Picture This: Displaying at NAB

A select group of display companies make their mark in Vegas.
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Picture This: Displaying at NAB

Jun 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

A select group of display companies make their mark in Vegas.

On the one hand, the broadcast industry's biggest annual trade show, NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), is a logical place for display manufacturers to offer products to a targeted audience. After all, video professionals have some of the most discerning eyes in the business and a clear need for display products. And, over the last few years, many display companies have in fact come to NAB.

With 104,427 attendees, the show floor at NAB was packed.

But fewer are exhibiting now than in the '90s when NAB was a smaller, more intimate, and more affordable show. This year, the NAB show floor hosted more than 1,400 companies, with offerings as diverse as radio and satellite, video production and broadcast TV transmitters. That's impressive, but it ultimately slices up the audience for display technology a little thinly, especially as the cost of exhibiting at NAB has risen.

The fanfare for most display companies comes at InfoComm in June. It's therefore not surprising these days to see only the display manufacturers with specific broadcast or production room-oriented products at NAB. That means display companies like Barco, Christie Digital, and a few others.

Barco's iPresent control room is a good example of a solution that could fit well in a multiple-camera video production or monitoring environment. It features a controller that can input up to 80 sources — analog and digital, SDI, RGB, and even streaming video from IP — and dynamically scale and display up to 64 individual simultaneous windows on a single videowall. Barco's iPresent control software allows users to maximize screen real estate by switching between sources, fading in and out, and moving windows, with changes triggered manually or by a preset, timed storyboard. Rear projection videowall modules can support a color temperature down to 3200K to fit with studio lighting. iPresent was introduced last year at InfoComm, but it is now shipping.

Newly announced at NAB, Barco OverView fDR+70-DL is a front-accessible, DLP rear projector display with native 1400×1050 resolution. Its built-in dual lamp design makes it appropriate for the high-use, high-reliability needs of broadcast, while the high contrast of DLP aids often brightly lit broadcast environments. NAB 2005 also marked the domestic debut for Barco's entry in the single-chip, 6000-lumen DLP projector market with the iD R600, with an SXGA+ (1400×1050) native resolution and picture-in-picture capabilities. The iD Pro R600 version adds optional networking for both remote administration and a Windows XP operating system, including meeting and presentation tools, file sharing, and mouse and keyboard functionality.

Christie Digital is one of the few companies not seemingly beholden to trade show schedules when it comes to introducing new products, and it announced several new models at the end of last year. That made NAB 2005 one of the first opportunities for Christie to show its production-oriented products. The SXGA+ resolution Roadster S+16, for example, is a three-chip DLP projector that, at 16,000 lumens, is bright enough to be used on a broadcast news or daily show set. A 12,000-lumen version, the Roadster S+12, is also available. The Christie Roadie 25K delivers 25,000 lumens and an HD resolution of 2048×1080.

Marshall Electronics has been making small, portable field rack monitors for a long time, including models with LCD. Even Marshall would agree, however, that until recently the quality of LCD just couldn't match that of CRT. With Marshall's new line of TFT-MegaPixel LCDs, the video quality on the LCD displays is getting very close. “MegaPixel” is a marketing term here, and none of the company's 3.5in. LCD displays has a resolution even close to that. The company's rationalization for the brand is putting four 640×480 displays in a single rack and adding all the pixels on all monitors for a MegaPixel configuration. Sure, it's a little bit of a stretch, but the important part is the 3.5in. LCD with an RGB resolution of 640×480 when you'll typically find resolutions of just 160×234. The same impressive numbers hold true for Marshall's rack of two wide 800×480 7in. LCDs or the two 8in. racks with 1024×768 resolutions on both panels. Both of those racks can be configured with HDMI inputs.

Marshall has also worked on the performance of LCDs to element LCD's stereotypical ghosting with video images. If you imagine the double shuttering of a traditional movie projector — movies in theaters are shown at 24fps, but there are actually 48 shutter flashes per second, two per frame — you can get an idea of what Marshall has done with doubling the refresh of LCDs. The result is that it creates a perception of smoother motion.

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Christie Digital’s Roadster S+16, which delivers 16,000 lumens at SXGA+ resolution, offers sufficient brightness for broadcast news or daily show applications.

VIDEO OVER IP

Moving video over IP networks has become more important to video production and broadcasters, but it's also an area of increasing potential overlap with AV contractors. Many contractors have followed companies like Crestron, AMX, and Extron as they have moved toward sending command and control information over IP. Moving the actual media over IP is a likely next step.

In its most basic form, moving video over IP can consist of nothing more than uploading media to a store-and-forward player, such as the new Firefly MZ (reviewed on page 68) that was shown by Focus Enhancements, Adtec Digital's Edje line of MPEG players, or VBrick's VBXCast. The emerging digital signage market is an obvious target for this class of products, and VBrick demonstrated using its VBXCast in tandem with Sony's NSP-1 to add text, graphics, HTML, and Flash format content to signage installations. Other uses for store-and-forward video over IP are in remote corporate communications, training, and distance learning.

Video over IP can also be in the form of live, streamed content, either point-to-point or multicast from one device to another. The VBrick VB6200 is the latest version of VBrick's encoder/decoder line of network video appliances, this one featuring the lower bit rates of MPEG-4 compression rather than MPEG-2. MPEG-4 is capable of the same high quality as MPEG-2, but using a fraction of the bandwidth. That potentially opens the door for sending high-quality motion images over IP for live distance learning, telemedicine, and event broadcast — all possible growth opportunities for AV contractors.

Envivio, a pioneer in MPEG-4 technology, brings video encoding even closer to the traditional AV home with a product called the Envivio Mindshare Presentation System. It is also a network appliance that can serve interactive presentations to one or many locations. And, rather than solely moving traditional video and audio information, Envivio also leverages the very powerful (but often ignored) object-oriented aspect of MPEG-4 to mix AV media together with text, graphics, and even screen capture information in a single stream of MPEG-4.

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