Cedia Events and Education

6/28/2004 9:43 AM Eastern

Cedia Events and Education

Jun 28, 2004 1:43 PM

The National Systems Contracting Association (NSCA) Expo, held March 12 through 15 in Dallas, turned out to be another great success, despite a rather uncertain economic climate and the threat of impending war. NSCA reported an overall 10 percent increase in total numbers over last year's Expo — about 10,000 systems professionals made the trip to Dallas. Perhaps the more interesting number was the reported 30 percent increase in the number of consultants, contractors/integrators, and architects who attended. The numbers reflect the fact that fewer exhibitors sent personnel to staff the booths — 20 percent fewer exhibitor personnel badges were distributed, compared with 2002. “The economy has hit many manufacturers pretty hard, so they are sending fewer representatives,” says Chuck Wilson, NSCA executive director. “We are thrilled that so many contractors came out. It tells us they recognize how critical the NSCA Expo is to the success of their business.”

The number of participants in NSCA education sessions increased 55 percent over last year, indicating the intense need for and interest in keeping up with the rapid pace of developing technologies. In fact, the NSCA Expo trade show floor was full of interesting new offerings from many (if not most) of the exhibitors present. Although S&VC couldn't possibly report on all of the great new products, there were quite a few that cry out for some special attention. Here are some of the especially significant products at this year's NSCA.

Lake Technology introduced its new Contour DSP loudspeaker controller. Although DSP-based loudspeaker controllers have been around for several years, a couple of features that make the Contour really exciting are its intuitive — and quite attractive — visual display and wireless touch-screen control feature.

In the loudspeaker category, line arrays of various shapes and sizes were everywhere. DSP controllers were, too, for that matter. But Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW) took the bold step of combining them in a distinct way with its new Digitally Steered Array (DSA) Series. This is a true breakthrough in loudspeaker system design, and it takes DSP control to a new level. It allows the designer to literally change the response pattern of the DSA line array speaker using EAW's DSAPilot software interface.

Also in the loudspeaker category, Altec Lansing Professional made it clear that it is serious about restoring the position of its legendary brand status, showing ten new products at NSCA. For many systems contractors and installers who've been at this for a long time (and who can remember the '70s), it was a pleasure to see the Altec brand alive and kicking.

Yamaha introduced the Active Field Control system, a complete sound field support system that modifies the auditory impression of a room's acoustics without physical modification.

Peavey expanded the functionality of the MediaMatrix series with the introduction of ControlMatrix, a comprehensive paging solution. ControlMatrix is built on an open architecture, network-based transport model designed to run on CobraNet, standard Ethernet, and serial data systems.

A major theme of the show was the dreaded C word — yes, convergence. The proliferation of networking and networkable products from many manufacturers was a clear signal that interoperability and system flexibility are going to be a design standard for many years to come.

First-time exhibitor Broadata Communications' Concierge Fiberstation attracted a lot of interest. Although you always hear claims of products being developed “in response to customers' needs,” the Concierge is a product that was truly born from a field-based need to combine a number of multimedia functions into a single unit for a rather large construction project. It combines audio, video, and data with 12 AVD transport functions in a mini card cage and delivers it all through optical fiber.

Extron Electronics launched its new IPL T S2, featuring the company's IP Link technology. This cool little (quarter-rackspace) Ethernet-to-serial box with built-in Web server effectively allows almost any A/V device to be controlled, monitored, and accessed from any computer connected to a LAN, a WAN, or the Internet.

Recognizing that a growing number of field-based technicians and businesspeople are using PDAs, several manufacturers are designing interfaces that allow them to become system control surfaces in addition to their normal communication and business functions. Gold Line introduced its PDA-based digital RTA technology called CeRTA, which is optimized for use with the Compaq iPaq. Compaq must be doing something right (will we see the company at NSCA next year?), because Ivie introduced a PDA-based analyzer featuring the same iPaq hardware as the control unit. The Ivie IE-33 attracted a lot of booth traffic because of a killer demo and life-size cardboard cutout of the IE-33, as well as a daily giveaway of a real unit to the winner of a card drawing. Xantech introduced its MRC88, an IR-based control/amplifier that allows control of as many as eight audio or video components from remote panels or — you guessed it — your PDA.

Smart Technologies introduced its DViT technology platform. DViT is a touch-screen control system that uses proprietary digital cameras to track finger or stylus movements instead of a touch-sensitive screen surface. This allows any device to control computer screen commands.

TVOne showed the new C2-770 universal video scaler, which the company says provides “anything in — anything out” video signal processing and conversions. It features ten inputs and five outputs that can accommodate composite video, S-video, YCbCr, YPbPr, SDI, all HDTV formats, and any RGBHV resolution up to 2,048 by 2,048.

Da-Lite launched the new Integrated Screen Control, which features a tiny Ethernet signal adapter and an RS-232 serial control board that can be installed into a motorized screen, effectively making the projection screen a networked device.

Another first-time NSCA exhibitor, Communications Specialties, launched the Pure Digital Fiberlink Flex system, which is an all-digital custom configurable fiber-optic link designed to support video, audio, data, and contact closure transmission requirements.

There seemed to be a product trend toward going down-market, expanding product offerings to lower-budget applications, perhaps smaller systems — really the bread and butter of most systems integrators and contractors businesses. This trend has been ongoing in the loudspeaker segment, with nearly every major manufacturer offering compact line array configurations for smaller rental, staging, and installation customers. New compact line arrays at NSCA were shown by Martin Audio (W8LC), Meyer Sound (Milo), McCauley Sound (N-Line and M-Line), Nexo (Geo), L-Acoustics (DV-Dosc), and Electro-Voice (XLCi).

The trend showed up on the electronics side, as well — the new BSS Audio Soundweb Lite 3088 provides a less expensive alternative for situations in which the design requires only a maximum of eight inputs and outputs. Biamp Systems introduced several products in its Audia family, which includes the new AudiaSolo. The AudiaSolo is smaller and less expensive than the original Audia, and it is intended for projects that don't require audio networking capability but can still benefit from the power of digital signal processing.

Peak Audio's new CS18101 chip is a significant breakthrough that allows networking and control to migrate down-market. The new chip should have a major impact on the number and type of manufacturers who can incorporate CobraNet networking technology into their lower-end product offerings.

Video display technology has been more prevalent at recent NSCA shows, and this year a number of manufacturers were showing off technology upgrades and enhanced offerings. Specifically, there was a noticeable emphasis on networkable projectors from manufacturers like Sharp and NEC. People walking by Samsung's booth were stopped in their tracks by the huge 63-inch plasma display on the new model PPM63H1, currently the largest plasma screen on the market.

Generally speaking, this year's NSCA was much more optimistic than many had expected, given the global circumstances. It was encouraging to see such a large turnout of people and a wide variety of innovative new product offerings in all categories. There were nearly 100 first-time exhibitors, further illustrating the evolving nature of the industry. As technology trends continue to accelerate, one can only imagine what kinds of products and programs we'll see next year at NSCA in Las Vegas.

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