The InfoComm show, as seen from an attractions industry standpoint
by Joe Kleiman
ABOVE: Alcorn McBride booth, InfoComm Show 2016
From June 6-8, AVIXA (the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, formerly known as InfoComm International) will hold its annual InfoComm trade show in Las Vegas. The prime event for the professional AV integration community, InfoComm 2018 will showcase over 10,000 products, many of them applicable to the themed entertainment industry.
AV and tech systems being essential to visitor attractions these days, there are plenty of InfoComm exhibitors and attendees active in the themed entertainment space. To find out what themed entertainment professionals have to look forward to at InfoComm 2018, we spoke with a number of manufacturers and integrators.
WOWs and trends in projection, interactivity, content platforms and format
One common trend is an increased demand for interactivity and for increased complexity in design. According to Alcorn McBride chief innovation officer Scott Harkless, “These trends absolutely have an impact to core strengths of AV and show control. This is precisely why we’re developing solutions to make easy work of these complicated requirements.”
Eric Lehman, business development officer, 7thSense Design points out the advantages of interactive elements: “For existing attractions, this can be a great technology and experience refresh. For new attractions, it can really make things easier when it comes to media creation. With the use of real-time assets, owners and operators can easily change an attraction to support night-time and seasonal events and revert to daily operation at the push of a button.”
“Visitors expect to be ‘WOWed’ when visiting theme parks, while experiencing all the attractions a theme park has to offer,” says Cynthia Pawlowski, marketing manager, Panasonic Media Entertainment Company. “By using high-brightness projectors, interactive professional displays and massive LED displays, 3D, 4K, and 8K content is being used to create special, immersive and engaging effects.”
Designers and integrators may be looking for a complete end-to-end AV solution. Christie spokesperson Deborah Noon says the company’s “collaborative relationship with end-users has resulted in developing technology to meet our customers’ needs now and down the road, designing projection and display solutions that include processing, playback devices, software and projectors, and backing our solutions with industry-leading service and support.”
Video servers, a key element in media-based attractions, are getting much more powerful, according to Scott Arnold, founder of TechFulcrum, a technical design specialist. “Every year you can do more in processing that you don’t have to do in post-production. You can be more creative in using video as a medium, through new techniques and technologies like blending large numbers of projectors, pixel mapping, etc.”
“During the past years we have seen a constant rise in video resolution and frame rates in the entertainment sector, trying to close the gap between vision and reality,” says Gerd Trautner, manager partner and founder of BrainSalt. “Ten years after our first 60 fps (frames per second) dome, we are now providing uncompressed 120 fps playback solutions for attractions, that would not work with less.” Trautner foresees that “the run for higher resolutions and frame rates will slow down and might stop somewhere around [email protected] fps. He expects VR solutions to become competitive with projection and that there will be a trend to “very complex projection systems, with real-time content creation, tracking, moving objects and interaction.”
Hooked on themed entertainment
What makes themed entertainment an attractive niche market?
Lehman explains that 7thSense is “thrilled to be involved with everyone from the top down. We like to be involved as early as possible during the ‘blue sky’ phase so that we can help ensure the creative teams are aware of the tools available to support their vision. It is also an opportunity to feed information back to our product engineers about trends in the use of technology in storytelling.”
For Christie the joy is in the number of diverse canvases on which their projectors, equipment, and software can perform. According to Noon, the company “is proud to be involved in pioneering projects from inspiring storytelling in museums and real-time trips to the stars in full dome planetariums to the largest projection mapping spectaculars and never-before-seen theme park attractions. Our focus is on empowering our customers to put pixels anywhere they can imagine.”
Panasonic’s Pawlowski says the company prides itself on the industry’s ability “to give patrons an experience they just can’t duplicate at home . . . we work closely with our customers to provide highly customized solutions based on a wide range of technologies, taking a ‘live’ experience to a whole new level. Immersing visitors in the action more completely and creating storytelling experiences all adds up to a one-of-a-kind experience that enables a closer relationship with our customers, and their audiences.”
“The themed entertainment sector is searching for great attractions,” says BrainSalt’s Trautner. “Creatives and designers develop visions of an attraction and we try to provide the technology to realize this vision in the best possible way, trying to close the gap between vision and reality. This allows us to work on some of the world’s best and biggest attractions, together with the industries most talented experts and we are thankful and proud to be involved that way.”
Alcorn McBride’s Harkless says the great part of being in the industry is the relationship his company has established with the parks and vendors. “Our passion to help attraction designers achieve their creative intent pushes us to develop cutting-edge AV and show control solutions – purpose-built products that are designed to outlast the attraction. We love helping others to succeed in building attractions that guests and their families will enjoy for generations.”
For TechFulcrum’s Arnold: “What’s not to love? It’s not an easy vocation, but what TechFulcrum gets to do is new things all the time. People from all walks of life enjoy these projects and they get to smile.” His threefold summary: “We get to make people happy, we get to play with new toys, and because we’re always pushing the envelope, we never do the same thing twice.”
InfoComm show floor sampler
We asked those companies exhibiting on the InfoComm show floor to give us a preview of which products of interest to the themed entertainment industry will be on display in their booths.
Alcorn McBride will highlight several new products that are designed to streamline system architecture for themed attractions like dark rides, parades, and coasters.
• V16X show controller – described as a “next generation product which supports enhanced synchronization via network; designed to coordinate with other V16X-based sub-systems and RidePlayerbased vehicles to ensure microsecond precision and rock-solid consistency. This product embodies our goal to make challenging tasks like synchronizing on-board audio to off-board systems a simple and seamless experience for attraction designers.”
• RideAmp – New on-board audio amplifier that the company says “will serve as a natural companion product for RidePlayer for applications that demand high-power audio amplification. It offers four channels of amplification at 350W with the option to bridge outputs to achieve 700W; all in a compact package that’s designed to survive the brutal environment of a ride vehicle. Dante/AES67 network audio distribution ensures a nice clean audio signal and remote monitoring.”
7thSense Design: High Frame Rate (HFR), native 8K and high bit-depth, or High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays are all key themes for the company’s Delta Media Server at InfoComm this year – described as “key solutions that the themed entertainment market is looking for.” The company doesn’t have its own stand at the show but its products are found in many locations on the floor supporting several of the company’s technology partners and feeding their displays and demonstrations.
AV Stumpfl global marketing manager Hans Stucken promises a “sneak-preview of a truly groundbreaking new software development, which we believe is the first true next-generation media server software solution. This software has never been openly shown to the public before, so InfoComm visitors are in for a real treat. In terms of projection screens, a number of different projection screen systems will be shown at InfoComm, with our new T-32 Shift screen system leg expected to be of particular interest to anyone interested in mobile projection screens.”
Barco’s Eric Cantrell, NA Sales Manager, Medialon Division reports that Barco will be focusing on its F70/ F80/F90 and UDX projectors at InfoComm as well as its UniSee bezel-less LCD Wall, and its Medialon show control and Overture enterprise-wide AV management software. There is also talk of a 75,000 lumen projector making an appearance.
Christie will present numerous products expected to be of interest for themed entertainment applications:
• New Christie® Crimson Series of 3DLP® laser phosphor projectors, designed to deliver up to 25,000 ISO lumens, 60Hz processing, and Christie BoldColor Technology “in a compact and rugged package with a low cost of ownership for theme parks, attractions, museums, and staging and production companies.”
• New alignment technology, Christie Guardian will be demonstrated. It is designed to work with Christie Mystique to invisibly and automatically align multiple projectors. Mystique and Guardian are exclusive to Christie and are compatible with Christie Boxer and Christie Crimson projectors.
• New Christie 4K10-HS laser phosphor projector, designed to deliver 4K technology in a 1DLP® solution; equipped with Christie’s proprietary BoldColor Technology, which uses Blue + Red Laser Diode combination “for the most accurate, lifelike color reproduction and deeper blacks.” With 360-degree orientation, a small form factor, 10,000 lumens, and Christie Twist technology, the Christie 4K10-HS is described as ideal for public spaces and themed entertainment venues. The 4K10-HS is designed to be fully compatible with Christie Terra and features SDVoE connectivity so customers can send video directly to the projector. It has two expandable option slots and an integrated Camera for Auto Warp, Focus, and Zoom.
Panasonic’s InfoComm booth will include displays of the company’s latest innovative visual solutions and professional video technologies to back up its statement, “We anticipate the future, innovate continuously and integrate technologies into breakthrough solutions for our customers, to create technologies that move us toward a better life and a better world.” This will include the company’s new 4K projector and 4K professional display portfolios, along with audiovisual solutions for ‘live’ events, museum exhibitions, houses of worship, higher education, corporate offices, control room and broadcast venues and more. • • •