InfoComm 2006 Hot Products

If there was a new product trend at InfoComm 2006 in Orlando, FL, it might best be described as ?nearly new, improved, and simplified.? Overall, the mood of the show was noticeably upbeat, and most e 7/29/2006 7:06 AM Eastern

InfoComm 2006 Hot Products

If there was a new product trend at InfoComm 2006 in Orlando, FL, it might best be described as ?nearly new, improved, and simplified.? Overall, the mood of the show was noticeably upbeat, and most exhibitors were enthusiastic about the state of the pro AV industry. Business is good, and the interest from end-users has never been higher.

If there was a new product trend at InfoComm 2006 in Orlando, FL, it might best be described as “nearly new, improved, and simplified.” Overall, the mood of the show was noticeably upbeat, and most exhibitors were enthusiastic about the state of the pro AV industry. Business is good, and the interest from end-users has never been higher. But if you came looking for breakthrough new product innovations, you might have been a little disappointed. This isn't to say that there weren't any impressive showings from many of the 770 exhibitors in the Orange County Convention Center's West Concourse. There were quite a few important products, but for the most part, we saw enhanced feature sets and better mousetrap versions of products we've seen before. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when product enhancements result in increased functionality combined with improved customer ease-of-use. Most of the products featured on this year's InfoComm Hot Products list share these features.

As in past years, a select panel of Pro AV editors, contributors, and industry experts were asked to comb the show floor in search of significant products that should positively impact the pro AV business, and generated excitement among InfoComm attendees. The following 12 products fit the bill.

AMX VisualArchitect software

AMX released the first version of its VisualArchitect control system design software in March, and as a demonstration of the company's commitment to ongoing support, version 1.1 was previewed at its booth at InfoComm. VisualArchitect combines a sales vehicle, a system design tool, a visual programming environment, a document generator, and an installation guide in one powerful, convenient, and streamlined software application. This tool simplifies the process of designing AMX-based control systems while also providing the documentation necessary to sell and service the system. VisualArchitect v1.1 is currently available, and is free for AMX dealers and independent programmers.

Astatic GNVP variable pattern gooseneck microphone

Fortunately, lectern-mounted microphones have finally replaced the noisy handhelds on squeaky goosenecks, and they're nearly a commodity item. But Astatic has breathed new life into the product category by offering a variable pattern adjustment to its slick GN series gooseneck microphones. Variable patterns aren't new — they're common on high-end studio mics. But the variable pattern control on the Astatic GNVP series is continuously variable — you can dial in the exact pattern that meets your pick-up pattern requirements, from cardioid to omnidirectional and figure 8. You can even make live adjustments onsite as you're “tuning” the microphone to the acoustics of the venue. The GNVP goosenecks are available in 10-, 15-, or 20-inch lengths, and will ship in August at an MSRP of $299.

Clarity iS46 LCD with integrated media player

Clarity Visual Systems showed two new models of what it calls “the first true digital signage displays,” the iS Series. Out of the box, each display is fully functional as a standalone digital sign

or is ready to connect as a fully managed node within a CoolSign network — scalable to tens, hundreds, or thousands of displays. What makes these displays unique is their simplified plug-and-play features, which include a built-in media player, wireless networking capability, audio, and even a remote control. The iS40 40-inch ($6,995 MSRP) and iS46 46-inch ($9,495 MSRP) LCD displays will begin shipping by the fourth quarter.

Soundcraft Vi6 digital console

Being the first in a new product category isn't the only formula for success. IBM and the personal computer is the classic example, and audio console manufacturer Soundcraft has used the same strategy with its long-awaited first digital console, the Vi6. Although it's a first for Soundcraft, it's already being touted as a third-generation digital desk since Harman Pro sister company Studer has been in the digital game for several years now, and the technology sharing has been generous.

For example, the Soundcraft Vi6 uses a derivation of Studer's Vistonics user interface (Vistonics II) to enable the engineer to intuitively operate the desk. Like its predecessor, Vistonics II uses the same type of color TFT monitor touchscreen with integral rotary controls and switches mounted on the glass to provide a “where you look is where you control” working philosophy. Harman's proprietary network system, HiQnet, is an integral part of the Soundcraft Vi6 console, which means that the desk becomes a central control point for a complete Harman Pro system of wireless mics, signal processors, amplifiers, and loudspeakers.

The Vi6 is shipping now with a U.S. MSRP of about $90,000, which includes the desk, stage box, and local rack with I/O and Score Live DSP core.

Crestron Isys i/O TPMC- 4X handheld WiFi touchpanel

The design of a system's control interface can mean the difference between an AV investment that's frequently used, and one that's rarely turned on. End-users need to feel comfortable with the system's power. Crestron's new TPMC-4X handheld touchpanel should go a long way toward enabling customers to maximize their investment in AV technology. Although it's no more intimidating than a home TV remote, its functionality includes full two-way communication via 802.11b WiFi. The TPMC-4X can control any Ethernet Crestron system, providing complete control of AV, lighting, HVAC, shades, and screens from anywhere in the building. It can even function as a video system monitor for viewing streaming video from security cameras or other video sources.

The handheld Isys i/O touchpanel can display any M-JPEG format source signal — perfect for monitoring the lobby, service entrance, or boardroom door. The Crestron TPMC-4X is available now at an MSRP of $1,990.

Grass Valley Indigo AV mixer

Grass Valley continues to reinforce its commitment to the AV systems integration channel by launching another product targeted to the needs of live AV production. Befitting the company's leading position in the broadcast industry, the new Indigo AV mixer offers broadcast functionality — including mixes, dissolves, keys, and 2D and 3D effects — to a live production environment. It accepts analog and digital, standard- and high-definition (SD/HD) video and audio inputs (including embedded audio in SDI and DV streams), plus high-resolution computer inputs. Indigo features internal seamless switching technology, which allows a variety of input resolutions to be scaled and mixed. Outputs are also simultaneously available in multiple formats, including DVI and SDI for direct drive of displays or projectors, and for digital recording.

The Indigo AV mixer lists for $11,900 for the standard-definition video version, or $14,900 with high-resolution HD-SDI and DVI I/O. Both models will be available in the fourth quarter.

Kramer VP-727 In-CTRL seamless switcher

The trend of simplified multi-functionality is also dominating the category of live presentation switchers, and Kramer's new VP-727 is a shining example. The VP-727 dual scaler seamless switcher includes a vast array of features, yet presents them in a logical, easy-to-understand front panel layout. It has dual scalers (one for preview and one for program output) for executing “live” seamless transitions from one source to another.

Input options include eight universal inputs comprised of five BNCs, each of which can accommodate a composite video, S-video (Y/C), component video (RGB/YUV), RGBS, or RGBHV signal. The VP-727 is currently available at an MSRP of $4,995.

Cloud Systems Atmospherics 2.0 software

Cloud Systems' appearance at InfoComm was a tangible example of how far IT convergence has become ingrained into the AV business. Cloud Systems' atmospherics open architecture, IP-based, AV control system solution operates on Windows and Linux operating systems, and coordinates communication between any RS232, RS422, IR, GPIO, or IP device. Its object-based user interface requires no proprietary hardware, complex training, or special programming expertise to operate, and control can be accessed from any network-enabled control device. An AV integrator can automatically configure and store customized “scenes” through a variety of devices including an IP phone, standard web browser, tablet PC, touchpads, wall plates, or a variety of PDA devices.

Cloud Systems' atmospherics solution is significant because it represents a different approach to AV system control — one that's more consistent with an enterprise IT model. Atmospherics version 2.0 will be available in the fall, and pricing is to be determined.

Stewart Filmscreen StarGlas

Stewart Filmscreen manages to keep finding ways to make significant improvements to what many people believe is a fairly mature technology. Its new StarGlas screen makes it possible to use rear projection in applications where it was once thought impossible.

StarGlas contains a unique, proprietary diffusion layer laminated between two specially-formulated glass layers — resulting in a uniform, bright image with less “backscatter” than conventional rear-screen technologies. It also qualifies as “safety glass,” which means it won't shatter, so it can be used in sizes up to 126 inches by 204 inches in exterior-facing store front windows in retail digital signage applications.

StarGlas is available in two configurations: StarGlas 100 is optimized for edge-blending in rear-projection installations, and StarGlas 60 (pictured here) is a black screen format optimized for maximum contrast. Both versions are currently available, and prices start at $4,975 MSRP for the StarGlas 60.

Toshiba P56QHD 56-inch LCD

Touted as the highest-resolution LCD flat-panel available on the market today, the P56QHD is a 56-inch TFT panel with 3840x2160 (1080p x 4) resolution. Panel inputs can be four separate DVI inputs that can be used in conjunction with a videowall processor, or individual sources that can be seamlessly butted together on the screen. Utilizing a Quad Graphics card, the customer can display full-screen 3840x2160 imagery or video.

It's specifically targeted for commercial command & control applications that require high resolution in an easily movable form factor. With a pixel response time of 6.5 ms, it's as appropriate for moving video images as it is for data and graphics-intensive content. The Toshiba P56QHD is expected to begin shipping in October with an MSRP of $46,950.

VBrick EduCast webcasting kit

Webcasting has become an increasingly effective teaching and training tool in both corporate and educational settings. But if perceived complexity has held back its acceptance, then VBrick's new EduCast webcasting kit should help alleviate that obstacle.

The solution includes the company's VBPresenter software, a VBrick Windows Media Appliance, a camera, and all of the accessories you'll need to be on the air in minutes. VBPresenter is a powerful PowerPoint add-in that delivers perfectly synchronized slides, audience polls, and web pages, along with your live VBrick Windows Media audio and video — all in one box. EduCast is currently available at an MSRP of $5,495.

Vista SpyderPoint control system

If you can use PowerPoint, you can use Vista Systems' Spyder video system processor. At least that's the logic behind its new SpyderPoint control system. It's definitely a smart approach because it relates something that nearly every business professional is comfortable with (Microsoft PowerPoint) to something that could be intimidating to some users — a highly powerful yet intuitive windowing system.

Compatible with PowerPoint 2003, the SpyderPoint add-in is currently available as a free download to all Spyder owners. SpyderPoint operates in concert with Vista Advanced control software and Montage II consoles, so, if the need arises, users can switch from using SpyderPoint to control PowerPoint presentation elements to Vista Advanced to control the rest of the presentation.

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