Posted May 28th, 2015 by Sean Brown & filed under , General, Technology.
It’s 8.30am on Wednesday 20 April, and the 2015 NEC Showcase is about to open its doors. The venue is London’s wine-themed Vinopolis. The previous day it was a blur of AV crews, trolleys and cardboard boxes – but now it’s presented smartly, ready for the crowds to descend. Over 1,500 of them in fact.
The NEC Showcase is divided into a dozen themed zones, each dressed to represent real-life installations of audiovisual equipment. The themes reflect vertical markets in which AV plays a big part: Corporate; Broadcast; Education; Media; Retail; and so on. Plus an Innovation zone purely for some out-there, experiential, blue-sky thinking.
The wine cellars of Vinopolis lend themselves well to the event, marking the boundaries of each zone and adding an atmospheric backdrop to the installations.
Let’s visit the zones where Pro Display’s latest screen technologies are on show.
Innovation zone: The Cube
Immediately after the main entrance and registration desk is ‘The Cube’, an immersive walk-in audiovisual experience.
High definition content is displayed on all faces of The Cube using Green Hippo’s Parakeet AV player, with imagery inspired by the Showcase’s Japanese visual identity. The Cube itself is constructed with NEC X401S monitors in the floor, Unicol Rhobus-mounted NEC X464UN videowalls on three sides, and a Pro Display Pro Diffusion ST rear projection screen as the ceiling, teamed with an NEC PX602UL laser projector.
Pro Diffusion ST projected ceiling in ‘The Cube’
Pro Diffusion ST is a rigid acrylic screen designed specifically for short throw rear projection. It’s hand-cast to create a concentrated layer of light diffusing crystals on one side, capturing and dispersing light from the projector, reducing hot spots whilst creating bright, even and richly coloured images.
It’s a versatile screen too, having been installed in a variety of environments including: retail stores; shopping malls; conference rooms; museums; TV studios; trade exhibitions; hotels… even as a public transport departure board.
Education zone: SunScreen
A wander around the arched caverns of Vinopolis, through a warren of tech-filled Showcase areas, brings us to the Education zone.
But back to school it isn’t. Here, the latest display technologies designed to help enhance the classroom (or boardroom) learning experience are being demonstrated. Edge-blended interactive displays, touch tables, collaboration, IPTV digital signage – all present and correct, sir!
Shining brightly at the front of the class is Pro Display’s SunScreen sun-readable front projection screen. Designed specifically for ultra-short throw projectors, SunScreen is a highly-reflective projection surface bonded beneath a unique light-rejecting filter. Even the sunniest classrooms won’t wash out SunScreen’s impressive performance.
Our SunScreen light-rejecting projection screen got fantastic comments
Projection duties fall to NEC’s UM351W UST projector. Many visitors commented on the image quality, and just how unlike a short throw projector it looked. That’s SunScreen helping it to perform at its very best.
SunScreen is perfectly suited to any indoor environment where high ambient light is a problem: boardrooms, conference rooms, and classrooms especially. It’s available in standard diagonal sizes of 80″ (like the one here), 100″ and 120″, or cut to custom dimensions.
(NB: At the time of writing this blog, we’re very much looking forward to welcoming the new kid in school: NEC’s U321H UST projector, with full HD resolution, a shorter throw distance, and a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. Sit it next to SunScreen for grade ‘A’ results!)
Retail zone: Digital Glass
Head upstairs and we find the Retail zone. This is the largest themed area in the NEC Showcase and home to two Pro Display technologies: the first being Digital Glass. Well, Interactive Digital Glass to be precise, as this 80” rear projection screen is teamed with our 6-point multi touch infrared frame.
We mocked up an imaginary department store information point, which might be used to navigate the shop, seek out the latest offers, browse product ranges or check what’s in stock before walking the floors.
We also wanted to show how well our optical screen technology can perform even with lower end projectors. In this case, an NEC UM330W ultra short throw projector, available now for less than £1,000, offered up a 1280×800 image from less than 2 feet behind the Digital Glass. The image is bright, spread evenly into the corners without hot spots, and with super wide viewing angles.
Digital Glass 80″ short throw rear projection screen with multi touch
This particular screen is made with toughened glass, which we can manufacture as a single seamless screen up to 6m x 2.4m for extra large format projection and edge blending. The same optical coating can also be applied to high clarity acrylic screens, available in sizes up to 3m x 2m.
On the touch side of things, an infrared frame from Pro Display’s intouch division provides smooth, responsive interactivity with 6 simultaneous touch points. Visitors are kind enough to compliment the speed and precision of the touch screen, comparing it to an 80” tablet. We agree, infrared touch technology has really come of age. And our touch frames can be manufactured in sizes to match the largest Digital Glass screens.
What surprises visitors even more is that both the touch frame and projector are connected (via USB and HDMI respectively) to a sub-£400 hp Pavilion laptop – hardly cutting edge PC power, proving what results can be achieved with very modest technology.
Retail zone: Mirrorvision
Last, but by absolutely no means least, is Mirrorvision. We were always confident that it would show itself well in a retail environment, however we must admit we are pleasantly surprised just how popular Mirrorvision is.
The scene is set by two curtained changing rooms: one with a standard dressing room mirror; the other with our Mirrorvision glass overlay with an NEC P703 70” LCD panel hidden behind it.
The Mirrorvision changing room was extremely well received
It’s an effect much better seen than described – even the best photos and videos don’t do justice to its performance. This particular Mirrorvision overlay is finished in our Silver option: highly-reflective, with a mirror effect almost indistinguishable from a regular one. Yet when the image shows on the LCD panel (or projection surface should you wish), the display is simply dazzling, with fantastic contrast and colour depth.
(As an alternative to the Silver option, Mirrorvision is also available in a Smoke finish that gives a darker, subtler mirror effect, but with equally stunning display performance)
The mirror can easily be made interactive too, simply by adding one of those touch frames that we saw earlier. And the touch frame itself can be hidden within a contemporary or classic mirror frame, or concealed completely behind a fascia for a sleek frameless look, creating something uniquely special for the retail world.