Event report: InfoComm 2016

 

InfoComm showcases homogenous solutions

This year’s InfoComm showcased the gradual evolution that always follows step-changes in innovation. This is perhaps not as interesting, for the industry watcher, but from a channel perspective a maturing product line is a good thing, increasing reliability and reducing the support overhead.
Nowhere was that more apparent that in the category of solid state front projection. The spectrum of laser-phosphor solutions broadened with the release both entry-level and high-end models. Futuresource reports that laser-phosphor sales to the installation and large venue segment increased 410% in 2015, with the technology accounting for over 8% of 5000+ Lumen projectors shipped globally in Q1 2016.

 

With this sector tipped for further growth and profitability a number of vendors showed new models at InfoComm. Having announced an education-specific 1-Chip DLP Solid Shine laser phosphor projector at ISE 2016, Panasonic used InfoComm to announce three low-maintenance, ultra-compact 1-Chip DLP laser phosphor projectors.
Aimed at exhibition, staging, signage, control room, education and meeting room applications, the projectors are designated: the PT-RZ970 series (topping out with a 10,400 lm); the PT-RZ770 series (two models with a maximum of7,200 lm); and the PT-RZ660 series (two models up to 6,200 lm).
The projectors have airtight and dust-resistant optical drives which eliminate the need for filters and lamp replacement, extending maintenance-free service life to up to 20,000 hours.
Hartmut Kulessa, European Projector Marketing Manager at Panasonic, described the benefits of the new models: “Precision white balance, natural colour reproduction and outstanding brightness are enabled by hybrid wheel technology, featuring a robust phosphor wheel and a quartet colour harmoniser colour wheel. This maximises colour reproduction whilst reducing energy loss from the light source.”
“Energy efficient 10,000:1 contrast is achieved with digitally modulated dynamic contrast that controls light output frame-by-frame according to image requirements. Multi-projector sync now interlocks network-connected projector’s dynamic contrast and shutter functions, a new feature for Panasonic.”
Detail, contrast and colour performance are optimised for bright rooms and mapping applications with Detail Clarity Processor 3 and System Daylight View 3 technology. BT.709-compliant mode is also included for HDTV projection.
Lower-cost SSI
Adoption of SSI in education and other mainstream applications has been hindered by a lack of adequate solutions priced for cost-conscious markets, the Panasonic Solid Shine notwithstanding. InfoComm saw the release of laser-phosphor ultra-short throw (UST) solutions targeted at the education sector from key players in this space.


For example, Vivitek’s DH759USTi is a 1080p UST projector that is mainly designed for education and business applications. The projector’s interactive capabilities have input devices such as pens and an optional interactive 10-point-touchscreen measuring up to 110 inches across the diagonal. The projector packs 3,500 lumens of brightness and can last up to 7,000 hours without maintenance.
MS Huang, the president of Delta in the Americas said: “At InfoComm this year, we are introducing a multitude of projectors, displays, collaboration and digital signage solutions. Our products provide high performance and quality at an exceptional value and are perfect for business environments, classroom settings, personal viewing and auditorium applications.”
Also new from Vivitek is the latest in the Qumi range – the Q8 – the world’s smallest native 1080p projector, weighing in at just 500 grams. It’s also the first 1080p LED pocket projector that is suitable for a wide range of activities, including entertainment and education, and enables users to stream a number of documents, photos and videos. What’s more, it offers up to 1,000 lumens of brightness and can operate up to 30,000 hours without maintenance.
Emerging technologies
Philips provided one of the genuine innovations unveiled at InfoComm 2016. Philips partnered with Optoma to showcase Philips ColorSpark High Lumen Density (HLD) LED projection technology. The technology has the potential to bridge the gap between LED and laser-phosphor, hastening the time it will take for SSI to displace lamp-based solutions, enabling it to become a true contender to lamp in the volume market.
Justin Halls, head of product marketing at Optoma explained: “We are delighted to unveil a prototype projector that harnesses the new Philips ColorSpark HLD LED technology. This technology will enable a new generation of far brighter LED DLP projectors with industry leading colour performance and accuracy.”
“Current LED technology offers consistent brightness and exceptional colour performance, while maintaining its out-of-the-box image quality throughout its lifetime. HLD adds three times higher screen brightness and improved colour reproduction.”
Jan-Willem Andriesse, product marketing manager from Philips said: “We are excited to provide HLD technology to our partners and eagerly anticipate the ground-breaking projectors it will enable. For over 20 years we have supported the projector industry with our leading UHP lamp illumination and more recently with our SSL illumination technologies.
“Despite the variety of SSL technologies, penetration of 1000+ lumen front projectors has been limited to less than a 5% volume share for several years. Clearly the market is struggling to find the right SSL technology for the mainstream segments.”
“On the one hand LED based projectors are not able to reach sufficient brightness levels and on the other hand laser-hybrid and laser-phosphor have been struggling to find a good price-performance ratio. HLD and the products it will enable; is the solution the market has been looking for.”
Also of interest at InfoComm, while not actually new, was the technology of pixel-shift 4K. This was first introduced a year or so ago and enables the projection of a 4K-like image from a 1080p projector. The downside of this technique is that pixel-shift projector cannot accept 4K sources.
JVC has pioneered pixel-shift technology. Pixel-shift 4K breaks down the high definition barrier, taking two-million pixel 1080p HD images and up converts them to eight-million pixel 4K images. JVC engineers developed a Super Hi-Vision projection system that utilizes e-Shift technology. Now, this proprietary technology is available in both the DLA-X70R and the flagship DLA-X90R, delivering 3,840 x 2,160 resolution from any compatible 2D input signal.
Recent trade shows have seen more demos of a new entry-level 4K chip from Texas Instruments. Reviews have been largely positive, leading some to speculate how this chip will be positioned against commercial 3-chip 1080p solutions. Futuresource believes that the technology has the potential to disrupt current resolution dynamics across both B2C and B2B applications.
Flat panels and video walls
Global sales of video walls reached over $3.4bn in 2015 and are forecast to see sustained double digit growth out to 2020. While much of the growth has been driven by super narrow bezel (SNB), rear projection cubes remain remarkably resilient in an increasingly challenging environment. More recently the narrow pixel pitch (NPP) LED category has become an incredibly disruptive force in the market with most major international vendors now adding the technology to their display ranges.

Panasonic announced its thinnest ever bezel video wall, with the launch of a new 55-inch flagship video wall at InfoComm. With a bezel-to-bezel width of 1.8mm, the TH-55VF1H is a 700 cd/m2 direct-lit LED panel which delivers visual impact even in brightly lit retail or staging environments. Panasonic European Marketing Manager Enrique Robledo, said, “By tiling the ultra-thin bezel VF1H displays in any vertical and horizontal layout configuration, users can create massive, essentially seamless, videowalls.”

 

“The VF1H is Panasonic’s premier professional signage display, and combines new generation image enhancement technology with a robust IPS panel. This works to preserve natural colour accuracy and high visibility when viewed off-axis. In addition, anti-glare screen surface treatment reduces reflections from artificial lighting,” added Robledo.
The video wall is engineered for 24/7 operation and features components to extend reliability in long term installations. It is scheduled for commercial release in late 2016.
Planar introduced two new models to its Clarity Matrix LCD video wall range, while associated company Leyard launched the TWA Series of fine pitch, low power LED videowalls. The new video wall displays marketed under the Planar brand include the

 

Clarity Matrix MX55HDX video wall display, which is claimed to have the industry’s smallest tiled bezel. And also the Clarity Matrix LX46HDU-3D, a video wall solution for those seeking a large format stereoscopic display for professional 3D visualisation applications.

When tiled together to create a video wall, the 55in MX55HDX provides a tiled bezel width of just 1.6mm. It combines, what Planar claims, is the industry’s thinnest profile, extreme narrow bezel LCD display with design, installation and service benefits.
The TWA Series from Leyard are 54in flat panels available in 1.2 and 1.8mm pixel pitches and are said to offer 24/7 reliability and energy efficiency. “The Leyard TWA Series was designed to be a seamless drop-in replacement to legacy LCD and rear projection video walls,” explained Steve Seminario, VP of product marketing. “Customers want truly seamless LED technology, while maintaining their requirements for video wall size, aspect ratio, standard resolutions, 24/7 reliability and a desire to view the video wall from reasonable indoor viewing distances.”
Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology received significant attention at earlier shows this year as TV vendors began to launch large screen versions in earnest. The current cost premium is still far too prohibitive for most B2B applications. More models were exhibited on the show floor at Infocomm 2016 and this is likely receive significant attention.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) was another talking point of the show with the display industry highlighting its intentions for adoption. 1000+ nit brightness is thought to be the minimum specification for HDR screens. This development will impact cost and product availability for commercial solutions, designed for use in semi outdoor and high ambient light environments.
Opportunities for 4K panels in the B2B space are incredibly interesting for display vendors. 2014 saw the introduction of 84″ solutions from the majority of major players with a 98″ product expanding ranges during 2015. 2016 is expected to see a similar trend for 70″-75″ products with a number of launches at the show.
Presentation spaces are particularly interesting applications for large 4K displays. The futureproofing benefits of 4K and the products ability to support multiple 1080p content feeds on a single screen are driving demand as end users look to replace incumbent projection technology.
Collaboration
Of the application markets, it will come as no surprise that collaborative meeting and teaching solutions were among the bill-topers at Infocomm. Developments in interactive displays, wireless presentation and video conferencing were everywhere, driven by growing awareness and the declining costs of these technologies increasing demand for these solutions.

Central to the development of the collaborative work spaces has been the rise of the mobile device. Tablet and smartphone products are increasingly relied upon as a content source in the meeting room, and to access unified communications tools beyond it. In response to this, vendors from a variety of AV backgrounds launched wireless presentation systems which allow multiple devices to connect to meeting or classroom displays, screen share and, in some cases work, collaboratively on content.
These solutions (often standalone devices) are being complimented by the rising penetration of wireless technologies, like Miracast, in display products. A growing range of software solutions enabling so called ‘collaboration walls’ were apparent often using blended projection, tilled cubes and large format displays to create touch enabled group working environments.
Add to this the adoption of streaming to add live content to collaborative sessions. Calibre, for example, added a streaming video input option for its HQView600 series presentation scaler-switchers, LEDView700 series LED scaler-switchers and HQUltra700 series live events scaler-switchers.
The streaming video input option enables direct ingest of HD H.264 content via gigabit Ethernet port, as well as this port remaining available for webserver and remote control API use. The streaming video input is selected by an additional input select key on the front panel, so once the scaler-switcher has been installed and configured the user can select the streaming video input channel as the source to be displayed just as easily as if it was a HDMI or DVI input.
Tim Brooksbank, CEO of Calibre explained: “Streaming video ingest is becoming very important as networked video becomes a reality. It is perfect for receiving video from a long distance in a building, or over VPN, or from a video server. It can be integrated with a third party control system and then used for video server playout of emergency information to all Calibre HQUltra scalers throughout an installation.”
Couple video streaming with 4K resolution and you potentially have a network problem. To overcome this, Biamp Systems unveiled TesiraLUX, which introduces low-latency, 4K networked video distribution to the Tesira platform, a solution transports both audio and video signals over a single network through the reliability of AVB/TSN.
“With the addition of TesiraLUX, we have put the ‘V’ in ‘AVB,’ truly extending the power and sophistication of what is possible in a networked AV solution,” said Chris Fitzsimmons, product manager for video products at Biamp. “TesiraLUX delivers dependable performance and automatic handling of lip sync, resulting in transmissions that are visually lossless and perfectly aligned. It turns Tesira into a complete network media platform simplifies even the most complex AV applications in corporate, government, hospitality, and education.”
Biamp says that TesiraLUX allows the integrator to make informed decisions about what to send over the network and helps them treat content types appropriately, resulting in visually lossless transmissions that make best use of the available bandwidth. Multiple software-based options are available for managing bandwidth, including setting maximum resolution, frame rate, and rate of compression. With both a 1-Gb (RJ-45) and a 10-Gb (SFP+) media port available, designers have a wide range of transmission options from which to choose.
Within a single software environment, system designers can create audio and video installations to match their exact specifications. Because TesiraLUX’s video partitions behave like Tesira’s audio partitions, designers have a modular and intuitive approach to system design and commissioning, resulting in significant time and cost savings for integrators.
Virtual Reality
So what wasn’t at InfoComm 2016? The show was more about consolidation than about breaking new ground, with little ‘blue sky’ stuff on show. VR is on the cusp of becoming genuinely commercial, with three core usage models. Mixed Reality and Augmented Reality gaining acceptance in B2B applications that run through every vertical market. But perhaps the most immediately applicable example comes from our own industry – Christie’s Mystique tools for previewing largescale experiences offered by theme parks and stadia.
“Christie is first in the industry to offer a full suite of services, software and hardware solutions for the design, deployment and maintenance of complex visual systems. As such, Christie Mystique demonstrates the company’s wealth of technical capabilities and industry-leading services to ensure an extraordinary experience throughout its entire lifecycle,” said Curtis Mutter, solutions manager, Christie.

 

 

 

 

 

has a full toolkit comprising:

Mystique Design
Simulates and validates system designs to meet quality standards of today’s leading attractions and venues, as part of the planning process,
Offers unique ways of creating a virtual environment to “test” content both in Virtual Reality and through physical scale model representations of the system, providing a real sense of what the system would look like without the time, hassle and expense of physically setting up a mock-up.
Allows for a more collaborative process, which can include the creation of a scaled projection system for our partners to use as a sales tool.

Mystique Install
Provides tools and fulfilment services to help bring venues or attractions from design to reality.
Provides a host of existing camera-based warp and blend tools that are ideal for aligning everything from simple stacked projection deployments, to multi-projector domes, to complex 3D objects.
Can help define the playback channels to ensure that content providers correctly render the highest quality content for their production with minimal warping required.

Mystique Operate
Helps customers maintain “Day 1” quality across all facets of their display systems.
Provides purpose-built tools that help meet the specific operational requirements of the different environments such as theme park dark rides, sports stadiums and arenas by monitoring “system-level” metrics that can’t typically be monitored by individual projector monitoring tools.
Integrates easy-to-use re-alignment tools that work in conjunction with Mystique Install to allow technicians to easily maintain system alignment.

Christie Mystique Design and Install will be rolling out in the fall of 2016, with Mystique Operate planned for the first half of 2017.

 

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