How New Technologies have Enriched the Home Cinema Experience
As a nation in which television transmissions only became available as recently as 1976, many South Africans will still remember a time when the home cinema experience began with a trip to a local store to rent one or two 16-mm movies and, unless one was fortunate enough to own one personally, to hire a suitable movie projector also. Once back home, the family would then gather in front of a clean white sheet or an expanse of bare wall and, after threading the cellulose strip on to the appropriate sprockets, proceed to watch the flickering images of their screen heroes, whilst attempting to follow the rather tinny soundtrack above the whirring of the projector.
Once the SABC began its broadcasts, and VHS and Betamax recorders became available, it was not long before the demise of celluloid movies and the advent of the video shop. While screens at the time were far smaller than those of today, and even more so when compared with projected media, the flickering forms were replaced by clearer and steadier images, while the sound was presented by the more efficient speakers of the monitor, and free of the distracting background noise produced by a conventional projector. Video tapes not only transformed the home cinema concept of the time, but also provided the public with a welcome alternative to the somewhat limited choice offered by the national broadcaster.
Even in the wake of such major advances, it was probably more than a little presumptuous to compare the experience offered by these systems to that when attending a performance in a typical movie theatre of the time. Not only did the big screen offer the audience a far more immersive experience, but this effect was further enhanced by the large number of speakers that served to deliver the soundtrack from multiple directions. It was in this environment that the technology we now refer to as surround sound made its first public appearance, and it was to be quite some time before this development was adapted for residential use. Once established, however, together with the eventual arrival of the flat-screen TV and the larger screen sizes possible with, first plasma, and then LCD and LED displays, the combination resulted in yet another quantum leap for the rapidly expanding home cinema industry.
Today, we take these refinements for granted, while welcoming further innovation such as the Smart hub that now enables viewers to access streaming videos from service providers such as Amazon and Netflix. We revel in other new features such as the ability to make Skype calls and to wirelessly display the photos from our mobile phones on a big screen. In parallel, the performance of audiovisual equipment continues to advance with innovations such as the curved screen and the ultra-high-definition images of 8,3 and 33,2 megapixels now made possible with 4K and 8K technology respectively.
As is frequently the case with new technologies, making the best choices can be confusing, and it often pays to consult a specialist supplier rather than purchasing online or from a supermarket or department store. In South Africa, few suppliers are better qualified to advise and to supply world-class home cinema equipment than the Pretoria-based company appropriately named Elite Technologies.