Although it also encompasses audio, lighting and even some rigging, I thought this was probably the best place to post any comments and reviews from InfoComm 2012 that was held last week in Las Vegas.
I found that some of the buzzwords this year were "HDBaseT", "AVB", "4k", "wireless" and "BIM".
Two topics conspicuously absent from the above are 'the cloud' and 3-D. "The cloud" was certainly a topic but seemed to relate more in how content may be stored and delivered. And 3-D seemed to generally be seen as something everybody wants until they get it, after which few find much practical use in professional AV applications other than specific entertainment applications.
- HDBaseT is a method of transporting HD media, control and Ethernet over UTP/CAT cables. It is being used by companies such as AMX, Crestron, Extron, Gefen and Kramer for their digital media routing and control products. HDBaseT also has the backing of companies such as LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Pictures. In theory, and increasingly in practice, one could potentially run an HDBaseT device output to a HDBaseT input on a device from another manufacturer and be able to transmit HD video, multichannel audio, control, data and PoE over a single CAT cable.
- AVB or Audio Video Bridging is an IEEE effort to create standards for networked audio and video. The goal is to support HD video, multiple audio streams, device control, etc. in a standard network architecture (although with specially designed bridges). It attempts to define a network that automatically address the related bandwidth, synchronization, etc. associated with transporting media to and from multiple endpoints. The AVnu Alliance is a supporting group that includes major network related companies like Cisco, Broadcom, Intel, Marvell and Texas Instruments as well as pro AV manufacturers such as Audinate (Dante), Avid, Harman, LOUD Technologies, Meyer Sound, Peavey, Sennheiser, Shure, TC Group and Yamaha. However, Barco is currently the only video related member of the AVnu Alliance and all of the presentations and demonstrations of AVB I saw at the show were addressing only audio. Most people I spoke seem to be looking at AVB as it currently stands as being promising for networked audio but not addressing video or multimedia.
- 4K is addressing the next step in video source and display resolution with 3840x2160 and 4096x2160 resolutions. It seemed a common theme due not to current sources and displays but rather in supporting it in both systems being installed and in related technologies, such as HDBaseT and AVB discussed above.
- Wireless was prevalent in terms of wireless video transmission. Lots of new products and many producing nice HD pictures. However, all that I saw also had limited range and desired line-of-sight transmission paths.
- BIM is Building Information Modeling and is most associated with Autodesk Revit. BIM is a way of creating a virtual building with all the 'stuff' in it being objects with defined characteristics rather than simply visual representations of those objects. While most relevant to system and venue designers, this will affect others. For example, product manufacturers are already being asked to provide Revit files for their products. And I can see lighting and set designers having to work with Revit models. This also gets into the many legal unknowns with an approach that relies on a single, comprehensive model being created and modified by multiple parties throughout a project's life. Many of the previous delineations of who did what and who was responsible for what are not feasible with BIM and some early cases have shown there to be areas that could have a significant impact on many aspects of building design, construction and operations.
Speaking with several people, there is apparently a growing dilemma in the pro AV world of supporting new technology while also accommodating useful life spans. Many corporations, educational institutions, houses of worship, etc. may be able to benefit from some of the latest technology but at the same time cannot afford technology that may be obsolete or unsupported after a few years. This is also relevant in the technologies AV systems support and the people I talked to are wary of trying to 'keep up with the Joneses' in terms of expecting AV systems in such venues to support all of the latest and greatest technology. Many seem either be finding this an impossible task or have been bitten by investing in supporting technology that was quickly obsoleted or never widely adopted.
iPads were everywhere and it seems like everything has to have a related iPad app. However, my impression is that this seems to potentially be one of those areas where people are sometimes applying a consumer application perspective to professional applications. For example, many such applications seem to be predicated on having an app downloaded and configured for that specific room/system, which may not be practical if part of the related goal is outside parties using their own iPads. And one manufacturer bragged about how with their system and app a professor could walk into a room with their iPad, select the room and control it but had no answer when asked how to avoid the associated results of a professor choosing the wrong room or forgetting to change the room selected (imagine an instructor trying to turn up the volume and nothing happens so they keep turning it up meanwhile across the building the volume in the room they were last in keeps going up regardless of what the people there do).
There are several new(er) display technologies that seem to be getting very close to practical implementation. Laser and hybrid projectors with 20,000 hour plus life for just about every part, the ability to turn on and off instantly and so on. Thin and/or flexible LED/OLED displays. Transparent (well, currently more translucent) LCD displays. A 145" diagonal, 7680x4320 resolution plasma display.
Some interesting smaller trends I noted in audio were less focus on line arrays and several manufacturers addressing the horizontal pattern aspect of line arrays, being able to address not just varying vertical coverage but also varying horizontal coverage throughout an array. Currently this is being handled with different pattern boxes but there were rumors of steerable Bessel arrays looming in the near future. And a big surprise to me and just about everyone else was Bose's dramatic change in regards to pro audio that was reflected in both some new products and a completely different attitude and approach to product support. It takes a lot for a manufacturer to pretty much publicly apologize for talking the talk without walking the walk and to show a commitment to changing that.
Also on the audio side, Behringer still does not seem to get it. When asked how I as a system designer could get technical support I was told to contact their general product tech support group. When asked how I could get pricing I was told to contact their distributor or a dealer. When asked how to demo the product for a client I was told to go through a dealer. Behringer apparently wants to be accepted in the pro AV world without actually doing anything to support that market.