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Archive by Cynthia Wisehart

Peerless is now Peerless-AV

On my way to the Peerless booth #IC4029, after an intense conversation about data processing at Biamp, I was thinking about how so many companies were taking AVIT quite seriously now and how the game has really finally changed this year. I was thinking about how radically our market will now change over the coming decade, maybe even faster (though it’s almost never faster). And I was thinking, “well, mount companies don’t have to worry about any of that”–they just have to bend iron, not signal.

So much for that assumption. img_0358.JPGPeerless arrived at Infocomm as Peerless-AV and they brought the beginnings of their new lines to the show—an array of cables and their HD Flow 1080p wireless system which allows displays to be installed up to 131 feet away from sources. So Peerless is in the signal business too. The company will obviously have to earn their way into a new role in a market that lives and dies on moving signal reliably—whether wired or wireless. But I think it’s a great approach to staying relevant in our market; with the published specs and a $420 price tag, HD Flow is worth a look, along with the other new products.

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Sound Devices Does Video

This is another show favorite of mine. Sound Devices has applied their knowledge of audio field recording to video, bringing what they are calling the first portable audio/video recorder to booth #IC2274. img_0328.JPGThis is a cool, somewhat unexpected product to find at Infocomm. But it does belong here. As more churches, schools, and corporations understand the importance of capturing their activities on video–and manipulating or distributing them digitally–this device fits right into the modern arsenal of communication tools.

One of the most noteworthy elements may not seem relevant to ProAV but it is: the recorder handles both Apple’s ProRes codec and Avid’s DNxHD–the two most common and useful codecs for post production and pre-mastering of high quality digital video. This differentiating feature lends the recorder vital flexibility whether a customer’s post production pipeline is based on Apple’s Final Cut Pro or any of the Avid editing products. It also insures the video will be captured at high quality (without necessarily taking up a lot of storage), will encode cleanly for distribution and will be future proofed for bigger screens.

The captured footage will be viable both on the internet or on a big display screen–it can scale to virtually the highest resolution picture our display manufacturers can deliver. For many customers this will be the ideal addition to their live production workflow. For integrators it’s a product you can recommend without having to know everything about a customer’s video production workflow. Think of it as a portable harddrive for a camera. It’s that simple. It also records outboard audio for those who don’t want to use the camera mic. More detail in this press release.

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Tweet This

The Christie Digital booth is certainly turning heads with bold fresh visuals–this is after all Infocomm. img_0251.JPGBut on the margin of the show floor look closely at the X2O Media booth #IC4983 and you’ll see a less conspicuous but in some ways more important display: the Twitter Cube. It’s a video wall that sucks in tweets in near real-time and displays them on the big screen. So picture seven of us milling in front of the screen madly tweeting into our iPhones, not really speaking to each other and anxiously waiting to be briefly famous.

X2O has one of the savviest booths on the floor because they know how to put what is so vaguely called ‘digital signage’ into context. Maybe that’s because they have years of experience both with manufacturing products like their xPresenter, and designing and integrating cool digital signage applications for clients like ESPN. So they understand the paradigms in a very comprehensive way and it shows.

They’ve even coined a phrase that helps with the vocabulary struggle around digital signage.img_0255.JPG “Real time visual communications.” it’s still too long but it’s better. A better way to explain that digital signage is not really about signs. So X2O’s David Wilkins demonstrates how the company’s products drive activities like remote desktop-based collaboration. Or how you can write on your iPad and it can appear on the big video screen. Ditto a white board, for meetings that may actually get people to stop tweeting into their iPhones or answering email on their iPads and pay attention.

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How to charge your phone

Bretford’s #IC2259img_0296.JPG partnership with PowerMat has come to life in a cool feature—a charging pad that can be built into anything with a grommet. Launching in October. As Bretford’s Cindy Weinschreider explains, you buy a new $10-20 charging-friendly back for your phone from Best Buy (or for your iPad) and via Power Mat’s inductive technology you can just drop it on the charging pad and it will charge while it sits there. She says the technology’s already proven at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and in schools. When you see it you will want one for your own desk, kitchen counter, bathroom vanity…. (just not on the dining room table please).

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New School

Bretford #IC2259 img_0294.JPGhas approached their new line of educational furniture Edu 2.0 by researching the culture of social learning that’s coming so naturally to our kids. The new Edu 2.0 line is designed to accommodate student’s mobile devices and to support teachers who are bringing materials from home via their personal computers. Equally important, Bretford designed the furniture to facilitate working collaboratively in groups, to get away from the “facing forward” culture that is literally Old School. So it’s network-ready carts, mobile whiteboards, mobile lecterns and desks, tables with built in power and data, and armchairs with built in power for common areas.

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Wireless at Shure

It’s hard to pick just one or two things to highlight at Shureimg_0293.jpg–the company is in the middle of a pretty intense product release cycle; that’s been the case for awhile and is projected to continue through the rest of this year at least. For our market, I’ll just zero in for now on the new Axient wireless system (shipping Fall). It is the first wireless system that can automatically change frequencies live, detecting and avoiding interference, adapting to crowded RF conditions on the fly and providing the digital equivalent of swapping mics (transparently in nearly every case). Details in the press release. Brad Paisley’s used it on Good Morning America already. Also for our market a nice 15 inch gooseneck (pictured) to accommodate the laptop trend for conferences and meetings.

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Furman for Contractors

While contractors have used Panamax/Furman products in the past, the company formally committed to the contractor marketimg_0301.jpg with two purpose-built products at Infocomm–the first in the company’s new Contractor Series. The CN-1800S and CN-2400S programmable SmartSequencers are the debut of Furman’s SmartSequencing(TM) technology; they allow even the largest and most complex A/V systems in commercial installations to be powered on and off safely with a single press of a button or turn of a key. This launch is in keeping with Furman’s work to anticipate the future of energy management.

The low-hanging savings that comes from being able to simply turn things off is a nice compliment to Furman’s BlueBOLT platform, img_0302.JPGwhich is available free with Furman products. BlueBOLT was created for the consumer space and introduced to contractors at last year’s Infocomm; it provides tools for energy management to help users interface with future smart grid developments and other energy economy related issues for measuring and managing use. These are things that will be relevant in commercial AV in the not-too-distant future. The Furman booth #IC1325 is a great place to wrap your head around how software and simple control systems can work–ask for a demo.

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Extron’s Big Play

The Extron booth #IC1301 this year had a distinctly science fair feel as the company presented some of their most important underlying technologies such as SpeedSwitch, EDID Minder, Key Minder, and some key scaling technology. img_0261.JPGThey were handing out stopwatches on the booth to demonstrate the effective zero delay in their HDCP key exchange that allows them to claim the fastest HDMI switching on the market. It is an impressive display, and just one of several feature and technology displays designed to remind us of Extron’s digital experience with market-proven technologies.

There’s good reason for Extron to be showing off their technical chops: The debut of XTP CrossPoint, Extron’s answer to the question of how to best send everything over Cat5. This new signal switching and distribution system is a crucial play for Extron in the digital world. It brings together Extron’s existing work in digital with new development and engineering done to take advantage of newly available chip technology, no doubt the Valens chip, though that is not explicitly said.img_0264.JPG

Extron is emphasizing reliability, ease of installation, accommodation to legacy analog devices–all the reassuring things people need to hear–though I can’t in good conscience make digital sound as easy as all that. In fact, digital is not always easy, but it is going to be necessary so we need to get on with it and put all our best minds to work on mastering it.

Extron’s Joe da Silva picks an example to make his point about Extron’s approach to digital: “We’re finding people aren’t building enough EQ and gain structure in the inupts and outputs to accommodate longer distances.” Extron has designed for inputs and outputs as far as 100 feet away, something that has been the SMX line and is now incorporated in the XTP platform. This type of pullthrough is just one part of da Silva’s overall emphasis that Extron has implemented digital AV over Cat5 in unique ways.

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Crestron Did Not Invent Digital

“You can blame us, but we didn’t invent digital.” That’s how Jeff Singer wraps up his thoughts about seeing Crestron’s six-year experience with digital media (or rather Digital Media) reverberating across this year’s Infocomm. He knows digital is hard–he knows that from three generations of DM, and thousands of installs where every difficult and mysterious gotcha turned into a new, better feature of DM. In his talks he covers at least one such story about a Harvard Business School install. It’s a good one: about a sort of one-way encryption valve…well anyway if you’ve ever stood on site with a weird frustrating mystery on your hands only to gape in disbelief when it’s solved, go hear him tell this story. And look at the upcoming 64×64 switch (pictured).img_0312.JPG

Singer says one reason there’s more digital at this year’s Infocomm is that the Valens chip that enables HDMI over Cat5–which Crestron has been working with for some time in partnership with Valens–was released into the wild and is now in several products on the show floor. But one of Singer’s key points is that the chip alone was not enough to make HDMI over unshielded CAT5 acceptable for our industry. Hence the Valens partnership and the resulting DM firmware that debuted two weeks ago. Singer is not shy about adding this to the list of reasons why Crestron’s street cred in digital is the real deal, earned in the field, resolved in the lab.

it’s certainly true that Crestron has taken a platform/ecosystem approach to digital media that has been largely additive–whether in terms of perfecting signal processing for the platform as a whole or in adding elements to the system to solve workflow needs. Singer pulls out just one example: a simple black box that just let’s you break out the audio from the HDMI signal so you can send it to powered speakers, amps or receivers.

From his viewpoint, digital is evolving at breakneck speed now and the management of signal and data is an ongoing quest–one in which, Singer emphasizes, experience matters and so does a cohesive, systems-based approach. “DM is a dynamic living breathing ecosystem because while analog is pretty predictable digital is not. Every source communicates and responds differently so you cannot anticipate what’s going to happen without experience. Over the last few years and several thousand installations each one required that we resolve a new issue. Each time we took that experience and built into DM the intelligence to handle that situation.” Of his competitors with first-generation digital product he candidly says, “They don’t know what they don’t know.”

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Yamaha Outdoor and a nice Neve tool

I asked Mark Lopez to pick one thing on the Yamaha booth #IC823 for contractors. It’s the new surface mount indoor/outdoor speakers–the VS line which are competitively priced Yamaha-quality speakers for budget applications or for those that require the proverbial “acres of sound.” You can read the spec in the press release.img_0338.jpg

Lopez can’t resist pointing out one other thing and I’m glad he did. The new Rupert Neve Primary Source Enhancer is the first Yamaha commercial product to come out of the partnership. The device reflects Neve’s conviction that flat is overrated, and humans respond to the warmth and clarity that Neve is famous for in his components. This new product looks promising in our world especially for churches, or any live sound application where clarity and listener comfort are priorities. Lopez gives an example: church mixers struggle between getting pastors enough gain to be heard without pushing the system into feedback. This device reduces background sounds, consequently enhancing the main audio source, especially helpful when using with podium, lavalier, and headset mics. Read more here.

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The editors of Sound & Video Contractor post live from InfoComm as the news happens. Check back several times a day for the latest industry news, reports from press conferences, and product introductions.

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