Top Tech of 2007
Dec 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jack Kontney
A look back at the evolution of top new products this year.
L-Acoustics has enabled the line-array loudspeaker concept to migrate into smaller venues with the ultra-compact Kiva system. Designed to deliver full performance in a low-profile and architecturally pleasing package, Kiva employs the same Wavefront Sculpture Technology as its bigger V-DOSC siblings. The V-shaped cabinets weigh less than 30lbs. and house a captive three-point rigging system for easy, professional installation. By combining Kiva line arrays with L-Acoustics' compact new Kilo subwoofers, a robust, full-range music system can be specified in rooms where large line arrays are impractical due to weight or sightline limitations.
Sonance made noise at CEDIA with its acclaimed Architectural series of flush-mount loudspeakers. Available for both wall and ceiling applications in a variety of sizes, shapes, finishes, and performance levels, these loudspeakers are designed for flush mounting, becoming all but invisible in deployment. Behind the ceiling loudspeaker grilles are Sonance's patented pivoting Sonic Eye drivers, delivering accurate, full sound regardless of the listener's location. Both models are designed to integrate seamlessly into any room, complementing the architectural space without compromising sonic performance.
The state of the art in video projectors is a constantly moving target, with new advances in optics, electronics, processing, and connectivity combining with the evolution of video formats and applications to create a constantly changing landscape of products.
Christie Digital is one company that has consistently stayed at the forefront of technology, and 2007 was no exception. The Christie Roadster HD18K uses next-generation DLP chip technology, 10-bit processing, and 17,500 lumens to raise the bar in high-definition video projection. Designed for applications from corporate boardrooms and houses of worship to rental/staging, the Roadster HD18K provides 1920×1080 native resolution, variable contrast ratio, xenon illumination through Christie's Intelligent Lens System, built-in edge blending, and two HD input channels that combine to ensure crisp, sharp images.
But Christie doesn't limit itself to DLP. Its LX650 digital projector, a Sound & Video Contractor Pick Hit at InfoComm, refines the established 3LCD technology with innovative features that reduce cost of ownership. The air filters used to protect the machine's 6500-lumen light engine from dust don't require manual cleaning or changing. Instead, a cartridge of 10 filters automatically detects dust and replaces clogged filters, while an innovative cooling system ensures extended life and reduces maintenance needs. The LX650 accepts all current HDTV and DTV inputs, with input compatibility for XGA through UXGA. Its 6500-lumen output offers 90-percent brightness uniformity, and the unit accepts graphics, computer data, and video with equal aplomb, making it a natural fit for house of worship and corporate installations.
Systems designers know that serving their customers isn't always about the latest technology. More often, it's about providing the needed functionality within a limited budget. Both Optoma and Mitsubishi Electric made a splash at InfoComm by breaking the $3,000 price barrier on native-1080p projectors.
The Mitsubishi HC4900 is an LCD-based high-definition projector designed for home theater applications up to 300in. diagonal. Its C2Fine inorganic LCD panel extends projector life while providing fast response and smooth transitions. Advantages for the home market include a very low noise level (19dBA in low mode), an advanced auto-iris optical system that constantly monitors and adjusts color and luminance information, and an eye-opening 5000-hour lamp life with side-panel access for easy replacement — even when ceiling mounted. Integration into home-automation systems is easy with both a computer input port and RS-232 connection.
The HD80 from Optoma is another native-1080p HD home theater projector, using DLP display technology. Specifications include 1300 lumens brightness, a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, and an integrated video-processing system that delivers the subtlety and detail that HD buyers expect. The HD80 supports all common video and computer formats and offers native 16:9 aspect ratio while still supporting 2.35:1 widescreen viewing with its optional automatic anamorphic lens.
Extron Electronics takes end-to-end digital transmission to another level with the introduction of the Fiber Matrix 6400, a high-performance, modular matrix switcher. The system was designed for facilities requiring high-resolution video signals to be transported over a fiber-optic infrastructure, and it is available in configurations ranging from 8×8 channels to 64×64 channels. The system accepts computer video, DVI, and multirate SDI inputs, and it supports digital switching up to 4.25Gbps. Integrators will appreciate having front-panel access in tandem with RS-232 and Ethernet control for remote configuration.
Back in the control room, of course, it's all about picture quality. Sony's Master Series has expanded to meet that need with the no-holds-barred BVM-L230 HD LCD monitor. With a five-year design cycle that generated 40 patents, this 23in. design features an industry-first, 10-bit LCD panel driver with full 1920×1080 resolution. New developments include a color space selection function, a Picture-in-picture display, and an interlace display mode, along with an LED backlight system that trumps conventional LCD monitors. Incorporating Sony's Trimaster design architecture, the BVM-L230 offers a high level of color accuracy, precision imaging, and consistent picture quality in a professional flatpanel display.
The future of digital projection continues to burn bright. Texas Instruments, champion of 1080p resolution and 3-chip DLP imaging, introduced a smaller, more affordable chip set, the DLP 0.7in. XGA 3-chip. With this architecture already dominating the digital-cinema market, this new platform allows for a smaller light source, prism, and DLP chip, and it will be offered to manufacturers with a full set of lenses. Initial resolutions will be XGA, WXGA, and 720p, with more options promised for the future. Ultimately, that means better image quality in smaller machines, and at significantly lower prices. Manufacturer interest is running high; the first global product, the Sharp XG-P610X, is already scheduled for release in Q1 of 2008.
This section is dedicated to those new products that go beyond mere audio and video. Most of these products are convergent by nature, with a special emphasis on design and productivity tools for AV professionals.
Honored at NSCA, Stardraw.com's Stardraw A/V 2007 is a software-based CAD application tool that supports both pictorial and block schematics, including detailed rack layouts, with incredible ease. Files can be easily shared via the free Stardraw Viewer or printed via Windows (either on a PC or a Mac running PC-emulation software such as Virtual PC). Powerful reporting functions are fully integrated into Excel, and A/V 2007 supports both DWG and DXF files, so it plays well with others. Perhaps the most attractive aspects of this CAD application are its intuitive ease of use and its massive library of product symbols. With this one application, integrators can generate sales presentations, engineering schematics, detailed rack layouts, pricing, quotations, and more.
Knowing that frequency crowding is a fact of life and wireless demand continues to grow, Kaltman Creations delivered the Spectran HF4040 spectrum analyzer at a breakthrough price. The compact HF4040 handles the full RF spectrum from 10Hz to 4GHz, with a zoom feature and hot-button presets for quick access to 10 specified ranges. It comes with PC software for logging activity over time, making it ideal for planning frequency deployment. The Spectran HF4040 comes complete with omni- and unidirectional antennas, a rechargeable battery system, a tripod stand, and a sturdy aluminum travel case.
The Crestron MPS-100 multimedia presentation system combines out-of-the-box functionality with custom programming ability. Within a single 2RU component, the MPS-100 packs a Crestron control system, multimedia switcher, audio controls, and a 40W amplifier, saving considerable rack space without sacrificing performance. The switcher can route two video and three computer sources to a single display, with control available via Ethernet, RS-232, or infrared. The system's output offers full system control, including independent video preview, through a variety of Crestron touchpanels. On the audio side, the MDS-100 handles both balanced and unbalanced signals, with full controls and thump-protected mute. The system offers out-of-the-box video switching and audio control via the front panel. Crestron's 2-Series Ethernet control is integrated as well, with MediaManager software for fast setup and fully custom systems programmable through SystemBuilder.
AMX has leveraged RFID technology to produce Anterus, a system that extends the capabilities of AV control systems by permitting asset-based event triggering while providing status reports to system administrators. Where most RFID systems provide item identity information, Anterus integrates the RF signal into a broad range of possibilities. For instance, an AV system can be powered up when a user wearing an Anterus RFID tag walks into the room. In addition, system assets can be tagged and their location centrally tracked. The back end of the system is the ANT-RDR reader, connected to a NetLinx controller to trigger events when an Anterus RFID tag or badge passes into its zone of control. Anterus can also be integrated into the AMX Resource Management Suite.
The corporate world will welcome Barco's XDS-1000 display-management system, a software application designed to integrate with the company's desktop-integrated projection systems to produce a truly immersive display experience. The XDS-1000 uses an integrated Windows XP interface to support up to six simultaneous video or data sources — whether locally stored or networked — all in native resolution. Any connected hardware source can be opened in a window and positioned freely, maintaining image quality even when zooming in. Stereoscopic sources are supported, and can be displayed simultaneously with mono, allowing in-depth display of complicated data to help realize the promise of productivity in advanced, immersive videoconferencing installations.
Vantage/Legrand wowed the CEDIA audience with WebPoint 2.0, providing web-based access to the company's VantageQ and InFusion servers for intelligent whole-home control. Using a Windows XP or Vista-based PC (or Web-enabled PDA) and most popular browsers, users can monitor and control a full range of systems, including lights, surveillance cameras (including recorded video), thermostats, and blinds. In addition, users can create new macros, schedule calendar events, and manage system configuration. WebPoint offers an intuitive and interactive interface with quick navigation, room-at-a-glance status, and the ability to expand and collapse individual areas to reveal/hide all available devices.
AVerMedia won an Innovations in Technology Award at NSCA for its AVerDiGi SA6416 16-channel surveillance DVR. Designed for home or business applications, the AVerDiGi is a total surveillance center. It has the ability to connect up to 16 analog and/or IP cameras, providing control to the operator via embedded Windows XP software, whether at a base computer or from a remote device via Internet Explorer. The operator can control every aspect of surveillance, including video recording, playback, backup, search, and editing — even positioning of PTZ cameras. Recorded surveillance is computer searchable, and MPEG-4 video can be encrypted. The AVerDiGi system also offers point-of-sale integration and watermark image-verification technology.
When customers are shelling out big bucks for a flatpanel display, it's only reasonable that they receive a mounting solution that's every bit as elegant. OmniMount's Ultra Low Profile series received a Manufacturers' Excellence Award at CEDIA for meeting that need. The ULPT-X needs only 1.5in. of excursion, and it handles flatpanel displays of 55in. to 75in. and up to 300lbs. Concealed mounting hardware, an extruded aluminum end cap, and sliding on-wall lateral adjustment ensure a clean, seamless appearance, while a built-in kickstand, Grade-5 hardware kit, and OmniMount's Lift n' Lock feature make things easy for the integrator, as well.
While this next entry is not a product, per se, every integrator knows that accessing needed product information from manufacturers can be time-consumingand frustrating. At NSCA, Aviom, developer of the A-Net digital audio networking protocol and associated products, was recognized for the intuitive redesign of its website: www.aviom.com. The information architecture offers even-handed access to both market-based and product-specific information, with a homepage that offers a full range of navigation options in a clear and logical layout. Tab-style top navigation and a comprehensive search tool are visible from every page, and the support section offers quick access to technical documents, applications notes, and marketing materials.
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Contributing editor, audio Jack Kontney also heads Kontney Communications, a content creation and marketing communications firm specializing in pro audio and video. Contact him at www.kontneycomm.com.
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