CES 2020 Opens With Spotlight on Innovation

LAS VEGAS — CES 2020 opened Jan.7 with innovation and concepts once again overshadowing the show’s legacy consumer electronics.

This year’s CES features more than 4,400 exhibiting companies, including 1,200 startups.

A press release from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which produces the annual event, touts the show’s focus on “the latest transformative technologies, including 5G, artificial intelligence, vehicle technology, digital health and more.”

CES 2020 runs through Jan. 10.

“The innovation on display this week at CES embodies the drive and passion that fuels our industry and furthers economic growth on a global scale,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, in a statement. “The products and technologies launching this week will inspire, connect and change lives for the better.”

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Prior to the CES exhibit show floor opening, there were a number of pre-show events Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, including Media Days, CTA’s 2020 Tech Trends to Watch presentation, CES Unveiled Las Vegas, conference programming at the ARIA and keynotes from Samsung and Daimler.

Samsung Consumer Electronics President and CEO H.S. Kim, delivering the first CES 2020 keynote, focused on the “Age of Experience,” a decade of human-centric innovation that combines hardware and software to create personalized experiences to make life more convenient, enjoyable and meaningful. His talk highlighted the company’s latest advances in intelligent robotics, AI, 5G and edge computing. “In the Age of Experience, we need to re-think the space we have to accommodate our diverse and evolving lifestyles,” said Kim.

CTA’s Steve Koenig and Lesley Rohrbaugh presented 2020 Tech Trends to Watch on Jan. 5 and provided some sales projections. The soaring popularity of streaming services along with 5G connectivity and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled devices will drive revenue growth for the U.S. consumer tech industry to a record $422 billion in retail revenues in 2020 — nearly 4% growth over last year, according to CTA estimates.

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Also on Jan. 5, the annual CES Unveiled events featured more than 220 exhibiting companies, including 98 startups from Eureka Park, the startup hub at CES 2020.

CES Media Days featured two days of preshow press events from CES exhibitors, including major brands and emerging startups. Twenty-nine companies announced products, including several that showed off home entertainment-related products.

  • HDMI announced its Ultra High Speed HDMI certification program that assures support for all HDMI 2.1 features, including 8K.
  • Hisense talked up a dual-cell XD9G LCD TV that layers two liquid crystal modules,  one on top of the other, inside a single cabinet.
  • LG Electronics unveiled new OLED (LG Signature OLED 8K) and LCD (LG 8K NanoCell) TV models.
  • Panasonic previewed  its flagship HZ2000 OLED TV with support for the UHD Alliance’s Filmmaker Mode.
  • And the UHD Alliance announced two additional television partners for its Filmmaker Mode initiative, Samsung and Phillips, along with further support from Hollywood guilds and others (see related story).

UHD Alliance’s Filmmaker Mode Picks Up Support From Hollywood Guilds, Samsung, Philips

Three Hollywood guilds, the Film Foundation, consumer electronics companies Samsung and Philips (TP Vision, Europe), and Kaleidescape have joined others in support of Filmmaker Mode, the UHD Alliance announced at CES Jan. 6.

The guilds include the Director’s Guild of America, the American Society of Cinematographers and the International Cinematographers Guild. The CE companies join LG Electronics, Panasonic and Vizio, which announced support for the program in August. Also in August, several high-profile directors and Hollywood studios hailed Filmmaker Mode, which brings a more cinematic viewing experience to the home by turning off motion smoothing on the TV, among other setting adjustments.

“[Filmmaker Mode] sets the television in a way that maintains filmmaker intent,” said Warner’s Michael Zink, UHD Alliance chairman, at the press conference.

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“Preserving intent is an important part of our creative rights work,” said director and co-chair of the DGA creative rights committee Christopher Nolan in a statement.

“Most people today are watching classic films at home,” said director Martin Scorsese, founder and chair of the Film Foundation, in a statement. “With Filmmaker Mode, different works will be presented accurately as they were created and designed by the filmmaker. Filmmaker Mode is a long overdue and welcome innovation.”

See more photos from the UHD Alliance press conference

The Film Foundation is a film preservation and education organization.

“The ASC’s mission has always centered around advancing the art and science of cinematography,” said Kees van Oostrum, president of the American Society of Cinematographers, in a statement. “Filmmaking is a true art-form and Filmmaker Mode allows that artwork to be enjoyed as envisioned by the artist not just in the theater, but in the home.”

With the addition of more CE companies, “we really do have that strong worldwide presence,” said UHD Alliance president Mike Fidler.

Tim Alessi, senior director, product marketing, LG Electronics, who announced the company’s support for Filmmaker Mode earlier in the day, also appeared at the UHD press conference. “We will include it in every new 4K and 8K TV that we introduce in 2020,” he said, adding LG would “aggressively promote it at retail.”

“We want to help the consumer watch all the great movies on a great TV without having to give it a second thought,” he said.

Panasonic’s Makoto Morise also showed up at the UHD event and noted that the company’s 2020 OLED HD 2000 series will support Filmmaker Mode, an announcement also made earlier at the Panasonic press conference. More models will be added, he said.

Ken Lowe, co-founder and VP, Vizio, also appeared at the event. Vizio will use the automatic feature that engages Filmmaker Mode, “but customers may also activate it manually as well,” he said.

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Honoring DVD Pioneers

Four industry veterans crucial to the launch of DVD were joined at an informal dinner July 11 as a precursor to the Los Angeles Media and Entertainment Golf Tournament on July 15, where they will be officially honored for their contributions to DVD, which triggered the start of home entertainment’s digital revolution. Warren Lieberfarb, David Bishop, Steve Nickerson and Mike Fidler dined alongside various other past and present executives, including Ryan Pirozzi of Amazon, Eddie Cunningham of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Amy Jo Smith of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, and 20th Century Fox innovators Mike Dunn and Danny Kaye, both of whom left the studio earlier this year when Disney’s takeover was complete. The golf tournament is being held at the North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, with all proceeds benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Four ‘Digital Revolution’ Pioneers to Be Honored at Industry Golf Tournament

Four industry veterans crucial to the launch of DVD — which signaled the start of home entertainment’s digital revolution — will be honored at the Los Angeles Media and Entertainment Golf Tournament on July 15.

The tournament takes place the Monday prior to the ninth annual LAES and OTT Conference, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association. It will be held at the North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, with all proceeds benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

The honored “foursome” includes Warren Lieberfarb, the former president of Warner Home Video who has been widely hailed as the “father” of DVD.  Other honorees include former MGM Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president David Bishop; former Toshiba and Warner executive Steve Nickerson; and former Sony Electronics executive Mike Fidler, president of the UHD Alliance.

All four played key roles in the launch of DVD, which shifted home entertainment from a rental to a purchase model and introduced digital into what had been an analog business. DVD subsequently gave way to Blu-ray Disc, which opened the door to digital movie sales and rentals through the inclusion of a digital copy with each purchased disc. DVD generated  millions of dollars of revenue to studios, becoming an important factor in greenlighting films.

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Lieberfarb not only brought the concept of movies and other content on a digital video disc to fruition, but also rallied the other studios as well as consumer electronics manufacturers to support and heavily promote the new format. Bishop, as head of MGM, was Lieberfarb’s strongest studio ally, while Nickerson was SVP of sales and marketing at Toshiba America Consumer Products, the U.S. arm of the Japanese CE giant that helped develop, and bring to market, the DVD format. Fidler was recruited by Sony Electronics from Pioneer Electronics in 1997 to lead efforts to establish the DVD format in the U.S. market.

“DVD was the start of a digital revolution that allowed movie lovers to collect and enjoy content at home,” said Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. “Beyond the actual disc, the launch of DVD saw groundbreaking new partnerships and cooperation across studios and CE manufacturers, component providers, replicators, mastering services and retailers. The development and launch of DVD also laid the foundation in authoring and compression technology that ultimately made it possible for entertainment content to be distributed over broadband.”

The Los Angeles Media and Entertainment Golf Tournament is produced by Mark Horak, a former Warner Home Video and Redbox executive who has two daughters with cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. He launched the tournament in 2012 and from the start donated proceeds to the foundation to support the development of new drugs and treatments to extend the lives of the 30,000 people in the United States with the disease.

Horak believes the time has come to bring the tournament back, not just to raise funds for charity but also as a prime networking opportunity.

“Without the vision, leadership and collaboration of these industry veterans in both Hollywood and the CE industry, consumers would not have the convenient access to high quality content that they have today,” Horak says. “Everyone who operates in the new digital world owe them our sincere thanks.”

Attendees will include executives from the major and independent studios involved with the production and distribution of content, retailers and distributors of digital and physical content, consumer electronics manufacturers and various suppliers of supporting products and services for the media and entertainment industry.

To attend the event sign up here.

 

Video and Audio Center Flagship Store Opening, Jan. 25, 2018

Video and Audio Center held a gala opening party Jan. 25 for its new flagship showcase store in the Westfield Century City mall. Video and Audio Center has been introducing new technologies for more than 34 years, and its new store is a new retail concept focused on the customer experience, with towering wall displays and interactive product exhibits.

For more, click here: Video and Audio Center Opens New Flagship Store

Video and Audio Center Opens New Flagship Store

Video and Audio Center held a gala opening party Jan. 25 for its new flagship showcase store in the Westfield Century City mall, which recently underwent a $1.4 billion makeover. Video and Audio Center has been introducing new technologies for more than 34 years, and its new store — tucked in a wing of the mall that also includes an Apple Store, a Rolex store and a Tesla dealership — is a new retail concept focused on the customer experience, with towering wall displays and interactive product exhibits. “This new technology showcase is the most advanced yet consumer friendly store we have introduced. The design of our innovative interactive space allows people to reach out and touch, feel and experience all the latest advancements in consumer technology,” said co-owner Joseph Akhtarzad.

The advanced displays and store layout are so unique that Video and Audio Center has applied for a federal copyright on its design. “This marks a totally new direction in consumer technology retailing, in a store front environment,” said Tom Campbell, Video and Audio Center corporate director and chief technologist.

A visit to the store on opening night was not unlike a visit to the main hall of CES less than a month earlier, just on a smaller scale.

Accordingly, the guest list included top technology, consumer electronics and entertainment industry executives, engineers and experts from companies such as 20th Century Fox, LG Electronics, Samsung North America and Sony Electronics of America, including Mike Dunn,  product strategy and consumer business development president at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; Mike Fidler, president of the UHD Alliance;  and Mike Fasulo, Sony Electronics of America president and COO.

The new store is Video and Audio Center’s fifth. The regional consumer electronics chain previously had a smaller store in the Westfield Century City mall before the shopping center’s big renovation.

PHOTO GALLERY: Video and Audio Center Flagship Store Opening, Jan. 25, 2018

UHD Alliance Ramping Up Marketing Efforts

LAS VEGAS — With a new president, the UHD Alliance came to CES 2018 with a new directive.

Industry veteran Mike Fidler started in July 2017 with a mission to move the organization beyond technical efforts and grow its marketing activities.

For an organization of companies with disparate interests, the key, Fidler said, is “how do we come up with some consistency in messaging?”

The UHD Alliance aims to come to some industry consensus to give the press and consumers a clearinghouse for information and “to give some confidence to the marketplace as well,” he said.

To gauge consumer pain points, the UHD Alliance looked at negative experiences on the popular AVS Forum website. The Alliance found that 31% of such experiences involved picture quality, 21% peripherals and 18% the content itself.

“We want to make sure we are proactive, instead of reactive,” Fidler said.

To that end, the Alliance in late July formed a new Interoperability Working Group, headed up by Sony’s Don Eklund. The group looks at how the different manufacturers’ products work with each other in part by literally plugging them together, via “plug fests.” The aim is to make sure that when consumers set up their systems, they work and provide the best quality possible.

“For consumers, their expectation is plug and play,” Fidler said. “We want to make sure consumers get the full experience.”

Manufacturers can remedy pain points with flyers in boxes or firmware upgrades.

On the educational and informational front, the Alliance has a new brochure and in October launched a website, experienceUHD.com. Also on tap are five educational videos due in the coming weeks.

In talking to consumers the key is to avoid intimidating terms such as “nits” and “specs,” but to focus on the experience, Fidler said.

“Consumers have to understand what the values are, what the benefits are,” he said.

Fidler is also looking to work with the other trade organizations, such as the Blu-ray Disc Association and DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, to “make sure we talk the same language” and share resources, he said.

Meanwhile, the UHD Alliance continues to expand. The group added five new members in the last three months: ASUS, Chroma ATE, Google, Synaptics and Arcadian Technologies.

The new members indicate “a broadening of the ecosystem,” he noted.

“That’s always a good sign,” he said.

The Alliance also continues to certify products and software with its Premium logo via independent labs.

 

UHD Alliance Signs Google, Eyes Consumer Education

Five months after taking charge of the UHD Alliance as its first full-time president, longtime consumer electronics executive Mike Fidler on the eve of CES 2018 unveiled an ambitious agenda to not just grow membership, but also to increase consumer education and maximize device interoperability for a better user experience.

The push comes amid word that Google has joined the trade group, a global coalition of leading film studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, content distributors and technology companies seeking to promote the next-generation premium in-home entertainment platform, which offers 4K resolution as well as a mix of other features that include high dynamic range, wide color gamut, high frame rate and immersive audio, among other features.

Fidler, known in the home entertainment community for his work with Pioneer Electronics and Sony Electronics and as a founding board member of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, came to UHDA in August 2017 at a time when the group’s focus was changing. Previously, he said, the group was engaged primarily in developing UHD specifications and expanding licensing. While beefing up membership is still a goal, he said, the group is now focusing on a consumer and press engagement push in the hopes of expanding UHD’s user base beyond early adopters.

“We want to move to a new level of engagement with consumers and the press and to broaden the marketplace beyond just early adopters,” Fidler said. “In accelerating the adoption of UHD, we need these groups to understand what it is and what it does or does not do.”

The group recently launched its consumer web site, experienceuhd.com, with a list of all UHDA-certified products, links to member web sites, answers to frequently asked questions, advice on setting up home theaters, and detailed information about the features required for a device to earn UHDA certification.

“Our job is to break it down and emphasize the benefits of HDR, 4K UHD resolution, wider color spectrum, 10-bit color depth and immersive audio, Fidler said in a DEG blog posting.

Two logos, Ultra HD Premium (for TVs, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players and pre-recorded content) and Mobile HDR Premium (for laptops, tablets, phones and other battery-operated devices), promise certified products will meet or exceed strict performance levels for 4K resolution and high dynamic range, along with recommendations for immersive audio. The Ultra HD Premium and Mobile HDR Premium logos are intended to help convey that and confer a “Good Housekeeping seal of approval”-type cachet on products that carry them, says Fidler.

“One of the Alliance’s key messages to consumers will be around HDR,” Fidler said. While HDR was not part of the original 4K specification, it is an important and very visible improvement in picture quality set forth by the major studios.

Another part of the UHDA’s education program is working with retailers and manufacturers to help set expectations for consumers about what they can expect to see and what is currently available.  An abundance of content “will happen,” Fidler said in the DEG blog posting, “but not at the pace people might expect.”

While there are more than 250 Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles in the marketplace and streaming services including Netflix and Amazon regularly make content available in 4K UHD, broadcast content availability is sparse but growing.