What is consumer land’s impact on pro AV display tech?
Text:/ Andrew MacColl
InfoComm 2015: the annual AV must-see event, where industry pros can indulge their barely concealed inner geek.
While it’s an exhibition attracting over 39,000 visitors and almost 1000 exhibitors, InfoComm kicks off days before punters are allowed onto the show floor. Hundreds of seminars, training sessions, professional qualification exams and interest group meetings are going on, one of which particularly piqued my interest – the annual Future Trends session — where I joined 350 other AV fanboys/girls for some crystal-ball gazing.
Before we get into some prognostication, you have to spare a thought for the poor convention centre AV staffers at an event like this. They are locked in a room with the industry’s elite from all corners of the globe, ready to pounce on the merest sniff of an AV snafu. And, to make matters worse, one of the projectors had been flickering on and off all morning! Just to rub salt in the wound, every presenter mentioned it… at length! Some days the surround of the operator’s booth is just not high enough to hide behind!
WHAT RES IS THAT CRYSTAL BALL?
The Future Trends session began with a whirlwind review by Peter Putman of Kramer Electronics of recent consumer shows cheekily entitled ‘No Country for Old Electronics’. The AV trend he identified was all about 4K. For those of you who have not visited a Harvey Lee JB Retra-Hi-Fi retail outlet recently, 4K refers to the pixel count of Ultra HD. For those of you who thought your boring HD or Full HD or 2K is good enough, think again. It’s so yesterday’s news folks!
The good news is the prices of the consumer tech continues to plummet. In the US currently, a 55-inch 2K LED TV will sell for under US$400. A 65-inch UHD from LG will go for under US$1000. Samsung retains about 38% of this market and Chinese manufacturers (watch this space) already hold 15%. The cost of manufacturing 4K panels is only a little more expensive than 2K so it seems inevitable that 2K panels will be entirely superseded before too long, going the way of CRT and SD tellies.
And if that isn’t all too fast for you, 8K resolution is very much a reality. ‘Where’s the content for these displays coming from?’ I hear you ask. ‘It’s enough to get a 720P broadcast of the football,’ I hear you say. Pah! Detail.
MORE PANEL MOVES
The other big mover in the consumer space is the panel technology itself. Samsung has been offering OLED (organic LED) for some time but the next generation of Quantum Dots is a competing technology that is brighter and offers a huge leap in contrast ratio. It’s already available in 4K and can be curved. I for one am really keen to see if these live up to the hype.
Other great stuff that InfoComm showcased:
• Transparent LED panels where the image floats on a clear window-like panel. It’s great for digital signage and point of sale displays.
• A mirror-back LED which allows a mirror image to be altered on the screen while you watch. Panasonic has a big profile of high-tech beauty products, so this one will be a big hit with the cosmetics industry. Imagine sitting in front of a mirror and being shown how a makeup product, hair style or colour will look on you?
• Eyetracking and Gesture Control will hit consumer tech and then follow on into ProAV. The new range of smart devices will scroll as you read and you can interact with the display without ever touching it via gestures. I can see this hitting digital signage and consumer TVs and then presenters will be looking for it. Perhaps the slide clicker is an endangered species in the near future?
Finally, and nothing to do with display tech: drones have hit professional AV. I’m yet to receive my first Amazon drone book delivery, and my guess is there are a bunch of regulatory hoops that Dick Smith (the bloke, not the store) would have us jump through before I do, but it’s a fascinating space. Drones are the new black! Small professional drones with live wireless video (and audio) seem destined for a place in the event world. The Future Trends panel discussion seemed to dismiss privacy and safety questions by saying these will be ‘worked out’. If they are ‘worked out’, I can see outdoor events being plagued by fleets of drones and risk assessments putting red flags on flying a drone around a ballroom for an awards dinner but watch this space.
WOW THE CROWDS
The marketing tag for this year’s show was ‘Wow’ and that word somehow seemed to fall from the lips of attendees over and over throughout the week. This was one slick show, with every aspect of the attendee experience considered and executed to the highest professional standard (except that blinking flickering projector!). I cannot wait to see how the industry rolls out the range of exciting products on offer.
Andrew MacColl is Staging Connections’ most senior technical practitioner. With over 30 years industry experience and 18 years at Staging Connections, Andrew sets the direction for purchasing and deployment of all show technology.