Jan. 18, 2006
Technology makes huge gains in quality, variety

It has often been said that “change is the law of life.” This is especially true when considering any technology, and video technology in particular. Every year, the manufacturers of video technology strive to improve their products, increase image clarity and ease of use, reduce price points, and create new uses for the technology.

The following are some of the many emerging trends in video that are coming to a facility near you.

Flat Panel Displays: Bigger and Better than Ever

Large flat panel displays are becoming more commonplace. The largest commonly available flat panel is 63 inches; however, there are some in development that are more than 100 inches in size. Flat panels are popular with the public, and manufacturers are trying to grow their screens as demand dictates. The two competing technologies in this area are liquid crystal displays (LCD) and plasma displays. On the horizon is the OLED, or “organic light-emitting diode” display, which holds the promise of brighter, lighter, and less expensive devices.

Projection Displays: Wider and Brighter

Wide screen formatting has become a normal design feature now, in anticipation of the transition to HDTV (high definition television) in the near future. While the wide screen view was commonplace in direct view video applications, such as flat panel displays, up until now it was rarely seen in projection models.

Projection is also continuing to become brighter. In the past, an image that was projected too large would look washed out. Proper lighting became critical for viewing. Lighting is still important, but today’s improved projectors are becoming more forgiving each year.

The Transition to Digital Video

The entire video and display technology industry is focused on the transition to a new, unified platform of digital video. This technology includes HDTV. In the past, the broadcast industry, with its three global standards, and the computer display industry, with its numerous data resolution formats, were thought to be different considerations. Only the audiovisual industry, and its specialized dual-purpose displays, was able to merge these two different “worlds.” Now, with a mandate for broadcasters to adopt DTV (digital television) transmission, the computer industry’s influence and well-established standards are leading the way to a technology convergence in the signals and devices used for video acquisition, storage, transmission, and display.

“Behind the Screen” Technology

New ambient, light-rejecting front projection screen surfaces are allowing the installation of inexpensive large screen displays in more environments. In general, a front projection screen reflects light from a projector to the viewer’s eyes. As it is reflecting light, other sources of light also get reflected off this surface. Screens have now been developed with a surface that does not reflect ambient light into the eyes of the viewer, providing clear images with more contrast.

Another emerging display trend is the inclusion of light-emitting diode (LED) backlights for flat panel LCD displays. This new technology will increase the life of a screen while providing a wider color spectrum. Until recently, the light allowing LCD screens to be illuminated has largely been white. This has a tendency to limit color saturation. By placing red, green, and blue LEDs behind the LCD, richer colors will be displayed. This technology also provides a better contrast because each LED can be discretely illuminated.

Lighting the Future

One aspect of projection that plagues presenters is that the lamps contained within tend to burn out too quickly, causing inconvenience and expense. The life of projector lamps has nearly doubled over the past 2 years. Much of this change is the result of improvements in cooling systems. Manufacturers are touting longer-lasting lamps that may last as long as 5,000 hours and are increasing the lengths of their lamp warranties.

The use of LED lamps for projection may become commonplace as well, with the first commercially available digital light processing projector offered last summer. The hallmarks of this technology are high efficiency, low heat generation, and less moving parts.

Growing Applications for Video: Digital Signage, 3-D Modeling, and Convergence Conferencing

Digital signage is the wave of the future and is greatly increasing the number of locales using video. The use of closed-circuit, self-purposed content can be seen in retail environments serving a seemingly endless number of purposes, including easy-to-update restaurant menus and mall directories, and display of the latest music videos and store promotions. Corporations are using digital signage to keep their employees updated on company news and to reinforce important corporate messages. Banks are installing digital signage for their lobbies and waiting areas to present the latest exchange and interest rates, overlaid with promotional messages. Schools use these signs for internal video narrow-casting and distance learning, while transit systems are using them for schedule and news updates, financed by sponsored advertising. Museums are integrating digital signage in their galleries to communicate changing exhibits and sponsorship information. The application of this emerging technology is only limited by the imagination and will continue to feed the public’s interest in everything visual.

Another growing application of video technology is 3-D immersive visualization. Not just for flight simulators or the defense industry anymore, this imaging allows users to have a firsthand experience when viewing architectural blueprints, a complicated surgery, and more. As the software technology becomes more widespread, refined, and affordable, more video displays will be seen at doctors’ offices, education facilities, and architecture and design firms.

A trend in video application making waves is the growth of collaborative conferencing, or the collection of technologies that helps meeting participants overcome the barriers of distance and time to share information and perform tasks together. While these technologies initially involved only video, they now often include audio, graphics, data, and the Internet. The need for collaborative conferencing is at an unprecedented level. Stoppages, delays, and inconveniences due to weather conditions, terrorism, contagion, and the fear of potential crises are driving markets to closely examine collaborative conferencing as a cost-effective and safer alternative to travel. The demand for teleconferencing increased 30 percent after 9/11 and again after the SARS outbreak. We anticipate seeing another increase in demand due to the threat of avian flu and as the Gulf region rebuilds after Hurricane Katrina.

InfoComm International®,, a trade association of the professional audiovisual and information communications industries, supplied this story. The following members contributed: Tim Cape, CTS-D, principal, Technitect; Mario J. Maltese, CEO, Audiovisual Resources Inc.; Howard A. Nunes, president and CEO, PepperDash Technology Corp.; and Brian Patrick, CTS-D, senior consultant, The Sextant Group.

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