Wednesday, December 8, 2021

InPark goes to InfoComm – Part 1

InfoComm 2016 enjoyed a record turnout, reporting 1,000 exhibitors in 527,105 square feet of exhibit and special events space, and 38,833 visitors. Jason McGraw, CTS®, CAE, Senior Vice President of Expositions, InfoComm International® said, “The market is constantly changing and we’ve been pleased to introduce new features at InfoComm, such as drones, the Internet of Things, and content creation and streaming, which reflect the dynamic nature of commercial AV.” InfoComm 2016 was sponsored by Presenting Show Partner Samsung, Strategic Show Partners Blackmagic Design and Crestron, and Supporting Show Partner Christie. McGraw noted that 91 percent of space was rebooked for InfoComm 2017, June 10-16 in Orlando.

InPark Magazine editor Judith Rubin and news editor Joe Kleiman visited InfoComm 2016 to check out companies, products and trends in AV technology, in perspective of the visitor attractions industry that InPark serves through its various media channels.

Part 1 is Judith Rubin’s report (below) covering Barco, Harman, Alcorn McBride, Leyard & Planar, LG, Panasonic, Casio, Vectorworks Inc., 7th Sense Design, AVNation’s party and John Huntington & Jim Janninck’s annual Geekout (which included Electrosonic, Kroh Tech, Nightlife Productions and ATI).

Part 2 is Joe Kleiman’s report covering Sony, Evans & Sutherland, Middle Atlantic Products, Soundtube, Christie, Sennheiser, Powersoft, Barix, Audinate, Tightrope Media Systems, Hitachi and Renewed Vision.

 

Eric Cantrell of Medialon, now part of Barco. Photo: Martin Palicki
Eric Cantrell of Medialon, now part of Barco. Photo: Martin Palicki

In-house synergies

In the themed entertainment world, it’s big news that Barco recently acquired Medialon, creators of extensively used show control software. At Barco’s booth we spoke to Eric Cantrell, whose new title is North American Sales Manager, Medialon Division, and Alison Maxson, Press & PR Specialist, Americas. Cantrell explained that the familiar Medialon team is still in place, with himself in the

Barco F90 projector
Barco F90 projector

Americas, EMEA Sales Manager Robert Chong in Europe and Medialon founder Alex Carru leading the Medialon division from Montreal, where he will be located with the software development team. Observing that the two companies have collaborated over the past decade, Cantrell is enthusiastic about the opportunities within this deeper synergy. “We’re talking to all the different groups within Barco,” he said. “There may already be a new product in development… Everything wants to talk to everything.” Barco projectors on display at InfoComm this year included the expanding HDX-4K line, and the F90-4K13 laser.

Bradford Benn
Bradford Benn heads up the themed entertainment business vertical at Harman Professional

Harman Professional’s way of doing business also shows the benefits of having a range of products under a big umbrella. The company has set up a business vertical headed by Bradford Benn to address the theme park and attractions market. Benn related that Harman has already tailored certain products specifically with this market in mind – such as the JBL CWT128 outdoor speakers. According to Benn, the company stands ready to customize its loudspeakers for jobs both large and small. Harman’s international sales and support staff locations include China, to support the expanding market. In addition to supporting integrators, Harman also plays something of an integration role itself in the field. Benn indicates that doing so can mean an early seat at the project development table and a fruitful partnership with the end user, as he says, “by being able to find solutions for new and unique projects.”

 

At the Alcorn McBride booth at InfoComm: Scott Harkless, Loren Barrows and David Steinberg
At the Alcorn McBride booth at InfoComm: Scott Harkless, Loren Barrows and David Steinberg

Bigger, better and uncompressed

Today’s top-end video playback must move rivers of data at high frame rates, high resolutions of 4K and beyond, edge-blended and preferably uncompressed. Alcorn McBride’s Scott Harkless (director of sales) and Loren Barrows (business development) showcased the company’s A/V Binloop Uncompressed multichannel video and audio player. The solid state, playback device is scalable in 2K increments and can handle up to 60 fps. Harkless and Barrows report that it is already in place at major themed entertainment venues in Europe, Asia and US, and integrated by SimEx-Iwerks in the new Penguin Encounter attraction at the Detroit Zoo. “Everyone wants uncompressed now,” said Harkless.

Alcorn was also displaying the latest V16 Pro, featuring an upgraded processor with capabilities providing integration between control and video playback for larger attractions such as 4D theaters. And while we tend to hear about paging stations more often in connection with performing arts centers, it’s also a critical function in themed entertainment according to Harkless and Barrows: thus V-Page, the Alcorn McBride facility wide intelligent paging system also on show at InfoComm.

 

7th Sense Design reps pose in front of 8K video display using their server technology. It was a welcome, refreshing image in the Las Vegas heat of 115 degrees.
7th Sense Design reps pose in front of 8K video display using their server technology. It was a welcome, refreshing image in the Las Vegas heat of 115 degrees.

Lucky sevens

Leyard and Planar received no fewer than seven awards recognizing their innovative Leyard TWA Series LED Video Wall and Planar LookThru Transparent OLED display. Jennifer Davis, chief marketing officer at Leyard, went on record saying, “the massive, eye-catching Leyard TWA Series 8K LED video wall was the talk of this year’s show and the highest resolution LED video wall ever shown at InfoComm.” This 8K installation of 64 individual Leyard TWA Series 1.2 millimeter pixel pitch displays measured more than 31 feet wide by 18 feet tall.

Supporting the 8K x 4K uncompressed display playback at the Leyard Planar Systems booth: the 7th Sense Design Delta Infinity Media Server – described by that company as “a fully uncompressed single-box 8K 60fps media server.” 7th Sense shared the above photo from the show – a welcome, refreshing sight considering the 115-degree heat in Las Vegas that week. 7th Sense products supported exhibits at seven different exhibit booths at Infocomm 2016, including Crestron, SiliconCore, Lightware, Da-Lite, Electrosonic and Vivitek.

LG Dual View display at InfoComm
LG Dual View display 

While Leyard and Planar had a transparent OLED display; LG had OLED displays with the capacity to be two-sided (Dual-View flat and curved) and free-standing (also in a suspended version), and very, very wide (Ultra Stretch). These can combine panels in various configurations. When the screen is no longer required to be flat, nor to be affixed along a wall and has the potential for both sides to support display, the unit begins to emerge as a three-dimensional design element within the space – “digital décor” as LG calls it. Of course it isn’t just a “screen,” it’s a digital signage system with content management and various high end attributes. We look forward to seeing what the design community does with this new product that is just beginning to ship in some configurations.

 

Rendering of how Panasonic Light ID communicates with a user's device
Rendering of how Panasonic Light ID communicates with a user’s device

Modulated blinking and spacewalks

As soon as Tokyo secured the 2020 Olympic Games, Panasonic created its Pan Olympic Enterprise Division in Tokyo. The company has a history as a major sponsor of the Games and is developing various technologies that will affect the 2020 guest experience. Ian Woozley, senior business development manager based at the company’s Innovation Center in Japan, showed us a communicative LED display system (working title, Light ID) that by modulating the blinking of its LEDs can send a signal to users’ smartphones and trigger a URL, among other things. Some of Panasonic’s other ventures in creating magical, visitor-responsive environments include collaborating on Denver’s smart city initiatives, and partnering with museums in North America and Europe.

Casio's 2016 projector lineup
Casio’s 2016 projector lineup

Lighting and projection continue to converge in such products as Casio’s V10 series projector that replicates the effect of a gobo. Casio was also showcasing its award winning LampFree® projector line, a hybrid laser/LED unit touted for simplified maintenance, long life, a short-throw model for tight spaces, and, of course, no lamp. In another kind of convergence, Casio’s Perch digital merchandising display merges touchtable technology, projection and product data for an interactive retail experience: lift the Nike shoe from its spot and get a menu of options.

Casio is big on third-party partnerships in software and hardware supported by in-house R&D in Japan. Beyond retail, out-of-home applications in the real world have included projection mapping installations in museums. For something way, way out-of-home, there’s the XJ-M256 projector, a laser/LED unit from Casio’s LampFree® family that for the past year has assisted the International Space Station crew in a variety of activities including spacewalking, training – and even binge-watching in their leisure hours.

 

VectorworkspicMore technology, less paperwork

As Product Marketing Manager at Vectorworks, Inc., Frank Brault champions the recently acquired ESP Vision product and Vectorworks Spotlight. Vision is a previsualization software that interprets standard DMX signals from a lighting console to display the lighting cues with lighting devices in a Vectorworks light plot model. Vectorworks Spotlight has tools made for designers (lighting, events, exhibits, scenic), and the people who work with them (electricians, programmers, riggers, projection/media designer, technical directors…)

Frank Brault, Nemetschek Vectorworks
Frank Brault, Vectorworks Inc.

Brault developed the first version of Spotlight (then called the Theatrical Lighting Toolkit) and related products. He came into the industry via theater as have so many others, and hands-on theater and theme park experience led to the supplier side and hands-on programming. Vectorworks Designer combines multiple workflow products in a CAD software system that rolls in lighting design, event design, museum exhibition design, rigging tools, documentation, plans and worksheets. Having the capacity to access libraries of available product information and attach data to objects within the model, it can provide relief to designers and integrators faced with vast amounts of documentation for one-off projects, according to Brault.

 

George Tucker of AVNation
George Tucker of AVNation

Work meets fun and we get geeky

Not a new trend, but one we’re glad never goes out of style – networking in the old fashioned, raise-a-glass-and-meet-someone-new-in-person sense! We started our Thursday evening (June 9) at a well-attended party hosted by AVNation, to which we were invited by one of the awesomely accomplished AV multimedia journalists of the day, George Tucker, co-founder/producer at AVNation.tv.

We had to tear ourselves away from the photo bombing pleasures of AVNation to attend the annual Geekout of two other thought leaders in AV and show control, Jim Janninck and John Huntington. Brooklynite John Huntington is a Professor of Entertainment Technology at New York City College of Technology. Through his company Zircon Designs, Huntington freelances as an author, entertainment

John Huntington, Geekout organizer and so much more
John Huntington, Geekout organizer and so much more

and show control systems consultant, and sound designer/engineer. He is also an award-winning photographer – and a storm chaser! Huntington and colleague Jim Janninck, president of TimberSpring Design & Engineering, put out the call every year for presenters to share case studies that involve unique applications of show control. We are indebted to AV industry connector Tommy Bridges for introducing us to the Geekout a few years ago, which always takes place offsite during the week of InfoComm.

Bob Athey of ATI and Kevin Ruud of Design Horizons (Ruud worked on the High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas, which we reported on) helped secure GameWorks as this year’s location and the excellent turnout of some 40 people were well served in the Vintage Vegas Room. The post-talk festivities in the bowling area were sponsored by ATI and GameWorks. The facility itself was buzzing with families and teens.

Tommy Bridges has lately been collaborating with Kevin Ruud of Design Horizons
Geeks at the annual Geekout included Tommy Bridges (left center) who has lately been collaborating with Kevin Ruud of Design Horizons (right center)

ATI, a prolific provider of AV to Las Vegas venues, especially nightclubs, also maintains an office in Orlando, and in Shanghai. ATI has been involved in the latest round of Gameworks facility reboots and is involved in the integration of several additional venues. It was an ideal Geekout location, completely in context and also accommodating the group for bowling after the presentations. We see the resurgence of GameWorks as fueled by the selfsame technology advances that one encounters on the InfoComm floor – along with the meteoric rise of online gaming and its increased number of female fans.

LizSwaffield
Elizabeth Swaffield of Electrosonic

Three projects were profiled at the Geekout. Elizabeth Swaffield, Associate Software Engineer at Electrosonic, talked about The Hunger Games: The Exhibition, the traveling exhibition based on the blockbuster movie franchise, developed by Lionsgate in association with Imagine Exhibitions and designed by Thinkwell Group. It premiered in July 2015 at Discovery Times Square in New York City, and is currently at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Technical components of the system included Medialon show control, QSC audio, 7th Sense servers, a Grand MA lighting console and a Pelco video surveillance system. There are two 4×8-foot Stewart film screens with Christie DWU555-GS projectors that use laser phosphor illumination. Because it would be set up and broken down numerous times in a variety of spaces, the show had to be modular, with custom cases designed for each piece of gear, “ready to go, ready to ship, ready to fall off the back of a truck,” as Swaffield quipped.

Kurt Kroh of KrohTech presents at the 2016 Geekout. Photo: John Huntington
Kurt Kroh of KrohTech presents at the 2016 Geekout. Photo: John Huntington

Kurt & Kristin Kroh of KrohTech related their experience designing a 4th of July show for a client hosting a party of 2500 at a private residence. Their box of tricks included Color Kinetics LEDs, Lasertainment lasers, Dataton Watchout, Clear Com and MIDI control.

Scott Harkless of Alcorn McBride talked about the Volcans Sacrés dark ride at Volcania, an educational park themed on volcanoes, in France. The AV integrator, Nightlife Productions, utilized gear from Alcorn McBride 7th Sense Design, Peavey, JBL, and Crown, and an ETF trackless ride system. The designer was Jora Entertainment.

JohnsbookOver refreshments later, we chatted with Bill Nearhood, senior tech director at Thinkwell, who reported that he’s been doing a lot of traveling lately to China and Canada. He praised John Huntington’s authoritative book, Show Networks and Control Systems, and said he refers to it frequently. “It’s the most dog eared and eroded book in my reference library.” Huntington has been keeping the book regularly updated since its first publication in 1994.

Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, publicist, strategist, blogger, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She excels at writing about all aspects of design and technical design, production and project management. Areas of special interest include AV integration and show control, lighting design and acoustics, specialty cinema, digital video and world’s fairs. Judith has ties to numerous industry organizations. From 2005-2020 she ran communications, publications and social media for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA, and co-chair of the 2014 IMERSA Summit. She was publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association in the 1990s, now part of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) and has also contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Already making her mark as a magazine and book editor, Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. Launching as a freelancer in the mid 1990s she has contributed to dozens of publications and media outlets including Funworld, Lighting&Sound America, Sound & Communications, Urban Land, The Raconteur and The Planetarian. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. She has lived in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and now makes her home in Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts and theater community.

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