CEDIA – Indianapolis – September 7-10, 2011
For the prior five years, the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association show has been held in other cities (thrice in Denver and twice in Atlanta) as the CEDIA home-based Indianapolis convention center was completely rebuilt and now offers much more convention floor space. As well, the old RCA Dome, former home of the Indianapolis Colts and directly adjacent to the old convention center, was completely torn down and the Colts are now ensconced in the new Lucas Oil stadium, situated on the southeast side of the convention center.
Focusing heavily on custom integration hardware and software solutions, the CEDIA show isn’t exactly a mini-CES, but many vendors who display at CES can be found at CEDIA. From a video standpoint, this year’s CEDIA had a whole lot to offer.
CEDIA press conferences tend to be rather dull affairs, with presenters on a podium in a sparse convention meeting room, flanked by a projector and screen for the inevitable video slide show. Sony however put on a spiffy press conference at the nearby Hyatt hotel, with a deluxe stage, lighting, and a quite large widescreen front projection setup.
The star of their conference was the unveiling of their new 4K SXRD (LCoS) front projector. The “4K” part of the name refers to doubling the resolution of 1920x1080 HD video to 3840x2160 resolution. While not technically 4K (as in 4,000 or more pixels per horizontal line as found with commercial digital cinema projectors), the VPL-W1000ES is nonetheless a very high-resolution projector indeed. It’s also a 3D projector as you would expect, and is slated to become available for the custom home theater integration market in December at a retail price of around $25,000.
For now, the net benefit to 4K front projection in the home is simply a smoother picture, as the higher resolution means smaller pixels that together blanket the screen with no “screen door” visible lines between pixels. While the Blu-ray standard and the HDMI 1.4 specification both support 4K high definition video, it’s anybody’s guess as to when and if 4K movie content becomes available to the home theater consumer.
Also jumping on the 4K projector bandwagon at the show was JVC, who announced a quartet of 4K D-ILA (aka LCoS) models. Actually, there weren’t really four new models, but two models each in their respective pro (CEDIA distribution channel) and consumer retail channel lines that are virtual clones of each other, differing only slightly in cosmetics (the color of the lens trim ring).
And they’re not really true 4K models, as is the Sony. Instead, JVC uses their D-ILA 1920x1080 HD imaging panels and pairs them with birefringence panels that allow shifting the pixels slightly in both the horizontal and vertical dimensions. Called “e-Shift”, the technology presents a pseudo-4K image that has the main benefits of 4K, which are increased precision and full screen coverage with no screen door effect, even when viewed up close.
During the presentation, they showed a slide with a resolution test pattern (angled black and white wedges with decreasing spacing). The regular HD image showed some jaggies, while the upconverted pseudo-4K image showed clean and crisp lines. In a home theater room setup next to the conference area they had their DLA-RS65 top-line ($12,999) 4K model on demonstration, showing 1080p video from Blu-ray that was captured in ultra high resolution 8K and subsequently downconverted to HD, and then upconverted to 4K by the projector’s e-Shift technology. Even when standing just two feet from the screen, it was impossible to make out individual pixels, and there was no evidence of upconversion artifacts. The picture quality was superb.
Other models in the ranges include two 3D projectors (not 4K) that are slated to carry an MSRP of $3,499, a new low price point for 3D front projection from JVC.
It was a sad day for videophiles a couple of years ago when Pioneer announced they were exiting the plasma display business (their factory, which they had acquired when NEC exited the business some years prior, was sold). Pioneer's Elite Kuro plasmas were just about universally acknowledged as "best of breed", and I have a 50" version of the final generation here as a flat panel reference. The rapid decline in plasma TV average selling prices is what did them in (at one time, their top model carried a $20,000 price tag and provided the dealer with 40 points margin, an unheard of profit percentage in the TV business). Their final two Elite Kuro plasma models (50" at $4,500 and 60" at $6,000) were simply priced way too high compared to the three remaining plasma vendor's offerings (LG, Panasonic, Samsung).