CES 2005
Posted Sep 1, 2005

Going to Las Vegas for CES, you expect to get a snow job inside the buildings . . . but outside? With a full-blown blizzard cascading down on the latest attraction on the Strip—the Monorail—I was treated to the same kind of weather I left back home in Utah. But what a surprise for sunny Nevada!

Speaking of which, I give my "You Gotta be Kidding Me" award to this train. We've been doing airport trains to handle hundreds of people an hour for how many years, so why did Las Vegas get this wrong? At the start and the end of day the monorail was useless, with amusement park-long lines. Doesn't bode well for NAB in April.

Once inside the warm Hilton Theater, I gave the "Not Ready For Primetime" award to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who managed to fumble his consumer software demo during his keynote address. Now, I can't fault a guy for having problems with remotes, software, and PCs. These things happen to all of us. But they shouldn't happen to Bill Gates. He can afford a professional Paranoia Technician to make sure that when it breaks, they can fix it. Especially when he is showing off a product called "Plays For Sure." (There's some hubris if I've ever seen it.) Instead, he left us thinking he meant to say "Pray For Sure" to get it to work. And in the world of consumer electronics, it has to work or consumers lose interest very fast.

By its very nature, CES is a consumer show, but there's always some videography in there somewhere. First and foremost among event videography's CES presence was the team shooting the conference. The show's parent, the Consumer Electronics Association, hired Gourvitz Communications of New York to cover the show. They had three teams on the ground in and around the halls and booths right on the first day.

They were using Panasonic DVCPRO cameras with output edited onsite on an Apple PowerBook using Final Cut Pro. As Gourvitz' Dan McEnroe says, "We've saved so much money going with Apple. I can edit the b-roll right there, at the show, right on my laptop."

So Dan leads us to our second and third awards: the "Apple of My Eye" and "Hey Coach, I Didn't Come Here to Sit on the Bench" awards, to Final Cut Pro for the Best Videographer Tool up and running at the show. Meanwhile, back on the floor . . .

The hottest trend at CES was portable media players. As exciting as the iPod is, the news is that you can now download all your videos as well as music into a pocket player. One that I loved was the Archos PMA400. It not only plays back audio, but is a 120-hour video recorder (even from TV), a digital photo viewer, and a full PDA. How's that for functionality? They easily win the "Are You Sure You're Not from the Swiss Army?" award for Best Portable Media Player and All Things To All People Device.

Have you been to a business or bridal show and not gotten a lot of attention? MocomTech has just the thing: a free-floating projection screen. Well, almost. Their Dupic polycarbonate screen material is like Saran Wrap. Put it on a sheet of transparent acrylic and you turn it into a highly reflective screen. Not only that, but it is see-through, even under those harsh convention center lights (that's off-axis ambient light rejection at its finest). Hanging this screen in mid-air gives a breathtaking feeling of your promo video floating in space with your LCD projector. There's limited U.S. distribution (which should change soon), but one place to look is http://electricimagetech.com/superbrightscreens/dupic.htm.

Meanwhile, you'll find the company at www.mocomtech.com. They win my "Do My Eyes Deceive Me?" award for Best New Screen Technology.

Speaking of screens—remember picture tubes? Samsung (as well as LG Electronics) showed off these low-cost alternatives to plasma and LCD in wide-screen 16:9 slim versions to fit in almost the same narrow space as flat screens. They plan to ship 30" versions for under $1,000, about half of what a comparable LCD would go for. Again, if consumers will upgrade to HD, it will also be to get the wide-screen picture. Now, with a much more reasonable price point, they can get it. So I give Samsung my "I Want My HDTV" award for giving us an affordable alternative.

Norcent, an energetic up-and-comer in all-things-electronic, showed off shipping versions of their displays with the Picture-to-the-Max ("P-Max") video chipset. Using real-time adjustments, P-Max gives a sharper, crisper image with greater color depth—just the kind of thing you need to show off your work in the best possible studio-demo light. In side-by-side comparisons, the Norcent picture seems to jump out at you with its greater intensity and vividness. So Norcent wins my "Eye-Popping Eye-Candy" Best Picture Award for their P-MAX displays.

Need to share files with your clients but don't have a Web site? You could try email, but many systems don't accept large attachments. In answer to this, Mirra demo'd their Personal Server, which makes online sharing almost painless. You plug the Mirra unit into your high-speed connection (DSL or cable), and Mirra does the rest. Honest, it is a really slick solution. They win my "Nearly Novocaine" Award for Most Pain-free Internet Tool.

Ever need to do still photography of rings, flowers, or other products? As anyone who's tried it knows, producing picture-perfect product shots is anything but painless. Ortery's Coloreal eBox is an almost-automatic way to get these controlled-lighting shots perfect. It even includes a Canon PowerShot digital camera so it's ready to go out of the box. Here's my prestigious "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" Award for Best Photography Tool.

Finally, my coveted "Dave's Gotta Have It" Award goes to the several Polyconcept USA products—particularly the RCA Empire CD Tower—for Best Design. The tower is a real stunner as a centerpiece for a reception area. Check it out at www.polyconceptusa.com to see what I mean. There you'll also find their to-die-for Retrovision TV, which just begs to be made into a PC chassis as well. This may not represent technology innovation per se, but these devices are wonderfully innovative at making life simple with technology.

And isn't that what CES is all about?