STATE OF INTEGRATION

The latest news in home integration and automation solutions.
-by Phil Giordano

Just in from Savant

March 26th, 2017

Recently Savant introduced its new remote control. I was thrilled to see it for lots of different reasons. One of the features that I personally love is the ability to activate your pre-set scenes with voice control directly from the remote. More importantly, the remote programs easily and has a rock solid wi-fi connection 100% of the time. This means it’s ready to get to work instantly, no more waiting around for the remote to hook back up to your wirelessly! I have three in my home now and have sold countless others.

Obviously, I was excited when I learned that this remote control won the “Best New Product” Award at Cedia 2016. Savant really does pride themselves on delivering the best experience in home automation, just like I do.

If you’re ready for replacements of broken remotes or just thinking about some upgrades to a Savant or other control system, give me a call to discuss what might work best for you.

Contact us now to discuss how you can take advantage of these new developments.

Phil Giordano, The Big Picture Media Systems

4K or UHD, the name doesn’t matter!

February 1st, 2016

Last month at CES in Las Vegas the new Blu-Ray format was announced. It’s call Ultra HD Blu-Ray and it’s coming in March along with Ultra HD discs. I’m continually dumbfounded by these manufacturers that make things so difficult with the silly naming. To keep it simple, in our living rooms 4K and UHD are the same. These new Ultra HD Blu-Ray’s will play perfectly on your new 4K tv. Keep in mind a new Ultra HD Blu-ray player will still play your existing Blu-Ray and DVD collection.ultra hd premium logo

Mere months before CES, the UHD Alliance came out with all the specifications for UltraHD discs. This means that not all of the 4K TVs sold before today have all the requirements for “full” 4K. Since the standards are new, there’s a chance your 4K TV will not work with every feature (HDCP, HDR, HDMI 2.0a, you get the idea). The logo above is what to look for on your TV to be sure you are getting the newest technology.

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So what can you watch today in full 4K? Last month we talked about the Kaleidescape movie server and as of last week they are selling digital downloads of full 4K movies on their new Strato. Remember these are full bit for bit copies of Blu-Ray and Ultra HD Blu-Ray, not streaming like Netflix 4K. You can see the Strato has all the specs for Ultra HD Premium, HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2. These are the technologies currently used, available today, and will be future proof for years to come. These movies will continue to come out well ahead of their disc counterparts. Only time will tell how the new disc format will go but it’s clear that digital downloads and streaming are here to stay.

Contact us now to discuss how you can take advantage of these new developments.

Phil Giordano, The Big Picture Media Systems

Toys For Everyone

December 19th, 2015
As another year winds down and we get closer to the holiday season I decided it was time to talk about a few new toys that I’ve recently discovered. Some are new, some are just updated. There are some for the adult in us and others for the kid in us.
 
As you all know I am huge Apple fan and have always loved AppleTV…and still do!  But now there is a new option, Microsoft’s Xbox One ($349 and up). Even though many of us think of this as a toy for the kids, with its simple multi-room integration with Savant control systems, rack mountability, a world class Blu-Ray player, a full slate of Xbox games and just about every online streaming app you can think of, this is my new go to all in one device.
Now for the big kids! When a streaming device like AppleTV or Microsoft Xbox just isn’t good enough Kaleidescape is your ticket to the authentic cinema experience at home. It gives you the sleek feel and perfect playback you’d expect from the world’s number-one brand of luxury movie player, at an affordable price (starting at $3299). You can use Kaleidescape to download and store up to 200 Blu-ray quality or 600 DVD quality movies from the Kaleidescape Movie Store. And for a limited time, it comes with $200 of movie credits!
The audio and video quality in Kaleidescape is superior to streaming video.  A Blu-ray disc pumps out 40 megabits per second. Compare this to a streaming service like Netflix at 3.1 megabits per second and its obvious that the only way to get the best movie experience from your high-end equipment is to take advantage of Kaleidescape’s Movie Store.
Phil Giordano, The Big Picture Media Systems

What’s Coming Down the Pike?

April 15th, 2015

Many changes are underfoot that will change how you consume content in the years ahead. A few weeks ago, Congress passed “Net Neutrality,” apparently ensuring a level playing field for anyone who wants internet access from giant corporations to homeless folks with a prepaid smart phone.

On its heels, HBO announced they would be opening up their streaming offerings in April with HBO NOW, a new service that eliminates the service provider requirement currently in place. Any Tom, Dick, and/or Harry can get HBO on their mobile device or streaming media terminal for $15 per month, whether or not they have it from cable or satellite.

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Take a Bite of The Apple

Many news sources are reporting a new AppleTV is set to debut, which will include a faster processor, 4K video capability, and even Siri voice control. More revolutionary, if true, is the device’s access to an also-rumored Apple streaming TV service. Is it really true? Hey, this stuff is nothing, if not thought provoking, but given the rumor quantity, we’re betting it is.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, Apple has been in negotiations with a plethora of TV services that would be a perfect fit, including Disney’s ABC, CBS, and Fox. Conspicuously absent, and possibly a deal breaker for some consumers, are anything Comcast/NBC Universal related. Talks between Apple and the cable giant went south, so for now, Apple’s out on the NBC, Bravo, UniversalHD, and USA channel families. $30-$40 monthly fees are being tossed about, but who knows what consumers will really see.

One thing you can count on though; the other streaming terminal manufacturers aren’t going to be sitting still, either. Amazon, Roku, and the smart TV manufacturers are revamping their streaming offerings and interfaces as we speak.

Now..don’t think that the cable companies will go down without a fight. If you “al a carte” your content, you could actually pay more! Something else to consider; unbundle TV from your Internet and your pricing could easily go up.

Now, For Your Ears

The other digital revolution underway is high resolution audio (HRA). Neil Young’s crowd funded Pono HRA player, and players from Sony, Pioneer, and other mainstream audio brands have really taken off. In Europe, HRA now accounts for more than half of all music downloads according to download service Qobuz.

Why the rise of HRA? Blame a huge industry push, less expensive audio gear (both sources and other equipment actually able to take advantage of it), and consumers recognizing they’ve been cheating their ears with a decade of digital music so highly compressed, it’s had the life literally stamped right out of it.

Yes, there’s finally a music source worth talking about again, but about those earbuds….Earbuds are great for the gym or bike ride, but really, even the best aren’t doing much for your ears. They can’t, really. The laws of physics intrude, no matter how well the little guys are made.

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Doing HRA music justice and enjoying all the differences requires “real” headphones, or playback through an actual audio system that’s up to the task. Good HRA tracks are even more dynamic and nuanced than CD, so it’s just common sense that the basics just won’t do.

One last thing on HRA: It starts with the actual studio master recordings. HRA files are created directly from them, and capture every detail. You can’t create HRA from low quality sources such as MP3 and get high quality audio. “Good” MP3s aren’t even close. At last you can become involved with your music again!

Common Threads

What do all of the above media sources have in common? Yeah, you guessed it, your network. They all show up at your ears following lengthy travels from a server somewhere to your ISP, and through your home network to whatever the heck you’re playing and watching them on. Add to that the fact 4K movie files are positively immense and it’s not rocket science to conclude a really robust network equals a better experience. Faster 4K downloads and glitch free streaming don’t hurt, either.

A final network pointer: Putting your streaming devices and smart TVs on a hard wired network frees your wireless for devices that have no other way to connect, and makes them work better. It sure makes a difference and that’s what The Big Picture can provide.

Contact us now to discuss how you can take advantage of these new developments.

Phil Giordano, The Big Picture Media Systems

Is Your Smart Home Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

March 20th, 2015

“Smart Homes” are all the rage these days. You can order plenty of smart home stuff on the Internet, and the big home improvement stores have hired executives to help them enter this burgeoning market. They’ve allocated floor space for a plethora of displays sure to grab your attention when you’re there to grab that hardware for your kid’s school project.

But let’s consider just how “smart” these systems really are. In most cases, not very. Sure, they allow you to control some things in your home from across town or across the globe, but that’s not really smart, that’s more like remote control with really long arms.

A true smart home actually works with all of your homes systems to improve your lifestyle. It’s custom designed specifically for you and the way you live and it’s easy to use.

Sure, we program up your media remotes so watching everything from cable to Netflix is as simple as pressing a button. Yes, the screen drops and the lights dim when the movie starts too. When your lights are in movie mode and you pause it to grab more popcorn, your step lights ramp up so you’ll see the steps, not trip on them. However, that’s only the beginning.

What’s “Smart” Mean For You?

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With a true smart home, different systems work together to create seamless environments that reflect the way you live, and make your life easier. The best part is that it’s all controlled from one place thus eliminating the need for all kinds of remotes or apps.

Here are some examples:

* When you arm your security system to “away” the system knows you’re leaving, so it puts your home into away mode, turning off the music system, TVs, and lights, then lowering the shades… all from a single button press from the system app.

* When you return, another press of a button on your system app disarms the security and sets the home the way you like it. Your favorite music plays, and if it’s dark inside, a light path paves the way to the kitchen for easy entry. Those settings can be different for different household members, and often are. Do you want Drake or Debussy playing when you breeze through the door?

* Skylights open in the great room? Great, your heat automatically lowers in that room so you’re not letting energy fly out the hole in your ceiling. Of course, the skylights automatically close, should rain dampen your day.

* You’ll never again experience retina burn as the bathroom lights turn on for a late-night bladder relief run. Enter the master bath and it’s after 11:30pm…. the lights automatically turn on to 25%, rather than 90%. Eyesight saved!

An Important Point:

Much of this whizbang technology relies on your home network. It is important to enterprise grade network security to keep your castle’s drawbridge up. I’ll take care of that for you too. Technology once reserved for Bill Gates or the NSA is now a phone call (or email) away, and I’ll make it simpler than ever.

Contact me now and we’ll discuss the exciting possibilities that enhance your lifestyle, and put a bit more “wow” into your day. Yes, your home can be smarter than a 5th grader!