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Parallax View: Infocomm 2007

The pro AV channel, which had taken a backseat to the consumer channel in terms of manufacturer interest, is suddenly ?hot? again.

INFOCOMM 2007, held at the Anaheim Convention Center, in Anaheim, Calif., clearly showed that display and interface manufacturers have rediscovered gold in the hills of Southern California. While profitability has taken a beating as HDTV set manufacturers fight for consumer market share, things are a bit more stable in the pro/commercial channel.

That's because so many pro products are sold as part of an installation, not as stand-alone products for “plug and play” end users. (You want a hang and bang projector? Go to Staples!) And the industry is also in the midst of a transition to digital signal transmission and interfacing.

Throw in HDTV, digital signage, and IT/AV crossover products, and you've got the makings of a bang-up show that had full aisles for all three days. In addition, the InfoComm Education program was in full swing with more than a hundred classes, and peripheral events like EduComm and the Projection Summit had their own crowds.

I couldn't spend nearly as much time at the show as I wished. Still, I did make it to a few press events and saw some interesting products. Here are a few highlights:

3LCD: The LCD projector camp has been taking it on the chin from Texas Instruments for several years. First, there was TI's “questionable” projector reliability study, followed by a more scientific version. Then, TI began trumpeting higher resolution, smaller chips, and Brilliant Color, which is apparently going to be a standard feature on most single-chip DLP projectors shortly.

However, the DLP camp was largely caught off-guard last fall by a wave of affordable, high-performance three-panel LCD and LCoS projectors, all of which sported 1920x1080 resolution and were free of the “rainbow” artifact. And the 3LCD group, which started out as a half-hearted attempt to promote the technology, now has a serious focus and message.

Karl Lang's research on the advantages of three-panel color versus sequential color imaging, presented at the 3LCD press dinner, was quite revealing and an eye-opener for anyone who thinks LCD projectors are old hat. Check out the 3LCD Web site at www.3lcd.com.

Sanyo: They held their first-ever press conference at InfoComm and had some cool products to boot, including the world's shortest-throw projection system (PLC-XL50N, claimed to form an 80-inch image from a distance of 3 inches), a new 1920x1080 large venue projector, and support for the 1280x800 notebook computer display standard.

Sanyo also showed an automatic filter maintenance system (as did Panasonic) and a demo of high-bandwidth wireless HD using Amimon's interface. And they've expanded networking into a broad range of their products.

Mersive: This Lexington, Ky.–based company showed an impressive seamless blending/tiled widescreen display system that used 27 projectors. Their software and hardware provides automatic edge registration and feathering through a special camera, making setup a snap (literally).

Mitsubishi: The folks from Irvine, Calif., had a QFHD (3840x2160) resolution 56-inch LCD monitor, suitable for high-resolution static imaging. The 56P-QF60LCU will sell for $49,995 and had excellent contrast and color saturation. In another part of their booth, the HC4900 was unveiled. It's a $2,995, 1080p home theater projector (3LCD) with DVI and HDMI inputs and dynamic iris control.

JVC: If you like the company's 2K projectors, the 4K will definitely be your cup of tea. JVC's 4K demo included HD video, film transfers, and still images. It uses a new 1.27-inch D-ILA panel with 4096x2400 pixel resolution. No price yet on a projector chassis — the demo was just so show a compact 4K projector can be built.

Panasonic: Last year, Panasonic spun off its projector business into a separate company, and followed suit with their plasma business, now known as Panasonic Professional Displays. Both companies shared a large booth at the show and offered a wide range of products, from a 10,000-lumen water-cooled DLP design to the PT-FW100NTU, a new desktop LCD projector with 1280x800 resolution that has the automatic filter system.



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