Thursday, March 23, 2006

The ever-changing world of audio and video technology

Remember vinyl records? If you're 25 or under, probably not. I recall listening to my brother's 45 rpm records in my room in the 1970s. They liked artists such as Chicago, the Beatles, the Jackson 5, and Stevie Wonder. Some of the first records I bought were "Disco Inferno" by the Tramps and "I Just Want to be your Everything" by Andy Gibb. I endured endless razzing by my older siblings when I purchased a Barry Manilow record. I remember buying the "Out of the Blue" 33 rpm album by ELO which was a double album that unfolded to reveal a cool spaceship photo.

Anyway, the explosion of mp3s and i Pods got me thinking about all the audio formats we have seen over time. Before my time, my parent's generation listened to big band music on 78 rpm records. Then we saw 33 rpm and 45 rpm vinyl. Next were the 8 track tapes from the 1970s. Cassettes ruled in the 80s, and in the 90s we advanced into the digital age with CDs. Some people liked mini discs in the 90s but that format didn't seem to catch on. Just try to find records or cassettes in a retail outlet today. It's not easy. The record labels probably love the different formats since most people don't have albums or cassettes anymore and they have to buy their favorite tunes on CD or mp3. I wonder what format will be the next big thing?

It's the same story with video formats. Do you own mostly DVDs or VHS tapes? Most video stores have just a few VHS tapes, if any. In the 1980s I had heard that Beta format tapes would be the next big thing. My parents asked me if we should buy a VHS or a Beta machine. I said Beta--oops! If you know anything about broadcast television, the Sony Betacam SP and SX are commonly used tape formats, but for home use the public embraced the VHS machines. I remember VHS machines in the 80s would set you back $500 at least. No you can get one for $50. After VHS tapes, some may recall the video disc format, which featured large platter like digital discs the size of 33 rpm records. The smaller DVD format proved to be much more successful. These days it seems like more and more are using the digital hard drive recorders such as Tivo. These require no tapes and they can store more recorded footage than VHS tapes. Also you don't need to worry about dirty tape heads, tracking problems, or the tapes getting creased or worn out.

We're in the age of high definition TV. The FCC has said that by 2009 all stations must be broadcasting in HDTV and people will need high definition sets, or puchase a digital converter. The date of conversion has been pushed back many times and I wouldn't doubt it if it was pushed back further. It seems unfair that all will be forced to switch to the new format. It should be voluntary like the switch from black and white to color TV. I have compared high definition to standard definition and often times the difference is not noticeable.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Entertainment Extra Access Insider! Who cares!?!?

Shows like ET, Extra, Access Hollywood and the Insider seem to thrive on making the most meaningless stories sound like important breaking news. ET and the Insider, which are basically carbon copies of one another, are the most annoying. These 2 are shot in neighboring studios on the Paramount lot. Both shows share the always annoying fashion guru Steven "Cojo" Cojucaro. Pat O'Brien worked as a sports commentator for many years before working as an anchor for Access Hollywood. In fall of 2004, he launched The Insider with co-host Lara Spencer, who had hosted the PBS show Antiques Roadshow. Often the same exact footage will air on ET and The Insider. One will say they have an exclusive story, and then the other will do the same story claiming it's exclusive. The Insider will air a story, and then a few weeks later the same exact packaged story will air! The other entertainment shows don't do this. The Insider seems to have trouble filling their half hour with celebrity footage. They will do stories on botched plastic surgery or home video of wedding bloopers. They will often do stories that have nothing to do with Hollywood, like the glorification of sisters who look like walking skeletons at death's door, calling them the anorexic twins. The thing that's ironic is that these type of shows probably do more damage than any other source when it comes to contributing to the prevalence of eating disorders in America. The never ending images of size zero actresses who still think they are fat is an epidemic. The bone thin entertainers showed on these shows achieve their look through personal trainers, chefs, liposuction, plastic surgery, and eating disorders. They set up unrealistic expectations and give people the impression that looks are all that matter in life.

Leeza Gibbons, John Tesh, Bob Goen, Julie Moran and Maria Menounos have left ET. Were they fired, did they quit, or did they get tired of covering all the meaningless stories day after day? One has to wonder. The stories on these entertainment shows always leave me asking the same question--who cares? Does it really matter where Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were last sighted? Is it really earth shaking news to hear about Lindsay Lohan's latest car accident? I like learning about celebrities, I write this blog about them after all, but these shows are obsessive about the stars. They talk about how intrusive the paparazzi are and how they need to give celebrities their space. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! ET, Insider and the rest are part of the problem as much as magazine photographers.