More HDMI inputs then there are in heaven..

My latest project is replacing my gaming set-up with a home cinema set-up.  I’ve pretty much given up on the Odeon Limitless pass.  I’ve spent a few weekends at home on call more than is perhaps absolutely necessary of late, plus when I am off-call, I spend the time going food shopping and running errands.  Oh, and let’s not forget the railway improvements which stops me getting to and from Guildford easily.

I’ve pretty much given up on the Odeon Limitless pass.  I’ve spent a few weekends at home on call more than is perhaps absolutely necessary of late, plus when I am off-call, I spend the time going food shopping and running errands.  Oh, and let’s not forget the railway improvements which stops me getting to and from Guildford easily.

So home cinema is what I’m aiming at.  So far I’ve replaced the Xbox One S and Sony RX100M4 with an Oppo UDP-203 UHD Blu-Ray player.  It’s certainly not cheap, but it’s currently the best player on the market.  Will hopefully last a good few years.  The firmware is regularly updated, plus the bonus is that their UK HQ is based in Norwich – specifically in an area I used to go through each day on my way to work.  The Oppo is a good choice for superb picture quality and sound, and Deadpool UHD/4K looked particularly good during testing.

The second component is the Pioneer VSX-S520D AV receiver.  I originally opted for the Denon AVR-X2300W, until I realised that the unit wouldn’t fit in my shelf space underneath the TV.  This is what happens when you order without measuring stuff first.  The Pioneer is much slimmer and is even smaller (in height) than the Blu-Ray player.  I’ve still had to re-arrange stuff  – moving the Virgin Media Tivo V6 box to just behind the TV (I can still see the status light).  The AV shelf now consists of the Oppo UDP-230, the 4th generation Apple TV and the Pioneer AV receiver.  The Tivo, Oppo, Apple TV and an HD Google Chromecast are all plugged into the receiver’s HDMI inputs.

Is is strange to buy an AV receiver without speakers?  Yes.  Yes it is.  The main reason was to buy it initially for HDMI switching, but giving me the option to add speakers at a later date.  I usually listen to the TV through wireless headphones to drown out the neighbours.  The Pioneer allows me to plug the headphone transmitter into the front of the unit and I’m able to listen to all devices through the receiver without any issues.  The best thing?  No lip sync issues at all.  But at some point I will buy speakers to give me full 5.1 surround sound (neighbours be damned).

Picture quality from the Pioneer is good.  It supports 4K passthrough and upscaling, and everything I’ve thrown at it has been fine.  The Tivo V6 has actually seen a substantial improvement!  I couldn’t use the 2160 Passthrough option directly through the LG TV for some reason – the signal would just drop – but through the Pioneer it’s working really well and has got rid of a lot of the jerky 4K playback I reported after initially getting the Tivo V6 set-up last month.

The Pioneer also supports DAB and FM radio, though I still have to get the aerial to work properly – so far I’m just getting static.  It also supports music streaming services such as TuneIn, Spotify, Pandora (not in the UK), TIDAL and all sorts of things.  It also has built in ChromeCast and AirPlay services – albeit for audio only.  At some point I’ll hook up the turntable and will likely add a CD player to the unit – there’s space to hook those up thanks to the myriad of connections at the back of the Pioneer.

From Breaking Bad’s prequel series, Better Call Saul – I dread to think what we’ll get in the next season..

In short – very happy with the current set-up.  It’s my first steps to proper home cinema.  It’s a shame my TV supports 4K, but not HDR.  This is the result of the film studios and electronic manufacturers failing to agree on things in a timely manner.  4K has had a troublesome birth, and continues to do so, but it’s getting better.  I doubt we’ll see 8K for quite some time given that 4K is still so new.

Meanwhile, did you know that movies used to ship on vinyl discs?  Watch this for a fascinating look into a video format of old…

 

I’m no Parkinson, but..

It looks like writer, producer and director Dirk Maggs has kindly agreed to do an interview with me regarding his forthcoming BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s Stardust.

2016-10-19_08-44-06

My idea being that as I have already interviewed screenwriter Jane Goldman on adapting Stardust for film, it’d be complimentary to get an interview for radio.  Two different formats – two different approaches.

I’m personally fascinated by book to film/TV/radio adaptations – taking a story in one form and transforming it to work in another.  That fascination goes way back to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – a series I have adored since childhood.  I love Hitchhiker’s because it’s little bit different between the different forms.  The radio, the TV show, the books and the film are the same story – but all told slightly differently.  Of all the different versions of the story, the film is the most different – but I don’t love it any less.

If Jane had tackled Neil’s story in its entirety, we’d have probably ended up with an 10 hour (or longer) film.  With radio, and especially dramatic episodic radio, you’ve got more time to work within the original published story – but pacing is obviously going to be different between a book and radio performance (it’s not an audiobook and thus not a reading).  Plus the lack of visuals provides a challenge in its own right.  For those that have never read Stardust (or watched the film), you’ve got to be able to paint a clear picture in the listener’s mind of the characters, the settings – everything through audio.  That is hard.

When Peter Harness (for whom I’m also looking to interview at some point when he’s back in the UK) adapted Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for BBC television, he reworked the story to fit into 7 one hour parts, and in doing so, actually rearranged some of the events in the book which I think actually helps the story a great deal.  It’s a superb adaptation.  A bloody difficult adaptation, but Peter achieved it when three other screenwriters couldn’t.

Anyway, nothing has been set in stone yet.  I don’t know which format the interview will be in.  It’s entirely dependent on Dirk’s availability.  Email interviews are much easier, of course.  But I now have a video camera (a Sony FDR-AX53, a 4K capable camera that replaces my 16 year old non-HD, tape-based camera which died several years ago), an external microphone (with dead cat), and a high quality audio recorder.  So I could do it as a vlog/podcast.  In any event, I’m prepared for any format of interview.

In the mean time, if you have any questions for Dirk and Stardust, please feel free to leave a comment below.  When I have more information I’ll post it here.