InfoComm Pick Hits 2006
Jul 1, 2006 12:00 PM, Staff Report
Innovative products at InfoComm 2006 receive recognition.
During InfoComm 2006, Sound & Video Contractor's judges patrolled the show floor at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., looking for new products deserving of Pick Hit awards.
What makes a product Pick Hit-worthy? Well, first, it has to be new, and real. That means the product hasn't been shown at any previous InfoComm shows; it's shown on the show floor at InfoComm 2006 as a real product (not as a technology demo); and it's set to ship in 2006. But more importantly, the product must be technologically innovative, allowing systems contractors to achieve more for their clients — often at lower price points than ever before. Also, Pick Hits often offer new ways to make system integrators' jobs easier.
Thanks to our judges for their participation: Jack Kontney, industry consultant and contributing editor; Jeff Sauer, contributing editor; Mark Johnson, senior contributing editor for audio; Bill Schuermann, senior project consultant for HFP Acoustical, Houston; Michael Goldman, editor; and Trevor Boyer, video technology editor. Without further ado, here are our Pick Hit award winners for InfoComm 2006.
3M Digital Media System 700
For tight spaces, or to simply prevent a speaker from walking through a projector's light path, 3M's new Digital Media System 700 offers a serious short-throw distance. Achieving this through optics and HQV image-wrapping technology rather than curved mirrors, the 700 can project a 50in. diagonal image at a projection distance of just 19.4in.
VisualArchitect is designed to reduce the time to complete single master jobs, says AMX. VisualArchitect is a design platform that combines a sales vehicle, a system design tool, a visual programming environment, and an installation guide in a single software application. It's based on a drag-and-drop interface — the designer drops icons of manufacturers' products into a work area to create a single- or multi-room system that runs on an AMX master controller.
Aviom is preparing to unleash the next wave in low-latency, bidirectional audio networking. Pro64 uses the Aviom A-Net protocol over Cat-5e cables to address audio-specific issues like system latency and clock jitter beyond the limits of Ethernet streaming. Powered by new, audio-specific custom chips, Pro64 will comprise a suite of products designed to operate in a true network, allowing 64 channels to stream in both directions, any of which can be accessed from any node in the network at any time.
Barco FLM HD18
Both Christie Digital and Barco debuted new video-centric 1920×1080 native front projectors at InfoComm 2006, which as a group represent the first such three-chip DLP models using TI's new DMDs. While DLP is not the first technology to achieve 1920×1080 (LCoS has been there for a few years), DLP's reflective micromirror technology can offer an inherent brightness advantage for large-venue projection. Barco's FLM HD18 is the brightest of the bunch, boasting a remarkable 18,000 lumens.
Biamp Nexia TC
Expanding on the AudiaFlex line with its new Nexia TC, Biamp has packaged great teleconferencing performance into a new cost-effective 1RU package.
Broadcast Pix Slate 100
Broadcast Pix's new Slate 100 eschews the physical buttons and bars of the traditional video production switchers and puts all your controls on a touchscreen display that's about as intuitive as it can get. Touch a graphic or a moving video source with your finger and it goes live. Plus, the entire physical switcher has now been squeezed onto a computer PCI board set, bringing the cost of the entire system, including computer and touchscreen, to less than $10,000.
ETA Conditioned Power Center
Every AV system should have power conditioning, and the new ETA three-phase Conditioned Power Center certainly fills the requirement. But ETA is the first “audio industry” brand to make a product in this class. Before this unit, everything that involved AC conditioning — from ETS, Surgex, Middle Atlantic, et al — has been a rackmount 20A unit or designed to power a 19in. rack.
Lab.gruppen C series
The flexibility of these lightweight, high-fidelity, 4-channel, 2RU amps is very contractor-friendly. Each discrete channel's peak power output and gain can be individually configured so that, for instance, both 70V and lo-Z devices can be simultaneously powered from a single unit. Input sensitivity is also adjustable. This flexibility makes the C series easy to specify early in the bidding process, as changing customer requirements are easily accommodated.
Meyer Sound M'elodie
M'elodie, Meyer Sound's new line of curvilinear array loudspeakers, takes the Meyer tradition of high-quality audio to a new level, but in a smaller package.
A very colorful digital mixing console that gives the audio engineer exactly what he or she needs — and then some. The live console features 96 input channels and 32 aux mix buses, 16 matrix buses (FOH mode), or 48 foldback mixes (Stage Monitor mode). The XL8 has the look of an analog console with the addition of five TFT display screens where the meter bridge would normally be.
Optoma Bigvizion 100
Smoke and mirrors is only half right for Optoma's Bigvizion 100, a 100in. (diagonal) rear-projection TV designed for fixed installations. It's the smart use of mirrors that gives the Bigvizion 100 an installation footprint that's only 30in. deep.
The Solo provides encrypted wireless audio conferencing with a unique form factor and exceptional ease of use. Available in an eight-pack version with docking station for conference rooms and a single-channel version for office (telephone) use, the Solo transmitter is a small, lightweight tube that clips to the lapel. Take it out of the docking station and it activates and finds an open frequency; the only user control is a mute button. For contractors, there's no downside to this product — no frequency coordination, no user training, and plug-in compatibility with any boardroom AV system.
Extremely cost-effective handheld analyzers with advanced audio-based feature sets. The SP395 (the Audio Integrator) includes a sound level meter, noise dosimeter, energy graph, and impedance meter. The SP495 (the Audio Consultant) is an acoustic analyzer for design/consultation, with noise curves, multi-band decay analysis, speech intelligibility, and digital audio outputs. Both have tests for sound reinforcement, distributed audio, live audio, and industrial sound.
No-holds-barred professional RF, engineered for exceptional sound quality and powerful system control. The UHF-R offers a prodigious 60MHz bandwidth, 2,400 discrete channels on board, and 40 preset compatible frequencies per band. Using multiple bands, up to 108 systems can operate simultaneously. Automatic frequency selection includes group scan at the receiver, with the transmitter then quickly set up via infrared link. UHF-R receivers include flash memory capable of storing custom frequency groups. They're AMX- and Crestron-compatible and facilitate PC network control via either Ethernet or USB.
Sony Ipela PCS-HG90
This represents the future of both videoconferencing and live HD video production. The Sony PCS-HG90 codec is an IP-based communications system that can transfer HD-resolution video over an IP network during on-air news interviews or during shareholder meetings. What's amazing about the Ipela product is how it's able to squeeze such crisp-looking 1280×720p video into a maximum bandwidth of 8Mbps. The codec supports the H.264 video protocol to go much lower than that and preserve HD quality.
ViewSonic isn't the only company integrating processor smarts into displays, but ViewSonic's approach has the potential to be a digital signage breakthrough. The network module in the ND4200 has a Linux OS that includes a built-in MPEG decoder for video, a Flash player, and a Mozilla web browser. For the browser, a programmable fullscreen mode removes all the toolbars, address line, and borders. That means any content from a company's web department, including Flash with or without embedded video and audio, can immediately be repurposed as digital signage content.