Home Theatre Systems
The Remarkable Evolution of the Modern Home Theatre System
Today, many people are likely to find it almost inconceivable that there was a time when it was not possible to enjoy a movie in the comfort of one’s own home. In fact, prior to the release by Eastman Kodak of the world’s first Super 8 cameras and projectors in 1965, packaged entertainment at home would have been confined to listening to vinyl records, taped music, or a radio broadcast. In most parts of the world, however, even the Super 8 owners would have been limited to watching the movies they had filmed for themselves, rather than having access to commercial productions.
Denied the opportunity to enjoy the medium of television until as recently as 1976, South Africa was something of an exception. In its place, we developed a thriving local industry that offered popular movies for hire in 8-mm format, as well as the option to rent a compatible projector for those who did not have one of their own. Although a far cry from the home theatre systems of today, for years those flickering screens and whirring reels were a source of endless pleasure for many.
When the SABC eventually made its first broadcast, the late arrival of TV proved to hold one or two advantages. Firstly, colour transmissions and the PAL system were well-established, so there was no need for a protracted experimental phase. Secondly, the Betamax format had been released in the previous year and the VHS alternative followed close on its heels, so analogue video recording and playback technology was equally well established. It was the latter, with its 120-minute recording capacity – double that of rival Betamax – which was to result in a brand-new business opportunity: the video hire franchise.
Combined with the ability to record TV transmissions and watch them at leisure, the video recorder marked the breakthrough which, in time, would change the nature of home theatre systems beyond recognition. In the interim, and prior to the development of digital TV and recording technology, the main focus of manufacturers remained on improving image quality and speaker performance.
The turning point for the home entertainment industry came with the development known as LaserDisc. At double the resolution of a VHS tape, and able to handle analogue and digital audio, only the size of the discs limited its success but, the technology led to the CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs of today. In parallel, monitor technology was transforming. First plasma, then LCDs, and finally LEDs, led to unparalleled picture quality and virtually unlimited screen size and, for the first time, converting the family lounge into something resembling the local cinema became a reality.
Today, while DVD and Blu-ray players remain popular, streamed audio-visual entertainment is changing the face of home theatre systems yet again. Wireless speaker systems and networks provide a distributed audio environment and video soon followed, while home automation provided the means to control features such as lighting and drapes, adding even further to the authenticity of the home cinema experience.
Home entertainment technology has attained unprecedented standards that, in turn, call for careful planning and expert installation. The essential expertise, along with world-class audio-visual and home automation equipment is available in South Africa form Elite Technologies.