From time to time, video manufacturers invite select reviewers to convene for some hands-on demonstrations and technology explanations, sometimes with side-by-side demos against competitive sets to highlight their brand’s various advantages.
Samsung, now the world’s largest vendor of flat panel HDTVs, has held a number of such events over the past few years, sometimes at the CES show in Las Vegas, and a few times at their Southern California test labs facility in LA.
This year however, their event was held at DreamWorks Animation’s main facility in Glendale, California, and the day long session included a number of presentations covering numerous topics of interest.
The venue chosen for the day’s events was a spacious below-ground, motion capture stage—a quite large room with high ceilings, painted in drab dark gray with black flooring. The motion capture stage features dozens of special LED-powered mo-cap cameras on all four side walls, and is a high tech space indeed.
The event got started with opening remarks and a brief Q&A session with DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who provided some history of the facility. It opened in 2004 and is the firm’s main animation production campus, supplemented by another campus located in Northern California in the Bay Area, with a third new campus in India that opened more recently.
Mr. Katzenberg, a true 3D evangelist if ever there was one, explained the growth of DreamWorks’ 3D production capabilities and technical knowhow, pointing out that DWA has now produced five 3D animated films in house, with Kung Fu Panda 2 slated to debut the following week, and another one, Puss In Boots, slated for release later this year in November, making 2011 the first year they’ll have had two theatrical 3D releases in the same year. He also addressed the issue of brand-exclusive bundles of desirable 3D movies on Blu-ray, such as his firm’s on-going arrangement with Samsung, pointing out that until the installed base of 3DTVs in the home has grown to a suitably large penetration, it’s beneficial for both studios and 3D TV makers to continue such partnerships. He also confirmed that when Kung Fu Panda 2 does make it to 3D Blu-ray later this year it, too, will be a bundled release with Samsung.
After Mr. Katzenberg’s remarks, various Samsung reps covered topics that included their latest innovations and the increased market share that has recently allowed the firm to lay claim to “largest in the world” flat panel HDTV sales supremacy. They’re also betting big on so-called smart TVs, which feature an ever-expanding array of Internet-enabled functions. A sales projection chart showed that the expected industry sales of smart TVs worldwide for 2011 has the category capturing around 11% of the market, and by 2014 sales of smart TVs are expected to dominate the market with about 80% market share of all flat panel TVs sold. They also announced that they just hit 5 million Internet app downloads for their current line of smart TVs.
Although Samsung perhaps did not intend to reveal it, one slide referenced a new 2011 television model number, namely the D9500, which suggested to me a product that would be positioned above their current top-line D8000 range. When I asked Samsung about it during a break, they admitted that indeed a D9500 range will be introduced sometime later this year, but they wouldn’t say when or give any other details.
A delicious lunch was served to attendees in a delightful outdoor setting adjacent to a lovely outdoor lagoon that’s home to a number of koi and even a family of ducks and their ducklings. The expansive campus, which features multiple buildings, is located very near the convergence of two major LA freeways, and there are multiple water features throughout the facility that collectively provide a calm acoustic environment, as the sound of running water provides a quite effective blanket of noise masking.
After lunch, we returned to the motion capture stage for the next round of presentations which began with Samsung’s Mike Wood giving a very good talk that detailed various key Samsung flat panel technologies, including their variable LED edgelight dimming system that’s found on many of their upper tier 2011 models, including the current top-line D8000 3D LED model that The Perfect Vision tested not long ago.