Review: Tomorrow’s Technology Expo 2015

posted on Friday, 20th November 2015 by Steve May

Karma-av  Wyrestorm  Marata Vision  Project Q 


The premium end of home theatre systems was the focus of the first Inside Out TT (Tomorrow’s Technology) Expo. Integrators from across the UK became the first in Europe to see the new Sony 4K VPL-VW5000ES projector, and hear the latest JBL Synthesis Dolby Atmos-enabled processor and sound system from Harman Luxury Audio. But there was more to the day than just premium boys toys.

The event, held at the Sony Europe HQ in Weybridge was hosted by industry analyst Chris Forrester. To set the scene, Chris outlined just where the industry is in relation to the roll-out of 4K UHD TV services, based on the latest information released at broadcast Expo IBC and content fair MIPCOM.

Obviously, one hot topic which dominated the day’s coffee breaks was HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology. Chris walked attendees through the multiplicity of standards currently being debated and showed just how big a difference HDR can make to images – “It’s not just about peak brightness, it’s about colour depth too,” he said.

Less well known is the impact of Wide Colour Gamut technologies. Examples were shown of just how significant the journey from REC 709 to the new BT2020 colour space will be. “4K TV sales are booming,” we were told. “The UK is now the biggest market for UHD screens in Europe, with sales of 509,000 pieces between August 2014 and September 2015, and the growth is accelerating.”

And while we wait for UK broadcasters to follow BT, the content revolution is already underway, with Pearl TV, NASA TV, Fashion One and High 4K already transmitting around the world.

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Digging even deeper in the entire 4K content chain was Peter Sykes (pictured above), from Sony Professional Solutions Europe. Sharing his unique insight into the world of digital content creation, Peter outlined the complete journey from scene to screen, introducing the latest UHD production cameras being used in TV and movies through distribution, exhibition and ultimately the clients home – it was a fascinating presentation.

Peter also dissected the HDR situation with optical precision, comparing the dynamic range of human vision and real world luminance to incoming HDR technologies, explaining just how modern cameras are able to duplicate the human iris. It was remarkable stuff – if you’ve not been to an Inside Out event, think TED Talk and not trade show.

The practicalities of bringing next generation sound and vision into the home fell to Wyrestorm. GM Adrian Ickeringill (pictured below) walked the crowd through the new range of solutions from the company; and if any other matrix and switcher provider has a more extensive range then we’ve not seen it. Adrian revealed just how the demands placed upon the humble home network have changed over the past decade. “If you’re putting in a network today, I would seriously consider fibre optic,” he suggested.

The topic of HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 generated plenty of questions from the floor. The highlight of his range overview was the new H2 line of matrices. But there’s more to come. Adrian exclusively revealed that three more Matrix models will be released early 2016. Utilising a modular design, the trio will offer a feast of functionality, including CEC support for triggering screen power, 4K scaling and audio down-mixing per zone, plus built-in audio matrix and remote diagnostic tools. What’s more they will support 4K/60 4:4:4 transmissions.

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Of course, for real home theatre thrills you can’t beat a kick ass AV demo, and that’s exactly what Harman brought to the party. The conference space used for the main TT Expo really was a challenge for an Atmos-based rig, but the team from Harman and Karma-AV used incredible ingenuity to put in a full-blown cinema sound system – and the results were spectacular.

Chris Robinson (above), manager for Technical sales and Training, travelled over from the States for the TT Expo, to introduce the new JBL Synthesis SDP75 AV processor. This 32-channel component is a collaboration between Harman and Trinnov, and offers tremendous scope for system building and expansion. The unit is Dolby Atmos, Auro 3D and DTS:X compatible, with both Atmos and DTS sound systems were demo’d at the event, the latter using limited edition beta software.

For the exhibition a quartet of Synthesis subwoofers were lined up across the front soundstage; unconventional, but when the flack hit during the opening sequence of Unbroken (Blu-ray, Atmos) the sound pressure wave flapped trousers in a most agreeable fashion. JBL Synthesis has always represented the most exciting of home cinema listening experiences, and that’s precisely what we had here: spine-tingling detail, massive transients, and the kind of big theatre sonic intimacy that only truly epic sound systems can provide.

Both Atmos and DTS:X used the same speaker deployment, and both sounded excellent – indeed, it was impossible to separate them. What was perhaps truly surprising was just how great the JBL Synthesis system sounded with music.

Synthesis is supported by an extensive quotation system from Karma-AV, explained Chris. If a dealer has a project or he needs to submit a bid, he sends a CAD File, room drawings, pictures or any other information about the project/room to the Karma-AV team. They will then send back a Good, Better, Best quote within 48 hours. Installation and room tuning support is exceptional.

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Ultimately, custom install is a business. At the TT Expo, Matt Dodd, well known for his work with CEDIA and now CEO of software solutions house Clavia, explained how Project Q can reduce the pre-qualification process for custom integrators from hours to minutes – transforming the workload of installers and massively increasing productivity. “Project Q is designed to be a first stage qualification process,” explained Matt. “It can show pre-wire, first fix and equipment needed with just a few clicks of its custom buttons.” Matt then revealed just how easy it was to provide a customised, bespoke quotation. The questions from the floor came thick and fast.

After lunch, the afternoon was all about hands-on demos. In addition to the big Sony 4K VLP-VW5000ES (read our report on that here), attendees could take a closer look at the new Sony VPL-VW520ES 4K projector, the first with HDR – and its images looked astonishing.The TT Expo concluded with the traditional question and answer session, featuring all the day’s speakers. Having provided plenty of food for thought, there was much to discuss. It was, in short, a remarkable day. “Tomorrow’s Technology? We’re ready for that” said one attendee. For more from the event, fire up our Photo Gallery below.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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