Last night featured America’s annual obsession with football, clever commercials, and Roman numerals. Yes, it was Super Bowl XLIII (43), and the game was a doozy with the Pittsburgh Steelers pulling off a 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals with an amazing tiptoe catch of a touchdown pass just 35 seconds before the end of the game.
About 70 guests watched the fun at my annual Super Bowl HDTV Party, celebrating its 10th anniversary since the 2000 Rams — Titans clash was carried by ABC in the 720p HD format. This year’s game was the first HD telecast by NBC and included a knockout halftime concert by Bruce Springsteen, plus a pair of 3D commercials by Dreamworks and Pepsi SoBe water.
That first HDTV Party showcased all of two HD screens. In contrast, 14 HDTVs were up and running for this game, with Sony’s XEL-1 OLED taking the prize for smallest screen at 11 inches. Mitsubishi’s HC6000 3LCD 1080p projector cast the largest image, lighting up a brand new 92-inch Da-Lite Affinity screen, designed and shown by Joe Kane at CES 2009.
Other featured screens included Vizio’s VF55XVT 55-inch LCD, Samsung’s PN50A460 50-inch plasma, Pioneer’s PRO-111FD 50-inch Kuro plasma, Westinghouse Digital’s WD2613 26-inch LCD, Panasonic’s TH42PZ80U 42-inch plasma, and a trio of 32-inch LCD sets - LG Electronics’ 32LG30, RCA’s L32HD32, and Sharp’s LC32D44. Panasonic’s new 42PF11 42-inch 1080p plasma monitor was also put into service at the foot of the basement stairs.
Two complete Dolby Digital 5.1 basement theaters were jammed with guests, and were anchored by the aforementioned Mits HC6000 and Sanyo’s new PLV-Z3000 3LCD 1080p projector. An older PLV-Z4 provided a 60-inch wide rear projection image through the sliding glass doors to my deck, and was as usual a very popular way to watch the game. And a JVC DT-V24L1 served as an air check monitor.
All 14 signal feeds came from Philadelphia NBC station WCAU’s digital signal on UHF channel 67 and were distributed by two rooftop and one attic Channel Master CM2016 VHF/UHF antennas, a temporary rear-deck CM4308 UHF yagi antenna with CM mast-mounted preamp, and a pair of Radio Shack 15-1862 indoor UHF/VHF amplified antennas, positioned along the southwest wall of my living room.
Even with five antennas, I had to scramble to get enough signal level to all TVs, as WCAU’s digital signal isn’t particularly strong at my home (they’re moving to UHF channel 34 after the transition — whenever that happens!) So, a Blonder-Tongue 30 dB in-line amplifier was pressed into service to overcome all of the losses incurred by two-way and three-way splitters.
Once again, many of my guests seemed amazed that none of the RF feeds were from cable or satellite drops, and that the HD images were of such high quality. "Aren’t antennas on the way out?" asked one guest. Many wanted to learn more about getting free HDTV, and pondered the amount of work needed to turn their basement into a home theater.
The XEL-1 got plenty of buzz, particularly as it had the "throne room" position this year — located in the main bathroom. Local CBS station KYW-3 came by to shoot a short feature story on the party and featured this TV, the LG 32LG30 that was positioned outside the front door to greet guests, and the two surround-sound theaters in its 11 PM newscast.
The Pepsi and Dreamworks 3D commercials, which generated a lot of press and demand for 3D glasses, came over with mixed results, showing up best on the larger flat screens (better on plasma than LCD) and the two theater projectors.
Kids oohed and ahhed as the commercials ran, with the SoBe spot getting higher marks for a 3D experience.
All in all, it was a fun time (and a LOT of work!) to bring free, over-the-air HD football to so many different rooms. Look for more coverage at HDTVexpert.com later this week.