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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

CEDIA 2011: Miscellaneous Awesomery

Posted on October 3, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Yes, I realize that CEDIA 2011 is now three weeks in the bag at this point. The show is dead and buried, and the first little bugs and crawly critters are just starting to work their way into the casket to start gnawing away on the fleshly memories and other juicy bits. But I’ve been busy and still have a few other things I want to talk about from the show. And, since it’s my blog, I’m resurrecting CEDIA 2011 at least one more time to talk about some of the cool stuff beyond audio, video and social media I encountered on my far-too-brief time meandering the show floor. (I have added a new CEDIA/CES category tab on the side. If you decide you want to read other CEDIA related stuff, click that tab and you can see it all in one handy-dandy location. C’est bon?)


Ready to recap? Please to continue reading...


Kaleidescape - Just one more thing...

It was only apropos that the first booth I encountered on Thursday when I stepped onto the show floor was Kaleidescape’s. After releasing the M700, Integrated 300 disc Blu-ray player/vault a few months earlier, you might have thought that the Big K had run out of ammo for new announcements at the show. But you would be totally wrong and that’s what you get for thinkin’. They actually had three pretty major announcements. One of the things that makes many of Kaleidescape’s announcements so awesome is that they A) not only make the system better for new owners, but they B) make the system EVEN BETTER for existing owners. And for free! Free…the greatest upgrade gift of all! So feature the first was a new cinemascope mode that will allow users with an anamorphic lens system (raises hand) to get a new GUI that is specially created for the wider, 2.35:1 aspect ratio; it will show more cover art, and ALL of the list info (title, actors, directors, rating, release year, genre, run time) on the screen when browsing. It will also reposition subtitles for any of those pesky films that decide that the subtitles should be repositioned from their theatrical release into the black area below the film. Since Kaleidescape has the metadata on like every movie and KNOWS what the correct aspect of every film is, the system will automatically adjust between 2.35 and 1.85/1.78 content, allowing an anamorphic lens to always remain in place, making operation easier and more foolproof for owners. (Sidebar: I’m not sure I TOTALLY agree with this approach. I like the ability to view non 2.35 Blu-ray titles in native, dot-by-dot, un-altered, full resolution WITHOUT the secondary lens being in place. The lens also causes a small but perceptible loss of light. Even if Kaleidescape’s resizing algorithm is 100% perfect, non-1-single-pixel-artifact inducing, there is still the light loss issue. However, after getting to discuss these concerns with Kaleidescape engineers and product managers for like 15 minutes – another of the awesome things about CEDIA; if you have a question or a concern, you often get to talk to THE GUY who can give you an answer or who is in the position to actually fix or change it – I am reserving judgment until I can actually play with it in my own home. What I won’t disagree with is Kaleidescape’s position that having to pick the proper lens setting, and moving the lens in and out can often be confusing to some tech-challenged owners and that leaving the lens in place all the time will make system operation easier.) Announcement the second: an upcoming iPad control app. While there is a third-party app available now, it is $149. The official K-app will be free and looked totally awesome. Being able to browse titles and pre-select scenes or songs is going to be an awesome addition, as will the full music control without having to turn the TV on. The final announcement brought about a realization of something that I had been talking about with Kaleidescape’s co-founder, Cheena Srinivasan since the early 2000s. They always had a clear vision for the Kaleidescpae system: beyond merely stored client’s physical disc media, they ultimately saw Kaleidescape as a portal for new media acquisition and delivery. At CEDIA Kaleidescape launched its new download store. Currently the store is only to dealers, who can go and download a bit-for-bit copy of the original Blu-ray content, of a 30-minute documentary titled Gray Eagles.

For those challenged or frightened by the thought of reading words in a JPEG, Gray Eagles is about “A beautifully restored P-51 Mustang inspires a World War II ace to share his wartime experiences with his grandchildren.” The download store will open for customers in Q1, when the title will also be available for free download. While they couldn’t announce the number or names of titles available at launch, according to Linus Wong, Kaleidescape director, product marketing, “There will be a great selection of great content.”


Channel Master - Cable Haters Rejoice

If you’re saying, “Wait, I went to every single booth at CEDIA and I never saw Channel Master! John you’re a big, fat liar!” then I would say, you sir, are wrong. My body-mass-index is perfectly where it should be and you are also not one of the privileged members of the press elite that was invited by Caster Communications to have a private, embargoed look at this new product at their private room at the Omni! Yeah. So who’s the big-baller now?  That's what I thought. It’s no secret that people pretty much hate the cable company. (I am *literally* sitting here right now hating my cable company.) And as the cable co continues to Jackson prices (remember when a $100 cable bill was an anomaly? Now everyone has at least a $100 bill! In fact, we long for the days of JUST a $100 cable bill!) and broadband Internet becomes more commonplace, folks are severing the spiteful cable umbilical and looking to get their TV fix elsewhere. But the problem with full-on streaming is that many programs don’t exist in the on-line-o-sphere.  (Read my bloggie about Google TV...) But what is available pretty much everywhere is OTA: over-the-air. With a trusty antenna – that outdated bit of technology that is having a 21st century resurgence; what is old is new again! Keep that handlebar moustache wax at the ready! – one can pull in quite a bit of totally free programming. According to studies, in most markets this amounts to 30 free stations. FREE. As in you don’t have to pay. Free as in, take all that saved money, and go buy yourself a decent audio system. Preferably from me. And not only free, but higher quality because the ions and molecules in the air don’t require any compression to squeeze the signal down a small copper wire and can handle the full range HD picture signal. The new Channel Master TV incorporates DVR (think “TiVo” without the brand name or the ba-boop sound effects) functionality letting users ditch cable and still keep the pause, rewind, record features that they’ve grown to know and be unable to live without. The Channel Master TV has a 320 Gig hard drive, and includes a subscription free electronic program guide. (A subscription version – ie “pay -- is available that gives up to a two-week scheduling look ahead.) The box also features dual tuners, allowing users to watch one/record one or record two while watching something already recorded. Perfect for those nights when you are catching up on a Mike Hawke “One Man Army” marathon while promising your wife that all of her Teen Mom and designer shows are being safely recorded for later, shameful viewing. The box also includes the VUDU service that can deliver some of the highest quality HD on-demand movies as well as other streaming content. Beyond those looking to merely cut cable, I think the Channel Master TV will be the greatest benefit to those that already get their programming via antenna; letting them rejoin the rest of us in the 21st Century that have already discovered the joys of fast-forwarding through commercials and time-shifting Survivor. Due to my irrational hatred and mistrust of the cable company, I can't wait to get a review sample. And a suitable powerful and awesome antenna. One that stands on my roof like an affront to the Gods!


SurgeX - Give lightning the middle finger. Both of 'em

Beyond joining these guys for dinner on Wednesday night and the awesome fact that they hired a last minute, temporary booth girl working as a bartendress from Indiana’s equivalent of Coyote Ugly, The Ugly Beaver or something like it, SurgeX gives some of the most compelling demos of surge protection in action. Giant, 6000 volt, 3000 amp zaps that their system shrugs off with a, “Huh? Wha? You say something, electricity? I felt a little tickle on the line, but whatever” that then turns other, competing products into crack-pipe, smoke-roiling piles of destroyed varistors and diodes. It’s a beauty thing to watch. Plus they have an 11-year warranty because, well, their stuff DOES go to 11.

Well, SurgeX took their surge elimination technology and made it into a long, strip outlet version that can have 18 or 24 outlets that conveniently mounts to the inside, side-rail of a rack system. I JUST finished a job where I used two lower end models that didn’t give the same number of outlets OR the same Sith-lightning absorption power. A product that installers can sell that actually helps them in the rack AND does some good to the system? This one.

Future Automation - The name is Mount. Cool Mount

Rotating license plates? What are we, 12? Buzz saws coming out of hubcaps? Played out, plus all the cool kids have run-flat tires. Machine gun jubblies? Only asking for trouble. Sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads? Experimental at best. But Future Automation motorized lifts and mounts? Sa-WEEET! This was like the most James Bond, Q-Branch cool thing I saw at the whole show, including the off-site Q-Branch display located at the JW Marriott. Usually motorized mounts are one of those seen-one, seen-em-all kinds of “Mwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!” noisy, slow, TV moving things. They’re slow, their noisy, they’re not that discrete, people have them because they have to, not because they think they’re cool. But the Future Automation stuff was just awesome! You’ll want them to create you some kind of motorized mount mechanism just so you can watch it slide in and out of some hidden wall cavity. I want to have them make me one just to hide my stash of gummi cola bottles. Apparently one guy had them make him a lift solution that displayed a regular, schlub kind of painting for his everyday, swill drinking friends, but when it came time for his upper-crust, Mouton Rothschild sipping buddies to come over and play some high stakes baccarat or maybe just a good old-fashioned money fight, away disappeared the velvet painting of Dogs Playing Poker and out came an original Rembrandt. This now-it’s-a-mirror-now-it’s-a-TV mount was SO cool I had to film it. Then kept pressing the button while jumping up and down giggling and yelling, “More! More! Fun! Fun!” until they asked me to leave. Please to enjoy Sciacca-Films production of "Mirror!"

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OmniMount - Autobots, Ergotron is of no help to us!

Want to know what is even more boring than a typical motorized mount? A regular wall mount. The height of, “Wow. A mount. How interesting. I can actually feel my soul dying. Right there. Did you hear it?” But the new OmniMount PLAY40 was impressive because it uses a new Transformers sounding Ergotron Constant Force Technology (“Ergotron! We must fight together to destroy Megatron and the rest of the Decepticons!” “But Optimus, Ergotron a TV wall mount. Ergotron only here to love and entertain! Ergotron sworn to serve and protect TV.” “Ergotron, you either join us and fight with the Autobots, or I’ll be forced to destroy you. Myself.” “Ergotron scared! Ergotron transform into flat panel mount. Ergotron go sleep now.") If you’ve ever tried to move a cantilever arm mount before, you know that it can rival a Festivus feat of strength and the mounts usually kind of wiggle and wobble and tilt and shimmy and what not. Not this baby. It just requires a slight nudge – almost a mental Force Push if you will, and you KNOW I will! – to get it going and holding its position. This was about as cool as an non Future Automation mount can ever hope to get. Now, if only it *could* turn into some cool sports car without the douche know it all attitude and giant explosions.

URC - You got remote in my vodka! No, dude. You... got... VODKA... on my... REMOTE!

 They showed two pretty cool things in their booth. Thing one was a new splashproof MXW-920 remote control. I don’t know what “JIS Class 4, IP-class 54: water resistance rating means, but it sounds official. It sounds like it was actually tested by a panel of people that knew what the hell they were doing. It sounds like I could leave it out in the rain and that it would just sort of dig it, waiting until I remembered I left it outside. I do know that it programs like the MX-900 and if Radio Frequency and THAT I like. I can’t tell you how often it would be nice to have a remote out by the swimming pool to change a station or raise or lower volume. A remote that I could use to paddle around the pool or use as a shield during a crazy splash fight. And my current solution – yelling or texting at Dana -- is highly unreliable and very susceptible to angry retaliation.

The second thing URC showed was a new receiver, the TSP-2000. This is designed to live in the URC control eco-system and if there is going to be any receiver out there that should be more plug-and-go when working with URC programming, I’d like to see it. (Seriously. I would like to see it.) The TSP-2000 is said to be 9.2-channel (though it doesn’t appear that it will actually DO all 9-channels at once; there was some uncertainty at the show, but from my extensive examination of the rear panel, I am thinking it is more 7.2) and has streaming capabilities from URC’s new media system built right in.

Russound - Airplay Triple Play

While there is nothing overtly groundbreaking about Russound’s DMS-3.1 media streamer – it does three streams of digital audio at once, like oh so many other multi-zone products out there – what IS groundbreaking about it is the fact that it is (to my knowledge) the ONLY product that will handle three separate Apple AirPlay streams. Most give you one. This gives you three. Three times the AirPlay for three times the AirFun! Now the family can all sit sequestered in their rooms, isolated with their own iPad or iPhone, selecting and listening to their own music! It has elevated listening alone to an art form! Seriously though, multi-zone AirPlay is going to be the wave of the future, and with Russound the future is now! (Trademark pending...)

Crestron - Small is the new... No, it's still small, but cool

 While it might have APPEARED that I wasn’t paying attention during the press booth walk-through, I want to let you know that I was. Kind of. Look, I was next to Lisa “Look, you look like Katherine Keiner. It’s a compliment. Just accept it” Montgomery and Darryl “No. That must be someone else's hand on your bottom” Wilkinson and it was first thing in the morning, so I was mentally challenged. Also, Crestron had like a 10 to 1 Blue-shirt wearing employee to both visitor ratio at all times. I don’t know how many people actually work for Crestron, but I think that if they stopped bringing employees to CEDIA, the CEDIA attendance figures would take a perilous dip. Statistically, you had a more likely chance of randomly throwing a ball as far as you could and having it hit a Crestron employee than it just hitting the ground. But one thing I did see in their booth – besides this like 25U, biggest component in the history of components, like if they decided to start remanufacturing of old Univac computers without ANY miniaturization, 24 x 24 digital matrix switcher of digital awesomeness! – was a touchpanel controller that fit in a single gang wall plate. It had like a sub 3-inch screen. Sure, people like their iPads and iWhatevers, but sometimes you just need a really small, permanently located control to turn on the lights or change the volume or trigger your “It’s Sexy Time” scene. (Like you don’t have one.) This controller could do all of that and more because even though it was small, it was jam-packed full of sweet-sweet, Crestron nougat-ey goodness.

Categories: October 2011, CES/CEDIA, Electronics

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1 Comment

Reply Nick
1:20 PM on October 5, 2011 
I;m a bit concerned about the fingers in the remote pic, looks like there could be a vitamin deficiency at work, perhaps from ingesting too much vodka. Or just some funky colored nail polish.

Also, as a "Being John Malkovich" fanboy, I'm certain that Lisa M.'s doppleganger spells her name "Catherine Keener." I'd like to drink vodka with wither or both.

Thanks for the continuing stream of CEDIA goodness, it's hard for all of us to let go. Maybe a cruise would help clear your mind for the next big show.