Picture This: Pro AV at NAB 2006
Jun 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer
As usual, the annual broadcasters' show offered new technology beyond its bread and butter.
Over the last decade, the annual National Association of Broadcasters exhibition has become one of the country's biggest tradeshows. Not surprisingly, the breadth of technologies on display has expanded dramatically since the days of radio transmitters, tape decks, and analog video production equipment. NAB now includes a number of pro AV products and companies. And though NAB falls midway between NSCA and InfoComm, there are always a few new pro AV products and announcements.
Canon, for example, debuted three new 4:3-aspect-ratio business presentation projectors at this year's show, built on the same AISYS technology of Canon's year-old Realis SX50. (AISYS is Canon's version of LCoS.) The Realis SX6 ($6,999) and Realis SX60 ($5,999) both match the SX50's native SXGA+ (1440×1050) resolution, while the more affordable Realis X600 ($3,999) becomes the industry's first XGA-resolution LCoS projector. The SX60 matches the SX50's 2500-lumen brightness rating and 1000:1 contrast, but adds a “Home Cinema Mode” that increases contrast to 2000:1. The SX6 and the X600, at 3500 ANSI lumens, are brighter than the SX50 and have the same 1000:1 contrast ratio. All three new models now support 5xBNC component inputs (with an optional accessory) and RS-232 control. Interestingly, at 10.4lbs., all three new models inhabit a slightly larger chassis than the 8.6lb. SX50, and all were expected to ship in May.
Sanyo introduced a new 12,000-lumen LCD projector, the PLC-XF46, which uses four 300W UHP lamps. Built for maximum reliability, the XF46 includes a Failsafe mode that can automatically switch to lower-power, longer-life operation if a single lamp fails. The XF46 achieves its extremely high brightness while eschewing microlenses in the interest of avoiding damage to the LCD panels. The XF46 is network-addressable using Sanyo's latest PJ Master software, which can monitor Sanyo projectors, LCD monitors, and plasmas.
Analog Way's new OctoVue FX has the same features and connection options as the existing Octo-FX seamless switchers, but with one critical addition: a separate preview out. That preview allows the users to view any source input on a separate video monitor before sending it live out of the main output. For years, it's been a standard feature on the video production switchers that are typical of NAB's broadcast manufacturers. The preview is very helpful for making sure the source you're about to “take” to is ready to go live. For example, if you had got four live cameras, you'd want to be sure that the one about go live was correctly aimed and focused before putting it on air.
Admittedly, that function has not exactly been critical for AV switchers that have typically toggled between presentation slides and a single camera fixed on a live speaker. But as AV presentations are becoming more polished, the OctoVue FX's preview function makes for a valuable addition. At $5,990 (expected to ship this month), the OctoVue FX will offer that functionality for considerably less than one of those production switchers.
A similar example of a company adding critical new functionality to an existing product is TVOne and its new C2-7300, the latest entry in the company's 7000 series of universal switchers. The 7300 has all of the vast video functionality and resolution support of the 7200 that was introduced a year ago, but adds audio. Specifically, it has 16 audio channels (in and out), which can be individually mapped to any input — individually, in pairs, or in groups, and either following video or not. All that routing configuration can be done from the C2-7300's front LCD panel, although it's probably going to be a lot easier using the software interface that TVOne expects to have available this month. TVOne also introduced the new CC-300 control panel that offers tactile control of all CORIO2 products, including the C2-7300.
Communications Specialties' new Scan Do HD scan converter is probably more of a broadcaster's tool than an AV integrator's, but it solves a problem that either might have. It accepts a DVI-D or RGB signal up to 1920×1200 from a PC and converts it to an HD-SDI or SD-SDI output up to 1080i for mixing with other HDTV video signals. That functionality is becoming increasingly important as more PC-generated weather, graphics, traffic, and web content becomes a part of television or live presentation production.
Last year Sony showed full-resolution, standard-definition videoconferencing over IP using its Ipela encoder/decoder and boldly promised that full HD over IP was on the way. This year, Ipela was HD. The Sony press conference included a segment with Sony vice president Alex Shapiro speaking live with ESPN at the Philadelphia Eagles' training facility and discussing the upcoming NFL draft. The video quality was stunning — certainly not your father's videoconferencing — and had no perceivable latency or delay. During NAB, attendees at the Sony booth could speak live with a GlowPoint representative in New Jersey. (GlowPoint is Sony's technology partner and bandwidth supplier.) Admittedly, HD videoconferencing is also likely to be more for broadcasters and live on-location feeds that have historically gone through a satellite, but it does illustrate just how far videoconferencing and video over IP have come. AV installers ought to be aware of this technology.
VBrick's VBCorpCast is built on the same MPEG encoding technology as other VBrick models, but adds the ability to integrate presentation slide material into a live video presentation distributed to the Web. This functionality is similar to that offered by companies like Sonic Foundry in its Mediasite, but it's designed to be more straightforward to use, if a little less feature-rich, and at a dramatically lower price.
Finally, NAB 2006 showed that flat-panel and digital display technology has reached a level of quality that allows it to be used in broadcast reference monitors. Panasonic and JVC both introduced new LCD reference monitors with the color accuracy and resolution to replace the CRTs in high-demand production environments. Panasonic's new 26in. BT-LH2600W LCD follows the existing 17in. BT-LH1700W and features SDI and HD-SDI inputs, a waveform monitor, and splitscreen and freeze-frame modes to allow comparison and color matching.
JVC's DT-V24L1D and DTV20L1D are 24in. and 20in. LCD reference monitors that also include SDI and HD-SDI inputs, as well as blue check and other color-checking features. JVC also showed the HRM1, a 48in. rear-projection reference monitor based on D-ILA technology. With a native 1920×1080 resolution, a lens with low geometric distortion, custom screen material, and a built-in Teranex image-processing engine, this is no ordinary RPTV. Rather, it's a highly accurate and very sharp reference monitor.
And, on the floor but shown by appointment only, eCinema showed the next generation of its current DCM23 high dynamic range LCD monitor. Because of pending patients, eCinema was unable to provide any technical information on the new, yet-to-be-named display, but the image quality was stunning. Stay tuned.
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