Show report - Hot products in the desert.

After braving 45°C temperatures, US Immigration and the temptations of the modern day city of sin, the InAVate team returns to the disappointingly temperate climes of Europe to bring you its pick of the best of InfoComm 2008, held in Las Vegas over 18-20th June.

]“InfoComm 08 Largest Pro AV Tradeshow in History” trumpets InfoComm’s post show press release proudly. And so it was, with the influx of NSCA refugees, the Las Vegas event attracted a record breaking 988 exhibitors and 34,600 visitors including AV professionals from 93 countries. 231 new companies were present this year to peddle their wares to the global audiovisual market. Make no mistake, whilst ISE is definitely the golden child of the global trade show market, InfoComm is still the daddy.

So what was there to see spread across the yawning expanse of 500,000 m2 of exhibition space? Well, I again failed to leave myself enough time to wander around the show effectively, but in fairness I think I’d probably need another three days in order to do that. However in the haze of meetings and press conferences there were several cool things that stuck out.

Most obvious has to be Biamp’s Revolution campaign. Anyone who came into the show would have been protested at by banner waving anarchists, and surely have seen the marketing campaign on the shuttle-buses and main entrance. What was the fuss about? Decentralisation, and freedom from the rack. Central to this is the AudiaFUSION, which Biamp have termed a Networkd Amplified Processor, essentially it combines open-architecture DSP with a multi-channel modular amplifier, allowing for up to 16x16 I/O CobraNet connections. Think AudiaFLEX but with amplifier cards instead of DSP slots. Each card can deliver 600 watts meaning that it can push up to 2400W fully loaded, each card can also select 70/100V or low impedance.

Another couple of stand-out cool things were courtesy of SoundTube and SP controls. SoundTube teamed up with ScentAir to deliver what they are calling a sound and scent shower. Combining their highly directional FP Series Focus Point speakers with ScentAir’s fragrance library they are aiming to focus sound and targeted aromas on a customer within a particular display. In English – you stand under a highly directional loudspeaker and get gently sprayed with whichever smell they have decided will hold your attention or encourage you to spend, neat!

SP Controls has complemented its PixiePlus room control system with a magic wand, no seriously. The Programming Wand is a simple handheld device that allows you to quickly configure the wall mounted plates. Relevant RS-232 and IR codes are downloaded to the wand from a laptop, before being uploaded via infrared to the controllers on location. In an installation of scores of rooms, that makes things a deal faster.

By no means the least of the items on my cool things list was the single chip, active 3D stereoscopic projection unit from projectiondesign. The F10 AS3D projector effectively makes Stereo3D portable and affordable, because it fits in the standard F10 chassis instead the usual cumbersome fare. Decent 3D displays still incite a certain amount of boyish glee in this observer I’m sure that will fade when it’s commonplace but for the moment it’s genuinely exciting.

As you’d expect at InfoComm important announcements came from several of the major manufacturers. Christie unveiled its M-Series family of 3-chip DLP projectors built on a dual-lamp, mercury platform. There are six models in the range from 5,000 ANSI lumens to 9,500 ANSI lumens in brightness, with resolutions of 1400x1050 and 1920x1080 available. Christie’s control room division also had big news for InfoComm with the unveiling for the first time of two new dual lamp 3-chip DLP high performance, rear screen projectors – the Christie DLV1400-DL and Christie DLV1920-DL. Regular service such as lamp replacement can be done while the projector is on and running, for failsafe operation. The long life and lower cost lamps offer improved cost of ownership over Christie’s premium Xenon-based 3-chip DLP rear screen engines, adding more choice and flexibility for customers.

Also in the control space, Mitsubishi gave a first viewing of its new DLP cubes optimised for a darker black thanks to black bead technology. In the past, large cubes have been notoriously dim, but Mitsubishi's VS-80PH40U SXGA+ resolution (1400 x 1050 pixels) cube uses a proprietary, high-powered projection engine to provide 190 cd/m2 of brightness, which is brighter than most cubes of similar diagonal dimension. The new 80-inch cube uses Black Bead screen technology, providing superior contrast and black levels while offering excellent viewing angles - both horizontally and vertically.

Remote asset management was a strong emanating from the control fraternity. For AMX and Crestron this isn’t particularly new, although AMX was highlighting the environmental credentials to be gained from its system through the use of its energy usage auditing features. Extron produced an enterprise level version of its GlobalView product, which will not only monitor you’re AV system components but even those from other control manufacturers. Elsewhere Extron announced further developments to its range of fibre distribution products, filling in some gaps in the lines, and getting very close to the position of being able to offer a total distribution solution either over Cat-5 or fibre.

For the audio fraternity, there was also a great deal to see. Apart from Biamp’s revolution, both Community and Tannoy revealed entries into the steerable array market.

Following the introduction of the VQ Series in Frankfurt, Tannoy gave the product its first showing in the USA, as well as demonstrating QFlex. This is a series of self-powered, digitally steerable loudspeaker arrays utilising beam-steering technology. The modularity of the system is sure to be a hit, making it far easier to ship than some existing competitors. The Tannoy demonstration room was full of admiring visitors when InAVate dropped by.

Community introduced ENTASYS, a three-way, full-range column line-array product, aimed squarely at the commercial installation market. Community have differed from the Tannoy product, and the existing Iconyx solution from Renkus-Heinz by making their device a passive solution with no in-built DSP. They have instead focused on high power handling and high output.

Renkus-Heinz, have had a steerable system now for some time. they have taken the column array speaker concept and moved it into the corporate rental and live events arena with the announcement of IC Live. It has a two modules – the IC Live array module and the ICL215S subwoofer. Each of the five 6.5-inch cone woofers and three compression drivers in the IC Live array is controlled individually by the multi-channel DSP/amplifier. The narrow vertical beams can be steered up to 30° in 0.1° resolution steps.

As people often say at the end of unfunny anecdotes, you really had to be there. My only criticism of InfoComm is that it’s so big I can’t possibly hope to tell you everything that went on. (In some cases it’s probably just as well that I don’t.) Anyone with interesting photos from the show should send them into the InAVate inbox whist we decide what to do with them. If you are inspired by what you’ve read here to go and find out more about products then we have succeeded. However if you want to make your own decisions about what’s cool, interesting or important then I can only recommend that you join the ranks of the 5,630 international attendees from this year, and see for yourself.

You will be able to do this at InfoComm 2009, which will be held in Orlando, Florida from 17-19th of June at the Orange County Convention centre. Until then, to quote the most innovative marketing campaign of the year so far: Viva La Revolucion!, Viva Las Vegas!

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