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This Minute at Runco

My Favorite Demo Clips

Thursday, February 18, 2010

By Jeremy Sternhagen

Whenever I finish the process of setting up any Runco display, I always have my favorite demo clips with me to test out my work. Some people like to grab a disc that is full of bright shiny imagery to guarantee an eye popping demo. I prefer something a little more challenging.

Some of the best Blu-Ray discs available are made with such meticulous care, that preserving every aspect of the original film quality is the number-one thing a film nut, like me, looks for.

Seeing things like film grain are all just part of the experience and make the video authentic. Poor video equipment masks some of these finer details, creating a very un-film-like experience.

In chapter 4 (28:09) of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, the scene opens in outer space and a Romulan ship passes in front of the audience. If the projector is not set up correctly, the ship appears as a dark mess of nothing, silhouetted against some space clouds, with little or no detail. If the projector has been properly calibrated, you can see every detail in the dark shadows of the ship. The scene continues with many other dark scenes that demonstrate proper black levels.

Later, in chapter 7 (52:21) there is an action sequence with Kirk and Sulu dropping through the atmosphere in space suits, then engaging in hand-to-hand combat. It is a great demo from both an audio and video perspective. The scene starts off dark, so you can point out black level details, but then it transitions to the bright outdoor fight sequence. There is a slow build to the sound, so audiophiles will appreciate the dynamic presentation much more technical than simply loud explosions with no breaks.

I love to point out the cinematography in this film, as JJ Abrams specifically uses lens flare in almost every shot. He is basically using an optical artifact to enhance his film. Star Trek is trying to look like a movie, not reality.

Another favorite demo is Baraka. This movie was filmed almost 20 years ago, and was shot in 70mm, so the detail is amazing. Beginning at chapter 4 (12:00) There is a sequence that shows some colorful outdoor gardens and locals, all enjoying their surroundings. The shots are all slowly and smoothly executed, allowing you to soak in every detail. Following the shots of local ceremony, the movie pans to images of volcanoes and clouds, all shot using amazing fly-overs and time lapse. The imagery is accompanied by an ominous drum beat. The result forces the viewer to appreciate the amazing views. If the projector is set correctly, every large and small detail in the clouds will be visible. The next sequence features some large lizards basking in the sun while waves break on rocks around them. The shots are close up, and highly detailed. If you want to see more of the same types of images and detail, skip to chapter 21.

Baraka is great because there is no artificial imagery here. No boosted colors or special effects. A lot of popular demos used today are bright and colorful, such as Transformers or an animated movie, such as UP, look great on just about any display, because the colors are all bright and oversaturated. I prefer these demos, because I feel like it’s not cheating. And if your projector is properly calibrated and can display these challenging scenes well, then any subsequent image will look spectacular.

Jeremy has background in film and tv, and works as a field product specialist for Runco, training dealers how to setup, demo and sell Runco products.

A Christmas Carol Frightens and Delights

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Posted December 27, 2009 by Pippa Edelen

To jumpstart getting in the holiday spirit, my hubby and I dropped $31 at our local multiplex to check out the IMAX 3D Disney remake of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, starting Jim Carrey. Having played Mrs. Cratchit in Hallinan Elementary’s riveting showcase of A Christmas Carol in 5th grade, I was familiar with the story and had both read Dickens’ original and seen a range of versions, being particularly inclined to the version featuring Scrooge McDuck. Given the various iterations I felt fairly well prepared for what to expect in terms of the undead and blatant lesson of “do unto others;” however, I substantially underestimated how frightening this tale can be. As someone who startles easily, and hates to be startled, my neighbors in the theater were tickled the first time I screamed, rather loud, when something popped out of the screen accompanied by 30,000 watts of sound. They were understandably less charmed the third time I did this. And the fourth. And the fifth. The story holds nothing back in terms of death, ghosts, the afterlife and should come with a precursor this interpretation can be flat-out freaky. I cannot tell you how many kids I saw hiding or crying as they left the theater, so take note that this is definitely a movie only appropriate for audiences with double-digit ages. For the younger Christmas movie enthusiasts, I highly recommend the aforementioned tale featuring animated relatives of Donald Duck.
My previous exposure to big-screen 3D started with Jaws 3 in the 1983 and, most recently, the hastily-added 14 minutes to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As someone who is prone to vertigo and miserably suffered through Beowolf with only my sour Skittles as comfort, I was delighted with the realism and execution of A Christmas Carol and give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the incredible advancement in the 3D technology and application. Particularly impressive are the scenes where Scrooge and various ghosts are flying over London and the details and texture in the otherwise ordinary, everyday things, like the wrought-iron fence and the characters’ skin. The animation still lacks a small detail of realism, particularly in the characters’ eyes, which fail to sparkle and light in a way that simulates lifelike. But the people are so well animated that you can, upon being introduced to new characters, guess the actor voicing them instantly, particularly Colin Firth as Scrooge’s nephew who plays a well-wishing opposite to his cold uncle. You’ll find yourself trying to guess each actor as we meet new guests and ghosts.
My favorite scene in A Christmas Carol, which does a particularly good convincing job using 3D to suspend disbelief, shows Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present watching a Christmas party through the floor of Scrooge’s vast London manse. I was impressed by the visually-stunning semi-opaque wood that is blends to be both the floor of the mansion and the ceiling of the party. Watch for the grains of wood disappearing into nothing and for the pressure caused by Scrooge’s hands on the ceiling. Its small details and effects like this that make this picture particularly enchanting and rather whimsical, spookfest-aside. At the end of this scene, Scrooge looks up at the ghost and, if shown the image as a still frame, in 3D, next to a photograph of the character, I would have been hard pressed to guess the animation from the actor. The talent is simply terribly impressive and represents a true advancement because instead of merely forcing a illness-inducing gimmick into an otherwise enjoyable movie, A Christmas Carol and the storytelling is instead enhanced by 3D.

The story is timeless, but the application of the latest 3D animation technology, as well as the affect from really talented actors, including my personal favorite, Gary Oldman, make for a stunning holiday movie that may be the first movie I’ve seen that’s worth the $15.50 for admission.

Runco’s new BLOG – Home to All Things Entertainment

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Posted December 8, 2009 by Pippa Edelen - Pippa has a degree in Journalism from UofO and spends most of her time writing fancy words, orchestrating  events, shining up websites and generating press for Runco

Welcome to Runco’s new blog where we will discuss all things Runco and entertainment. This all-new “News & Blog,” section will become a hub of information for entertainment enthusiasts, design professionals and architects, Runco owners and video display technology aficionados. Our intent is to provide insight on the latest technology trends, entertainment updates and television programming, Runco product information and Runco’s point-of-view on the things that affect Runco customers. You will see a myriad of authors who are part of the Runco team, as well as guest blogs from industry friends, including interior designers, architects, Runco representatives and Runco dealers. We hope out blog will both inspire and educate and we encourage you to link it to your RSS feed so you can get up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening in the world of Runco.

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