CEDIA Expo has historically been the time and place manufacturers choose to “Wow” home systems integrators and the media with innovative new products, systems, and technologies. This year was no exception. From amazingly vivid displays and smart lighting solutions to motorized window fashions and user-friendly home automation systems, all the “regulars” came out to play during CEDIA Expo 2109, held recently in Denver, with cool new features, functionality, and form factors. This year’s show also served as the coming out party for a few exciting new trends for the home systems industry. KMB Communications was on hand to witness these promising new market disruptors, and many of its clients are leading the charge:
Health and Wellness: In the past when people thought about healthy homes, indoor air quality came to mind. While this is still an important component of healthy living, the ability to create a home environment that’s more serene and peaceful and establishes a closer connection with nature is the current focus. Lighting that simulates sunrise and sunset and syncs with our circadian rhythms is a good first step. Taking the concept further is Rayva. The company’s collection of turnkey home cinemas are engineered and designed with all the best technology and accouterments to deliver a stellar movie viewing experience, but as demonstrated at CEDIA Expo 2019, they can also function as a wellness retreat. With a shift in colored lighting, video, and audio, the room can transport viewers to a forest, beach, or yoga studio. “Wellscapes” are a huge initiative of Rayva’s, offering home systems integrators another avenue of differentiation and end users an exciting new way to utilize technology.
Home Cinemas Outdo Commercial Theaters? As technology advances, it’s possible for the performance of home cinemas to match if not surpassed the AV quality delivered by commercial theaters. Demonstrating this trend at CEDIA Expo 2019 was Zappiti and Cortex VIP Cinemas. A newcomer to CEDIA, Zappiti draws from years of tech experience designing high-end media servers for the European marketplace, and for its U.S. debut demonstrated the AV industry’s first ISF-certified media player. The certification ensures that the color reproduction and fidelity of content delivered by the Zappiti is accurate and engaging.
When it comes to the ultimate cinema experience, nothing outdoes a commercial Dolby Cinema theater … unless you consider Cortex VIP Cinemas. The company is bringing a Dolby Cinema experience to home theaters via a groundbreaking new product, the Dolby CP850-C Audio Processor. Demonstrated as a component of Pro Audio Technologies’ Sound Room, the processor paired with specially engineered Pro Audio Dolby Atmos speakers. The audio improvement over residential Dolby home cinemas was clear … literally, as sound room theater goers could hear Lady Gaga’s footsteps as she walked onto the stage during a clip of “A Star is Born.” Without a doubt, this represents a completely new performance standard for home cinema.
Artistry in Audio: Speakers are going through a major cosmetic makeover. Models that can be recessed into the wall and ceiling surface are being joined by speakers that double as pieces of artwork. Leading this trend is Leon Speakers, which showcased a remarkable assortment of eye-catching loudspeakers designed to be admired just as much for their visual appeal as their audio performance. Grabbing attention at the booth were wall-mounted speakers covered with grilles customized with images from celebrity photographer Roberto Rabanne and custom metal artwork from Gabriel Urist. The Ente SoundTiles represent a completely new way of looking at loudspeakers—as an art form not just a piece of technology. When speakers weren’t masquerading as fine art at the CEDIA Expo, some were functioning as useful pieces of furniture. Leon’s Horizon Denza Modular Credenza, for example, sounds like a soundbar but looks like the perfect spot to display framed photos, vases of flowers and other decorative items.
Residential and Commercial Crossover: Home technology products and systems have become so reliable, powerful, and sophisticated, that many of the solutions initially intended for home use are finding their way into restaurants, bars, offices, retail shops, and other light commercial environments. AltasIED is making it easier for residential integrators to transition into commercial through its new line of EZSYS solutions. All of the necessary parts for sound masking, paging, and music distribution are packaged together in a single carton to simplify installation and configuration.
Networking is another area that’s inspiring manufacturers and integrators to span residential and commercial sectors. As homes become increasingly more reliant on Wi-Fi, networking systems that support bigger bandwidth—the kind historically found in businesses—are making huge inroads in the residential marketplace. Delivering enterprise-grade wireless networking solutions is Access Networks. At CEDIA Expo the company displayed its entire range of products designed for both businesses and homes. The focus, however, was on products designed for the custom residential market, including a new entry-level wireless access point for homes, the A320, and a new line of switches powered by Ruckus.
Behind-the-Scenes Systems Share the Limelight: It’s easy to get swept away by bright, vivid displays; amazing audio systems, and elegant, smart lighting when scouring the CEDIA Expo show floor, but systems that work behind the scenes to ensure the reliability, stability and optimal performance of these products are crucial to the livelihood of the home systems marketplace. D-Tools, for example, has refined its Cloud platform to streamline the development and management of projects for integrators; Torus Power debuted its AVR Elite, a power control system for high-performance A/V systems; while OneVision Resources promoted its tools and programs designed to help integrators step up their level of customer service.
In Store for CEDIA 2020: From the front of the house with solutions like decorative speakers and high-end home theater systems to back of the house technologies like power control systems, plus business management tools and software, KMB clients at CEDIA Expo 2019 has every inch of the home systems marketplace covered. With a continued emphasis on the unification of design and technology, plus momentum in the kitchen and bath, there’s sure to be even greater diversity and opportunity for integrators to explore at next year’s conference and trade show.
Savant has launched a new Ambassador Program, designed to identify and recognize integration firms for their knowledge and proficiency across key Savant product categories. Savant Ambassadors are also recognized for their supportive role leading to product design enhancements and evaluating new technologies, including participation in Savant’s extensive beta program.
The Savant Ambassador Program officially kicks off this month with a redesign of savant.com, where homeowners and building professionals can search for a Savant Ambassador near them.
Along with Savant’s renowned control platform, integrators have been adopting solutions from Savant such as audio and video distribution, high-performance Artison loudspeakers, remotes and user interfaces such as TrueImage, lighting, shades, climate control and energy management. In addition to being highlighted on savant.com for their depth of experience across these categories, Savant Ambassadors will also receive the highest level of support from Savant, including early access to new products and software as well as priority technical assistance.
Additionally, Savant Ambassadors will receive one year of HTA certification dues. Integrators can apply for HTA Certification at https://htacertified.org/apply.
“HTA Certification provides a much needed independent vehicle for custom integrators to distinguish themselves from the competition,” stated Savant EVP JC Murphy. “We are pleased to offer this benefit to Savant integrators that have committed to demonstrating the full spectrum of Savant technologies to their clients.”
“We are excited that Savant is offering one year of certification fees to HTA Certified Savant dealers as a benefit to their Ambassadors,” stated Josh Christian, director of certification for the Home Technology Association. “It is a clear display of confidence that their top-tier integrators meet the gold standard of HTA Certification. This investment that Savant is making in their dealer’s success is a win-win for the entire channel.”
Ed Gilmore, principal at Gilmore’s Sound Advice, added, “As long-time evangelists for the Savant brand, it is particularly rewarding to know that Savant is leading the charge with innovative, best-in-class hardware and software solutions as well as encouraging HTA certification for integrators. We believe the relationship with our most important vendor should be a two-way street and we salute Savant in rewarding top dealers with the Ambassador program.”
Matt Milstein of M2 Multimedia Inc. said that he’s excited to be among the first selected to participate in the Savant Ambassador program. “Savant has always taken the lead with best-in-class products and software, and the Ambassador program is clearly a preeminent dealer support initiative.”
Articles also appears on Residential Systems
Demystifying High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG)
By Alan C. Brawn CTS, ISF-C, DSCE, DSDE, DSNE, DCME
In the world of display technologies, one of the topics currently on everyone’s mind is high dynamic range, or HDR. There is a lot of misinformation disseminated about HDR, what it is, and what it does. This white paper will begin by defining what HDR really is, and then delve into the key technical elements of HDR and WCG and how it affects what we see on a display.
Sidenote: If you would prefer “just the basics” of HDR and WCG—perhaps you’re a consumer or an integrator who needs to explain, briefly, what these terms mean and how they affect the technology experience—please click over to this post, HDR and WCG: Just the Basics.
What Is High Dynamic Range?
In terms of images – for still cameras, High Dynamic Range (HDR) uses layered photos of the same scene, taken with different exposures. This technique is done in post-processing, or even automatically inside some camera models. It allows a photo to capture what we can see more accurately. However, when dealing with displays, it’s all about improving the range of contrast between the darker and brighter parts of a scene. When presented with compatible content, displays with HDR can produce a wider range from black to white (aka. grayscale), so you can see more details in the very darkest and brightest areas of the picture. You’ll also see highlights, which are moments of brightness that appear on illuminated objects, such as the reflections off a shiny surface like a chrome car bumper. Without HDR, those highlights wouldn’t be any brighter than other bright objects in the scene. HDR displays are indeed overall brighter… but it isn’t just about overall brightness. Fundamentally, HDR is about being able to provide the necessary higher levels of peak brightness when the scene calls for it.
HDR is an end-to-end technology. That means source video needs to be created or captured containing HDR level color and brightness ranges; the distribution method needs to retain all the extra HDR brightness and color information; and the display device must be capable of reading and managing the HDR data and have sufficient brightness and color capabilities to deliver HDR’s picture quality benefits.
Why High Dynamic Range Matters to Viewers
The exciting part of HDR (as an overall concept) is that it takes us to the next level of image fidelity in video source materials, and the enhanced capabilities of the displays that can reproduce what the source material contains. In the process, HDR addresses how to approach what the human eye can actually see.
Overall, dynamic range describes the measurement between maximum and minimum values. For our purposes, we can interpret dynamic range as the measurement between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks in an image, or the lowest and highest values of luminance. Let’s begin with standard dynamic range video or SDR for short.
Standard-dynamic-range video describes images/rendering/video using a conventional gamma curve. Gamma is the relationship of how bright an image is at any input level. Gamma is a nonlinear operation used to code and decode brightness values in both still and moving imagery. It is used to define how the numerical value of a pixel relates to its actual brightness. The conventional gamma curve was based on the limits of the original cathode ray tube (CRT), which allows for a maximum luminance of 100 cd/m2 or nits. This remains as the reference evaluation of other gamma curves that we will be looking at.
Older CRT technology had a maximum luminance of 100 cd/m2
The dynamic range that can be perceived by the human eye is approximately 14 f-stops (luminance perception/recognition) depending upon the individual. SDR video with a conventional gamma curve and a bit depth of 8-bits per sample has a dynamic range of about 6 stops. Professional SDR video with a bit depth of 10-bits per sample has a dynamic range of about 10 stops. Conventional gamma curves include Rec. 601 and Rec. 709. When we speak of HDR video it has a dynamic range greater than SDR video. When HDR content is displayed on a 2,000-nit display with a bit depth of 10-bits per sample it has a dynamic range of 200,000:1 or 17.6 stops, a range not offered by previous displays.
There are multiple formats in HDR and several video interfaces that support at least one HDR format. We will reference the evolution of HDMI as an example of the most common interface. HDMI 2.0a addressed the first developments in HDR and was released on April 8, 2015. In December 2016, HDMI announced that Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) support had been added to the HDMI 2.0b standard. HDMI 2.1 was officially announced in January of 2017 and added support for Dynamic HDR which is the inclusion of dynamic metadata that allows for changes on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis.
SMPTE Standards that Address HDR
- SMPTE ST 2084
- It officially defines the Perceptual Quantizer (PQ) non-linear electro-optical transfer function (EOTF) curve for translating a set of 10 bit or 12 bits per channel digital values into a brightness range of 0.0001 up to 10,000 nits. SMPTE ST.2084 provides the basis for HDR 10 Media Profile and Dolby Vision implementation standards.
- SMPTE 2086
- Specifies the metadata items to specify the color volume (the color primaries, white point, and luminance range) of the display that was used in mastering video content. The metadata is specified as a set of values independent of any specific digital representation.
- SMPTE 2094
- SMPTE ST 2094 is the Dynamic Metadata for Color Volume Transform (DMCVT) standard. It was published in 2016 as six parts and includes four applications from Dolby, Philips, Samsung, and Technicolor.
- Note on EOTF and Metadata:
- According to Tektronix: “HDR provides a means by which to describe and protect the content creator’s intentions via metadata. It contains (in essence) a language used by the content creator to instruct the decoder. HDR provides metadata about how content was created to a display device in an organized fashion such that the display can maximize its own capabilities. As displays evolve, HDR will allow existing devices to always make a best effort in rendering images rather than running up against unworkable limitations.”
- “A formula called the electro-optical transfer function (EOTF) has been introduced to replace the CRT’s gamma curve. Some engineers refer to EOTF more simply as perceptual quality, or PQ. Whatever the name, it offers a far more granular way of presenting the luminance mapping according to the directions given by the content creator. EOTF is a part of the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard.”
- HDR10 is the most prolific standard and the base for other standards. It is an open standard, royalty free, and supported by a wide variety of companies, which includes monitor and display manufacturers such as Samsung, Dell, LG, Sharp, Sony, and Vizio, as well as Microsoft and Sony Interactive Entertainment.
- HDR10 Media Profile aka HDR10, uses the wide-gamut Rec. 2020 color space, a bit depth of 10-bits, and the SMPTE ST 2084 (PQ) transfer function. It also uses SMPTE ST 2086 “Mastering Display Color Volume” static metadata to send color calibration data of the mastering display.
- HDR10+ was announced in April of 2017, pioneered by Samsung and Amazon Video. HDR10+ updates HDR10 by adding dynamic metadata to its 10-bit color depth. It is referred to it as Dynamic Tone Mapping. The dynamic metadata is based on Samsung’s application of SMPTE ST 2094-40. The dynamic metadata is additional data that can be used to more accurately adjust brightness levels on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis. HDR10+ is also an open standard and is royalty-free. A key HDR10+ advantage is backward compatibility with TVs and other consumer devices incorporating HDR10 decoders. The intent is to get the widest possible adoption of HDR10+ so that only one HDR grade of a film is required across all or most distribution platforms to be displayed on as many displays as possible.
- Dolby Vision
- Dolby Vision is a proprietary HDR format from Dolby Laboratories. It includes the Perceptual Quantizer (SMPTE ST 2084) electro-optical transfer function, up to 4K resolution, and a wide-gamut color space (Rec. 2020). It has a 12-bit color depth and dynamic metadata and allows up to 10,000-nit maximum brightness (mastered to 4,000nit in practice). It can encode mastering display colorimetry information using static metadata (SMPTE ST 2086) but also provide dynamic metadata (SMPTE ST 2094-10, Dolby format) for each scene. It is not backwards compatible with SDR and requires a royalty.
- Hybrid Log-Gamma
- Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) is an HDR standard jointly developed by the BBC and NHK. HLG is designed for cable, satellite and over-the-air TV broadcasts. One benefit is that it requires less bandwidth compared to HDR10+ and Dolby Vision and is backward compatible with SDR although it does require 10-bit color depth. HLG defines a nonlinear electro-optical transfer function (EOTF) and uses the same gamma curve that an SDR signal uses but adds a logarithmic curve with extra brightness over the top of the signal, hence the “log” and “gamma” in the name. The HLG standard is open and thus royalty-free. HLG is defined in ATSC 3.0. HLG is gaining traction because it doesn’t use metadata, eliminating the complexity of adding metadata in real time during the production and broadcasting of live events. Being backward-compatible with SDR, it eliminates the need to transmit separate SDR and HDR versions of the same content broadcast to homes.
- Philips/Technicolor SL-HDR1
- SL-HDR1 is a HDR standard that was jointly developed by Philips, Technicolor, and STMicroelectronics. It provides direct backwards compatibility with SDR by using static SMPTE ST 2086 and dynamic metadata using SMPTE ST 2094-20 to reconstruct a HDR signal from a SDR video stream which can then be delivered using SDR distribution networks and services already in place. SL-HDR1 allows for HDR rendering on HDR devices and SDR rendering on devices using a single layer video stream. The companies’ end-to-end SDR- and multi-standard HDR-distribution solution is part of a technology bundle called Advanced HDR by Technicolor, which also live converts SDR video to HDR at the set-top box or head end.
Wide Color Gamut: What You Need To Know
In concert with HDR increased range of luminance, wide color gamut is the introduction of an increased color space. This provides a much larger palette of color so to work with. It more closely replicates what the human eye can see.
A colorspace is a standard that defines a specific range of colors that a given technology can display, with maximum red, green and blue points, mapped to sit inside the full CIE XYZ space (see below). The space within the full CIE XYZ space that a colorspace covers is called its gamut. No three points on the chart can cover 100% of what the human eye can see.
All imaging-based applications need a specific, well-defined color gamut to accurately reproduce the colors in the image content. Over the years this has given rise to many different standard color gamuts for the current image content, and they have generally been based on what the currently existing displays at the time could produce. Both the displays and content have evolved together over time, and many distinct color gamuts have been defined, but they are not all created equal.
What makes a color gamut an industry standard is the existence of a significant amount of content created specifically for that gamut. This necessitates manufacturers to include that standard in their products. Content creators and the content they produce defines a true color gamut standard. It is then up to the display to deliver it as accurately as possible on-screen.
Viewers tend to think of color gamuts in terms of their most saturated colors, but according to Dr. Soneira, the greatest percentage of content is found in the “interior regions of the gamut, so it is particularly important that all of the interior less saturated colors within the gamut be accurately reproduced.”
Since the introduction of HDTV and the expansion of internet content, the sRGB / Rec. 709 color gamut standard has been used for producing virtually all content for television, the internet, and digital photography. Since the source material is created based on these standards, if you wanted to see accurate colors as they were created and intended, then the display needed to match the sRGB / Rec.709 standard color gamut. If the display inaccurately replicates the gamut used as the standard, either larger and or smaller, the colors will then appear either over or under-saturated.
Today a display will be evaluated in terms of color reproduction as a percentage of the amount of sRGB/Rec.709 or as we embark upon the future, Rec. 2020 that they produce. Rec. 709 is the international recognized standard video color space for HDTV, with a gamut almost identical to sRGB.
For broadcast it is defined in 8-bit depth, where black is level 16, and white is level 235. 10-bit systems are common in post-production, as typically the source from camera is of a much wider gamut and bit depth than Rec. 709.
DCI-P3 is a wide gamut video color space introduced by SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) for digital cinema projection. It is designed to closely match the full gamut of color motion picture film. It is not a consumer standard and is only used for content destined for digital theatrical projection. Few monitors can display the full DCI gamut, but DCI spec projectors can.
The newest generation standard color gamut is the impressively large Rec. 2020 standard. It is a significant 72% larger than sRGB / Rec. 709 and 37% larger than DCI-P3. The color gamut is extremely wide and the color saturation extremely high.
When a display needs to support one or more additional color gamuts like sRGB / Rec. 709 that are smaller than its native color gamut, that can be accomplished with digital color management performed by the firmware, CPU, or GPU for the display. The digital RGB values for each pixel in an image being displayed are first mathematically transformed so they colorimetrically move to the appropriate lower saturation colors closer to the white point. The available color gamuts can either be selected manually by the user, or automatically switched if the content being displayed has an internal tag that specifies its native color gamut, and that tag is recognized by the display’s firmware.
Sorting Out the HDR Standards – Where Are We Today?
HDR10 has established itself as the basic and most widespread HDR standard. It masters content at 1,000 nits. The limitations of HDR10 is the static or fixed metadata. Therefore, if the movie is quite bright or dark it must be encoded as such and this affects the overall image. While a vast improvement over SDR, this has left room for more premium HDR standard options.
Dolby Vision is leading the way as the enhanced quality version of HDR that can also play back the HDR10 standard. It masters content at 4,000 nits with the upside in the future being 10,000 nits. The major advantage that Dolby Vision has over HDR10 is Dynamic Metadata which is the ability to vary the brightness levels on a scene by scene or even frame by frame basis. It also has the advantage of being based on a 12-bit color processor.
HDR10+ seeks to close the gap on Dolby Vision by adding Dynamic Metadata capability to the more basic HDR10 standard. HDR10 and HDR10+, on the other hand, have a big advantage over Dolby Vision because they are open standards that display manufacturers can use for free, whereas using Dolby Vision requires royalties to be paid.
Hybrid Log Gamma may well become a significant broadcast HDR standard begging the question as to whether or not we need another HDR standard. To show something in HDR, your display needs to know how to display the signal. Other standards use metadata to tell how to display colors and assign brightness parameters. The problem is that older TVs and ones that don’t support HDR don’t see or know what to do with this metadata.
HLG takes a different approach. Instead of starting with an HDR signal, it begins with a standard dynamic range (SDR) signal that any TV can use. The extra information for HDR rendering is added on, so an HDR TV that knows to look for this information can use it to display a broader range of colors and wider range of brightness. Early on, the BBC and NHK decided against using a metadata-based approach, since metadata could be lost, or in the case of Dolby Vision, which uses a more complicated approach, out of sync with the image on screen, causing colors to display incorrectly. The ability to display on any TV — theoretically even your old non-HD TV — is another bonus for broadcast.
These varying standards all relate to HDR in one form or another. Some displays only address one standard while others address multiple standards. It is impossible to pick an eventual “winner” under a single standard. There are too many variables to consider including the cost of acquisition, bandwidth, cross compatibility, and licensing to name a few. Ultimately it is the ability to address multiple standards and even provide proprietary advances in display performance beyond those standards that makes the difference we will see.
KMB would like to thank Brawn Consulting for sharing these insights with us so that we can share them with you.
With this presentation, you will learn what High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG) are and how they represent the next major advancement in display technology; Alan Brawn will help you understand the hype, whether these technologies are worth it, and how they will affect the industry.
KMB_AlanBrawn_HDR and Colorspace -Just the Basics_FINAL_KMBFeb2018
2017 AV Year in Review – An Industry Perspective
Expert insight on disruptive technology, business trends and more, by Alan C. Brawn CTS, DSCE, ISF-C, DSDE, DSNE, DCME
When most of us think about evolution we think in terms of slow change over decades or even centuries. When we see change in front of our very eyes, that’s something else. Some might even call it disruption.
This would be an apt description of what has gone on in the AV industry over the last couple of years but especially in 2017. Disruption can be unnerving and even scary to some as the status quo changes, but it also can be exciting and the harbinger of positive and exciting things to come for those with vision. Let’s take a 10,000-foot view at some of the changes in 2017 that have accelerated far beyond what we think of as evolution.
The AV Universe Expands
From an overall perspective, the Pro AV industry has evolved in somewhat of a traditional sense from local to regional to national and most recently, global in scale and scope. Separating the headline stories of 2017 “mega-mergers” and acquisitions from the realities of the industry, the majority of the Pro AV industry output is still local and regional in nature and can be characterized as small to medium-sized businesses.
The headlines do rightfully note the expansion in M&A of companies like AVI-SPL and Diversified and nearing the $1 billion a year mark, unthinkable a few years ago. This depicts a trend at the top end but does NOT mean that the local and regional companies will go out of business. On the contrary, this means that companies of all sizes need to shift their paradigms (change with the times) in order to compete. This requires a new perspective of markets, products and services, as well as business practices, leading ultimately to differentiation answering the question, “Why buy from us?” If we look at the expanded AV universe, according to industry research and forecasting, there is plenty to go around and credible reasons that each type and size of business can and should succeed and grow.
Recognizing the existential changes in the industry, InfoComm in 2017 has now changed its name to AVIXA. Regardless of what you may think of the new name, it describes and defines change.
As a side note, we are not talking about technological changes – a few added lumens, nits, or pixels. We are talking about true systemic CHANGE. The acronym itself demonstrates this… AV for audiovisual, IX for Integrated Experience, and A for Association. It recognizes and proves that we are in the first stages of moving away from selling what I call widgets (hardware, simple boxes) and into the realm of solutions and the integrated experience.
Manufacturers Embrace Tactics, Show Vision with Acquisitions
Just as the overall AV industry has changed, so have the manufacturers and distributors that serve it. On the manufacturing side, the biggest news was the finalization of the acquisition of Harman by Samsung. This adds audio (consumer, professional, and automobile), and remote-control technologies to a massive list of Samsung display offerings among a myriad of other technologies.
While not as large, the acquisition of Milestone by Legrand is significant as well. Legrand, a giant in lighting controls, home automation, electrical and low-voltage infrastructure, now adds screens, mounts, and PTZ cameras to their mix. The point to these examples and several others as well, is an expansion of solutions a given manufacturer has to offer. Tie this together with an expansion of what an AV integrator has to offer along with the new verticals they can serve, and you will see the future of Pro AV. Once again, it is about tactics and vision.
Changes in Sales, Distribution, and Service
We would be remiss not to mention the changes we have seen in the sales and distribution of AV products. While some manufacturers still sell directly to integrators with their own sales staff or through independent reps, an increasing number have chosen to use distribution. This allows for more coverage of the integrator channel and in many cases, better ROI in terms of the sales expense.
Distribution used to receive a bad rap as simply order takers, but in many cases, this too has changed. Speaking from personal experience having been called upon as an industry educator, several noted distributors have mandated that their sales associates get certified in digital signage with the Digital Signage Certified Experts (DSCE) and Pro AV with the AVIXA Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) certification.
You are now able to speak to a person who is qualified from an industry perspective and many have taken specific courses provided by their vendors aimed at better serving their client base.
In addition, most distributors have product experts and technical staffs on board and many employ outside sales teams that call directly on AV integrators, not unlike what manufacturers used to do back in the day. This is a tangible migration toward full service, total solution distribution.
What we are seeing most clearly in 2017 is the concept of adding value in the sales and distribution channels and ultimately to the end users. We must look beyond the hardware that is sold and see what things we can provide that will solve problems for our clients.
Today, a display is a display and in some senses a commodity but when you add a mount, media players, switcher, distribution amplifier, etc. to the mix, you have a total solution. But sometimes that is still not enough to provide differentiation.
Another way is to add value is in the form of services. This may fall under the heading of a maintenance contract or a full set of managed services for an enterprise. Another example is the utilization of partnerships as a service. A partnership between a service provider and an integrator, brings a level of expertise that the integrator alone may not have in house. For example, in 2017 Premier Mounts introduced a new division called Premier Dedicated Solutions (PDS). This group focuses on partnerships with integrators offering design and integration services. The concept of outsourcing and partnerships is relatively new to the Pro AV industry, but these services expand what a company can offer in terms of overall value.
Courtesy of Premier Mounts
A Look at the Technology Developments of 2017
This could not be a review of the Pro AV industry without a cursory shout out to some things techy in nature, so here goes.
A big contributor to everything we do is the availability of what is called big data. It has been a huge topic for the past few years when it started as a popular buzzword. We now have access to mass quantities of gathered data and we are in the midst of the learning curve in terms of how to address and use the resource.
It can help us in everything from planning better medical treatments to executing better marketing and sales campaigns. In 2017, we began to see advancements to humanize big data, seeking more empathetic and qualitative bits of data. It now becomes our job in Pro AV to find these resources and suggest ways of presenting them in a more visualized and accessible way. It is the raw material of modern communication.
Digital Signage Goes Mainstream
Speaking of communication, 2017 marks the year that digital signage goes mainstream in Pro AV. It is now widespread, and many integrators have dedicated people and some even have divisions focused on the segment. Why you ask? It is because digital signage, and their content management systems (CMS) are all the rage in nearly every venue that we serve.
It is no longer limited to an advertising medium in retail or quick serve restaurants. It is one of the fasted growing verticals in corporations (still the number one venue in Pro AV) and education (number two in Pro AV) with employee and student facing networks and communications.
Digital signage has rapidly evolved into providing an overall set of communication tools. If big data is the raw material, then digital signage in one form or another, is becoming one of the primary vehicles to deliver it.
From a “pure” technology point of view of course we are still inundated with mentions of the cloud but that has been surpassed in 2017 with acronyms such as IoT (internet of things). The Internet of Things refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.
Technology consulting firm Gartner projects that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide this year, up 30 percent from last year. And Gartner forecasts that number will grow by more than three times, to nearly 21 billion by the year 2020. As you know, we used to speak (endlessly) about the convergence of AV and IT and ponder when it would come. I hope those that have hung back will now join the new world order.
New Display Technologies Open Eyes
Looking at hardware advances in 2017, most would agree that the most visible elements (pun intended) are the new versions of display technologies that we now have at our disposal. There has been a growing acceptance of 4K UHD, but it is the promise of the combined benefits of high dynamic range (HDR) in both source materials and displays becoming more pervasive that is most exciting. If we just look at what the human eye can see in terms of color space, current HDTV (Rec.709) lets us see approximately 36% versus 4KUHD—with HDR (Rec.2020) at 76%. If we match 4K created content and a 4K UHD display, the outcome is exceptional.
While content is king, it is the ability of the display to show the content that delivers the goods. In flat panel displays we see the battle between quantum dot LCD technology (popularly known as Samsung QLED) and organic light emitting diode technology or OLED (touted by LG). Each type of technology has its advantages, but the common denominator is that both provide an outstanding image that must be seen to be believed. As the kids might say, we have entered the era of awesomeness in picture quality!
Courtesy of LG Electronics
On the two-piece display system side, we have advances in both projectors and screens. There have been numerous 4K products coming onto the market in 2017, but the big story is the migration from traditional lamped based technologies to solid-state illumination. The benefits are significant in that we get longer life than a lamp and reduce the total cost of ownership. Also, the solid-state illumination does not have noticeable color shift over its life of >20K hours.
The equally big story of the year in projection, is ambient light rejection screens. They come in various models, configurations, and performance attributes, but they all seek to address the issue of ambient light washing out the image. When done properly it almost looks like magic.
Courtesy Stewart Filmscreen
The final technological shout out for 2017 is the growth of direct view LED and fine pitch indoor displays specifically. Most of the major display companies have jumped on this bandwagon with many more “want to bees” that you have never heard of standing in the wings. The sweet spot is from 6MM down to 1.5MM dot pitch.
Yes, there are smaller dot pitches under 1MM available and while they are certainly interesting, their pricing and availability keeps them from being mainstream (so far). When we get below 2.5MM down to 1.5MM the images get very interesting. Of course, they are seamless and bright, but it is the video handling capabilities that stand out. Several of the leading suppliers are even capable of handling HDR with 16-bit color processing. For the naysayers out there, this is not a fad, and this is coming to a Pro AV distributor and integrator sooner than many may think.
The Only Constant Is Change…
These are my overall industry thoughts for 2017 with a little technology thrown in for good measure. It has been a stellar year by most accounts marked by trends and events that will surely shape our future. Some may think of these as disruptive but as noted in the beginning, this can be a positive thing fueled by excitement and learning new things and finding new ways to conduct your business. History tell us that most important things have transpired in periods of what could have been called disruption.
As I always like to say, the only constant is change. We need to embrace it, learn from it, and apply those lessons to our daily lives.
Disruptive? Not for those that see the opportunities and seize the moment. This is the new Pro AV industry of our times. Enjoy your participation!
CEDIA 2017. This year’s event brings us to sunny San Diego for the largest U.S. gathering of home technology professionals and one of the biggest shows of the year for the residential AV industry, or #AVTweeps, as the social sphere calls the collective “us.”
Follow the #AVTweeps hashtag as well as #CEDIA17, #KMBClientNews, and #KMBClientWins, for all the excitement live from the CEDIA show floor and after hours events September 7 – 9, 2017. As we take to the social channels—and hit the show floor of the San Diego Convention Center—keep reading for the CEDIA news you need to know.
While we’ve been planning and preparing alongside our clients for CEDIA all year, as the show nears, it’s hard to contain our excitement. Alas, we can hold our silence no longer. Fortunately, we don’t have to! The news is distributed. The press kits are live. And the KMB CEDIA Overview is published below.
Make sure to follow @KMB_Comm on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook and connect with us on LinkedIn to see the breaking news and live photos from the CEDIA show floor.
Read on for all you need to know!
Azione Unlimited, the audio-video industry’s only education and buying group made up of custom installers, home technology professionals, and manufacturers, will have a wide-spread presence at CEDIA 2017, both in its membership and with the attendance of its president Richard Glikes.
Fresh from announcing the winners of the Azione Unlimited Motivational Contest via Facebook Live, Richard Glikes will be cheering on the Azione members nominated for the prestigious CEDIA Americas Award. Of the 14 U.S.-based CEDIA Award Finalists, nine of those nominated are active Azione members.
Winners will be announced at the CEDIA Awards Celebration in San Diego on September 6 on the deck of the U.S.S. Midway (an amazing bit of history that you absolutely should visit! One of our very own team members spent a lot of her teenage years on the carrier). Prior to the awards, Azione will host a members-only cocktail party on the San Diego Waterfront, giving members and opportunity to relax and mingle before the show floor opens Thursday.
D-Tools – #3035
D-Tools enhances the System Integrator platform annually to maintain its standing as the go-to, end-to-end tool for integrators, designers, consultants, and home technology professionals. This year brings a number of added features and upgrades designed to help integrators increase productivity, streamline business processes, and improve engagement with their customers. The new Mobile Quote 2.0 offers enhanced functionality, and a new cloud-based customer portal improves customer engagement, while more third-party integrations are just some of the many platform updates CEDIA attendees can experience live. The new Business Intelligence engine and the Project Wizard give integrators more of what they need to enhance productivity, efficiency, and profitability.
Experience the new features that help SI 2017 streamline business functions, allowing for an optimized work flow from quote to finish and witness a preview of D-Tools’ Cloud Platform during a Preview Party being held in D-Tools ‘ booth #3035 on Friday, September 8, at 3 pm.PT. R.S.V.P. for the reception and get a chance to win an iPad pro here.
Datasat Digital Entertainment – #3335
The acquisition of Datasat by ATI made exciting news at the end of July, and the announcement of a demonstration touting the combined power of ATI, Theta, and Datasat makes CEDIA attendance even more of a must for integrators. Long the reference standard for high-end home theater audio, Datasat products will be present in more than just the ATI booth: PMC, RBH, and the Dynaudio suite are also using Datasat’s acclaimed products, demonstrating how Datasat can boost performance and deliver an immersive and emotional entertainment experience.
Additionally, Datasat will be showcasing the RS210i and LS10 Digital Audio Processors, now with DTS:X onboard, in booth #3335.The RS20i is a versatile, customizable, and feature-rich processor that now supports DTS:X, a well as Auro 3D and Dolby Atmos, providing accurate sound reproduction in any environment. It also provides Dirac® live room optimization technology, the most advanced impulse response correction available. Calibration by Datasat’s engineers takes the sound in any application to the next level of immersion and excellence.
Experience Datasat during CEDIA in booth #3335.
Fortress Seating – #4600
Fortress Seating offers the most comfortable booth at any show, with stylish luxury seating in a variety of configurations and models. Remember, what you see at the booth is only a small representation of Fortress Seating’s offerings. Fortress models are custom-designed and built-to-order with the customer’s choice of accessories, fabric, and features, including motorized seats that adjust height for the perfect sightlines or the new Smart Chair technology that turns any seat into the smartest device in your home.
On display in booth #4600 during CEDIA, you can view the Smart Chair technology in action, the ever-popular front-row solution Lotus Chair, and the contemporary, European-styled Odeon, a Sheba Kwan exclusive. Also check out the exciting AirFlo, a sleek re-do of the retro sensation.
While you’re in San Diego, Fortress Seating recommends a visit to The LOT commercial cinemas with locations in La Jolla and Liberty Station. Recently outfitted with Bijou model chairs, you can’t watch a movie in more comfort.
Ihiji – #3329
Ihiji celebrates CEDIA 2017 with the introduction of a new RSM platform, a hardware appliance that is robust and flexible, third-party integrations and additions to the Ihiji Vendor Insights Program (VIP). Ihiji ProVue is the union of Ihiji’s two award-winning products, Invision and ServiceManager, focusing on a powerful yet intuitive solution for lifelong customer service and support of smart home and connected devices. The CEDIA launch of Ihiji ProVue allows technology professionals to remotely monitor, manage and support client’s technology in a completely refreshed user experience. The new APP-750 remote systems management appliance is designed to accommodate both Ihiji Invision and ProVue licensing plans, including the Invision Lite service level, which provides for remote management with no additional per-site monthly fees.
In addition, Ihiji Co-Founder, VP of Product, and 2016 CEDIA Training Volunteer of the Year Michael Maniscalco will lead five different Learning Labs and Workshops during the show.
Stop by Ihiji booth #3329 at CEDIA for more information.
Leon Speakers – #5300
In celebration of its 20th anniversary, Leon Speakers bursts into San Diego (in a refurbished 1967 Airstream Trailer, no less) to unveil a variety of brand new products that both prove their commitment to the high-fidelity audio market and their passion for developing groundbreaking, custom AV solutions.
Leon’s SEVEN series is the company’s flagship speaker line that provides audiophile-quality performance in a minimalist, contemporary design. Using world-class, exclusive components and high-end, handcrafted materials, the new SEVEN series will offer models ranging from soundbars to architectural surrounds, to the brand new Timbre SEVEN bookshelf speaker.
To keep the celebration going outside of the Show, Leon’s President & Founder, Noah Kaplan, will participate in one of his signature “live painting” charity events, and the company will also host a private cruise around San Diego Harbor for their dealers and industry partners, which will feature a live “Leon Loft” performance by the popular Nashville duo, Johnnyswim.
Visit Leon in booth #5300 to see the SEVEN Series and more.
Meridian Audio – #4329
Meridian Audio has been crafting elegant, moving audio experiences since 1977, and with the introduction of two new controllers and more in CEDIA booth #4329 this year, they extend their decades-long reputation for audio excellence.
Proudly introducing the new 251 powered zone controller and the 271 digital theater controller, Meridian not only expands its popular 200 Series but also gives technology integrators the ability and confidence to deliver the most exceptional immersive home cinema and musical experiences to their customers.
Designed to integrate any analog or digital AV processor with Meridian’s renowned Digital Signal Processing (DSP) loudspeakers, the 271 controller offers premium performance options as streaming, especially the streaming of high-resolution audio, grows more and more popular.
The 251 is a two-channel, compact Powered Zone Controller that is enabled for high-resolution audio, including MQA, acting as an integrated amplifier. Offering support for Sooloos and Roon, the 251 is an incredibly flexible solution for integrators dealing with jitter, poor-quality sound, and messy codecs. Suitable for a wide variety of applications, the 251 pairs seamlessly with a broad range of analog speakers. A 4K streamer also makes its debut, plus more that’s not to be missed.
Hugo Fitzjohn, Meridian’s Technical Education Manager, will be educating attendees on behalf of CEDIA with the training session “Making the Most of Hi-Res in the Theatre” on September 7.
CEDIA attendees are invited to join the Meridian team in celebrating the company’s 40th Anniversary with a drinks reception and networking on September 8 from 3 to 5 PM, PST. To learn more about high-resolution audio, new products, and Meridian’s complimentary Design and Specification Service, stop by booth #4320 any time during show hours.
OneVision Resources – #3329
OneVision Resources, a leading provider of smart home service solutions, seeks to educate and enrich the CEDIA community with CEDIA workshops and the introduction of an e-book, The Insider’s Guide to Remote Systems Management: A comprehensive analysis of modern RSM Platforms for Technology Managers.
At CEDIA booth #3329, the OneVision executive team will, additionally, share insights into service-based business models. When OneVision launched its white label services in 2016, it revolutionized the smart home experience for integrators and consumers alike by providing instant, high-quality, 24/7 support.
OneVision will showcase its new and enhanced offering, the fastest, most cost-effective way to provide smart home clients with a world-class service experience. OneVision provides RMR marketing engines, ticketing software, advanced notification, and on-call management tools helping integrators generate recurring revenue while avoiding the burnout and frustration that often comes with the territory of providing exemplary service to customers.
Additionally, with the introduction of the OneVision Partner Development Group, OneVision is developing the first-of-its-kind playbook on how to convert any home technology business into a service-first company. These tools help OneVision Partners deliver an unparalleled service experience, which leads to improved profit margins and generates RMR through premium support memberships.
Stop by booth #3329 to see how OneVision is reshaping the industry with a service-first culture and offering.
RAYVA – #1537
Since RAYVA launched earlier this year after debuting its offering during CEDIA last year, the team has been reimagining home theater design and installation with turnkey, pre-engineered luxury home theater packages. This year brings an expansion of their turnkey theater packages, as well as additions to their design offerings, all with the goal of providing home technology professionals with a fast & easy way to sell and integrate home theater systems to earn generous profits.
RAYVA’s new Diamond and Titanium systems offer higher-end complements to the current Gold and Platinum systems, while the Illuminations and Origami designs are stunning new additions to RAYVA’s collection of exclusive, curated design options.
All RAYVA turnkey theater packages include professional acoustical design and engineering by the CEDIA industry’s top acousticians and AV experts, equipment calibration, and parts warranty per manufacturer specifications for each component. RAYVA also simplifies the sales effort by providing the support home technology professionals need to ensure a successful home theater installation. Dealers can earn a generous commission on the sale of the home theater as well on its installation because RAYVA’s turnkey packages provide them with a proven, repeatable, predictable process for the sales, design, and installation.
In turn, dealers can offer luxury theaters that immerse, entertain, and exceed their customers’ expectations.
RAYVA is also offering educational sessions at CEDIA, as well as the official launch of their new blog for home technology professionals, their customers, and anyone passionate about entertainment, and a “Show Us Your Plans” promotion. Read here for more information and visit RAYVA at booth #1537.
Stewart Filmscreen – #5329
This year at CEDIA, Stewart Filmscreen launches three new screens, while showcasing several other award-winning models. The Gemini™ dual roller ElectriScreen, designed to provide the best image in all viewing environments, as well as the Balόn™ Borderless and Cascade™ all make their residential debut, while others like Phantom™ HALR™ and Cima® serve to remind the integration community of what’s possible. Demonstrating an unyielding commitment to meeting the ever-increasing demands of the marketplace with a contemporary approach to screen design, Stewart Filmscreen will once again showcase its legendary quality and performance.
Attendees are invited to visit Stewart Filmscreen in booth #5329 at the San Diego Convention Center, September 7- 9, 2017 to experience the latest innovations in image fidelity and visual excellence. Additionally, The Next Generation of Stewart Filmscreen leadership invites CEDIA attendees to celebrate 70 years of innovation and excellence on Thursday, September 7, from 3 to PM for a party in booth #5329, where visitors can enjoy craft beer, creative cocktails, and stunning projection screens.
Torus Power – #4749
Torus Power will showcase the latest in power products and educate attendees about the difference isolation transformers can make in any application when sound quality and image fidelity matter. From two-channel listening rooms for the audiophile to home theaters and even pro audio applications like recording studios, Torus Power toroidal isolation transformers are designed to power, protect and improve the quality and performance of electronic systems.
In today’s listening environment, where high-resolution audio represents the pinnacle of performance, Torus Power isolation transformers elicit the best quality out of high-end components. Follow hashtag #HiResPower on Twitter and stop by CEDIA booth #4749 to experience what makes power transformers different from power conditioners, and find out how the award-winning TOT AVR, AVR and AVR2 lines, along with the WM Series, can improve image fidelity and audio quality in any system.
Home Technology Association
A new and forward-thinking third-party organization designed to complement CEDIA technician certification by independently certifying integration firms, the Home Technology Association launched last week. The HTA seeks to recognize the top 10 to 15 percent of integration firms in any region through a rigorous 60+ point evaluation and certification process.
The goal is simple: to educate and empower consumers to make more informed home technology buying decisions, and to then connect them with the most appropriate HTA-Certified integration firms to facilitate their projects. For more information, check out the podcast they participated in on Convergent AV, read the write-ups in CE Pro and Residential Systems, and then, shoot an Email to Josh Christian to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org.