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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:32 pm 
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We passed on the game, but word of the system got around, and people started assembling in our dining room for evening screenings. Sometimes we pulled the settee in from the sitting room, other times we just camped on the floor with pillows. I discovered that the best position for one of the small rear speakers was inside the open door of the wall clock. Putting it in there, which meant stopping the pendulum, reminded me of going to drive-ins when I was a kid, and hitching the speaker on the car window.
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I came to terms with the three remote control units, each of which had about 80 buttons apiece. Clearly, you had to be insane to want to figure them all out, and I needed a visit from a service person to uncover a few that really mattered. One of the less essential buttons reduced the active image to quarter-size, and flanked it with still images, constantly refreshed, of what was happening on half a dozen other channels. The perfect feature for those who don't want to buy six TVs! Other buttons called up on-screen menus, with more choices than a Chinese restaurant. One of these revealed that the TV had five different colour intensities, depending on whether you were watching a movie (bright), the news (brighter) or sports (brightest). Apparently, the amount of recommended brilliance is inversely proportional to the risk that the material may stimulate deep thought.
Broadcast TV took on a kind of drab monumentality, which was perhaps not surprising. What more is there to be learned, after all, from a blow-up of a cooking spot on The Dini Petty Show? Exceptions were few. A field documentary about elephants, including a truly monumental copulation, felt right on the big screen. Rock videos, and anything with a lot of hand-held camera did not, because anything that looks herky-jerky on a small screen is stomach-turning on a large one. Imagine looking at the world while pretending your neck is the spindle in a washing machine in mid-cycle. It's the same kind of "convulsive sensuous participation" that marked the first wave of virtual reality devices, when people would come off them and immediately throw up.
We watched all types of videos. I had the idea that it was necessary to make the system do different things, even though I was mainly interested in seeing what it would do to us. Mainly, it focused our minds on the search for the tape that would be worthy of our gear. The sets very presence jostled us into an anxious imitation of the natives in the original King Kong, as we tried to lay hands on the offering that would make the really big monkey appear. The strain was sometimes palpable. "Do you want to watch something tonight?" my partner Tereza would say, as if proposing that we finish the evening by putting another coat of paint on the bathroom ceiling.
Not that we didn't have fun, or popcorn. My George Balanchine dance videos looked great, as they never do on our regular TV, because the ensemble scenes didn't turn into Balanchivadze's Flea Circus. Peter Greenaway's ornate Prospero's Books also worked well, as it would not on a 20-inch screen. But we knew that these things weren't really what the system was built for. I remembered an "audio consultant" telling me how the speakers should be arranged, so that when a fighter jet streaked overhead in a film, we should be able to feel it pass. All his examples were like that: machine-gun bursts, exploding ammo dumps, Arnold Schwarzenegger using his superior fire-power and my Dolby Pro-Logic amplifier to save the Free World.
So we rented Terminator II: Judgment Day, in the letterbox edition. Not bad, although not as mythic as it seemed in the theatre. But we had to keep the volume at a moderate level, since the kids were in bed upstairs. The next day, while everyone else was out, I played the action scenes again, with the Bass Boost on and the sound turned up, so that the floor rumbled under my feet. When Arnie's motorcycle roared out of the picture, I felt like I was on it. When he routed a division of assault police, with a portable Gatling gun and a rifle mortar, the whole house shook. It was great. I would have abandoned myself to it completely, but we live in a semi-detached house, and I was worried about the effect on the elderly widow who lives on the other side of the wall. After all, it's only two layers of solid brick.
I turned off the set and the guns fell silent. The room returned to the strange condition that was becoming the new norm. It felt hollowed out. If the set wasn't on, there didn't seem to be any reason to be there, and if it was, the space was annihilated. At all times, the screen's physical presence demanded attention. The message of the moment was not TV Watched Here, as I had thought, but Watch TV Or Die.
The problem was that the thing was out of scale. Our daughter, Mavis, seemed to realize this better than anyone. She knows about big screens; she once spent 40 minutes watching a 30-second video loop of a running dinosaur, life-size, at the Royal Ontario Museum. She was quite happy to nestle down on the dining room floor and watch Toy Story. But she also asked, a couple of times, whether she could go upstairs and watch a video on our small TV. She was clearly ambivalent, maybe because so much in an adult house is out of scale for a three-year-old, from the size of the stairs to the height of the kitchen counter. In this one area, she had control, and she used it.
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Our three weeks passed. The enormous van returned, and everything went back into boxes and out the door. It took a day or two for the dining room to snap back into shape, but domestic spaces are amazingly elastic. I'm sure now that even our upstairs room would have felt distorted after a few weeks of home theatre. I've tried to think of a place where such a thing would feel right, and I keep coming up with some kind of separate building, like a garage. Or, more to the point, a small theatre, which is what it is, and not any part of my idea of home.

Last edited by Adrienne224 on Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:53 pm, edited 6 times in total.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 5:27 am 
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