System Overload By Jake Pinholster

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I feel like I need a guide. Or possibly a sherpa.

I'm sitting in an immense and empty sea of cheap blue carpet listening to the Mustang Girls talk about their life stories and demonstrate the dance they did for the X-Games, while a crowd of polo-shirt sporting trade show males look on. I haven't figured out the connection between the Mustang Girls and any technology company in attendance. I've heard the question, “Has this guy bored the life/crap/hell out of you yet?” uttered on three separate occasions, apparently without irony. The male-to-female ratio here is roughly 6 to 1, not counting “booth décor” (not my phrase). Sometimes I wonder if Las Vegas is the best place for this kind of event - the cultures fuse in disturbing ways.

Trade show anthropology aside, the information density here is overwhelming. In the interest of aiding my fellow projection, lighting, and staging professionals, here's some brief highlights from the mysterious North hall:

Christie Digital, Digital Projections, and Barco all seem to be outdoing themselves this year.

Digital Projections is doing some serious work on improving color depth and contrast with their Titan series. Be sure to check their Dataton Watchout-provided demo - it's a testament to the power of both.

Christie Digital has released the X10, which seems to have the principal advantage of having every feature that Christie has ever come up with stuffed into one projector. It has onboard screen geometry compensation technology (called Twist) that seems ridiculously easy to use - make sure to see their demo using the camera. The entire light path within the X10 is completely gasketed, allowing the unit to require less maintenance, operate with a lower power draw (everyone's talking lumen-per-watt these days) and run quieter. They've also added DMX control (through ArtNet) of zoom, focus, and a few other attributes, all of which are now encoded - meaning they are completely repeatable.

Barco is showing off the DML 1200 in all its stunning glory. In a show of unity with the new acquisition of High End Systems, they've placed it side-by-side with the DL3. This may be the best signal of the future of digital lighting I've seen so far - the DL3 comes off looking not-so-good in comparison.

Best potential crossover so far is still the Evans & Sutherland Laser Projector. Sure, even their “affordable” version due out on the market next year is “under $200K”, but it's hope for the future of laser projection. 8000 by 4000 pixels from one projector. In the demo, one projector covers a 350 square foot dome, and, even standing next to it, I couldn't pick out a single pixel. Beware: their demo reel is a little clunky, and some of it looks like it's losing some image due to lossy compression, so keep an eye out for the planetarium-formatted material about 2/3 of the way through. Don't be scared off if you see the 5,000-lumen number in their specs either: they are measuring it at the surface, and your eyes perceive laser light differently than a conventionally projected image.

More tomorrow.

Definitely a sherpa.

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