InfoComm from Afar

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And… one more quick one post-InfoComm post.

For the second consecutive year, family obligations kept me away from the big show. Last year it was my lovely bride’s recovery from major back surgery; this year was a more joyous occasion as my son graduated pre-school (and yes, this is important; another tradeshow will always come, but each personal milestone happens but once). That said, it’s ever more possible to see things from afar, especially in an industry with so much focus on remote collaboration. Following are my impressions not only of the show, but of the process of seeing the show.

On What I Got to See

We’ve known for a while that IP video is a big theme, and this started to appear pre-show as QSC, Atlona, Key Digital, Clear One, Biamp and RGB Spectrum all announced some form of video over IP devices. QSC lead the charge with a complete product announcement of its IP PTZ camera and USB bridge a week prior to the show, while competitor Biamp teased its Tesira Lux video over AVB product as “TLUX” in an alternate-reality game. Overall, I prefer the straightforward “this is the upcoming product” type of announcement to a vague teaser campaign, but I recognize that I’m not the sole audience.

Some Words On What I Saw

tesira-leonard-0616Were I on-site at the show, I’d have been able to pick up some of these devices and see that they were metal boxes (assuming that they weren’t bolted down) and ask questions about them. From afar? I was able to chat on Twitter with Mike Brandes of QSC as well as whoever it is who runs Biamp’s Twitter account. In the discussion of TesiraLux, for example, I learned that the encoders and decoders work as Tesira endpoints only, and only over an AVB network. I learned that the QSC camera generates RTSP and RTP streams in an MJPEG container, which should make it usable with third-party devices.

I also installed Periscope and Snapchat prior to the show; every so often I’d get a cheery whistle from my phone. “rAVePubs is live.” “Michael Shinn is live” and “Biamp is live,” etc, etc. There were periscopes of booth tours. Of interviews. Of the keynote address (on which I commented here). It was in a live stream of a Biamp presentation, for example, that I learned that TLux wouldn’t handle HDCP content until next year — and why. (The reason is that the HDCP 2.2 pro standard is not ratified yet, and that’s the only standard that would allow an arbitrarily large number of displays. It is Biamp’s contention that it’s best to wait for this standard to be ratified to avoid releasing products which do not conform to the current rules. That is not a bad argument.)

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Periscope was useful in seeing what was going on as, to an extent, is Snapchat. As so much of what is discussed around a show is ephemera, SC’s format tends to work. The best part, for me, were “stories” — scraps of video or images which can be watched an arbitrary number of times over the course of a day. There were some great ones — including from rAVe — that somewhat captured the scale and energy of the space. I’m still getting the hang of using Snapchat to actually chat; I’d oft read a message without responding to it, close the chat window, then forget what the person said! I’ll perhaps say more about that format in a later post.

On What I Missed

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Systems technologies are easy to evaluate through discussion, reading of specs and press announcements, and watching interviews. For display and audio technologies it is less easy to do so. On that note, I feel that I missed something in not getting to see the Sony Canvas display about which everyone was raving, though I did see an excellent interview from rAVe’s own Gary Kayye highlighted by an actual explanation of how the technology works and what makes it so impressive. Still, I’d like to have seen it for myself. That’s something one just can’t get from a spec sheet, webcast or anything else remote.

I also missed a chance to see trends in selection of content, peripherals and how booths were set up. Which product class got the most attention and most booth space? What kinds of applications were manufacturers leaning toward? That’s easier to gauge by walking around. One note I did get (from my good friend Corey Moss) is that Logitech’s PTZ cameras showed up in several booths to showcase collaboration technologies. This says something about their perceived position in the commercial AV space, and is the kind of thing that it’s easiest to notice in person. Of course, the next best thing to being there in person is knowing smart people who are there as well.

Trade Show Fun, Trade Show Silliness

It’s nice being able to engage with or dodge silly tradeshow games as you wish to. On the show floor, I prefer to focus on the actual technology; I find Draper’s “Find the seam in our large format screen” to be a far more interesting booth game to me than Da-Lite’s “challenge Da-Lite Man to a pull-up contest.” Your mileage, of course, may vary.  While I miss some of the silliness, I don’t miss the crowds that gather for giveaways, drinks and games.

All that said, next year I do hope to join in the festivities in Orlando. I’m just glad that technology lets us be there even when we can’t.

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Leonard Suskin

About Leonard Suskin

Leonard C Suskin, the pixel-and-inkstained wretch, lives in the suburbs of the greatest city in the world with his wife, two children, and cat. A veteran of the AV industry, he designs AV systems for Whitlock and continues to pen fiction and poetry in his spare time. Opinions are his own, not reflecting his employer, colleagues, rAVe staff, or the cat - though she'd likely agree. You can find him on Twitter @Czhorat.