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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

The Art of the Perfect Demo

Posted on July 19, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Demonstration (noun) - An explanation, display, illustration, or experiment showing how something works

A well-crafted demo delivers an incredibly powerful, emotional experience that can stay with someone for years. In fact, I can still clearly remember the first time I experienced a home theater system. It was not a formal demo per se, but was at my friend Travis's house. His father had just purchased a new surround system and we watched Speed on Laserdisc. (You can read more about that system here.)  From the opening seconds – with the elevator cabling clanging in the background behind me – I was totally enthralled with the technology. Seeing that movie literally changed my life as it sent me on a path towards home theater ownership and becoming a custom installer.

I can also recall the first time I experienced a truly high-end system. It was in San Francisco and they led me back into a private room in the back of the shop where a Vidikron projector was hanging overhead, a stack of McIntosh gear sat off to the side, and a thick black drape concealed a huge projection screen. When the lights dropped and the image filled the screen, I was stunned. I had no idea such a thing could even exist in a person’s home, and after seeing it, I knew I had to have it.

A great demo can cause people to purchase a system far outside of their original budget. And not so much because the demo revealed nuances in the music they'd never heard before, or produced bowel-quivering low-end bass notes, or had the finest trillion-calculations-per-second scaling or produced black levels so deep they could swallow galaxies whole. Sure, these things are important, but the great demo is all about delivering that emotional experience.

And this doesn’t just happen by chance.

If you want to give a truly great demo, you need to prepare for it.

One of the better demos that I’ve been given recently was at this past CES. A consortium of manufacturers -- Kaleidescape, Digital Projection Inc. (DPI), D-BOX, ADA, CinemaTech, Crestron, Stewart Filmscreen and Totem Acoustics – teamed up to deliver the “Unforgettable Home Cinema Experience.” (Check my review of the D-BOX theater seating from my recent trip to see Spiderman.)

Afterwards, I spoke to several of the manufacturers to get their take on the experience. DPI’s Michael Bridwell summed up the reason behind the demo. “There really hasn’t been a good immersive theater experience for CES-goers for many years, if ever. The Art of the Demo has died in terms of video, and we are on a mission this year to revive it. Starting at CES, we're going to show dealers how to once again sell video.”

Kaleidescape’s, Tom Barnett, added, “This event was an opportunity for us to show how some of the best-of-breed home theater components working together in harmony to provide an immersive entertaining experience.”

ADA’s Richard Stoerger echoed, “The reality is that in order for [people] to get passionate about the experience, they must go through the experience.”

In sitting through the 15 minute presentation and talking to these manufacturers, I learned a few things about giving a truly unforgettable demo.

So, how do you plan for a great demo?

1)    Create suspense.

Properly set the stage by leading the viewers into a nicely lit demo room and guide them towards (hopefully) comfortable seating. It’s best if there is nothing playing on the screen or any audio playing as this silence creates drama and suspense and keeps them from getting distracted and focuses their attention on you.

2)    Pick appropriate material.

Sure, you may love watching the scene where Tony Montana mows people down with his Little Friend and it may even look and sound awesome, but it probably isn’t the right clip to show to a family. Ditto anything with swearing. Animated titles are always popular as they look great, generally have some standout audio and are pretty much universally non-offensive. Have a library of demo clips that are appropriate for different audiences. And when in doubt, ask. (You can also read how a totally age inappropriate Matrix demo made Heather think she could do it better, launching a career in the audio/video industry.)

3)    Set up the clips.

Give them a brief explanation of what you are about to play for them and tell anything in particular you want them to look or listen for. “I’ve selected this scene from Master and Commander because it has great low-end detail from the cannon blasts. It also has amazing 3-dimensional sound; you should be able to hear the people walking on the rigging up above you.”

4)    Have a unified control system.

One button press should dim the lights, set the volume and start the clip. Fumbling with remotes, having to get up and fiddle with things, all detracts from creating that “perfect moment.”

5)    Order the clips.

A ten minute demo filled with nothing but explosions and crashes will lose its impact and not show off all of the elements of a well-designed system. You want to show a variety of material and have your demo to build towards a climax. This means starting out with something that is a little slower and less bombastic.

6)    Know when to stop.

Part of a great demo is being in control and knowing when to stop it. Don’t let the clip run on-and-on; find that perfect ending point, and then stop it.

7)    Don’t forget music.

Another often overlooked yet wonderful demo tool are concerts on Blu-ray disc. Stephen Libin of Totem Acoustics commented, “We feel the industry doesn’t promote great concerts on Blu-ray near enough. We feel that concert performances, if well recorded, can bring huge emotion, passion, and pleasure to people. Most people have no idea how much fun concerts can be on a big beautiful flat panel, with superb sound literally taking them into the venue.”

Beyond having a killer demo system, one of the best tools to come along in a *long* to help dealers create the perfect demo is the Kaleidescape movie/music server. In the past, selecting a demo scene took quite a bit of time as you found the right disc, loaded it into the player, waited for the FBI warnings and trailers to finish, navigated to the chapter and then pressed play. This all took several minutes. Several mood and momentum killing minutes.

With a Kaleidescape hard disc system, your entire movie and music library is available for instant access. Even loading Blu-ray discs – which can take 30 or more seconds on other players – takes mere seconds. And with the ultra-slick cover art browsing interface, you can gauge your audience’s penchant for certain titles and customize your demo with clips that will appeal to them.

The other major Kaleidescape innovation that assists with demonstrations is the new Scenes feature. Kaleidescape’s movie team have hand-picked thousands of the funniest, scariest, most action packed and emotionally charged scenes from the most popular movies, and bookmarked these scenes for you to easily locate and view. Scenes automatically appear once you import a movie that has Scenes available and have easily identifiable titles like “Mini Cooper Chase Through Paris” (The Bourne Identity), “Scaffolds and Embassies” (Casino Royale), and “Calligraphy School is Saved” (Hero).

Now, instead of having to hunt for the perfect demo scene, you can have thousands of them instantly pre-selected for you. And with virtually instant access to these scenes – even on Blu-ray – it makes it much easier to orchestrate and deliver a perfect demo every time; easily starting, stopping and moving on to the next clip without any flow-jarring pauses for loading or searching. (It also makes it wonderful for end-users to have little amuse bouche bites of their favorite films; sampling their collection and enjoying the best morsels and bits with friends over an evening.)

Wondering what demo scenes that Kaleidescape dealers around the country used to show off their systems, I asked Kaleidescape if they could share the list. Besides general curiousity of what is popular, it might give other dealers some new demo ideas to use. Here are the top 45 demo scenes:

1     The Light Cycle Battle            Tron: Legacy

2     Jakesully's First Flight with His Ikran    Avatar

3    Bank Robbery                The Dark Knight

4    Gotham Streets Showdown            The Dark Knight

5    The Spirits Gather Around Jake        Avatar

6    The Destruction of Hometree        Avatar

7    Sam Duels Rinzler            Tron: Legacy

8    The Gathering of Mustang Pilots in Columbus    Gray Eagles

9    The Dream Is Collapsing            Inception

10    Introductions                The Art of Flight

11    Getting Ready for the Games        Tron: Legacy

12    Light Jet Battle            Tron: Legacy

13    Dancing in Space            Wall-E

14    Chase to the Embassy            Casino Royale

15    Experiencing Freedom in an Avatar    Avatar

16    The Repair Ward                Wall-E

17    Tordrillo Mountains, Alaska        The Art of Flight

18    Wall-E and Eve's Introductions        Wall-E

19    Joker's Magic Trick & Proposal        The Dark Knight

20    Wall-E Shows Eve His Home        Wall-E

21    The Na'vi Fight Back w/the Aid of Eywa    Avatar

22    Extracting Lau from Hong Kong        The Dark Knight

23    Dash Runs on Water            The Incredibles

24    Drilling Platform Fight            Star Trek

25    Betrayed by Zuse            Tron: Legacy

26    Fixing Wall-E                Wall-E

27    An Introduction to Shared Dreaming    Inception

28    A Surprise Attack      Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

29    The Old Lady Discovers the Colony    Ratatouille

30    To Truly Know the Mustang, You Have to Fly the Mustang    Gray Eagles

31    Radiator Springs Racing Team        Cars

32    The Stark Expo                Iron Man 2

33    The First Battle for New Gladiators    Gladiator

34    Iron Man Hunts Down Jerichos        Iron Man

35    Fight Through the Bamboo Forrest    House of Flying Daggers

36    The Fall of Optimus Prime        Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

37    Bruce Is Having Fish Tonight        Finding Nemo

38    Ride of the Valkyries            Apocalypse Now: Redux

39    The Launch of Apollo 13            Apollo 13

40    The Echo Game                House of Flying Daggers

41    Bourne Kills Desh            The Bourne Ultimatum

42    A Fight Between Friends            Iron Man 2

43    Crawling Across the Burj Khalifa with Broken Gloves    Mission: Impossible -Ghost Protocol

44    Cooking with Lightning            Ratatouille

45    The Third and Final Lap of the Podrace    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

And here are the top 35 concert scenes that are demonstrated:

1    Someone Like You    Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

2    Life's Been Good    Eagles: Farewell 1 Tour - Live From Melbourne

3    Rolling in the Deep    Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

4    Chasing Pavements    Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

5    Fever            Michael Bublé: Caught in the Act

6    Hotel California    Eagles: Hell Freezes Over

7    I've Got You Under My Skin (w/ Katharine McPhee)    Chris Botti: In Boston

8    Make You Feel My Love    Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

9    Set Fire to the Rain    Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

10  Hotel California    Eagles: Farewell 1 Tour - Live From Melbourne

11   I Can't Make You Love Me    Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

12   Feeling Good (Michael Buble)  David Foster & Friends: Hit Man

13   The Boys of Summer    Eagles: Farewell Tour I - Live From Melbourne

14  Smooth Criminal        Michael Jackson: This Is It

15  Turning Tables        Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

16   Shut Up & Bounce    Dostana

17   Beat It            Michael Jackson: This Is It

18   Englishman in New York (w/ Branford Marsalis)    Sting: Live in Berlin

19   Through the Fire (w/ Chaka Khan)    David Foster & Friends: Hit Man Returns

20   Orinoco Flow        Celtic Woman

21   My Way            Robbie Williams: Live at the Albert

22   People Get Ready w/ Joss Stone    Jeff Beck: Performing This Week...Live at Ronnie Scott's

23   Cinema Paradiso (w/ Yo-Yo Ma)    Chris Botti: In Boston

24   I've Got the World on a String    Michael Bublé Meets Madison Square Garden

25   Lucky Boy        Bachna Ae Haseeno

26   Lovesong        Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

27   Emmanuel (w/ Lucia Micarelli)    Chris Botti: In Boston

28   Gravedigger        Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City

29   Bridge Over Troubled Water (Josh Groban with Brian McKnight)    David Foster & Friends: Hit Man

30   Wrapped Around Your Finger    The Police: Certifiable - Live in Buenos Aires

31   Hometown Glory        Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

32   Rumor Has It        Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

33   The Way You Make Me Feel (Take 2)    Michael Jackson: This Is It

34   Walking on the Moon    The Police: Certifiable - Live in Buenos Aires

35   Gimme Shelter (U2 w/ Mick Jagger, Fergie &    The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts

CEDIA EXPO is a wonderful place to not only stay current on the latest technologies but to also see how great demos are given and – likely – find some new clips to use in your own demonstrations. Register for #CEDIA12 here using code CT07 and you can attend the EXPO for free.

Categories: July 2012, Movies

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