Picture This: NSCA 2007: Video Paradise
Apr 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer
A mecca of installer-focused introductions.
For many video-oriented companies, March's NSCA Expo marks the beginning of a spring tradeshow season that includes NAB, InfoComm, and others. For flatpanel makers, the season already started back in January with CES. There's usually a balancing act when it comes to spreading announcements across all the shows, especially with them occurring so close together, and the danger for NSCA is that the bigger splashes will come at the larger shows. But that also means that NSCA introductions are often more installer-focused.
Extron Electronics is a good example of a company that tends to focus major product launches for later in the year at InfoComm, and that may be particularly true this year with InfoComm in Anaheim, Calif. — Extron's backyard. Still, at NSCA 2007, Extron introduced a first-of-its-kind matrix switcher and scaler. The ISM 824 is built on Extron's CrossPoint matrix switchers and has all the same functionality, with eight configurable inputs and outputs. In addition, five output expansion boards give the ISM 824 integrated scaling and scan conversion options to match the needs of just about any boardroom, auditorium, or classroom. The ISM 824 starts at $6,190, with output expansion cards ranging from about $900 to $2,000 depending on functionality.
Analog Way announced the availability of the new, affordable Easy Cut ($1,450) and Easy Fade ($1,850) switchers, first introduced as prototypes late last fall. Both support seamless switching between up to four video inputs and up to three RGB computer inputs. Designed for the budget-conscious installation or rental and staging provider, the Easy Cut and Easy Fade don't include a plethora of extraneous wipes and effects — just high-quality switching at a good price. Analog Way has also started shipping the first long-distance DVI cables using high-quality copper wiring to maintain signal integrity up to 70m. Prices vary depending on cable length, but the shortest cable offered (30m) costs $1,450, while 70m cable costs $1,850.
Readers may remember that at CES in January, T-Zero introduced a new chipset and reference design for wireless HDMI over UWB (ultra-wideband) technology. At NSCA 2007, Gefen announced the first industry product based on T-Zero's technology, aptly named the Wireless HDMI ($699). Unfortunately, Gefen is still waiting for a final code from T-Zero, and it won't be shipping the product for another couple of months.
DISPLAYS AT NSCA
For Sharp, NSCA fell at a good time for introducing pro AV products. Sharp announced new technologies for consumer products at CES and used NSCA to launch the pro AV version of a pair of 46in. 1920×1080 LCD monitors. The PN-465U ($6,095; $7,595 with protective overlay) features a professional array of input options, DVI daisy-chaining for up to five monitors, remote monitoring via RS-232, and a rugged metal industrial enclosure design. A portrait version of the same panel, the PN-465UP, does more than just turn the unit on its side: It includes re-oriented backlights and refined cooling for vertical installation. Both the landscape PN-655U ($22,995) and portrait PN-655RU ($29,995) of Sharp's 65in. LCD also started shipping as of NSCA. And Sharp debuted the XG-PH70X, a single 0.7in. DMD DLP large-venue projector. It and its sibling, the XG-PH50X, are both XGA resolution and are rated at 5200 and 4000 lumens respectively.
NSCA marked a big change for NEC: As of April 1, it will end a confusing duality. Over the past few years, NEC Visual Systems, the plasma and projector division, has effectively competed against NEC Displays Solutions, the division that makes LCD panels and monitors. Thankfully, as of April 1, all of the display products will be under one roof at NEC Display Solutions, including the new professionally designed Multeos 40in. and 46in. LCD panels highlighted at NSCA. A full range of professional inputs, 1080p resolution, enhanced cooling for long life, and a streamlined chrome and black elegance are features that make the Multeos panels appropriate for public display and corporate installation. Prices start at $2,999.99.
Boxlight introduced ProjectoWrite ($2,199, expected in June), a whiteboard technology without the whiteboard. ProjectoWrite is a 3000-lumen LCD projector with a built-in CCD camera that tracks the movements and mouse clicks from a wand-like mouse. A Microsoft Windows utility allows you to make annotations to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or other program documents, and save those notes as screengrabs. That's nothing functionally new, except that it's the projector rather than the screen that is recording your work. So now, your interactive whiteboard can be a wall, a blackboard, or any available surface onto which a projector can shine light.
Panasonic introduced several new projectors to the AV industry, starting with three LCD projectors that share the same chassis design: the PT-F100U ($5,299), the IP-addressable PT-F100NT ($5,599), and the 16:9 resolution PT-FW100NT ($5,999). All are designed for long, minimal-maintenance life and feature an Auto Rolling Filter (ARF) that minimizes dust buildup; all are expected to ship in April. On a much different level, the new 3-chip DLP PT-DW10000U (approximately $75,000) will feature native 1920×1080 resolution, dual-lamp 10,000-lumen brightness, a 5000:1 contrast ratio, and similar automatic filter cleaning for longer life.
This year's Digital Signage Showcase lacked much of the exclusivity of those of years past. There was no cordoned-off area away from the main show floor, and there were only a few announcements of new products. That's probably because the market is still catching up to the state of the technology. Instead, Electrograph helped change the showcase into an educational experience with presentations running throughout the show, covering topics such as “Digital Signage: The Exploding New Medium,” “Develop Your Expertise in Selling to Digital Signage Prospects,” and “Design, Specification, and Installation of Digital Signage Systems.”
Chyron did announce the ChyTV HD100, a new high-definition version of its existing ChyTV product. However, there are other important features beyond HD. The HD100 is a player device rather than a pass-through product. Other ChyTV models are designed to simply pass through an incoming video signal while overlaying signage text and graphics around and over that video. In that case, the timing of the signage elements can be scheduled and timed, but the video just plays. With HD100, video files — including high-definition clips — are stored on an internal hard drive and played out as part of the schedule. The HD100 is expected to be released in June at approximately $3,500. The HD100 will be followed in the third quarter by the HD200, a pass-through device akin to the rest of the ChyTV line but with high-definition support.
Finally, the visual highlight of the digital signage area had to be ITSEnclosures' waterfall over an operating plasma. ITSEnclosures designs kiosks and chassis, and this one was designed to protect expensive displays from the elements.
Jeff Sauer is a video producer and an industry consultant based in Massachussetts.
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