Once a year, we integrators gather for professional training and an industry trade show. The acronym CEDIA stands for Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association. I’ve enjoyed attending since 1994, and here are a few highlights from this year’s event that I thought were worth sharing:
While there were no earth shattering changes in the audio world, everything is improving. Audio processors continue to add features, such as digital room correction that is automated, yet still fine-tunable by pro’s for super-precise adjustment. The Integra separate processor stood out as an astounding bang for the buck unit, laden with features such as balanced outputs, on-board HDMI processing, and pretty much every surround decoding format known to man.
Interestingly, subwoofers are getting much smarter. Triad’s new line of subwoofer amplifiers carry an impressive on-board DSP processor with multiple bands of digital parametric equalization, delay, phase, and adjustable crossover frequency for both the woofer itself, the line outs for satellite speakers, and line outs for custom multi-way sub setups (VERY cool – I’m still geeked about that one).
For loudspeakers, we’re seeing more line-array arrangements from companies like McIntosh and Artison which are very appropriate for rooms with poor acoustics such as tile floors and plaster ceilings. And for those theaters that are extremely large, or even perhaps sporting pavilions, there are companies such as PHC that are producing commercial cinema grade systems that have enough output to power these oversize spaces. Yes, these speakers are quite large.
Who says bigger isn’t better? New video projectors from companies such as Meridian Audio and JVC with resolutions over 4,000 horizontal pixels are absolutely stunning. These higher resolutions will allow us to dramatically increase screen size and still have an image that is watchable in the front row. Interestingly, rear projection is making a comeback in the form of high-end 16:9 and 2.35:1 aspect ratio high performance displays that show a phenomenal image even in extremely high ambient light conditions. While not inexpensive, custom rear projection may be the way to go for those who would otherwise be considering that $100k uber-giant plasma screen.
Remembering that our reference video systems are really just trying to faithfully reproduce the original film as created by the director and cinema photographer, why not just install a film projector? A new company called Wolfe Cinema is doing just that, producing true 35mm film projectors for the residential market at prices that may be less than you would imagine. About the size of your kitchen refrigerator, two are recommended, so each reel can be switched into place without interruption. Apparently, 35mm reels of up to date movies can be rented or even purchased for around $2,000 each.
Where’s my popcorn? When it comes to digital content delivery, there is a company about to begin digital distribution of very high bitrate (45mbps) movies directly from the studios by means a proprietary hard drive shipping system. Some serious encryption is no doubt taking place here to keep the hackers at bay.
Improvements in control systems continue to flow, but you still have to choose between the less expensive systems with limited options and scalability, or go for the fully custom solution that while expensive, is virtually unlimited in accomplishing whatever a creative mind can conjure up.
The up and coming major application for home automation technology is energy management. Combine thorough energy monitoring with custom integration control, and some serious savings can be realized. While this level of ‘green’ won’t be widely available in homes for a few years, the top automations firms (yours truly) are doing it on projects right now. Call today, operators standing by…
One of the training sessions I attended focused on video gaming, which turned out to be an eye-opener for me. I’m not a big gamer myself, though I do enjoy GT3 racing on an ancient Sony PS2 in my home theater once or twice a year (lame, I know). But it really got me to thinking about those families who may actually do a decent amount of gaming.
There are two primary forms of gaming: immersive, and social. The immersive style would be something like the racing I just mentioned or perhaps one of those first-person action games where you can play for hours and almost loose contact with your physical body. These immersive games require isolation, and a home theater may be just the spot.
Social gaming is a completely different beast. When you’re playing Guitar Hero, where do you stand? Are you blocking the projector from hitting the video screen? Do you have your back to your audience while looking at the big screen? And when playing Wii bowling, you need a lot of room, probably right where the sweet spot theater chairs are. If you plan on having your home theater pull double duty for video gaming these are just some of the important things to consider.
Come to think of it, maybe you should make an appointment to talk with your local CEDIA certified home theater design specialist / propeller-headed A/V geek. I wonder who?…