Integrate 2018 – Tech Trends and Changes at the ICC
by Jason Allen
Integrate returned to Darling Harbour and the new ICC from August 22 to 24 to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Despite some reservations about running on a Friday, turnout was good, with organisers reporting their busiest day ever on the Thursday. Exhibitors were feeling confident, stands were impressive, and the industry turned out for the biggest single location catch-up we have.
It’s About Hospitality
It’s become apparent that big, centrally located, expensive tradeshows like Integrate are really more about people than gear. It was a year of incremental product improvement, and few really big tech stories; all the action was in catching up with where people were at, where they were going, and what projects they were working on. With all of the distribution changes in the last twelve months, there was a lot of talking to do.
With that in mind, we’d like to congratulate the exhibitors who understood this and provided what is always in short supply at these things; somewhere to sit and chat, water, coffee (or something stronger later on) and decent food. Congrats to avt on their combination of a modest stand on the floor with a big room one floor up overlooking the show, replete with buffet, beverages and a comfortable lounge atmosphere. Hats off to NAS and TAG for including a café in the middle of their stands. Thanks to Bose for putting on a good post-show drinks, and big congrats to TAG for probably the most successful evening shindig at the show – they actually organised a piss-up in a brewery, and did so very well.
New Brands on New Stands
A mere one week before Integrate opened Jands announced it would be carrying select products from EV and Dynacord, re-opening their bread-and-butter trade of ceiling speakers and 100V line amps. The two Bosch brands joined newcomers Biamp, Robe, and L-Acoustics on the stand, making it almost unrecognisable from last year’s offering. Credit to them – they haven’t missed a beat. They were confident, proud, and selling like the powerhouse they always have been. Over at Amber Technology, Mackie made itself comfortable, while Harman installation products joined the mix at avt. Meyer Sound stood out at a vastly expanded Audio Brands Australia. And speaking of vast, NAS made an enormous impression with a stand about half the size of a football field.
Breakthrough Tech – d&b Soundscape
It wasn’t just the enormous stand that NAS had going for it. They also had a room running d&b audiotechnik Soundscape demos throughout the day. d&b double act Ralf Zuleeg and Gert Sanner delivered a slick presentation introducing the motivation behind and basics of the technology, before proceeding to blow the mind of all in attendance with its capabilities. The room was surrounded with a ring of 26 rigged loudspeakers on truss, plus 11 front fill on the ground and two subs. Ralf and Gert showed how Soundscape through the DS100 processor can be used for creating an incredibly realistic soundfield for a four piece band, follow performers in an opera, recreate entire concert hall acoustics, or be used for wildly creative immersive mixing. Stereo is dead. This is what’s next. I can’t imagine ever going back after mixing to Soundscape.
Tech Trends – PoE+ and Behind the Screens
If it doesn’t run on PoE+, it’s a non-starter. I think everything I saw at Integrate that was smaller than a briefcase ran on PoE+; AV endpoints, encoders, decoders, ceiling mics, PTZ cameras, and even amplifiers. Special mention to the Biamp Tesira AMP-450P, an AVB enabled four channel output model. Jands ran regular demos in a meeting room on their stand, and it absolutely caned the EV surface mount speakers it was running. All of this gear now being powered by Ethernet switches made me think – installers better be very careful with the switches and cabling they choose, and their calculations, or there are going to be a lot of things melting and catching on fire!
Integrate always has a huge number of screens, be they interactive, OLED, LCD, or LED panels. Whether you want to buy European or go to Shenzen and get them made to your spec, all the options were there. What now separates one offering from another is the handling and design, making what’s behind the screen more important than what’s in front. The newly merged VuePix Infiled impressed with Air Carbon AC5.3, a tour-ready system with its own dollies, with handles and rigging partly made of actual carbon fibre, making the units rugged and light. Barco displayed their deviously clever UniSee LCD video wall system that uses a tool not unlike an Ikea Allen key to make front-servicing incredibly easy. It’s hard to describe without getting hands-on with it, but it used a combination of simplified connection management, gravity, and gears to make moving panels, disconnecting and reconnecting, elegantly achievable for one person.
Read our full run down of exhibitors and gear at the show from CX September