Video Projections

Projector Manufacturers Maintain Close Ties to Custom Channel
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SIM2's C3X1080 is a full HD three-chip projector that is designed to offer benchmark performance, but is no larger than most other single-chip projectors.
Perhaps no single product has driven professional AV installation channel profits while driving it crazy at the same time, more than the plasma TV. Many a custom install business has been built on and broken by the profitability and then massive and sudden price drops of this increasingly popular technology. But without video of some kind in a project, integration just isnt integration.

Thats why many residential electronic systems contractors (RESCs) prefer to introduce their clients to front projection video systems, which typically provide higher profit margins, better dealer exclusivity, and increasingly unique technical improvements.

Industry leaders like Planars Runco and Vidikron brands, SIM2, Epson, Panasonic, Meridian, and others, are more than happy to supply high-quality projectors to a custom installation channel that can showcase their technologies in the best light, and integrate them like no other.

The Ability to Integrate
Most video projector manufacturers agree that the custom installation channel is essential to increasing sales of high-performance projectors. The ability to integrate the projector into a well-designed room is what a premium custom installer does by definition, said Charlie Boornazian, VP of sales and marketing for SIM2 USA.

A properly set up system is the source for hours of enjoyment that cannot be measured in pure monetary terms, he said.

Marge Ang, Epson Americas product manager for home theater products, agreed that custom dealers still play an important role in video product sales, in general, especially as many integrators begin to take on a more targeted approach to customer outreach, including one based on demographics, rather than just using advertisements to reach the core customer in the market

With in-store events and product demos, dealers are able to actually show consumers various and different ways to install a home theater or home theater products, providing options that many consumers may not have known were available, Ang pointed out.

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Bucking the trend toward DLP proliferation in the market, top-selling projector manufacturer, Epson, has focused its sights on 3LCD technology and its Pro Cinema line of home theater projectors. For many consumers, entertainment in their home is a necessity, not a luxury. Homes at a certain price range are expected to have things like security, high-speed Internet and nowadays entertainment, noted Norm Steinke, COO of Meridian America, a company that has only recently migrated to the video projector category.

The custom installer represents the manufacturer to the consumer, their satisfaction with our product is linked to the installer, Steinke said.

The Technical Edge
More and more consumers are aware of two-piece projection systems, from their experiences with business projectors or even after having seen one at a Costco store. What they dont know is that, especially on the high-end, more sophisticated features are available in new projectors.

Dan Meehan, national systems integrator manager for Panasonic Projectors, said that too many professional integrators are still selling projectors with a 4:3 aspect ratio as the primary format. The custom installation channel, he said, can help increase sales of video products by providing the end-user with wide-format projectors that are more compatible and aligned with other technological devices (laptops and flatpanel displays).

Bob Hana, VP of worldwide sales and marketing for the Planar Home Theater Business Unit (Runco, Vidikron, Planar brands), proudly boasts that his company trains its dealers like no other video brand. Runco and Vidikron, in fact, recently held their first training programs at Planars Oregon facilities. The company, Hana explained, wants its dealers to understand and sell all of its cool new features and technologies, but above all they like to simply encourage dealers to sell service-based solutions, not just products.

For our dealers, the video display is part (and, admittedly, often the centerpiece) of a full solution for a particular room, theater, home, Hana said. That solution includes their services: installation, calibration, maintenance and, above all, knowledge of not only video but other CE toys.

New Technologies
Video features like true 1080p resolution and CinemaScope aspect ratios offer demo opportunities best handled by a well-trained installation professional. These technologies, Hana argued, are the best the consumer can get and should be used as a starting point during the sale.

If youre going for the best, the dealer can explain that you want to go beyond the TV into other complementary areas, like audio, control and more, he said. At that point, the dealer should be figuring out a solution that will work best for the customers room and for their viewing preferences.

For instance, Runcos industry-first CineWide and CineWide with AutoScope 2.35:1 technology was developed to enable its dealers to satisfy the demand for a true home cinema experience.

With CineWide, our dealers can demonstrate the elimination of black bars while maintaining the highest video fidelity, Hana added. Homeowners can now experience movies in the most cinematic fashion, with video thats actually better than that found at the ol movie theater. Were going to continue to develop this pioneering technology so we can help homeowners see movies the way their directors intended them to be seen.

The most significant development at SIM2, Charlie Boornazian said, is the combination of technologies that allows the Italian manufacturer to offer three-chip 1080p performance in a compact, elegant, and very quiet package.

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SIM2's C3X1080The C3X1080 is no larger than most other single-chip projectors and it offers benchmark performance, he said. In fact, it is the smallest and highest-performing full HD three-chip projector on the market today.

Bucking the trend toward DLP proliferation in the market, top-selling projector manufacturer, Epson, has focused its sights on 3LCD technology, instead. Marge Ang explained that it is her companys mission to produce the best in 3LCD image quality, constantly working on enhancing color processing and color performance.

With projectors being such an integral piece of a home theater solution, she said, Epson is dedicated to developing products that make it easy for consumers to install, setup, and calibrate as a part of a home theater solution, such as the Ensemble HD, to help consumers piece together components for the best viewing experience.

Epson also is committed to working hand-in-hand with the custom installation channel. Epsons Pro Cinema line of home theater projectors is designed with additional features and benefits specifically for the channel.

Meridians goal, according to Norm Steinke, is to provide the best in category, whether it is performance or convenience. The rapid development in technology has allowed us to increase the resolution of the projector from 720p (less than one mega pixel) to 1080p, three years ago, which is equivalent to two mega pixels. It has also allowed the price to come down to more affordable levels for many people. The MF 10 which is $14,995 offers the same resolution as our 1080p projector did three years ago at $39,995. This month at Definitive Audios Home Theater Experience event, Meridian will preview a new projector that Steinke said will feature a resolution beyond 1080p.

In the end, Steinke said, selling any product, projectors in particular, requires a certain level of trust from manufacturer to dealer and from dealer to consumer. Dont make promises you cant deliver and make sure you deliver every time, he said. For Meridian, the products need to be tested and retested to be certain they are reliable, easy to install, and deliver the performance the sales person promised. At our level of products, customers deserve superior service. If necessary, you need to be ready to get on a plane at a moments notice and go to the clients house to assist the installer, even if its not your fault. No matter what price point your products fall in, if your brand is in the clients home, you have an obligation to make sure his/her experience is the best it can be.

Jeremy J. Glowacki (jglowacki@nbmedia.com) serves as editorial director of New York City-based Residential Systems, out of his satellite office in Carmel, Indiana.

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