Blu-ray
THX Media Director Puts George Lucas in Your TV
The new feature will adjust a TV based on the program's metadata.
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September 19, 2011 by Grant Clauser

If you go out and buy a smart TV today, that basically only means that it’s got an internet connection and a suite of apps for doing things like streaming music and movies, playing games or oversharing on Facebook.

But what if your smart TV was really smart? What if it could adjust its own settings to make everything you watched on it look better, look the way the director or studio engineers want it to look. What if your TV did this all the time, each time you put a new movie into the disc player?

That’s the idea of THX’s latest project called Media Director. It’s a system that allows movie creators to tweak you’re A/V system from afar to suit their movie.

Well, not exactly, but that’s pretty close.

Media Director is a new three-part system that will be showing up products soon and as firmware upgrades on other products. Part one of the system is for the content creators. THX has developed a method to allow directors to embed metadata information into their content at the disc master stage. This metadata may include things such as the number of speakers used in the studio, the level of noise reduction, the aspect ratio and other elements. John Dahl of THX explained to me that there are hundreds of descriptors that a movie studio can apply to a title. Part two is the disc (or broadcast, cable, satellite program) which holds that metadata. And part three is the product that plays/displays the content and interprets the data. With that data, a Media Director TV may make subtle automatic adjustments to match the environment in the director’s studio. The goal is to make sure the movie you’re watching looks the way the director intended.

Although THX hasn’t announced any specifics on what future models will include Media Director, the company hopes to have the feature enabled on all 2012 THX Certified products.

Read about the Elite TVs here.

The feature will probably not be restricted to TVs. Blu-ray players and surround sound receivers can also include Media Director. It can tell your gear which 3D format to switch to, which surround sound format to use, what LFE level and more. If the movie calls for more noise reduction, it can switch that on.

The system can also work with cable, satellite and eventually broadcast content on a program by program basis. We didn’t talk about it, but I assume video games could also take advantage of Media Director.

One question I had when speaking to Dahl was about custom calibration. Videophiles pay a lot of money to get their displays custom calibrated to match the standard in a professional studio. Dahl said it won’t override a calibration, rather it will work within it, making changes to some submenus, but not undoing any of the work of the professional calibration.

The first movies to include Media Director are the recently released Star War Blu-ray collection. Dahl noted that about 10,000 Media Director titles will soon be available.

Read about the Star Wars Complete Saga Blu-ray here.

While I haven’t had a chance to try this out for myself, in theory Media Director sounds like a good innovation. As much as we preach that a TV’s picture needs to be adjusted from its out-of-the box state, I know few people who actually do it. And A/V receivers? They get more complicated to use every year. If Media Director can make TVs smarter than the people using them and deliver a better video and audio experience than I’m all for it.

On the other hand, the system has to follow the medical principle primum non nocere.

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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