Looking for an upgrade to enjoy the upcoming sports season? 4K projection and the latest TV technologies can take you closer to the action than ever.
Looking for an upgrade to enjoy the upcoming sports season? 4K projection and the latest TV tech can take you closer to the action than ever.
We live in interesting times, as the oft-quoted but apparently inaccurately-attributed Chinese curse would have it, and of course sporting events have been affected doubly by the need to bring competitors from near and far together with spectators crammed together in large public spaces. Despite authorities giving sports players special status for travel, the last year has seen empty stadia for tennis, soccer, baseball and more. As we go to press, the Tokyo Olympics are poised on a Covid knife-edge between congregation, crowdlessness or cancellation.
Under such circumstances, sport is surely best watched, perhaps only watched, at home. And today’s big screens, together with ever more immersive broadcasting tricks, bring the action ever more powerfully into our living rooms, media rooms and man-caves.
This issue we round up a variety of paths to such pleasure. We look at the latest TV technologies that are allowing TV screen sizes to continue their dramatic growth, where 75-inch is the new 55-inch, where 110-inch micro-LED wall screens are now possible, if rather premiumly-priced. We see how a variety of projector types can deliver the big-screen experience for every scenario from dedicated home cinema room to the wall of a tent. And we check out the latest in the evolving genre of ultra-short-throw projector imbued with TV-like operation, becoming known under the hyponym of ‘laser TV’, at least where their light source is of the laser variety (as is the Hisense examined here) rather than lamp.
And finally we will see what is possible when you enlist the aid of the professionals in creating your very own arena of enter
tainment, in a series of custom installations where sports viewing has been made a priority, whether with special equipment within a dedicated home cinema context or, as in our lead image for this article of an award-winning media room designing by The Digital Picture in Queensland, where the entire room has been designed to welcome friends and family for an all-out sports binge accompanied by side games, sports bar and all-round entertainment.
If sports are your thing, we’ve got the ideas to bring them front and centre to your home for full immersion, even when the stadia are empty and the crowd noise is coming from a can.
Make some noise
Silent sport is less than immersive. It is common to underestimate the importance of sound quality in delivering the full effect, at least until you can’t hear who’s winning in the Melbourne Cup. No big screen can do its job without a sound system suitable to its size.
The current ultra-short-throw projector crop provides an example. In order to deliver the convenience of a TV in an all-in-one projector package, manufacturers have added not only TV tuners and streaming interfaces but built-in sound systems as well. Some of these are mildly successful — they improve on the sound of flatscreen TVs because the projectors have somewhat more bulk to host speaker drivers of a size that have long since been excluded from the slender frames of today’s thin-panel TVs. But other examples of the breed have been excruciating in their performance, and none of them should be considered a proper audio solution for the giant screens these projectors produce — built-in projection sound should be considered as being for emergencies only. Size of image requires size of sound, which means plenty of power and a solid selection of speakers. If you want the full experience, invest in a decent sound system — it doesn’t have to be Atmos or even surround (especially given that most sport, certainly everything on free-to-air broadcast, will arrive only in stereo). So while we’ve focused firmly on the imaging solutions for sport in this feature, hold back part of your budget to make sure your personal stadium can fully ring to the cheers of the crowd, be they real or virtual.
The future of sport at home
Those who deliver sport to our screens are always seeking innovation. From stumpcams to Spider Cam, from Hawkeye to VAR, cameras are putting us closer to the action and keeping players ever more under a watchful electronic eye. In delivery terms, sports networks are investigating the revolutionary effects of higher frame rates on sports viewing, something that excites them even more than broadcasting in 8K, as Japan’s NHK has put in place for the hopeful Olympics, even if hardly anywhere else in the world can broadcast or receive it. Sennheiser is working on a radical capsule-based audio system to focus microphones precisely onto on-pitch action, so that every kick and grunt will reach us with AMBEO-encoded immediacy.
As sports coverage evolves, and as crowd fear persists in post-Covid society, the best place to watch the wide world of sports is safely ensconced in your very own sporting bunker, hunkered beneath a big screen where the sporting stars are larger than life and you won’t have to miss the action while you queue for four low-strength lagers and a Mrs Mac’s Famous Beef’n’Cheese pie. Let the action commence!