Staging live events was a more prominent theme at InfoComm 2004 in Atlanta than ever before. Numerous exhibitors presented new products aimed at the event staging market, and show organizers added a long menu of special features designed to appeal to staging and rental professionals.

The event, held this past June at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, included a total attendance of more than 22,000, according to ICIA officials, who added that the number represented a 16 percent increase from InfoComm 2003 attendance figures. The 647 exhibitors at the show also represented an increase of 15 percent from the previous year, although the total square footage occupied was virtually unchanged at 263,600.

Although only a small part (usually around 10 percent) of the total number of attendees actually come from the rental and staging world, the ICIA has been diligently attempting to increase the event's appeal to that market. In particular, this year, InfoComm included a variety of special events and presentations aimed at staging pros.

One such event was the unveiling of a new market size study that the ICIA recently completed in conjunction with Acclaro Growth Partners, a research and consulting firm based in Reston, Va. The ICIA suggests the study provides an accurate measurement of the total size of the current A/V market in the United States. for the first time. The report estimates that rental-and-staging services account for annual business of $2.7 billion out of an industry total of $7.4 billion spent last year on A/V services. Combined with $11.5 billion spent on A/V products in 2003, Acclaro estimates the A/V market in the United States is an $18.9 billion business annually.

According to the study, A/V dealers overall expect the rental-and-staging market to grow by about 7.6 percent annually over the next five years, a somewhat slower pace of growth than that expected of the services sector overall.

Staging Focus

InfoComm also offered a full day of seminars aimed at the rental and staging market as part of its Super Tuesday program the day before the show officially opened. Topics addressed in the program included current trends and emerging markets in streaming media, conferencing, audio issues, and avoiding rental and staging disasters.

On the show floor, a large display from Barco Events anchored a 10,000-square-foot lighting and staging pavilion that included more than 20 exhibits. Exhibitors in the pavilion included Creative Stage Lighting, Impact Video, XL Video, and Rose Brand. The pavilion also offered hour-long presentations by both vendors and independent consultants throughout the show.

The centerpiece of the Barco display was that company's new Encore show control system, a product which has emerged from Barco's acquisition of Folsom Research earlier this year. Barco says the new system combines source selection, seamless switching, windowing, and a variety of video effects in a single tool. Barco also displayed two new ILite LED display products in the Pavilion, along with its new, large-venue XLM projector with a powerful light output of 27,000 center lumens.

Lighting systems were a big story at the Pavilion, with High End Systems drawing attention to its new DL1 digital lighting device. By outfitting an intelligent light with an on-board LCD projector, High End enables a single device to project scenery, color washes, video content, and digital gobo effects, in addition to the familiar range of moving light functions. Grif Palmer, VP of sales at High End, called the DL1 “a pretty disruptive technology” during the show.

Palmer adds that live, staged events are a promising market for just about any device that combines video projection with intelligent lighting. He notes that staging firms have long used small, lightweight projectors for lighting effects, mounting them in multiple places around an event space, and driving them from a central control point. Combining the two functions in a single device, he suggests, offers opportunities for economy, as well as creativity.

Among other lighting exhibitors, a major theme at InfoComm was LED lighting. Techni-Lux system sales/training specialist Tony Hansen says LED lights are starting to appeal to rental-and-staging pros partly because they show up so well for video cameras.

Still, although LEDs claim big advantages in terms of low heat output, ruggedness, low power consumption and the like, Hansen warns they are not yet suitable for all-purpose stage lighting. Nevertheless, he argues, a modest amount of LED illumination added to a standard lighting setup can really make video pop for IMAG and similar uses.

“At this moment, we're aware of the fact that we're just at the threshold, and not quite there yet,” Hansen says. “In rental and staging, there's a little interest.”

Cool Tools

Other companies announcing staging-specific products at Infocomm:

  • Amplivox Sound Systems, which showed a new Wireless Travel Audio Pro portable public address system.
  • Calibre UK, with its PremierViewPro-AV product — a new image scaler for use in projection and A/V applications, which allows display devices to run at their optimal resolution regardless of image source.
  • Creston, with a new lighting control and automation system called LightSource.
  • Draper, with a new folding screen designed to add new strength and stability to larger screen sizes.
  • D'San Corporation, with PerfectCue, a new light-and-sound signaling system that allows a speaker to control presentation content without wires from up to 200ft. away.
  • Element Labs with its new LED-based Versa TILE, designed to be combined into large arrays. Each tile represents a single pixel, and content for the composite display can be created using any graphics program.
  • Lighthouse Technologies, which presented the Supervisor LH Universal Display Optimizer, which it calls the first LED display product to accept both digital and analog formats, including standard and high-definition.
  • Meyer Sound, which showcased the 700-HP UltraHigh-Power Subwoofer designed for touring applications.
  • Christie Digital, which introduced an addition to the Roadie line — a 3-chip DLP with 25,000 lumen output, a 1500:1 contrast ratio, and 2K resolution.

Other leading projector manufacturers also showed new products, including new ultra-portables from NEC, and a new Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) projector from Sony, designed for large-venue and cinema applications. Panasonic showed a new, wide-screen, 3-chip DLP projector called the PT-DW7000U, with a native 16:9 aspect ratio, 3000:1 contrast ratio, and more than 5,000 lumens of light output.

Digital Projection introduced the 12000Dsx, which offers 11,000 ANSI lumens and SXGA+ native resolution. The company says the new machine is ideal for “diverse staging applications and medium- to large-venue system installations.” DP also showed an addition to its 3-chip DLP Mercury projector series, the 5000HD, which offers 4500 ANSI lumens of brightness at 1280×720 native resolution.

Plasma screens were ubiquitous at InfoComm. Among many plasma products on display, Samsung Electronics America offered a preview of its new 80in. plasma, which it is claiming will be the largest in the world. A company spokesman noted that the huge new plasma was only being shown as a prototype, and is still far away from hitting the marketplace.

Next year's InfoComm will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center from June 4 to 10 (conference) and June 8 to 10 (exhibition). Additional information can be found at www.infocomm.org.