by Jeremy J. Glowacki
On the heels of last month’s International CES, where record numbers of exhibitors and attendees flooded sprawling convention halls, Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) broke all of its own attendance and exhibit records in Amsterdam last week, offering a much-needed shot in the arm to an industry that’s been looking for positive signs.
A total of 825 exhibitors occupied 11 halls of the Amsterdam RAI convention center, and were rewarded for their commitment to the event by a total registered attendance of 40,869 over the three show days. Both numbers are the highest ever achieved by ISE, with the exhibitor total representing a 15-percent jump on 2011, while the attendee increase was slightly over 17 percent. The show also broke new ground in other areas, with net floor space exceeding 30,000 square meters, and the number of people registering for ISE’s conference, education, and pre-show event program passing the 2,000 mark for the first time.
This was my first ISE in its six-year history, and I was intrigued by the effective blend of commercial and residential technologies on display, providing a one-stop shop for integration firms that crossover from one market to the next more readily in European countries than we do in North America. The business climate in the European countries is different as well, and ISE has yet to really feel the effects of the downturn in terms of attendance or the energy. It didn’t exactly feel like CEDIA EXPO 2001, but it was a nice upbeat show, with decent product exhibits, though more new products on the commercial side than from the resi channel.
Best Audio Demo: Having missed Steinway Lyngdorf’s demo at CEDIA EXPO, I was interested in finding out what all of the fuss was about with its new compact speakers. The S – Series leverages the company’s proprietary RoomPerfect technology, which is a three-dimensional room correction process that digitally maps the sound field of any room to deliver more accurate sound reproduction. The S – Series leverages what was learned from the company’s flagship Model D speakers, which marked the first collaboration between Steinway & Sons, the maker of the fine pianos, and Peter Lyngdorf, a pioneer in audio technology. The Model D’s sound amazing, of course, but are enormous and fairly impractical for most homes. The S – Series, on the other hand, sound almost as great as their predecessors, without such an overwhelming physical presence in the room.
Steinway Lyngdorf’s S – Series speaker
Best Video Demo: Finally an active-shutters 3D demo that didn’t give me a headache. Runco, in a controlled environment away from the show floor, showcased its LS-12d, which combines a three-chip DLP engine and a wide array of lens options with Runco’s more streamlined LightStyle chassis design. The new LS-12d also delivers exceptional 3D and 2D performance, since 2D content still comprises the majority of material viewed in home theaters and private cinemas. With the addition of the LS-12d to Runco’s 3D projection offerings, customers now have a variety of exceptional 3D options to choose from based on their individual needs. The LS-12d is also the first projector to ship with Runco’s new Dimension Digital Controller (DC-300), which has been engineered to enhance 3D performance of Runco 3D-enabled products. This 2U outboard controller provides a level of flexibility and control not found in integrated processors and provides Runco installers with a full suite of calibration tools necessary to achieve the perfect picture, no matter the viewing environment. Davis said that the LightStyle LS-12d will be available from Runco dealers beginning April 2012 with an MSRP of $27,995, which includes the DC-300 (MSRP $9,995) and three pair of glasses.
Best Home Theater Demo: Unlike at CEDIA EXPO, home theater demos were few and far between at ISE. Fortunately a partnership of nine familiar brands combined resources again this year to showcase what each of them does best in an integrated entertainment space. Under the “Home Cinema Europe” banner, D-Tools provided project design assistance, Audio Design Associates (ADA) contributed the AV processing and amplification that fed through Tributaries Cable to RBH Sounds speakers as well as a D-BOX Motion Code system. D-BOX enabled luxurious Fortress home theater seats to rumble, shift, and lift in response to what was projected by an Entertainment Experience (EE Color) projector through a Schneider Kreuznach anamorphic lens onto a 120-inch Screen Innovations screen. The proof was in the pudding in three film clips. One animated scene from Monster House follows a little girl riding a tricycle over bumps in a sidewalk, showcasing D-BOX’s ability to enhance subtle movement on the screen. The other two clips, a chase sequence from a Vin Diesel movie that I’d rather not credit for fear that I’ll have to see it again in any future demos and the pod race sequence from Star Wars Episode One, showed how excellent audio and video performance from top industry brands can be taken to another level with the addition of a system that is custom programmed to react to on-screen movement that is either subtle or not-so-subtle.
Most Interesting Video Application: Nick Cottiss at Digital Projection Inc. explained that it has become DPI’s goal to create a few core projector chassis designs with interchangeable lenses, lamps, and color wheels to cater to specific commercial and residential applications. While warp and blending technology isn’t used much in the resi channel, I was most impressed with DPI’s application of this technique, which is used for large-scale digital signage and the like, showed how a single projected image from its TITAN Quad could maintain consistent focus across a wide image, even though it was aimed at a right-angled corner where the center was much further away from the projector than the edges. The projector was only part of the story, as 7th Sense servers actually drove the image to that corner-facing projector and two on either side of it.
Coolest Automation Innovation: I’m pretty jaded about new technology, but I couldn’t help waking up out of my jet-lagged haze when Crestron’s marketing communications director Jeff Singer showed off a Microsoft Kinect-enabled feature cooked up by the company’s own “skunkworks,” called Crestron Labs, which enabled him to control the lights or advance or reverse his presentation slides at the front of Crestron’s booth, using hand gestures. The technology allows Microsoft Kinect technology to be supported on any Windows-based system, and not just Xbox as in the past. Crestron engineers created, and are testing, gestures that integrate Kinect with Crestron control. Crestron control systems will read Kinect gestures so, for example, presenters can sweep their hands left or right to advance/reverse a PowerPoint Presentation and raise or lower hands to dim/raise the lights in the room. Watch a video of Singer’s demo here.
Comeback Award: I like LL Cool J, so I’ll quote him again, “Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years…” Indeed, Audio Design Associates (ADA) is a founding member of CEDIA and one of the true pioneers of high-end, residential AV processing and amplification, but in recent years nothing has really caught my eye the way its application of TEQ Trinnov room optimization and 3-D remapping technology in its Cinema Reference Mach IV home theater controller. The TEQ uses Trinnov’s extremely sensitive four-head microphone that not only takes into account the speakers’ positions, but also their elevation in the room. To learn more, check out this link.
Most Relaxing Booth Tour: Granted, jet lag turned most sitdown demos into drooping eyes, drooling on my sweater internal battles, but the best place to stop for a chat at ISE was Cineak’s stand on the show floor, where the company’s collection of stylish (not garish) high-end home theater seats, were on display. Featured steel frame construction, motorized lumbar support and headrests, these custom seats had the feel of a luxury car seats, rather than a fluffy sofa or recliner. Besides the comfort and elegance of these chairs, I also learned that Cineak seats can be designed into automation systems, so that, for example, at the end of a movie, when “system off” is selected, all seats in the theater, having been in various states of recline, headrests at different angles, and lumbar support activated, can be programmed to return to their “original upright and locked position,” so to speak.
Newcomer Award: I was impressed by my first face-to-face meeting with new Control4 president and CEO Martin Plaehn, who was hired a few months ago to help implement some of the initiatives conceived by former CEO, now chairman, Will West. Plaehm updated my on his visits with 22 dealers in Utah, New York, and Houston, saying that each offered useful advice to help his company make improvements to products and business practices. One of the first changes inspired by these suggestions was Control4’s policy to ship a product replacement in the event of a failure in the field, rather than having the dealer remove the product first, send it in, then wait for the replacement, before installing it. The policy puts a new product back in a client’s home 10 days quicker than before, Plaehm said. His dealer meetings also may convince Control4 to rethink the way it supports light commercial projects as well, he said.
Control4’s Martin Plaehn
Biggest Product News: This one’s a tie between SpeakerCraft, and RTI, both of which announced that long-delayed products were finally shipping. SpeakerCraft’s networked multi-room-A/V system, the Nirv Digital Media & Theater System, is now shipping to select European countries and in American markets and has passed required regulations. Nirv delivers audio and video up to 1080p resolution to any room of the house over a single Cat-5e/6 cable from Nirv-connected sources. The system also delivers control signals, metadata, intercom voice, and Dolby Digital and DTS home-theater surround sound over the same cable. Sources can include cable boxes, music servers, PCs, network-attached storage drives, Blu-ray players and changers, DVRs, etc. The system features full control from any TV display via a handheld RF Wand remote, but it can also be controlled from an iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. An Android interface is also under development.
RTI, after a two-year delay, is now shipping its Pro Control remote controls. This line, which features a sleek high-gloss black industrial design, caters to MDU and hotel applications, as well as security installers looking for an entry-level price point for single-room, one-way RF (and IR) control and two-way Zigbee control.
Most Unwelcome Surprise: Don’t believe it when they tell you that winter in Amsterdam is “mild.” Not only was the weather last week bone-chilling cold (made worse by the surrounding rivers and canals), but a so-called “rare snowstorm” hit the day I was flying out, delaying my flight for four hours, causing me to miss my connection back in Detroit. Granted the museum lines were a lot shorter in February than they are during high season in Amsterdam, but I guess winter trade shows anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere are a crap shoot.
Mr. and Mrs. Glowacki brave the elements in Amsterdam.