October 3, 2006
I went to CEDIA fed up with those humongous flat screen TVs. Don't get me wrong. I love television. And I even love their svelte swish bigness and blackness. And when you are filling the room with pummels and passes, kicks and catches, it makes good sense.
But I also hate the blank blackness and bigness - those huge indifferent empty screens that hog walls, windows and mantels. Unless you are showing off the big bucks you spent on that beautiful box, it's ugly when it's off. So what's a wife to do? Or anyone else who cares?
I am not the first on a quest for a livable visual solution. Manufacturers in the industry are tackling it too. And here are some of the designers' 3 D solutions - Detail, Disguise and Disappear.
Detailing the Look
Furniture designers to the rescue? Or are they worsening the problem? You decide. Knowing that these space gluttons can be focal eyesores, the design effort has been twofold: create a more interesting TV or sit the set in an elegant (and expensive) architectural surround.
These sculpturally sleek stands can flaunt the TVness of any set
And there are wall units that combine book shelving with media accoutrement - more aesthetic than the entertainment centers of yestercentury. Another solution offers wall panels of varied materials and colors that can be configured to the look of your choice.
The designers of the novelty - non HD - TVs at least are exploring alternatives. A cutesy elephant for the kid's room. The basketball for the office of a Knicks nut. An apple for the teacher. That's just a start. But if they get any bigger than a hatbox, they will be as bad as the big ones.
Disguising the Purpose
One manufacturer displayed a $10,000 hand carved gold leafed frame which would be custom ordered to flank your very own TV. And for another $7,000, you can select a painting printed on canvas (looking and feeling very much like the real thing), which scrolls down over the screen, fitting inside the custom frame.
But forget buying a different size TV later on. Happily, there are more economical frames and pull-down paintings available.
Then there's the ever-dependable Danish designers. One such company has an exclusive gallery of paintings and black and white photographs that can be printed on a silky light fabric to cover their thin speakers that flank a wall mounted TV. You can even submit your own family photos for a personalized look.
Weirdly enough, the tasteful creators of this creative solution had not considered the obvious - also covering the television screen with a removable art image. The threesome would make a very handsome art installation on a wall. The sales rep promised to look into the idea.
The hide-a-TV solution is time honored. The family TV has been secluded behind closed doors for years - can you say, "armoire with holes drilled in the back for cabling?" But with TV's now measuring in yards and not just inches, the concealment can become an engineering as well as architectural challenge. Luckily, manufacturers are creating all sorts of power lifts and drops and flips.
Another solution puts the wall mounted or closeted TV behind sliding doors. The doors may or may not have art or family photos hanging from it. For the totally inert couch potato, several companies have available motorized doors with remotes. For the hammer-and-saw savvy spouse, what a great trade-off. "If we buy the TV, [we being the operative word here], I'll make the doors!"
Future solutions to the ugly problem are an ongoing challenge to scientists and engineers. A promising idea is a scrolled television. A prototype appeared in the nineties, but continues to bug inventors. The organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) technology is already used in cells phones. Not the scrolling, just the thin flexible screen. But one very important problem persists - longevity. Since cell phones do not need to hold imagery for countless hours, and since we throw away cell phones every few years, endurance is not an issue. TV sets are a different story.
A more artful solution is already found in museums. Artists like Bill Viola, Anita Pantin, Shahzia Sikander, and Yoshua Okon create engaging, captivating slow moving computer and or video art pieces that appear on wall mounted sets. Transforming your unblinking HDTV into a kinetic piece of art is a great way to embellish your room and impress your hip Bohemian party guests.
For the DIY family guy with a hi def video camera, a "still shot" of the family recorded for a minute or so, can be elongated for an hour, making a Viola-ish family foto. For fun, include a squirming pet.
If you are more into traditional art, Panasonic offers a downloadable HD Image Gallery featuring images from sources like the Metropolitan Museum and National Geographic. For $1.99, you can recreate a little piece of the Sistine Chapel with a digital high def version of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam that you can playback through your PC onto your HDTV. Visualize the possibilities.
At a CEDIA lunch, a bunch of us were sharing a communal grump about this ongoing issue of in-your-face versus feng shui installations of TV sets when Carola Schonrock of the German Heimkino magazine, (translates as Home Theater), added her suggestion to the mix. Writing for the space starved occupants of European apartments, she offered her ideal solution. She wants an inflatable screen.
Maybe you have a better idea.
Editors Note: Whether rolled, wrapped, flattened or inflated, HDTVs constantly challenge our best laid floor plans. Therefore this article is the first of an ongoing series about HDTV and Home Theater Design called HD Design.
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