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InfoComm 08 Video Preview

Dominant trends and new products at the show. 5/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

InfoComm 08 Video Preview

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

Dominant trends and new products at the show.




Among the dominant trends that will reign at InfoComm 08 is that of digital-signage products that expand the networkability features.

Among the dominant trends that will reign at InfoComm 08 is that of digital-signage products that expand the networkability features.

It's 2008, and HD is everywhere — especially in Las Vegas at InfoComm 08. Check the booths of flatpanel display manufacturers, and you'll have a hard time finding a standard-def screen. Although Asian factories are pumping out video cameras and HD panels as fast as consumers and businesses can snap them up, a video system is only as high-def as its lowest-resolution link. In some areas, this infrastructure gear has lagged behind displays and cameras in terms of the availability of affordable, HD-capable products. Image processors, videoconferencing codecs, digital-signage media players: if these don't support HD video, then your setup is at best an up-rezzed standard-def video display system.

True high-definition video looks great, and it's increasingly necessary within many markets that systems integrators serve. But clearly, it's not the only reason to check out InfoComm 08. Another key technology trend to track at the annual tradeshow is IP networking. After all, what good is a pretty display if its content is out of date? How is your client going to track the lamp lives of its dozens of projectors? In today's world, no video display device should be an island unto itself.

To get a sense for the dominant trends within the industry and the new products that will be important at InfoComm 08, I canvassed manufacturers from all corners of the professional video-display industry. Here's what they had to say — both about their specific product introductions for the show as well as their take on the overarching trends.

DIGITAL SIGNAGE

Once again in its 2008 incarnation, the InfoComm show will host a Digital Signage Pavilion for companies filling product needs for every component in that rather complex application. The demand is clear. Across the industry's vertical markets, digital signage is enjoying an annual growth of 10 percent, according to InfoComm. The Las Vegas Convention Center will also host a two-day digital-signage summit before the show, and there are several classes covering topics from software to the business opportunities that digital signage presents.

Tom Searcy, president of MagicBox, says he has noticed that traditional IT integrators are getting pulled into the digital-signage integration game. “They build someone's network out, and they are now being asked to pursue and install signage applications — which, by their very nature, are becoming more IT-centric every day,” he says. Recognizing that last fact, as well as the desire for constantly updated content, MagicBox will be introducing a new version of its EZ Stream software at InfoComm. This software addresses the integration of databases into digital-signage networks, giving integrators the ability to manage multiple locations with multiple individual SQL database queries.

On the hardware front, MagicBox is seeing demand for smaller content-player units that can be tucked behind plasmas and LCD screens. At InfoComm, the company will introduce the AV800 SignMate with video passthrough and video playback. This unit has most of the capabilities of MagicBox's current Aavelin player, but in a smaller form factor.


InfoComm 08 Video Preview

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

Dominant trends and new products at the show.




MagicBox AV800 SignMate

MagicBox AV800 SignMate

According to Adtec, the demand for reliably delivered HD content is very real within the digital-signage market, but if its recent product introduction is any indication, the company is realistic about the industry's current needs. The new signEdje-HD accepts any source — SD or HD — and scales it to the output monitor's native resolution (up to 1080i) so users can display both SD and HD content within their signage network. The signEdje-HD has both internal solid-state storage (for the playback of MPEG-2 and AVC/H.264 files) and the capability to decode IP-based video streams. The included dual-platform mediaControl software allows the user to load, prompt, and manage digital-signage content.

PROJECTION

Over the past few years, high-definition projectors have become much, much more affordable. Last year, Sound & Video Contractor's team of judges awarded Pick Hits to two models — the Mitsubishi HC4900 (a 3LCD unit) and the Optoma HD80 (using a single DLP) — that broke the $3,000 barrier for native 1080p projection.

At InfoComm this year, contractors should look out for smaller, more affordable three-chip DLP models, which will be made possible by Texas Instruments' new .7 XGA three-chip DMD. This technology was also announced at last year's InfoComm, but projector models that incorporate the technology are just now starting to ship. At press time, Sharp was set to ship its XG-P610X, an XGA projector with 6000 lumens and a $14,995 list price; the XG-P560W, a WXGA model with 5000 lumens ($16,995 list), is expected to be available in late June.

For classrooms and other applications, resolution isn't always the main selling point. Often it's networkability. At the show, NEC will be introducing two projectors — the NP901W (2000 lumens, WXGA) and the NP905 (2700 lumens, XGA) — that can employ Remote Desktop Protocol over an IP network to make the models Windows Network Projectors. This means they can display the desktop of any laptop PC via a wireless access device, without the need to run any display cables out of the laptop.

“Built-in networking, lens shift, and optional lenses are the latest features for advanced installation projector models,” says Bob Guentner, projector product manager at NEC. “We also see an increase in sales of extreme-short-throw projectors for use with whiteboards and for specialty applications.”

On that last point, companies such as Hitachi and 3M would certainly agree. “The emergence of short-throw projectors is having an impact throughout the AV industry,” says John Glad, product manager, Hitachi Home Electronics America. “With projectors offering shorter and shorter throw distances, presenters can't walk between the projector and the screen, so the image will not be obstructed.” The company announced late last year that it will be bringing the CP-A100 3LCD projector to InfoComm. This model is capable of throwing a 60in. diagonal image from only 1.4ft. Why not just go for a flatscreen if you're looking for an image that size? The obvious reason is the currently huge price premium for large plasma and LCD panels, which Glad says he expects to linger for quite some time.


InfoComm 08 Video Preview

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

Dominant trends and new products at the show.




NEC NP901W

NEC NP901W

The CP-A100 — retailing for about $2,000 — features network connectivity, which allows for simultaneous monitoring and control of several projectors from a remote location. A possible companion piece for the short-throw CP-A100 is Hitachi's StarBoard FX-77-Duo, a 77in. interactive whiteboard that accepts stylus- and fingertip-driven interaction, made possible by its camera-image-sensor system. Hitachi claims it's the first interactive whiteboard that allows two users to work simultaneously.

3M will also showcase short-throw projection at InfoComm 08 in the form of its Vikuiti Super Close Projection Digital Media Systems 700 Series. Models in this line are designed with basic connectivity — VGA, USB, and power only — but users can add an I/O module if necessary and/or an Annotation Sensor Module that can turn a standard whiteboard into an interactive whiteboard system. More modularity: Further options include fixed and folding wall mounts (with or without loudspeakers) for these short-throw projectors. 3M also makes a telescoping wall mount that facilitates the projection of a 60in.-to-80in. image from a 700 Series model. So far the SCP712 has been announced, featuring XGA resolution and 2000 lumens of brightness. At the 3M booth, look for additional models: the SCP717, SCP715, and SCP740.

VIDEOCONFERENCING

The market for videoconferencing systems is still exploding. According to a report from Frost & Sullivan, over the next four years, the telepresence market will grow by a 91-percent compound annual growth rate. For systems integrators, one challenge will be identifying systems that will allow their clients to tie into the larger cosmos of videoconferencing systems years down the road. “The real key to unified communications is interoperability,” says Rick Snyder, president of Tandberg Americas. “Without interoperability, all you have is a cluster of phones, conferencing, and instant messaging applications that just don't play well together.”

To that end, Tandberg announced in March a development initiative to deliver the first high-definition webcam camera for integration with Microsoft's unified communications platform. The company will deliver the camera in conjunction with Microsoft's intended support of high-definition video in its next release of Microsoft Office Communications Server, expected during the first half of 2009. Look for Tandberg's full range of video-conferencing systems at the show.

For videoconferencing systems, there's been a tug-of-war between the demand for greater resolution and lower bandwidth requirements in order to ease the strain on IT networks. Luckily, over the past few years, the industry has continually provided increasingly affordable HD cameras and displays to go with better, more bit-efficient codecs. In April, LifeSize Communications announced a $4,999 package for point-to-point videoconferencing that includes an Express model codec and a Focus model HD videocamera (1280×720, 30fps) with a built-in microphone. The 1in.-thick Express box facilitates DVD quality at only 1Mbps, and there's support for video bandwidth ranging from 128Kbps to 2Mbps, according to LifeSize. It also supports the H.239 dual-stream codec for concurrent video and data streams.

DISPLAY PROCESSING

The hardware processing of video and computer inputs is useful for a wide variety of applications: presentations with picture-in-picture, switching several camera and recorded source feeds, and creation of multiprojector displays via edge blending. In the last few years, Barco has added another application to that list: remote collaboration. At InfoComm 08, the company will introduce its new XDC-3000 display system with its super-high-def 10-megapixel resolution, which allows clear viewing of the densest Excel spreadsheets. The XDC-3000 can access a variety of connected and networked sources that can be selected easily and controlled remotely. Content is rendered on a widescreen, networked Windows desktop via Barco-patented software. Also look out for Barco's new Galaxy NH-12, a 3DLP projector equipped with a Windows interface and a powerful network card. The 12,000-lumen projector can display mono and 3D sources in multiple windows simultaneously on a large canvas at full native 1080p HD resolution.

TV One says that its main focus at the moment is incorporating more HD-SDI inputs and outputs into its products, including five of the 10 members of the affordable C2-2000A series. Why the move toward a type of I/O that's still considered high-end by broadcast standards? “We have found that the price of HD cameras has declined significantly,” says Dan Gibson, vice president of TV One, “and houses of worship are after ways to effectively and affordably incorporate it into their sermons.” The C2-2000A series boxes perform varying functions, including up/down/cross-conversion, edge blending, PIP, aspect-ratio conversion, and chroma key.

At InfoComm, Analog Way will introduce a new member of its Octo/Quattro product range: the QVX 421 scaler and seamless switcher. The QVX 421 has four universal AV inputs (including one DVI) as well as three outputs: one analog, one DVI for the main, and one analog for the preview. The unit facilitates display of any format to any HD display, with its 3:2 and 2:2 pulldown circuitry, auto-adaptive pixel-by-pixel 3D motion compensation, time-base corrector, and frame-rate converter and follower. The QVX 421 also features picture-in-picture, fade, titling, high-resolution logo insertion, and frame store.

OTHER CORNERS

If you're looking for a streaming product that allows the user to start a session with the simple push of a button, check out the Advanced Media Design (AMD) MediaPointe booth at the show. The company will be introducing a new Digital Network Streamer (DNS210e) that uses MPEG-4 encoding to allow easy viewing on any computer via QuickTime. AMD MediaPointe is also introducing a decoder, the DMD200, which decodes live streaming content from the DNS210e and other MediaPointe products. The DMD200 can be mounted behind any HD-capable display up to 1080i resolution.

For limited broadcast within an environment such as a college campus, it's sometimes hard to find a server that isn't overkill. 360 Systems is finding a lot of interest in HD-capable servers that integrate well into a video-editing environment. At the show, the company will be showing its new Maxx 2400, a 4-channel server that allows direct ingest of video and direct playout of AVI-wrapped DV files to Apple Final Cut Pro.

Need a projection screen that makes a splashy entrance? At InfoComm, Elite Screens will be showing its new Kestrel projection screen, a mobile unit that rises from the floor. The Kestrel measures either 84in. or 100in. diagonally in either a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio. The screen's mechanized cross-rising apparatus is driven by a tubular motor.


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