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Don’t Shoot Down the Shoot-Out

Great job to Peter Putman on his review of the INFOCOMM Shoot-Out in the August issue [“Riding Off Into the Sunset?” page 42]. As part of the crew that has put this event together for the past eight years, I appreciate his candor and attention to detail. Hats off to all his meticulous work! Although I can’t comment on his individual projector assessments, I hope the Shoot-Out committee will take his comments regarding the event itself under advisement.

However, it would be a shame to see the demise of the Projection Shoot-Out as an annual event at INFOCOMM. I think the event has helped push the improvements in the displays that we have seen in the past decade. It is always difficult to find new ways to challenge these new technologies, but our chairman, Steve Somers, has managed to do just that by adding new images and other innovations to the event each year.

I remember how, years ago, comments on the Shoot-Out floor centered around convergence, brightness uniformity, and color temperature. Nowadays it seems to be native resolution, scaling capabilities, and color temperature. Well, a few things have changed, but some haven’t. It’s been great seeing all the manufacturers and dealers come together every year for this event in a non-threatening environment, where performances can be evaluated relative to one another without a lot of the hype and biases associated with smaller events.

The Shoot-Out has helped many of the manufacturers and dealers grow up, and this is a good thing. The only question is where do we go from here? I hope it’s not time we stop growing.

Hans RigelmanExtron ElectronicsAnaheim, CA

A few modest proposalsI appreciated Peter Putman’s insights about the INFOCOMM Shoot-Out in the August issue. Here are a few thoughts of my own about the event.

First, I agree that the event is becoming less relevant for the portable and ultraportable markets. From a picture-quality standpoint, the differences between the projectors are hard to notice. On the other hand, for large-venue devices, we feel the Shoot-Out is still relevant, as long as [show management] can isolate the reflected ambient light from opposing projectors.

Secondly, we feel the Shoot-Out is still relevant for all categories of projectors because it provides end users and less informed buyers with a chance to get a snapshot of almost all of the offerings in each category. Without the Shoot-Out, many buyers might not be aware of all of the players in each category. It gives every vendor who cares to exhibit some exposure to a target-rich audience.

As a residential dealer, our interest in the Shoot-Out is the opportunity it provides to compare large-venue, high-output projectors – and it did provide that this year. With JVC stating that the D-ILA resolution will approach 2048×536 in 2001, and 3200×2400 in 2002, I think that many people – I, for one – will want to see six-figure, large-venue comparisons of DLP VS, LCD VS, D-ILA VS, and future laser VS or whatever else comes out.

Regarding ambient light, I humbly suggest that the following might be considered for next year:

– Reflected ambient light from opposing projectors should be minimized through whatever means is easiest to achieve.

– Ambient light from ceiling light fixtures seemed to affect displays differently, depending on their proximity to the light fixtures. This seemed somewhat unfair and made it difficult to compare.

– If ambient light is considered a valuable comparison tool, then maybe it could be better controlled so that it is more evenly distributed. Also, maybe a portion of the show could be used to compare the displays in ambient light. For example, maybe the Shoot-Out could alternate between light and dark conditions on an hourly or daily basis so that comparisons could be made in both environments.

I rely heavily on the Shoot-Out to make purchase decisions and would be seriously disappointed if ICIA choose to eliminate it. In many ways, the Shoot-Out is an industry barometer. For example, it has certainly helped demonstrate how the death of CRT for professional purposes has progressed faster than many residential, and probably even some commercial dealers, would have noticed without the Shoot-Out to validate the lack of offerings.

Tony Tangalos, president/CEOElectronic Design GroupScottsdale, AZ

Bad light showI was glad to see Peter Putman expressing the same reaction I had to this year’s INFOCOMM Shoot-Out. I still believe the Shoot-Out has the potential to be a useful and important tool for comparative analysis, as it once was, but sadly it has devolved into a confusing and disappointing experience.

In my opinion, the fundamental problem was the poor design of the Shoot-Out area. I wouldn’t fault a number of manufacturers for being furious with the haphazard lighting distribution and the resulting degradation to the apparent image quality of their projectors. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to conclude that participation can be more harmful than not participating. The effect of the reflected light on the large-venue projectors was especially severe. The primary value of the Shoot-Out has always been comparison under equal conditions, but I left the floor this year feeling that a fair comparison was impossible.

Pre-show literature announced the changes that would be made this year, including the emphasis on adding ambient lighting. I didn’t understand the rationale for this before the show, and my doubts were confirmed by the results. The whole point of the Shoot-Out, for me, is to focus on the projector’s image quality and relative brightness. We all know what ambient light does to a projected image, so it’s fairly easy to predict the affect that “real world” lighting will have, no matter which projector you prefer. To actually add ambient light to the environment, knowing that it will interfere with image evaluation, is a questionable tactic in itself. To do it badly was unfortunate, indeed.

The decision not to display ANSI lumen specs is, I feel, a mistake as well. I’ve heard all the arguments about manufacturers exaggerating ANSI ratings, but I don’t buy the idea that they aren’t helpful. As an educational tool they help illustrate quite clearly that: (a) apparent image brightness isn’t linear; b) you can’t always believe what you read in a spec sheet; and (c) getting a useful image involves more than just choosing the brightest projector.

Harry ThomasTechnical Director, DL/VTC/AVNaval Postgraduate SchoolMonterey, CA

Conspicuous absenceFrom my point of view, I think Sony’s decision to withdraw from the INFOCOMM Shoot-Out was a big mistake. But considering that they’re manufacturing such a large percentage of the LCD panels that are utilized by various LCD projector manufacturers, Sony can afford to just sit back and count the profits. Although, our dealership, which sells products that compete with Sony’s, has no problem selling these products when compared to Sony LCD projectors in shoot-outs at end-user locations.

Our company has entered into its 40th year of business and we’ve attended NAVA/INFOCOMM as many times as it’s been offered over these 40 years. One thing we look forward to is the Shoot-Out, especially since the introduction of LCD technology. The Shoot-Out gives us the opportunity to compare competitive product lines with those that we currently represent. This allows us to consider adopting product lines that we don’t currently offer if the performance in the Shoot-Out warrants consideration.

We currently carry Dukane, Eiki, Kodak, Panasonic, Optoma, and Sharp as our primary LCD/DLP product lines. The Shoot-Out gives us first-hand experience in determining the performance of these product lines in comparison to all others.

If, as stated in Peter Putman’s article in August, Sony thinks end users are only interested in comparing warranties, remote operation, menus, and networking capabilities, then they’re missing the whole point of the Shoot-Out. More than anything else, it is a place where potential end users can compare the projectors side by side before going to the manufacturers’ booths to check on the features.

I tend to think the real reason Sony has chosen not to participate in the Shoot-Out is that it has produced a projector product line that doesn’t stand up to the competition. I think Sony’s LCD product line can no longer live up to its reputation so they decided to pull out of the Shoot-Out to save face. Keep in mind – and we’ve run into it several times over the years – some people will buy a Sony product just because it is a Sony product, and Sony has worked long and hard to build on its reputation.

Glenn E. LupienAudio Visual Sales and Service

Shooting tips on targetJust wanted to say thanks for the great article by Barry Braverman that appeared in the July issue [“Incredible Shots,” page 86]. I read it through once, then again, then a third time so that I could take notes. So much practical advice for the shooter! I so totally agree that we should take more care with our shooting and less time manipulating (or fixing!) things in post. If we make it look good in the camera and on location, we’re so much further along by the time we reach the edit suite.

Not one to settle for the static camera on a tripod, I do a lot with the VX-1000 (adapted to shoot 16:9) on a DV Steadicam. I recently acquired the Cobra Crane II to use with my Sony DSR-500 widescreen camera. As far as I’m concerned, both tools are great storytelling devices.

Speaking of the crane/jib arm especially, is there additional advice or resources you could recommend for effective use? Just watching for the crane shots in feature films and lots of practice with my rig helps, of course, though the Cobra crane doesn’t have quite the reach of a Jimmy Jib or other “real” cranes.

Ed de JongVisual EdJ (“Edge”) Productions

Barry Braverman responds: I am pleased you found my article useful and informative. One good source for tips on effective jib operation is the tutorial tape available directly from Classic Video Products, the manufacturer of your Cobra Crane. It’s chock full of practical tips for the novice user. You might also look into the International Film & Television Workshops website (www.theworkshops.com), which frequently conducts seminars on camera operation, including crane and jib use. Most importantly, during the workshop you’ll be working with professional operators who really know the craft.

Eye of the shooterI just got around to reading Barry Braverman’s piece in the July issue [“Incredible Shots, page 87].” After 22 years as a shooter, I got tired of production that was running away to Canada, shrinking budgets, and gaffers with an attitude. So I hung up my light meter and dived into equipment sales. Your article should be required reading for every idiot visiting my office hoping to become the next Vilmos Zsigmond. They all think that the camera is their most important tool, when in fact their eye is the most important tool. What sets them apart from all the other people running around with a DV camera? It is their ability to see.

Richard McLeland WieserIntellisys Group; Bellevue, WA

Scheduling a deliveryThanks for the great article by Claudia Kienzle about the use of video in retail environments [“Caveat Emptor,” June 2000, page 28]. I am very interested in this technology. My company is currently getting video delivery via satellite. Are there any other companies (other than those you listed) that I can look to for help with programming and delivery?

Jody, via email

Claudia Kienzle responds: Yes there are, actually. One great resource is Electrosonic, which was egregiously omitted from the research on that story. The person to contact is Yvonne Hegarty. Her email address is yvonne.hegarty@electrosonic-uk.com. Electrosonic did quite a bit of work on the Best Buy installation featured in that story.

Toasting NewTekAfter reading Rick Shaw’s review of nonlinear editors at the NAB show in your June issue [“A Last Look Back at NAB 2000,” June 2000, page 38], it’s hard to believe that he and I were at the same show! I believe that our company team visited every NLE booth at NAB, and by far the most impressive NLE we saw was the new NT-based Video Toaster from NewTek. Its combination of features – including totally uncompressed treatment of video, multiple ins and outs including component, its Speed Razor or storyboard front-end – puts it in a class all its own. Indeed, our company has just changed its purchase plans from an Avid Symphony to the Video Toaster. The latter gives us just about all the functionality of the Avid (and then some) with image quality at least as high as Avid’s, at a fraction of the price. I cannot imagine why anyone would pay more than 10 times as much for the Avid for the same, or perhaps less, functionality. It’s really the same mentality as corporate IT people used to have with IBM vs. Macintosh (“no one ever got fired for buying IBM”).

J. Eugene FoxFoxhaven Video Productions

Left out of the big pictureI came across an article in your August issue by Debra Kaufman entitled “Detonation Unknown” [page 36] in which Debra reviews various providers of 360-degree, interactive, immersive technology. However, there is one missing from the list. I would like to introduce you to RemoteReality, provider of the easiest, fastest, most cost-effective and qualitative 360-degree, next-generation technology.

RemoteReality stands above its competitors because it offers an instantaneous, one-shot process requiring no image stitching, complicated programming, plug-ins, or separate downloading software. Our technology is unique because with just one shutter release you get a complete view. Similar technology from other companies requires taking two shots and stitching them together.

With our technology, once images are posted to the Web or burned to a CD, viewers can immerse themselves as if they were standing inside the image, using their mouse to pan 360 degrees left and right, tilt the image up and down, and zoom in or out anywhere in the view. RemoteReality also offers a richer immersive experience within the images by providing the ability to create hot spots (icons that are part of the larger image). These can be used as hyperlinks that lead to greater explanations of components. For example, you can have text labels that allow viewers to learn more about various points within the image or you can incorporate audio into images.

Fiona MaguireRemoteReality

Netconferencing is academicI’m disappointed you didn’t mention Vtel in your videoteleconferencing article in the August issue of your magazine [“Netconferencing,” page 66]. Several U.S. universities have had a multipoint videoteleconferencing system operational for more than five years, initially using CLI (Compression Labs) codecs. Following CLI’s merger with Vtel, we’re now on our second generation of Vtel’s equipment using its Galaxy software on a Windows 98 platform.

Our communications link is a T1 to the university’s central MCU, where all sites link. It has worked quite well for classes and lectures over the years. We’re just starting to do conferences over the Internet using the IP protocol, rather than the leased T1 line. One of the schools has an IP bridge, allowing multipoint, IP-based videoconferencing. We’re just starting to explore that feature.

Dave FeltComputer Graphics Lab, CaltechPasadena, CA

Rock and roll triviaIn the article about hearing loss among audio professionals [“Tommy, Can You Hear Me?,” August 2000, page 82], the author Roy Rising made reference to the rock opera Tommy. But what version of Tommy did he see? Tommy was not “handicapped from birth” as stated in the article. It was from the trauma he suffered as a small child in seeing his father murdered and being told by his mother and her lover that he didn’t see or hear anything and will say nothing. [There’s] nothing like a majorly wrong fact to wreck the credibility of a good article.

George Langley, MultimediaDeveloper, Audio/Video Editor

Roy Rising responds: You’re quite correct. I hadn’t reviewed the story of Tommy for many years when the reference arose for my column. I hope you’re the only one for whom the inaccuracy damaged the credibility of my urgent message. I, too, tend to question the whole when a small detail is in error. Thanks for speaking up.

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