Barco Technology Day: Going Live
The fine people at Barco bought their newest products for live production and three international product experts to Sydney and Melbourne this October for Barco Technology Day. Jason Allen dropped in to get their perspectives on the current directions in display and control for events.
By Jason Allen.
Barco Technology Day ran October 13 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and October 17 at the Stamford Sydney Airport. Two sessions a day saw Alexis Skatchkoff (Product Manager, Projection), Dries Vandelannoote (Senior Product Manager, LED) and Meg Smith (Product Specialist, Image Processing) run the assembled crowd of current and potential Barco customers through their latest offerings in projectors, LED walls, and video control, and made themselves available for questions afterwards.
Alexis and Dries were flown in from Barco home-turf in Belgium, while Meg hailed from the USA. Local Barco sales and marketing staff were also on-hand. Major new releases for Barco in the room included the F 80 4K laser phosphor projector (lead picture) and the X 2.5 LED panels. Also on display were the UDX-4K32, 31,000 Lumen, 3-chip DLP laser phosphor projector, X1.2 LED display, EC event controllers, and S and E series event processors. While the session was very much about Barco’s offerings to its customers, we took the opportunity to pick the experts brains on developments in their particular market segments.
“The trends we’re seeing in projectors for live production is that everyone’s buying 4K and laser phosphor. Lamp-free and 4K; they go together,” said Alexis Skatchkoff, Product Manager, Projection.
“People are investing for the future. We still sell lamp-based projectors, but we see the adoption of laser happening very fast. Lamp-based projectors have almost completely disappeared from the market at certain brightness levels. As for 4K, it’s often more about image size than resolution. We’re seeing rental houses sending out one projector to do what used to be the job of two.”
With Christie dominant in large-scale projection in Australia, we asked Alexis to outline Barco’s point-of-difference. “We made the choice to go laser phosphor, which makes the projector smaller,” he offered. “Our 4K UHD models allow our customers to re-use their current lenses. This also has the benefit of a lot of lens shift, which we think is important for flexibility in rental – you never know how the projector will be hung, each venue is different, and you’re often forced to use the projector in circumstances you did not expect. Having the additional lens shift helps.”
Dries Vandelannoote, Senior Product Manager, LED, emphasised why LED panels from a manufacturer like Barco cost significantly more than no-name products coming out of China. It’s all about compliance and certifications.
“Electronics create radiation,” he pointed out. “You drive LED panels at 3,000 or 4000 Hz, so you get high refresh rates. If you don’t do anything to contain electromagnetic emissions, you will interfere with RF, especially in the frequencies used by wireless microphones. Shielding, PCB layout, cabling, and power supplies are all important. Some LED vendors test for electromagnetic compatibility without cabling, but you shouldn’t do that as the cable acts as an antenna.
Also, with LED, you have to measure a full square metre or more; the whole system must be measured.”
With even small shows going out on the road with major video components and a LED wall, how does Dreis see the market going? “In LED rental, things have changed,” he observed. “People used to use projectors for big screens, now we are seeing big IMAG on LED more often. We’re also seeing interest in higher resolution LED for events. In the USA, we’re hearing that 2.8mm pixel pitch is the sweet spot – it’s fine enough to have high resolution, but any smaller and it’s too delicate. It’s not batch dependent, either. If you buy it today or next year it’ll still look the same. That makes it really rentable, and you can also sub-hire to make a bigger screen if you need to.”
Meg Smith, Product Specialist, Image Processing, comes from a strong background in video for touring and production, having done time in Las Vegas with Cirque du Soleil, among many others.
“Live production is in an interesting zone right now in terms of how it handles getting video sources to displays,” she pointed out. “Media servers are part of the equation, but their downfall is in the latency, and that’s why bringing in live cameras is a nail in their coffin. For live camera feeds to be in sync, you need low latency, and to process at a better speed. Everyone’s after good quality, synchronised signals over long distance, and it’s still a little Wild West out there in terms of solutions.”
In a small touring market like Australia, we’re used to having one tech tasked with both lighting and video, but it’s a common scenario. “Even in Vegas, most shows run bare bones with the smallest possible crew,” she related. “It’s usually the lighting desk sending commands to video. Depending on servers, sources and size, there’s benefits to have a single operator, but only if you have other techs for trouble shooting. The big question is about overall show control – how does this equipment integrate with the rest of the show? With the Barco show controllers, we’re about our GUI and very easy networking. On the dual-screen EC-200 controller, you can see the whole system across the screens, and everything is visible in the web apps. You can view the web apps on one screen, and you can fault-find while still running the show.”
LIVE AND LOCAL
“We’re here to focus on our customers,” said Craig Saunders, Sales Engineer at Barco Melbourne. “Live and rental is part of our core. All of our projector and LED range is designed for rental and staging, and we’re glad to count TDC, Big Picture, Staging Connections, and Scene Change among our user base.
“We’re seeing a lot of mid-level demand driven by customers. Everyone now wants some sort of AV of decent quality, which is why we’ve introduced more affordable projectors and screen management. As far as LED goes, we try to reason with people looking at buying cheap product that you need to look at longevity. It’s hard to make a good LED screen that’s reliable, and the proof is in the pudding. We’re proud of our install bases here like Federation Square. That screen is nine years old and has been on 24/7.”