InfoComm 2019 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando was densely packed with exhibitors but I managed, thanks to my comprehensive planning, to visit all the booths and demos on my list. Here are some highlights:
Projection technology continues to evolve, and this year, it seemed like the emphasis was in configurations and optics with some interesting lens and packaging that will open new avenues for projection designers. Yes, 8K reared its head, but chip resolution wasn’t the innovation driver – glass and metal was.
Pride of place in Panasonic’s booth was the new PT-RQ50K projector boasting 50,000 lumen output at native 4K from a laser-phosphor light engine. However, for me, the Panasonic highlight was a new lens, the ET-DLE020, for the smaller projectors, which is a zero-offset ultra-short throw zoom. Uniformity looked good coupled to the new PT-RCQ10 projector, which is a brand-new 10,000 lumen 4K model. This combination would be great where super high image quality is required and space is at a premium.
Christie Digital and Barco went in two different directions with projectors intended for the rental and staging market. Christie consolidated around the D4K40-RGB direct laser model and showed some very practical handle/rigging attachments, while Barco introduced the UDM-4K22 laser-phosphor model. The new Barco is very purposely designed with the rental market in mind as it combines very high-end image attributes with light weight, very wide lens shift, and a modular design that aids service and maintenance.
Christie also showed a new “split” unit, the Mirage SST that is a 4K projection head connected via fiber pipe (up to 50m in length) to a remote laser illumination unit that allows the system to push 35,000 lumens. The field unit, or head, is essentially a 2' x 2' x 1' box that weighs 113lbs and I think has potential in the theater, planetarium, or any other market that needs a lot of image brightness without the bulk and noise of a standard model.
On a similar note, Digital Projection, showed a concept for split projectors that are modular, meaning that different heads (resolution, brightness capability) can be matched with linkable laser modules. The planned high-end box is targeted at 4K, 60,000 lumen output, with three smaller models to be part of the model line. If they can deliver on this promise, it would offer a 30,000 lumen projector head no bigger than a microwave and having a noise floor below 40dB.
DPI also showed a wow of a 4K 3D demo that featured 360 fps content and multi-person perspective tracking. With this approach, multi-person visualization happens without the parallax error that occurs when two people are looking at the same 3D projected object, as each person sees their own distinct view of the content. The quality of the visualization was stunning and the demonstration application was a lot of fun.
To conclude the projection portion of our InfoComm wrap-up, I have to give a shout-out to the folks at Fujifilm, who debuted their first commercial projector, and it is unusual—to say the least. Sporting a “two-axial rotatable lens,” this projector can fill a 100-inch screen from a distance of only 29.5 inches and the projector can be mounted in any configuration. Currently a little low on light output for event work, it represents an interesting and original design approach.
LED Video Display
I didn’t notice anything revolutionary in LED land at InfoComm 2019. There remain only a few examples of micro-LED, while most manufacturers are working with coated applications for their super-high resolution products. One area of LED display that continues to show improvement is framing systems, where the bulky, very heavy steel tubes of yesteryear have given way to carbon-fiber and aluminum. These lightweight frames, combined with new lightweight tiles, properly support the very large screens that clients are demanding for corporate events and concert performance.
LED processor makers are also making improvements that support larger display sizes with processors that handle larger pixel spaces, decreasing the number of processors required for those larger displays. I also noticed a few examples of processors that support limited HDR in staging applications (not that there seems to be much demand). I did not see any LED screens supporting 3D, so we can assume that fad has faded once again.
It was nice to see old friend Jan Hüwel back at InfoComm with a new company called Ioversal and a new media server platform called Vertex. Based on my short tour of the software-only product (you buy hardware from a certified vendor), it appears that Jan and colleagues have taken their decades of experience in the field and distilled it into an extremely powerful, intelligent, and all-encompassing media server platform.
disguise was at the show with a new gx 2c server endowed with the most powerful workstation GPU available, in order to support improved capture and Notch performance. This is a good indication of the trend towards self-generative content based on video capture that we are seeing in the marketplace and has been picked up by other media server companies based on the evidence visible at InfoComm 2019.
The booth that probably garnered the most adulation was provided by LG, who appear to have gone “all-in” on OLED. Apart from a monumental wave display comprised of flexible OLED panels, LG showed numerous applications of transparent OLED that are great options for exhibit and signage designers, although affordability remains an open question.
In terms of video infrastructure, InfoComm 2019 had more fiber on exhibit than a bran muffin bakery and where a hardwire connection is not desirable, there are more wireless signal links than ever before. A lot of staging and rental gear is adapted for direct fiber connections using SDVoE protocol these days, and more companies are offering network switch gear adapted for AV over Ethernet applications.
Overall, InfoComm remains a must-attend for those working in the AV field. While system integration continues to be the primary focus for attendees, there are ample learning and information-gathering opportunities for live event people as well.
Throughout a 40-year career in the entertainment technology business, Josh Weisberg has experienced each of the evolutionary leaps in sound, video, and lighting technology from a seat in the front row. Combining a rare level of business management and technical engineering acumen, Weisberg has a keen understanding of the mechanics of running a technology business as well as the engineering and design chops clients rely on for all types of projects. Currently working as a technology and business consultant (having stepped down from the leadership role at Scharff Weisberg and WorldStage in 2017), Weisberg utilizes his expertise in large-screen display design as well as other event technologies for clients in the event, arts, theater, and spectacle sectors.