The Consumer Electronics Show, better known as International CES, is an event that can fly under the radar for many of the folks in our industry. Obviously the focus at this show is on the consumer end of things, and with that being the case, many of the gadgets and gear that are showcased at CES aren’t especially relevant to professionals.
Of course, seeing what sort of technology consumers are interested in and what products companies like Sony and Samsung are pushing to the market can be valuable pieces of information. And come on now…a countertop device that can print candies in a variety of shapes and flavors is going to be a factor in all of our lives at some point.
Walking around the show floor and seeing nothing but screen after screen, it’s obvious that the way people view their content has and will determine how we capture and create it for them. Will curved screens give us more leeway to be creative? What does a workflow look like if everything needs to be done at 4K? How will immersive gaming change the marketplace?
Shows like CES aren’t a place for answers but they give you a great perspective on what sort of questions you can and should be asking. I saw a little bit of everything at the show and a few snippets of my experience are below.
Available and Affordable 4K is Here
4K has been around for awhile, but in previous years it was something of a novelty because of how expensive it was and because it simply wasn’t being supported. Neither of those things are true any longer.
I don’t believe you could walk ten feet at this show without seeing a display that promoted 4K in one way or another. It seems like there’s still a question around whether or not consumers will truly adopt 4K but there’s no doubt that companies have embraced the technology in just about every conceivable manner.
I talked with David Foley from NanoTech Entertainment about this topic and how their 4K streaming set top box delivers 4K content over an existing infrastructure.
CES 2014 – 4K Has Arrived from ProVideo Coalition
Many have derided 4K devices and developments for a number of reasons, but Foley’s point in regards to the price of the technology these days is incredibly relevant. Not too long ago 4K TV’s were in the $20,000 price range, but the 4K TV’s and displays at the show were nowhere near this expensive. There are still questions about the “need” of such a high resolution, but at these price points consumers might not take that into consideration.
Samsung Continues to Roll Out New and Updated Products
Samsung announced the 12.2-inch Galaxy Note Pro at CES, so the push to make their tablet a viable professional alternative continues. Screens of every shape and size covered the show floor, but Samsung took it to another level with their video wall solution. That said, the displays weren't just here for show as they announced a 105-inch curved 4K UHDTV and a 85-inch bendable 4K UHDTV. What that means for people on both sides of the industry remains to be seen.
Unfortunately I wasn't around to see the Michael Bay keynote in person, but had already heard about it before the day was out. Some people have come out to defend him by saying we shouldn't be so critical of a person who has stage fright, but I'm not so sure that was his issue. You be the judge.
Oh, and there were some washing machines on display in the booth as well. Call me crazy, but such things feel a bit out of place in the Samsung booth. I mean, there aren't TV's built into them or anything. Perhaps they're wating for CES 2015 for that.
The Sony Experience
Sony proved that 4K technology is a big part of what they want to do as they announced the development of a 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector featuring the ability to cast a 4K Ultra High-Definition image up to 147-inches. They also added content options and a range of new 4K Ultra HD TVs for every viewer. Plus they told us we'll soon be getting the 4K Handycam® FDR-AX100 camcorder. Sony is definitely committed to 4K home entertainment and they proved that at CES.
They certainly made their presence known with the products they had to show and announce, but their booth was laid out in a circle which made it really stand out. Check it out below.
CES 2014 – A 360 Sony Experience from ProVideo Coalition
All Things 4K From Panasonic
While 4K was obviously the big trend at CES, nowhere was that more evident than in the Panasonic booth. Panasonic had some announcements around their Lumix line as well as their smart TV technology, but 4K was clearly their focus.
At CES they either showed or announced developments and products dealing with 4K Security, 4K Ultra-Wide, 4K Events/Projector, 4K Broadcasting/Production, their 4K tablet, 4K Ultra HD TVs, 4K Wearable Cameras, 4K Digital Cameras, 4K OLED Panels and 4K HEVC Technology. I don't even know what some of that stuff is but it's either on the horizon or here already. Now it’s just a matter of what consumers will or won’t be adopting.
While the need for a 4K web browser isn’t immediately obvious, it will be when there's that much more 4K content available online. All of it makes questions around producing 4K content that much more relevant.
4K Tools and Workflows
Figuring out how 4K content can and will be part of an efficient and effective workflow as well as what sort of tools will need to be utilized weren't really topics of discussion at CES. However, they are certainly issues that professionals are looking to sort out. Neil Smith, CEO of LumaForge LLC, is someone who’s intimately involved in this process, and he talked with us about what this emphasis around 4K can and will mean from a production standpoint.
Smith is speaking from a position of authority, as LumaForge has been working with 4K imagery since 2006 and has developed a cost-effective data and color pipeline based around various professional products.
CES 2014 – 4K Tools and Workflows from ProVideo Coalition
Smith also talked with Jim Rossi from NanoTech about the world’s first 4K streaming player as well as the other products they had to showcase at CES. They discussed a few price points and how the products will impact the market.
CES 2014 – NanoTech from ProVideo Coalition
Big Companies Roll Out Big Products
With the focus on new tech and gadgets, CES featured tons of companies and countless products that would make your head spin. It's too much to try and take it all in but I made sure to check out some familiar faces as well as a few companies that made attendees take notice.
Canon had a nice setup featuring some bits of history as well as a showcase of their lenses, but they announced the PowerShot N100 digital camera at CES. It’s got a new Dual Capture mode which allows users to simultaneously capture content using the main camera while the story camera, a rear facing sub-camera, will embed a picture of them onto the main image.
Nikon also had a large presence at the show and they showed off the D4S digital SLR camera. The D4S will offer advances over the Nikon D4 digital SLR camera that includes better image quality and should be available soon. As always, there were plenty of their people at the show to offer hands-on demos of just about every product they have to offer.
GoPro also had a pretty big presence at CES, although I don’t believe they rolled out any new products at the show. Tiffen did have something to announce though, and since it was the Steadicam® CURVE™ for GoPro® HERO® camera stabilizer system it made sense their booths were right next to one another. I imagine they’ll both have much more for NAB, but it was great to see the two had such a presence here.
LG and Toshiba had 4K TV’s in all different sizes and shapes, and I mean that literally. Curved screens were a big novelty at the show, whether that curved screen was a TV display or a phone display. Both companies rolled out various products, but the highlights were probably LG’s 77-inch, curved, 4K resolution TV and Toshiba’s 4K laptops – the Tecra W50 and the Satellite P50t. Although LG’s monster 3D display was a nice piece of eye candy, I'm not sure about the availability of that one for consumers.
Intel made a big push with their 2in1 tablet/laptop, but what was more interesting was their immersive gaming display. They were one of the only companies to have any sort of display like this up and running, and the technology should be even bigger in years to come.
For the Pros
As consumer orientated as CES reasonably is, you can still find something more on the professional side if you look closely. And I looked very closely.
Chet Dayal, Marketing Development Manager from Corning Cable Systems, talked to us about Corning's new cabling technology that’s designed for production and post-production environments. He also talks through how they can be utilized in a workflow environment.
CES 2014 – Corning Cable Systems from ProVideo Coalition
Only at CES…
Gadets and gizmos were in every booth and corner of CES, and they did everything from spy on your kids to turn your phone into a taser. Some were more inventive than others, and most had to be seen to be believed. I didn’t dwell on these things too much, as there are others who cover such insanity in far better and greater detail. But the thought of controlling your house from your phone is appealing, and who wouldn't want to have every part of your body massaged at the same time?
Also really amazing was the flight simulator attached to three 4K 50 inch TVs at the Display Port booth. They had someone flying a Spitfire across the Kent countryside in England during WW2 and the level of detail it displayed was simply stunning. That setup isn't going to be cheap to recreate in your living room, but if you can make that happen you definitely won't have a problem getting people to come hang out.
Photo courtest of Neil Smith
Photo courtesy of Neil Smith
Even with all the amazing tech and toys, I think my favorite thing was seeing the folks who put QR codes on their back in an attempt to entice some attendees to hire them. I'm always saying that we’re living in the future, but these were two people who were making an intelligent attempt to find work in it.
I don’t know if they got jobs out of the show but I sure hope they did. For the future’s sake.
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