Thursday, December 15, 2011


We spent Thanksgiving at my cousin's. It was a great visit and we had a great time talking and spending time together. But there was another aspect to our visit, They had just moved into a new house and in their family room had a new TV. It was a 60" HD television and they had their seating set up at about 8 feet away and we were frankly mesmerized. Miracle on 34th Street, the old black and white classic with Maureen O'Hara and a young Natalie Wood was on. I have seen it on TV quite a few times over the years, but watching it on such a large screen with such a crisp picture I felt like I was watching it for the first time. There was an almost 3D effect, without thankfully, any glasses.

I watched my mom watching the TV and was as mesmerized by her as I was the fabulous picture. She has dementia, and spends a lot of time in front of a TV these days, as she can no longer really read. Names escape her, but she seems to still have a great memory for faces. She always recognizes actors in movies and television shows, "I know him!" and then I supply the name (most I know, but I'll admit to going to imdb on occasion). Seeing Maureen O'Hara and other actors so large on the screen really pleased her, and halfway through the weekend she nudged me, "Maybe you would like something like that."

As you can probably guess, Santa came early to our house this year. I had been planning on only getting us one big present anyway, and this seemed the perfect present that everyone could enjoy. Luckily, some of the Black Friday pricing was still in effect after the holiday, and I was able to get a great deal on a similar model. I picked up an inexpensive blu-ray player too, and the DVDs we have tried out have never looked better.

One of the first things I noticed is the almost hyper-reality with HD. I can count the pinstripes on Nucky Thompson's fabulous suits in Boardwalk Empire, the hairs on Simon Cowell's head. In some programs it all looks almost too real, as if it was filmed on a home video camera. This is called "Soap Opera Effect," or motion interpolation. It is a result of adding in additional frames between the existing frames in a piece. It's fairly controversial. Some people like it, some absolutely loathe it. I haven't decided yet. In some movies I like the "new" look, as if a layer or filter has been stripped away, showing me the way the set actually looked when Cary Grant faced off James Mason in North By Northwest. Animated fare looks great. We watched Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and were amazed at seeing the fuzz on the felt of puppet Rudolph and his friends. And Bugs Bunny looks fabulous. Turning off the soap opera effect, going back to seeing a movie in the 'old" way, is an easy fix, by turning off the auto-motion or whatever your particular brand of TV calls it. I like having a choice.

Maybe after the novelty of the soap opera effect wears off I'll want to switch back. Or maybe it will be a film-by-film decision. But for right now I'm enjoying everything looking so clear and fresh. It's like seeing things for the first time. It's especially fun for me with black and white films. Almost like a step back in time. And for me, and especially for my mom, that seems like a really great thing at the moment.
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