The triumph of digital TV broadcasting on June 12, 2009 (D-Day) was a defining moment for one generation above all others -- Baby Boomers. The growth of this generation closely tracks the rise of network television in the second half of the 20th Century. It's a generation I refer to as anadiggies and D-Day as a crossing over from the analog world, where they were born, into the digital world, where they'll expire -- no coupon necessary.
The yawn heard round the world that greeted the introduction of 3D TV at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was mainly due to a perceived dearth of compelling content. “It’s the software, stupid,” was the major refrain. But as it now turns out, the content problem could be well on its way to being solved. And we don't just mean ESPN and Discovery announcing 3D channels.
The "5.1" reference that appears at the start of many primetime shows is the networks' advisory to switch on your home theater's speaker system. When you do, you'll enjoy the program the way it was meant to be heard. A show broadcast in Dolby Digital 5.1 can deliver audio to five full-range speakers (front left, center, front right, surround left, and surround right) plus a low frequency effects channel (designated by the ".1") to the subwoofer.
To increase your awareness of what you're missing if you happen to be watching a TV that doesn't include an external sound system, we've listed some of the ways a program's sound director enhances the show by steering audio to discrete speakers in your home theater.
An external sound system completes a home theater, and turning one on yields unexpected pleasures. Recently, I stumbled upon a new TV series on HBO and a romantic drama on Blu-ray Disc both designed to indulge the ears.
The series, True Blood, features a waitress who can hear what people are thinking. As she works her way past tables, thoughts cascade toward her from every direction. And the audience hears the cacophony, too, brilliantly steered from multiple speakers at the sides of the TV and near the sofa.
The movie, August Rush, on Blu-ray and also available on DVD, features a humdinger of an opener: a child prodigy deciphers the musical nature of wind rustling the field in which he's standing. As the wind shifts, the sound washes over the audience from various directions. The powerful effect is all but lost on viewers relying on the TV's internal speakers alone. The same is true for the restaurant sounds in True Blood.
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