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CES 2012 Pro Audio Wrap-Up

Las Vegas, NV—As the world’s largest consumer technology trade show, the 2012 International CES provided a unique glimpse into the new tools and services that impact the pro audio industry, both in terms of new business opportunities for content creation and delivery, but also tools that streamline our creative process.

Dolby Labs showcased its Cinema Sound Space initiative for Video On Demand services as part of its expansive presence at CES 2012.LAS VEGAS, NV—As the world’s largest consumer technology trade show, the 2012 International CES provided a unique glimpse into the new tools and services that impact the pro audio industry, both in terms of new business opportunities for content creation and delivery, but also tools that streamline our creative process. New internet delivery services abounded, as did a host of applications for tablets, ultrabooks and other portable devices.

While this year’s confab reportedly marked the last time that Microsoft and Intel will exhibit—Apple bowed out several years ago—there is no denying that the show was a strong indicator of future trends, attracting a record 153,000 attendees last month.

“With more than 3,100 companies showcasing 20,000 new products,” states Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association/ CEA, “CES is the world’s largest hub for consumer technology innovation, from ultrabooks to connected TVs.” During his traditional pre-CES keynote address, Microsoft president/ CEO Steve Ballmer announced that Kinect would come to Windows on February 1, and provided a demonstration of the much-anticipated Windows 8 OS. Xbox with Kinect will serve as an integrated entertainment hub to offer a range of personalized viewer experiences.

Intel showcased a range of ultrabook portables from such brands as Acer and ASUS with AppUp-series applications that offer dramatically faster user response, while chipmaker Qualcomm demonstrated Windows 8-based applications running on its powerful Snapdragon S4 processors with AT&T 4G LTE wireless connectivity. (Interestingly, Apple’s Mac- Book Air, the original ultrabook, accounts for more than 28 percent of the firm’s U.S. notebook sales.) Also to seen in the Intel booth: MOTU’s HDX-SDI I/O with Thunderbolt technology that provides AV capture and monitoring up to 1080p.

Tablets were everywhere at CES 2012, with competitive offerings from a number of companies, based primarily on the Android OS, together with myriad apps aimed at the content creators, including Griffin’s StudioConnect and MIDIConnect interface for the iPad (with MIDI I/O for the GarageBand app), IK Multimedia’s new iRig Mix with two stereo inputs and EQ controls, plus Line 6 keyboard controllers for iOS-based mobile devices. There were also deep hints that the next generation of wireless networking technology, 802.11ac, which supports 1 gigabit-per-second connectivity, might be available by year’s end.

Sennheiser unveiled the HD-700 dynamic stereo headphones with ear cups that direct sound to the ears at a slight angle for enhanced sonic performance; the firm also received a CES Innovations 2012 Design and Engineering Award for the RS-220 digital wireless headphones. Audio-Technica celebrated its “50 Years of Passionate Listening” with the introduction of several limitededition products, including over-ear and in-ear headphones, while Peavey Commercial Audio showcased examples from its processing and control products using MediaMatrix, Crest Audio and Architectural Acoustics components.

DTS unveiled DTS 5.1 Producer, a multichannel encoding technology that is now integrated into Cyber- Link’s PowerDirector 10 video editing toolset Blu-ray Disc authoring. Digital Rapids’ Transcode Manager 2.0 now includes the firm’s codecs to support UltraViolet Common File Format (CFF) media. Transcode Manager offers encoding and multiplexing of a wide range of DTS-HD codecs, from lossless Master Audio to low bit-rate Express.

Dolby Laboratories showcased its new Cinema Sound Space initiative, which is intended to broaden the creative palette for media developers that are providing immersive content on a variety of delivery devices using video-on-demand (VOD) services, including CinemaNow, Netflix and Vudu. The firm also announced that HBO Go will be using Dolby Digital Plus to deliver content to connected TVs and Blu-ray players, as will Samsung to support its Acetrax application for Smart Blu-ray players and Smart Blu-ray home theater systems in Europe.

Two connectivity schemes also made a presence at CES 2012. The USB Implementation Forum was spotlighting SuperSpeed USB (aka USB3), which now includes an AV specification for sending 5 Gbits/sec across conventional cabling; Display- Link was demonstrating new I/O devices using its new chipsets to send high-resolution digital video from a laptop PC to an array of SuperSpeed USB-capable video monitors. HDMI Licensing announced advanced details of a new standard to be unveiled in late 2012 with increased bandwidth for higher audio and video resolutions, plus a variety of features aimed at professional applications within production facilities.

Audio Video Bridging, the openstandard networking protocol, was being demonstrated by DSP4YOU, a Hong Kong-based development company that streamed audio from an Apple Mac mini to its new Open- DRC-PW platform, even though the Apple drivers are still in Beta release, while miniDSP unveiled its new range of OpenDRC audio processors, including a unit that offers Sharc DSP-based digital room correction algorithms via AVB streaming from a Mac mini over conventional Ethernet links with low latency and sampleaccurate synchronization.

The U.S. consumer electronics industry is expected to increase by 3.7 percent in 2012, exceeding $202 billion, and global spending on consumer technology devices will surpass $1 trillion in 2012.

Mel Lambert has been involved with the international AV production industry for more years than he cares to remember. He is principal of Content-Creators.com, a Los Angeles-based consulting service, and can be reached at mel.lambert@contentcreators.com; 818-558-3924.

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