CEDIA News Briefs

The annual Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) show has just vacated New Orleans, leaving several interesting announcements for home-theater fans in its wake. Custom-installation products and home-automation technologies usually cram the aisles, but among the in-wall speakers and specialized wiring systems were plenty of new consumer-electronics products.

During the show, Unity Motion, which has sped to market with HDTV broadcasts and equipment (see previous stories 1 and 2), aired a variety of HDTV movie clips, children's movies, and the entire feature film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery on their "general entertainment channel," HD-1. Programming for the show was broadcast from an uplink at Washington International Teleport outside of Washington, DC. "This is the most comprehensive HD broadcast in America to date," claims Kim Gamel, director of communications for Unity Motion. "We've committed $250 million to movie programming through the year 2000. We're buying from film distributors, movie studios, and independent filmmakers. In fact, we welcome the opportunity to work with anyone interested in bringing quality HDTV movies to North America." Around-the-clock HDTV broadcasts are slated to begin September 26 of this year.

Coincident with the CEDIA broadcast, Unity Motion also announced the introduction of its new UHD-3200 All Scan Monitor. The UHD-3200 measures 32" diagonally with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. It sports an internal line doubler and can display all 18 formats of DTV. "With any DTV source, you'll see more detail in this set than any other consumer direct-view set on the market," says Joe Kane, one of the designers of the monitor.

CEDIA showgoers also saw the announcement of Sony Electronics' first CRT projector specifically designed for home-theater use. Sony professional projectors have been used in the home environment for years, but this is the first time the company has specifically aimed at the consumer market.

The VPH-D50HTU projector ($13,990) incorporates three precision-aligned picture tubes for reasonable resolution on screens measuring up to 250" (diagonal), and it produces a light output of 160 ANSI lumens. This unit also features a built-in line doubler, multiple video inputs (RGB, component, S-video, and composite), and multiscanning capability to accommodate all analog and digital signals---NTSC, HDTV, DVD, video games, and the Internet---from a set-top box.

According to Jim Sandy, vice president for display systems at Sony Electronics, "From content creation to broadcast acquisition to integration throughout the home, Sony is committed to virtually every aspect of DTV development. The time is right for us to leverage this expertise into the high-end home-theater market. This projector will display programming from virtually any video source in any analog or digital format available."

The projector, due for delivery in October, will offer six different preset aspect ratios, including 4:3, 16:9, and CinemaScope. Video memory will let users store projector settings for VHS, DVD, television, and computer inputs, and recall them from a button on the remote control.

Faroudja Laboratories has taken the opportunity to launch a new "HDTV-capable" rear-projection system at CEDIA. With a 58" 16:9 screen, liquid-coupled CRT lenses, and built-in line doubler, the RP5800 is capable of displaying 480p, 720p, 1080i, or 1080p DTV signals, as well as computer resolutions of up to 1280x1024. The RP5800 will be available in October for a list price of $35,000.

Plasma fans will be pleased to note that Vidikron of America introduced their new 50" PDP (plasma display panel) TV at the show. The display features a resolution of 1024x768 pixels and can display all varieties of DTV, which the company says are appropriately scaled. The plasma display will be available in November for $25,000.

Also from Vidikron, the Epoch D-600 LCD projector provides a resolution of 1280x768 and is capable of handling NTSC, computer formats (VGA, S-VGA, and Mac), and all varieties of DTV using its built-in Digital Pixel Compression circuitry. The Epoch will be available next month for $9495.

On the remote-control front, the market has been ripe for easy-to-use learning remotes that can coordinate a variety of consumer-electronics products. Philips announced what they believe to be a breakthrough approach with their new $399 Pronto Intelligent Remote Control, which will be available next month. The Pronto measures 5.4" x 3.6" and features an animated, backlit LCD touchscreen. The remote comes pre-programmed with several A/V component commands and infrared (IR) codes, and can be customized by labeling and addressing virtual buttons in the control menus. An optional accessory kit ($80) includes an AC adapter and rechargeable battery pack.

According to Edson Farqui, general manager of Philips Digital Entertainment Group, "Feedback from our closest customers, including trade people and end users, confirmed a market need for a sophisticated yet intuitive and elegant solution for home-theater control. With Pronto, we've redefined remote controls, expanding the category with a handheld remote that addresses the consumer's needs while being fun to use."

New A/V components can be added through a two-way RS-232 serial port that uploads new configuration files, and the remote has an effective operating range of approximately 33', or 10m. Pronto can also receive IR feedback from various components, and can control any device that accepts IR signals, including lights, curtains, a fireplace, etc.