The introduction of 4K projectors has obviously revolutionized the industry, maintains Jesse Tooper, general manager, Audio Advice. “The fact that people can watch a movie at home with higher quality than that in a movie theater has been most advantageous to us. People want to be able to spend more time with their families, and we can provide those solutions for them.”
With the advancement of technology in projectors and screens, there is also an increase in training to be proficient with these technologies, he notes. “Learning how to calibrate a 4K projector to provide the best visual quality possible for that customer is obviously much different than calibrating a projector from 10-to-15 years ago. Clients understand that more today, but the one area where many can learn from us is in screen technology. Many customers aren’t aware that if they buy the projector ‘of their dreams,’ it cannot ever be used to its full potential if the screen technology doesn’t match it.”
The current situation, in which so many people are working from home and just staying home, will lead to the desire for upgrades to both projectors and screens, says Franklin Karp, COO, Audio Video Systems. “Home entertainment is taking on a new level of importance and the appreciation of a great experience cannot be underestimated. After many weeks of sequestration, the shortfalls of the old home theaters will have become painfully evident. Will clients want to upgrade and be prepared? Absolutely. Will they want the best possible audio and video for the kids to plug in their games? There is no doubt. Opportunity will be knocking, and integrators will be there with a host of options.”
Audio Video Systems has been a Stewart Filmscreen dealer “forever,” Karp says. “Stewart is the leader in screen technology by far; it’s the Rolls Royce of screens. They have the capability to display a 16K picture; that’s how advanced they are. They make their own screen materials and are constantly upgrading with even better screen material technology, and they are developing finishes allowing them to filter down to less expensive price points while still offering a superior product.”
As the industry leader, Stewart had become complacent, he adds, “and it took them 24 months to react to market shifts and lower price points. They recognized the challenge and brought not just competitive products, but superior offerings and much more popular price points. They enabled their dealers to compete in categories that they had only given passing interest to in the past. If a client has a smaller budget, we are now able to spec a Stewart product and guarantee the best possible performance.
“What we’ve seen is that a lot of home theater product price points have come down because entry-level projector quality has gone up dramatically,” Karp adds. “The lower pricing on laser units has driven the replacement business for the past 18 months. The enhanced brightness, picture quality, and reliability make for very compelling stories and can lead to upgrades of screens for sizing and enhanced materials. We can now deliver a compelling picture for projects under $10,000. When you’re dealing at that price point, it’s hard to sell an equivalent screen, so the fact that Stewart has lowered price points is important, and they did this to compete.”
“Many customers aren’t aware that if they buy the projector ‘of their dreams,’ it cannot ever be used to its full potential if the screen technology doesn’t match it.” —Jesse Tooper, general manager, Audio Advice
The Scientific Approach
At The Screening Room, owner John Schuermann puts his trust in science. “Our big company philosophy is to apply the scientific approach to marketing claims to see which products perform the best under controlled conditions. I’m a hardcore skeptic, and we’re famous for doing comparative product shootouts, announcing them nationwide; that’s where we’ve made our name. We bring in national experts for our Projector Shootouts, comparing and assessing performance and publishing our head-to-head results.”
There are two major stories to demo and explain to clients, he says, in projector sales. “Almost every projector company these days offers zoom capability to fill in Scope/2.35:1 screens with their mid- to higher-end models. A big element to doing effective projector demos,” Schuermann concludes, “is to show clients the ability to have a widescreen picture without the letterbox black bars, with the picture becoming 80 percent larger at the push of a button. This is nothing new, but a lot of dealers don’t think about it and they miss the boat because it makes a massive difference compared to what you can do with a flat panel.”
A newer point, Schuermann adds, is where JVC leads the projection field in properly displaying High Dynamic Range (HDR) images. “HDR is hard for projectors to do properly, and early attempts yielded pretty poor results. JVC is the brand that has consistently won our Shootouts, and this is largely due to their superior contrast, color, and HDR performance. We try to level the playing field with an apples-to-apples approach. These are controlled Shootouts, they’re not just out-of-the-box comparisons. We want to know that what we’re selling is the best, and we do this with all components.”
The Screening Room is very much education-based, he notes. “Several of us have backgrounds in film and music production, so we offer both an artsy side and a science side, which means that it’s all about honoring movies and applying that scientific method onto it for our showroom presentations.
“We’re finally getting 4K and HDR material to display properly. I think we are going to be getting brighter and brighter pictures as the projector manufacturers move to laser light sources, which also means there’s no need to replace bulbs every couple of years.”
The Wow of 4K
One thing customers don’t really know they need until they see it is 4K, says Ross Theriault, vice president of sales, HomePro Technologies. “When they see 4K content from Epson projectors in our showroom they are amazed by the sharp images and level of detail. HDR is also one of the most important video technologies nowadays; the picture it generates is unbelievable. However, processing metadata is critical to achieve the desired outcome as well as color brightness. Epson has optimized its algorithms to process HDR and generate pictures with incredible brightness, color, and detail.”
Reliability is an important aspect in installations, he notes. “Customers have high-level expectations, and they want their AV systems to work well, every time. One of our sales techniques is utilizing VR to deliver an immersive experience for customers to visualize their own theater rooms. When it comes to installation, one of the benefits of working with Epson is the flexibility of their projectors. We may not always know the exact dimensions of a customer’s home theater space, so Epson’s lens shift capabilities allows for more flexibility in placing the projectors and creating an optimal viewing experience for our customers. Also, the warranty on Epson’s line of Pro Cinema projectors provides our customers with peace of mind.”
The average buyer wants good value and picture quality that looks as good as a TV, Theriault says. “When we show them projectors that can display a 150-inch, detailed image, they understand the performance and value they get compared to an 85-inch or larger TV that could cost much more. Customers want to use their display devices in lit environments, and that includes projectors. Epson projectors offer great color brightness performance and can be utilized in spaces out of the dark room. Epson is an amazing partner for us; one of our best. They are highly responsive when we reach out regarding installations and product inventory, and they were able to accommodate us when we started using VR for installations.”
“Several of us have backgrounds in film and music production, so we offer both an artsy side and a science side, which means that it’s all about honoring movies and applying that scientific method onto it for our showroom presentations.” — John Schuermann, owner, The Screening Room
The variety of Epson projectors at various price points and performance levels allow for a very wide range of installations to be executed, he concludes. “From compact, affordable home cinema projectors to powerful, advanced pro cinema models, Epson uses advanced processing technologies for resolution enhancement, color, and image processing to deliver sharp, detailed content in living rooms and dedicated home theater spaces. Their 3-chip 3LCD projector design displays 100 percent of the RGB color signage for every frame, allowing customers to enjoy a wide color gamut while maintaining excellent brightness for high-quality, immersive viewing experiences.”
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