New dimensions


With the advent of 3D, are organisers actually realising the full capabilities of such technology? Stand Out looks at the issues surrounding sound and AV and asks whether the disciplines are getting the respect they deserve…

An innovative 6mm screen – Pixled F-6 – is to be launched at PLASA 2010 in September.  This new lightweight LED display is curvable in all directions and is set to create new parameters in video display technology, allowing a screen to be curved both horizontally and vertically.

It’s a completely new concept, and one that will allow organisers and production companies to build spherical or indeed any shaped objects, and because it’s lightweight weight loading is minimal.

The product is just one of a long line new developments within the sound and AV realm yet still organisers, particularly those within the exhibition marketplace, fail to fully realise their importance. In fact, if recent conversations are to be believed it would seem that exhibition organisers consider a plasma sufficient, and if budgets need to be cut sound, but more so AV, gets the chop.

Rob Leach, director, Line Up, suggests that organisers need to do more: “Agencies should be actively promoting the power of great audio visual with imaginative and creative ideas. These ideas need to utilise the awesome picture and audio quality that is now available. Audiences are very receptive to this type of communication but they do expect a certain quality standard.

“Many people now have home cinema set ups so they take for granted 1080p HD images with 5.1 surround sound and will always expect this level of technical quality.  This means that it is going to be the quality of the idea and communication that will engage them. However, it’s worth remembering that poor sound and vision quality will taint the audience’s perception of the communication, sometimes to the point of switch off”.

With the advent of 3D technology and 3D plasma screens, having a 3D screen is all well and good but is the kit running the screen up to scratch technically and is the content suitable for a 3D screen. If an organiser supplies normal content it won’t be magically transformed into 3D by playing it on a 3D screen. Basically, the capabilities are there to do some amazing AV work but decreasing budgets and a lack of understanding mean that this new kit is not being fully realised.

Leach continues: “3D is the current buzz, and it does have a fantastic capability to entertain, educate, explore and engage with audiences, but it needs to be used carefully and to the best production values to create the desired impact.”

Line Up recently designed and produced a 3D film for Volvo to launch its new S60 model to its dealer network over a 12-week period, and was watched by 5,600 dealers from 36 markets.

“There is no short cut to believable 3D. It takes careful planning, time and budget, but the rewards are that it can provide a magic to an event unlike any else. We are entering a digital age where we can create anything visually and audibly. We can immerse audiences believably in this digital extravaganza with a quality that is stunning and all for a reasonable budget.

“It does seem crazy that some agencies and clients are willing to sacrifice two of our most powerful natural senses and still expect to fully engage with their audiences”.

3D content is the buzz in the market at the moment, explains Oliver Brindley, marketing manager at ADI Group, citing a recent project at Oxegen in Ireland.

“I haven’t been at all impressed with the method of delivery without 3D glasses as I don’t think the technology is yet up to scratch. Where I have seen it work effectively is as part of a brand activation strategy on a larger scale.  For instance, we recently provided an iCONIC 100 mobile LED screen for the Nokia Live Stage at Oxegen Festival, used to show video and VJ content to accompany the on-stage DJs. Content was played out in 3D with Nokia heavily promoting the feature across the web and other media and distributing 20,000 pairs of free glasses in the week leading up to the festival.”

Content is king

According to Buz Ross, events business and production manager at Whitwam Audio Visual Solutions, there’s a further issue that appears to be prominent in the events marketplace; using new technology for the sake of it and not getting results.

“It’s a fact that some AV suppliers feed off new tech and the lack of understanding that goes with it. HD is a buzz word and it’s quoted on almost all technical specifications. HD video, plasma, camera, projectors and file formats and yet we nearly all mean something different when saying HD. 3D will be or is next.”

Ross says: “When selecting AV options for events ask this question: ‘Do you have a supplier that can see it through from content production to final display?’. If the answer is no then you open the door for one link in the chain to drop the quality by using a lower grade kit and passing on the blame. You get no benefit from HD, Surround Sound, 3D or lighting if you’re being sold short. An AV supplier with passion for their toys will bend over backwards to show off what they can achieve. Again find a good supplier but judge them on the kit and demo not the sales patter.”

 

Greg Jeffreys, director of Paradigm, agrees with Ross, and believes that the key issue is the sheer wooliness of what 3D actually means in practice, what it can do, and how much it costs. Jeffreys suggests that once the initial novelty impact of 3D wears off inevitably it will come back to content and compromise; event impact and affordability.

“3D is an illusion. It’s not real! Therefore the choice of content and medium is everything. Unless you have a large client with a massive budget, remember those, then it’s about choosing something that exists, but using it cleverly. Speaking as someone who owns a hardware company, the fact that it took so long for the penny to drop that it was all about the content is of ongoing embarrassment. The two issues that have unlocked this market for us have been partnering with the right content specialists and also going back to basics in terms of the delivery and replay media we employ.

“It really amuses me that the most successful and impactful ‘3D’ projects we’ve done recently have firstly been simulated 3D and, secondly, use a technique that first appeared 150 years ago on the Victorian stage – the Pepper’s Ghost.

“By using a content specialist who uses 3D animations in a variety of media and in both ‘passive’ and interactive configurations allows one to deliver effects at realistic budgets, without having to expensively reinvent the wheel. As ever, experience is the thing.

“The new stuff is for us is mostly to do with interactivity: using interactivity to make the content come alive and interact with the users. For this we mostly use GestureTek technology, but we are technology-agnostic, being careful to select the methodology relative to the project brief. Having said that, we’re on the brink of some exciting breakthroughs using 3D cameras that are just waiting for the consumer markets to develop them into affordable territory before they’ll be seen as realistic options in our key markets,” he concludes.

Attractive AV

Andy Noble, senior technician at Piranha AV, says that as an industry we have entered a new era with conference and exhibition organisers facing the challenge of wading through the many and various technological advances desperately seeking the one that will set them apart.

“With budgets getting ever tighter paradoxically the quest for wow factor can cost more than ever. Fancy AV rarely sells your product but it is what attracts people to it in the first place.

“Visuals with appropriately subtle sound effects are an essential tool and the challenge for our industry is combining imagination with technical ingenuity to provide the wow factor, on a budget.  A lot of emphasis has been placed on 3D and its capabilities and you would expect the big boys to be using this technology if only to show themselves as being bang up-to- date.  The jury is still out on whether the potential increase in footfall to your stand will turn into meaningful conversations about your products and eventual sales, or merely conversations about your latest up to the minute 3D screens.

“Often those tasked with creating the exhibition stand are not employed for their technical abilities. Technology moves at such a pace unless you’re in the industry you can’t possibly keep up with it and this lack of understanding of the possibilities often leads to your typically unimaginative and unsightly laptop/plasma screen combination with the cables forming a bundle of spaghetti clearly on show.