While the XV-Z2000 makes high-def performance more affordable, one of the limitations of front projection has always been the room itself. A projector can't create black since it's the absence of light, so most people can only get decent results by using dedicated home theater rooms that can be made extremely dark. Amazingly, this might be about to change. Sony and Arisawa Manufacturing each demonstrated black-screen technology that would allow you to use a front projector in nearly any environment, even a bright, sunlit room.
Sony's High Contrast screen (the name is tentative, and pricing and availability aren't set) has a layer of material that reflects only the red, green, and blue light from the projector, not ambient white light. Arisawa's Nexy screen (distributed in the U.S. by Mitsui Plastics, with prices based on the requirements of the custom setup) has a serrated surface, with one side of each serration painted black to absorb ambient light. Both screens were demonstrated in fully lit rooms, and I wouldn't have believed the quality of the images if I hadn't seen them myself. Arisawa, www.mitsuiplastics.com
You almost couldn't pick up a home-entertainmentmagazine in the past year without reading about Sony's Qualia 2004 front projector. It uses the company's Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) technology, which achieves a greater density of pixels than conventional microdisplay devices, providing terrific detail and a more filmlike picture. While the images produced by this projector are stunning, so is its nearly $30,000 price tag. But Sony is now making SXRD more affordable by bringing it to rear-projection TVs like the 70-inch KDS70XBR100 Grand Wega. When it becomes available early next year, it'll deliver 1080p (progressive-scan) HDTV resolution for less than $10,000. sonystyle.com
From Wireless TV to DVD Jukeboxes
A large part of custom installation is problem solving, and if you're trying to put a killer video system into an existing home, one of the biggest challenges can be getting the wiring to the TV or projector. Two new wireless products endeavor to solve this problem. Belkin's PureAV RemoteTV ($500) can transmit standard 480i (interlaced) component video up to 350 feet using the 5-GHz frequency range. For high-def systems, JVC's LW-HDW1 - $1,400 and dubbed Luciole (French for firefly) - sends video up to 35 feet at 1.5 gigabits per second using an eyesafe laser system. belkin.com, jvc.com
One of the most revolutionary products at the 2003 Expo was the Kaleidescape Movie Server, and this year's show found three more companies diving into this category. They all use massive hard drives for storage - up to 7.2 terabytes (TB) worth - and storage size has a lot to do with how they're priced.
AMX's MAX system ranges from a $12,000 250-gigabyte (GB) unit that can hold 25 DVDs to a $60,000 7.2-TB monster that holds 900 DVDs. The MAX system can serve up 25 A/V streams simultaneously as well as eight audio-only streams using an AVM client ($2,400) for each stream.
The iAPlayerZ(4) from iMuse ($3,995, due in December) can handle four audio streams and two video streams. Its 160-GB drive doesn't offer much space for video storage, but the server integrates easily with the company's iAVault mass-storage unit, which comes in 1-, 2-, or 3-TB sizes ($9,100 forthe 1-TB model, with pricing to be determined for the others; due in January). amx.com, imuse.us
Xperinet conjures up images of highpowered missiles with its MIRV (multiple independent replay video) server. The company is exploding onto the market with five models, from the 1-TB Tomahawk ($6,495) to the 5-TB Titan ($26,995). The servers include A/V outputs to support one stream, but they can support from three to six simultaneous streams, depending on the model, if you add a Taurus video-distribution client ($1,695 each) for every additional zone. xperinet.com
Time moves at a manic pace in the home entertainment world, and it can take only a year to bring about a lifetime of change. (If other industries adhered to the same clock, we'd all be driving hover cars and scheduling vacations on the moon!) Custom installers use events like the CEDIA Expo to stay current with these changes so they can meet the challenges of both today and tomorrow. If you're having trouble keeping up with home tech, seek out a pro to make sure your system is riding the cutting edge!
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