Picture This: CEDIA Video Story
Nov 9, 2006 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer
LCD battles plasma and 1080p resolution reigns on the show floor.
This year’s show was defined by the arrival of 1080p as the default home theater resolution, the introduction of LCDs that compete in price with plasma, and Intel’s vision of the future of custom installation.
The custom installation market is growing, and it has forced the annual CEDIA tradeshow from its recent home in Indianapolis to the larger Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Still, even the new convention center's main hall, providing nearly 50 percent more space than was available in Indianapolis, wasn't big enough for all exhibitors without an additional ballroom. Show attendance was up 8 percent with more than 28,000. And if all that weren't enough to suggest that the custom installation industry is becoming big business, William Leszinske, Intel's general manager of its Networked Media Platform, was this year's keynote speaker.
Admittedly, CEDIA's primary residential installation focus is a widely different business than commercial installation. But if you're not at least aware of the growth and potential opportunities, you should probably consider visiting Denver next September. And even though major video product technology announcements, particularly in flatpanels, tend to wait until the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, CEDIA has plenty of new displays for the home theater market. (Read Dan Daley's show coverage of audio at CEDIA on p. 38.)
It was obvious on the show floor that this was the year that essentially completed the transition to 1080p as the default home theater resolution. There were also several new 720p projectors, of course. Yet, most of them boasted serious value performance, including the breakthrough sub-$1,000, native 16:9, DLP DarkChip2-based Optoma HD70 and Sharp's DLP DarkChip3-based XV-Z3000 and DT500, both for less than $3,500. Epson's new Pro Cinema 810 three-panel LCD model is just $2,999, or $5,999 for the HQV version with a built-in Silicon Optix Reon-VX image-processing chip.
1080P ON DISPLAY
Yet overall, the story was solidly 1080p. That was the case last year too, but this year's products were on the floor, if not shipping.
Runco is now shipping the RS-1100 ($11,995) and RS-1100 Ultra ($19,995), and has added two more native 1080p projectors. The VX-2000d ($16,995) and VX-6000d ($35,995) are the latest additions to Runco's Xtreme line of front projectors and the new 1080p siblings to the 720p VX-1000d and VX-5000d. All use a single-chip DLP light engine. Runco-owned Vidikron also announced four more 1080p projectors — Vision Models 70 and 85 (both single-chip DLPs) and 110 and 120 (both three-chip DLPs) — with prices ranging from $11,995 to $44,995.
THX, known for audio quality and certification, announced a new THX video certification, with existing Runco and Vidikron models being the first to achieve it (the new projectors are in the THX queue). THX is oddly playing the specifics of THX video certification rather close to the vest, citing trade secrets. However, testing apparently consists of ANSI methodology for basic parameters like brightness and contrast, as well as other tests for jitter, cadence detection, sharpness, noise reduction, and other image elements.
Projectiondesign debuted the new Action! model Three 1080 ($24,495), another single chip DLP model. But this one actually uses a dual lamp/dual color wheel design for exception brightness and contrast without the typical crush of whites and dark grays.
1080p ownership doesn't have to be an exclusive club. Sony and Mitsubishi both announced new 1080p models priced at less than $5,000. Sony's new SXRD (Sony's version of LCoS)-based VPL-VW50 uses half the wattage (a 200W lamp instead of 400W) of last year's VW-100 model, while still delivering the same 15,000:1 contrast ratio in Auto Iris mode. Sony has also partnered with Stewart Filmscreen on a new version of Stewart's Firehawk screen — the Firehawk SST — to perfectly match the VW-50 output.
Mitsubishi's new three-panel LCD-based HC5000BL includes Silicon Optix's Reon-VX image-processing chip and full 1920×1080 resolution. And it's expected to cost just $4,495. Panasonic also showed a new LCD-based model, the PT-AE1000U, which features Panasonic's Dynamic Iris for not just richer blacks, but richer dark grays. No pricing has yet been announced, but it's expected to be closer to $5,000 than $10,000.
Optoma's new DarkChip3-based HD81 features 1080p resolution, Auto Iris for rich contrast and grayscale, and 10-bit color and delivers a remarkable pictures for less than $8,000. The HD81 is one of a handful of projectors — Runco, Vidikron, Digital Projection, and Sim2 all were in the mix — to which you can add an anamorphic lens that turns a native 16:9 projector into a 2.35:1 projector without losing vertical resolution.
Of course, this isn't really anything new. A few companies used anamorphic lenses to turn native 4:3 projectors to widescreen back when 16:9 imaging devices were price prohibitive. The difference now is that instead of working solely on business projectors, with their inherent tendency toward bright presentation slides rather than accurate color, anamorphic lens are expanding the capability of true video projectors. There are some technical tradeoffs, which I'll explore in next month's column, but the biggest caveat is cost. Most anamorphic lenses and the mechanisms to accurately shift them into place when needed are likely to cost between $8,000 and $11,000. Optoma hasn't set a formal price, but it is expected to be less than half that. And that's still 50 percent of the cost of the projector itself.
Sharp threw down the gauntlet in the LCD versus plasma technology battle, announcing its eighth-generation LCD manufacturing plant and a new addition to its recently introduced line of LCD HDTVs, the LC-42D62U. The 42in. LCD screen, priced at just $2,499, effectively put LCD into or below price parity with plasma. The LC-42D62U joins 46in. and 52in. models priced equally aggressively at $3,499 and $4,799.
Most other major companies, including JVC, Samsung, and Pioneer, were showing previously announced flatpanels, and we'll probably have to wait until January for other significant announcements. However, without a formal announcement, Fujitsu did have a technology demonstration of its designer Aviamo line, which will include 50in. and 65in. plasmas and a 37in. LCD. Admittedly, tradeshow demonstrations can hide a lot of flaws if done well, but the Aviamo colors, on both the plasmas and the LCD, were exquisite. Although there were no formal prices quoted, estimates put the Aviamo line in the premium installer category — roughly $7,000, $15,000, and $20,000 for the three sizes.
And finally, what was Intel doing talking at CEDIA? Talking about health care, actually — health care in the sense of how the video cameras, audio communication devices, and smart home systems we use today for security and entertainment could become part of a basic suite of in-home health-care tools used by the aging Baby Boomer generation. Statistics show senior citizens live happier and healthier lives when they can remain in their own homes, rather than move into full-time care facilities. Intel sees remote communications and monitoring, as well as the AV technology installers work with every day, as a potentially huge opportunity into which Intel can inject its own processing smarts. Apparently Intel is investing significant capital and R&D into the future of our business.