The Prolost blog's post Your New TV Ruins Movies is over a year old but still packed with relevant information on why shopping for a new TV is difficult in a busy store as well as the settings that environment requires and how it affects your experience when you take it home:
Maybe you got a new TV for Christmas. Or maybe you just got one recently. Maybe you are thinking of buying one. Whichever is the case, take heed: your TV will try very, very hard to make whatever movies you watch on it look not just bad, but aggressively, satanically, puppy-drowningly bad.
It features a handy guide to turning down the brightness and moving your TV into at least a general "movie mode" as well as how to turn off the motion smoothing that can ruin lots of TV and almost all movies.
I always do two things when buying a new TV: one is going through the options to make sure automatic stuff like motion smoothing is turned off, and the other thing I do is Google search the phrase "cnet reviews calibration tv [model number]". Cnet reviews consistently has the newest reviews and part of every TV review is how to calibrate your TV to match their optimal settings. They include every single option screen's settings and it frequently takes me about 20 minutes to complete but it is worth the effort and I'm always rewarded with a really high quality picture.
Jon Hicks has a great post detailing the use of a Mac mini in place of an AppleTV. By going with the mini over the AppleTV, Hicks gets the added features of increased video format support, PVR functionality (through EyeTV), and DVD playback and ripping. The guide also focuses on how to make it work smoothly with a bluetooth wireless mouse/keyboard (and via screensharing in Leopard), and the drawbacks when things crash and you have to control it from your couch.
Although it sounds like there are some drawbacks to running a Mac mini from your living room couch, the added functionality certainly sounds appealing and I'll personally be thinking about going this option whenever I decide to stream movies to another TV or update my current AppleTV.
Instructables has a great step-by-step how-to on building your own custom TV lift, which hides the TV when not in use. It does require a ~$500 kit and an old 6-drawer dresser that will become otherwise inoperable, but the end result looks pretty cool and lets you hide a TV completely from a room when not in use.
Custom built versions can often cost thousands, so this is a pretty economical way to build one yourself for much less.
The people at Snapstream have been pushing the multi-tuner envelope for a while now and today they show what you can do with it in their how-to: Suck up every TV show in the new fall season, be your own TV critic.
Whether or not you ever build an 11-tuner home theater PC, one cool aspect of the post is a handy Google Calendar of all the dates/times for every new show. Here's the subscribe link for that, check their post for the full details of how to track and record every new show this fall.
The Home Theater blog has a good post on how-to wall mount a LCD or Plasma.
Wall mounts are kind of funny -- most every screen you see in ads and in commercial spaces are likely wall mounted in a very clean way, but when you get yours home you'll quickly realize how much of a pain it is to do and requires some real knowledge of construction and electrical techniques. A wall-mounted screen without hidden cabling is kind of an eyesore and I can't help but look at my TV over the fireplace and the jumble of wires below and wish I found someone to do a clean job on it. I tried a local electrician and they had never done one and couldn't really give a quote on what it might cost.
I figure with the ubiquity of cheap plasma and LCD screens, perhaps a cottage industry of installers will pop up to help people hide their TVs in the next few years.
The mac mini is pretty light on horsepower, so the use of the external video decoder and encoder keeps those processor intensive tasks off the mini. EyeTV fills in as the UI and the result is something you can easily fit in a media cabinet near a TV, and costs a bit over $700, which is pretty comparable to low end Windows Media Center PCs. [via gizmodo]
PCWorld has a good introductory article on How to Buy a Flat-Screen TV. They cover the differences between plasma and LCD, the basics of HDTV, and the connections that provide the best picture.
With prices dropping on plasmas and LCDs, now is as good a time as any to finally upgrade your big old CRT and mount something sleek on the wall but of course, the longer you wait the more TV you'll get for a cheaper price. Also worth noting is that HDTV content still feels like it is lagging behind the adoption of HDTV sets -- you'll have a few over-the-air options if you are near a major city, but otherwise cable and satellite HD offerings are still somewhat new and expanding.
Cnet has a great straightforward tutorial complete with short videos: How to watch free HDTV with an outdoor antenna - CNET Weekend Project. They walk you through finding the right antenna, installing it, and optimizing it for your HDTV.
Of course, it's filmed in Manhattan, where it's pretty easy to find multiple over-the-air HDTV channels. I suspect people in most parts of the country would have a tougher time throwing one up and getting more than a handful to come in clearly.
The Snapstream blog has a great, detailed tutorial on How to watch Beyond TV recordings on a Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP). They cover every last detail. Even if you don't have Beyond TV, this is a great tutorial on how to get video onto your PSP.
Systm is the name of a show created by former TechTV hosts and made available online. It's a lot like the old Screensavers show before the G4 buyout of the network. The newest episode features a how-to on building your own Myth box. Downloads of the episode require bittorrent, but the show's free and worth checking out. [via Make zine]