Saturday, April 2, 2011

Theater Upgrade: Blu-Ray

We have been enjoying our home theater for over a year. But during that time it has only been able to play DVDs. When I first put the equipment together I purchased a (used) Sony 400-disc DVD changer. I found the notion of one-touch play appealing, and through the automation system I was able to achieve that objective with the changer. Sony also sells a 400-disc Blu-Ray changer which it has been prohibitively expensive for quite some time.

But, no more! I was able to take advan- tage of a recent sale on refurbished Blu-Ray changers and now I am ready to upgrade the theater to high resolution. You can see the two side-by-side in the photo. The Blu-ray changer is an inch taller, and it is black (which matches the rest of my equipment). I had to lower the shelf in my rack by one position to get the new changer to fit. Both of these units are large, but the Blu-ray box seems especially overpowering.

Installing the new changer in the theater wasn't as simple as just lowering the shelf. The DVD player connection uses component video, but the Blu-ray uses HDMI. This required some changes to the receiver's configuration to assign one of the unused HDMI inputs. But the biggest change was to the automation system. Not only did I need a new plug-in, but I also had to tweak most of the macros that are involved in the setup and play of a movie. I also had to change the database to reflect the new changer type. Once that was finished and working, it was a matter of moving the 150-odd discs from one changer to the next, and verifying that they all ended up in the same slot number. I did some final tweaking last night and I believe the changeover is now complete.

Shortly after I put the new player in place, and before I had finished updating the automation, we had a chance to watch our inaugural Blu-ray in the theater (technically not our first, but the first one with this player). Of course we chose Star Trek as it was the first movie we ever watched in our theater. Needless to say, I was far more excited about this upgrade than my wife. She enjoys using the theater as much as I do, but she doesn't get immersed in the technical details. Watching Blu-ray Star Trek with me was done more to appease me than to revel in any new-found image clarity. Even after the movie began she was convinced she would not notice much difference. But about a third of the way in to the movie, after a particularly detailed scene, she admitted "Okay, Blu-ray really does look better." I felt victorious!

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