Celebrating CEDIA

Last week we had fireworks and speeches in Denver, as 84,000 screaming fans jammed Invesco Field to celebrate the upcoming CEDIA Expo. It was the biggest kickoff CEDIA has had since Bose sued them for use of the term "Lifestyle."

We missed that Home Theater For All rally, but we'll be at the real event all this week. CEDIA blog coverage will begin here on Ultimate AV and at our sister publication, Home Theater beginning on Wednesday.

And it promises to be quite an event. CEDIA, the organization formed by the custom installation industry, has grown enormously in recent years. It's still a much smaller affair than January's CES in Las Vegas, but highly focused. No digital watches, PDAs, or computers—unless they apply directly to controlling or enhancing an automated home or a home theater.

On the video side, we're looking forward to new LCDs with LED backlighting and local dimming, particularly the expected high-end models from SIM2 and Sony. Pioneer is not expected to show any truly new video displays, though we may get our first look at its new Signature monitor models, which lack tuners and on-board audio but employ hand-selected panels together with a wider range of adjustments. Pioneer is also working on a range of LCD models to cover smaller sizes than its plasmas can manage, but these will reportedly not be launched until CES.

CEDIA is also likely to see the first major showing (apart from small press events) of Mitsubishi's new LaserView rear-projection designs, which use a laser light source and a DLP imager. They are expected in stores before Christmas.

It will also be interesting to see if anything new is happening on the OLED front, though we’re not expecting any major announcements. OLEDs promise better contrast and deeper blacks than any current display technology, together with far lower power consumption, could revolutionize the industry, but probably later rather than sooner.

But the big video guns at CEDIA are always projectors, which makes sense given the custom install focus of the event. Meridian will formally present its new $185,000, 4K x 2K LCoS projector, which we saw at a pre-launch party last month. On a more affordable level, we expect to see new SXRD projectors from Sony (as many as three, with at least one at a new, lower price point). Panasonic will also show a new LCD projector. And expect new LCD designs from Epson as well, which we've anticipated since we learned of them at a visit last spring to Epson facilities in Japan.

Marantz will show a lower-cost, motorized anamorphic lens from Konica-Minolta, the $5,000 LN11S1, for its DLP projectors. It will also reportedly show a new Blu-ray player, the BD 7003. At $800, however, it may be just a tad pricey for a Profile 1.1 design that lacks BD Live (Profile 2.0) Internet capability. We already know of at least two other new BD players that will be shown, one from Sharp and another from Pioneer, but only the latter (a super-sophisticated and super expensive $2200 design) is BD Live.

There will also be a ton of new home theater electronics and speakers. On the latter front, CEDIA tends to feature in- and on-wall designs, but we'll keep an eye out for the sort of interesting new free-standing speakers that are more often first seen at CES.

Home automation and media server products are always big at CEDIA. This field is particularly chaotic at the moment, with heavy emphasis on proprietary designs and complex interfaces. We'll keep an eye out for products that promise to be friendly to a user who doesn't have a day job in rocket science.

Check back at both of our sites early and often. It promises to be a big, exciting show.