000.

Broadcast technology

-HumLog — 480i (SDTV) – (1984-86)
-Kyunki Saas bhi kabhi bahu thee — (2000-2008) 560i (SDTV)
-World Cup Finals — 2010 — 1080p (Full HDTV)
-Prototype demoed in Las Vegas (2006) — 2014 (?) – 4320p (Super Hi vision)

The fiber and burgeoning Internet bandwidth in metros also laid a fertile ground for IP TV, that is gradually gaining a lot of popularity. In fact, many online services now offer TV channels on IP network. Propelled by Satellite TV and IP TV, Video on Demand is yet another element that will change the way we view the TV.

As mentioned earlier in this article, user generated content is the new mantra today and as time goes by, more and user content will be available for viewing. Technology has once again opened the gates of creativity and extended it within the reach of common man.

The modern day challenge is not that of accessing the TV channels, but how do you integrate and play the same. Multiple and ever evolving video formats, compound the day to day challenges. Keep in mind, that the required solution needs to be so simple that even my grand-mother can watch it, without calling for help.

Building modern day home theater player

Content: TV Shows, Movies, Photos, Music, Online services — YouTube, Flickr, etc, weather information.
Sources: Stored from disk, USB, CD/DVD, IP TV, internet radio,
Destination device: Normal TV, HDTV, Mobile phones, Computers laptops, IP Radio devices
Sharing: Within home, From-internet, to-internet, Sharing status, likings.
Screen type — 4” mobile screen, 40”-60” LED TV, 12-19” Laptop/Computer screen, 7”-10” Tablets.

Using media players such as XBMC (Trivia: Xbox media center started as an application for MS based Xbox. Over time, the open source community chipped in — as of now, Microsoft has discontinued support for XBMC, however, it continues to be developed and managed in open source world and is one of the most popular media players), Boxee can not only integrate the multiple formats of video, but also multiple types of content. XBMC gives you an absolute theater like experience and is extremely useful for watching TV shows, Downloaded (or DVD) movies, music, photos, on-line services etc.

Exactly 25 years ago, one saw the birth of Home entertainment. Little did we realize, or imagine the extent to which it would evolve.

As you can see, last twenty five years, technology has indeed helped bring the religion of Home Entertainment from the select few to the general masses, a trend, that will continue to mature as the next years go by.

So stay tuned – your home is the next destination of the future technology in Home Entertainment.

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