Show Reports

CEDIA EXPO 2013 Show Coverage

ARTICLE INDEX

Chris Eberle - CEDIA 2013 Wrap-up

Digital Projection

I was hoping to see 4K from Digital Projection this year but apparently, it was not to be. They are still using DLP in all their models from smallest to largest; and until Texas Instruments jumps on the 4K bandwagon, Digital Projection fans will have to be content with 1080P.

Two years ago, LED was the latest thing in front projection. With the promise of long life, low power consumption, and stable color, it seemed like the perfect replacement for the venerable UHP lamp. Unfortunately, it appears that only Digital Projection and Runco are selling LED despite the advantages.

Breaking the $10,000 price barrier for LED projectors is the M-Vision Cine 230HC at $6,995. I know most enthusiasts are now waiting for 4K to come down in price but LED is a technology that I am very fond of. It offers the highest contrast in DLP projection and a super-sharp, clean image that is hard to match with 3-panel displays like LCD and LCoS.

Moving up the price scale, we have the D-Vision series single-chip projectors. In addition to LED illumination, they offer 3D. Outputs range from 2900 to 7500 lumens. Also in this line is the Scope model which uses a special 2560 x 1080 chip to provide cinemascope images without black bars or an anamorphic lens. This is another technology I hope to see trickle down to the sub-$10k price point. D-Vision projectors start at $24,995. The Scope model is $32,995.

Highlite is one of Digital Projection's 3-chip lines and ranges in brightness from 2000 to 9000 lumens. Pricing is from $23,995 to $37,995.

This is the top-of-the line Titan projector. These are true power houses, ideal for large spaces with outputs up to 20,000 lumens. Considering that fact, they are quite compact compared to the enormous Sony unit I saw yesterday. All models in this line are 3-chip DLP with 3D. One variant has an LED light engine but the rest are UHP powered. Pricing starts at $49,995 and peaks at $119,995 for the Reference model that puts out 10,000 lumens and weighs 249 pounds!

I watched demos of all the lines and even though they didn't have the wow factor of Sony's 4K theater, the images were razor-sharp and extremely bright with great depth and detail. With all the fervor over 4K, we shouldn't forget the advantages of DLP – sharp pictures, smooth motion processing, and tremendous potential brightness.

Darbee

I was so impressed with the demo I saw last year at the Darbee booth, I looked forward to seeing what was new this year. There wasn't too much to report but I learned a few things. First, they've added a slightly cheaper Darblet, called the Cobalt, that eschews 3D and saves you about $40 on the price.

Second, and more significant, Oppo's newest Blu-ray player, the BDP-103D, will include Darbee video processing. It's hard to show you in pictures what this technology looks like. After last year's demo, I bought one for my Anthem projector and now I can't live without it. It seems a little pricey but once you've seen it in action, you won't want to watch without it!

Darbee DVP is also available in Lumagen's 20XX series video processors.

If you want a Darblet in a nicer box, you can buy this re-badged version from Salt. It's functionally the same, but looks much more elegant.

Kaleidescape – Will Physical Media Ever Be A Thing Of The Past?

I spent quite a bit of time with three reps from Kaleidescape talking about their new line of servers called Cinema1. The only real flaw with their products has been the high price of entry. Last year, a basic box would run you $14,000.

This is the Cinema1 player/server. It will store 600 DVDs or 100 Blu-rays. It stores music too. It retails for $3995. This is still a high-end product but they're getting there! The real star of this and all the Kaleidescape servers is the killer user interface.

Once you select a movie, or CD, your content starts immediately. There is no waiting for boot-up, FBI warnings, previews, menus, ads, or anything else. You can bookmark scenes yourself or use the provided ones to literally surf your movie collection. It's a whole different way to experience content in your theater. In the few minutes I played with it on the show floor, I quickly forgot about the price and could only think of how much I wanted one! Right now, I'm using six tall tower units to store my movie collection. I've got room for around 530 titles and am close to capacity. Imagine ripping all that to a PC-sized server, then accessing it from two different systems. I really should have chosen a better-paying profession than music!

In case you're wondering, you still have to have the Blu-ray sitting in the Vault in order to play it on your player. These components are from the Premier line. The bottom box is the Vault and holds 320 discs of any type. Moving upwards are storage modules, and on the top of the rack are the actual players. For users interested in trying the Cinema1, Kaleidescape is offering a bundle with that and a Vault for $7990. This is still pretty pricey but they're getting there!

DVDO – Video Processors And Advanced HDMI Switches

DVDO has always offered great value with its video processors and HDMI switchers. They didn't have any new processors this year but they were showing some new switchers, a wireless HDMI solution, and the Mystery Box.

The Mystery Box is a prototype 4K scaler. It uses Silicon Image processing to scale incoming signals to 4K. It may well be an improvement over the scaling solutions used in first-gen 4K displays. The real news is if it ships, it will cost a mere $199. That's pretty amazing considering it also offers 4K test patterns to help you calibrate that new 4K display!

This is DVDO's new wireless HDMI extender. It has a range of 30 meters and doesn't require line-of-sight like the version used in Epson projectors. It transmits in the 60 gHz, yes that's giga-Hertz; so there's not likely to be any interference from WiFi or other radio sources.

I couldn't get a decent photo of the new Quick6 HDMI Control Center. This is not an ordinary switcher. It maintains the handshake on all connected sources so switching is instantaneous. You can also view any or all sources in an on-screen PIP preview. It supports 4K and 3D as well as MHL. MHL means you can hook up your smartphone or tablet and view its output on your TV or projector.

That's it for today. Unfortunately, several major manufacturers of video products were absent at this year's show; most notably Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Toshiba. I'm not all that surprised since their focus is more consumer rather than custom install. Plus, they usually ship their new models after CES in January. Still, I wish I'd had more to write about.

Conclusion

You may have picked up from my somewhat light coverage that there just wasn't much to see video-wise at CEDIA this year. Though Sony is talking about 4K like it's the second coming, and supporting vendors are adding it to their switching and networking products, it really isn't a big deal just yet. It certainly looks impressive when you have an all-4K signal path and well-made content like Sony did. But upscaling Blu-rays isn't quite impactful enough for me to say, "yeah, let's drop $15,000 on a new projector." 4K on a flat panel is even less impressive unless it's at least 80 inches diagonal. The smaller sets from Sony didn't look better enough to warrant their price tags. And that brings me to another discussion.

In looking at the history of TV technology and pricing, experience has shown that time and time again, anything priced over about $3,000 is a guaranteed failure. Remember how long it took plasmas to come down in price? The first widely available 50-inch plasmas were $10,000. With decent CRTs selling for under $1000, only the well-heeled cared enough to plunk down the price of a Honda Civic for a TV. It's only when they dropped down below $3,000 that they became truly mass-market. And let's not forget Pioneer. Their Kuro plasmas started at $5,000 for a 50-inch model. While they were totally worth it given their still-unbeaten picture quality, the mass market didn't buy them and now Pioneer no longer makes TVs. The same phenomenon happened with 1080P. The first generation of displays would not accept 1080P, and they cost a fortune. This wasn't a problem since there wasn't any 1080P content available. Only after a format war, multiple versions of HDMI, and many price drops did 1080P become commonplace.

So how does this apply to 4K? Well, just like 3D, we'll most likely have 4K eventually, whether we want it or not. The price will drop and there will be a new disc format and codec. And HDMI will catch up too. 3D was here at CEDIA this year, but only as window dressing. None of the 4K displays I saw would do 3D of any type; so perhaps 4K will go the same way. With prices being so high, there won't be many adopters. Sure, high-end dealers will install plenty of Sony's products but it won't be enough to turn a profit for them. They're barely treading water with their TV division as it is. Unless they can get the tech into their bread-and-butter lines quickly, 4K may never get legs. If they do, watch out. You'll need to upgrade your receiver, your sources, and maybe even your cables. We'll just have to wait and see.

Thanks for following Secrets' coverage of CEDIA 2013. As always, I welcome your comments.
-Chris Eberle