02 Nov 2010

Oliver Richardson, Sales and Marketing Director for DB Systems, the award-winning IT and AV rental company, examines the latest trends in audio visual technology and how event organisers, design agencies and exhibitors can benefit from them.

Audio visual technology is constantly evolving and there is a considerable amount of equipment available to the event and exhibition industry. Presently, there is an increasing demand for higher quality content and equally high-spec screens to display them on. Companies also like technologies that allow greater interaction between themselves and their customers, such as 3D and iPads.

iPads are proving to be very popular. We initially purchased 10 in May, but due to demand from clients we had to invest in another 35 units, both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi- + 3G versions.

Their popularity is down to their versatility as the iPad benefits our various clients, whether they are venues, design agencies or event organisers, because it is an innovative and interactive product. There’s no one practical application for this technology. It can be used in many ways, from data collection to games and quizzes. Our DBpixelhouse division, which specialises in the provision of state-of-the-art 2D and 3D graphics, animation and interactive content, can design iPad apps for use by clients at specific shows depending on their needs and what they wish to achieve, such as entertainment or distribution of corporate information.

For example, at a recent event we designed an app that allowed the end client’s customers to view various information, documents and studies on the iPad. The app also allowed customers to email selected items to themselves. This was a bespoke app specifically for that show and the end-client was very happy with it.

In fact, the only real downfall I can think of with iPads is that you can’t leave them lying around unattended as someone may just walk off with them. We now supply security devices for our iPad fleet on retractable wires to solve this exact problem.

Looking at 3D technology for events, it certainly offers the ‘wow’ factor. For example, we had a great response when we designed and installed a 3D holographic projection theatre for the Farnborough and Paris air shows, which was used to play a virtual presentation of the client’s latest aircraft engine complete with a holographic male presenter ‘standing’ at the side of the stage.

Some companies are spending a lot of money on 3D and it’s quite a big thing in the live events environment, however, the application of 3D technology is still in the infancy stage and it’s only really being used by those with the biggest budgets due to the cost of creating the content. The same can be said for virtual technology. While it does look impressive and will certainly grab attention, it is still a little too expensive for many clients. It will take time for the technology to mature and become more accessible.

But it’s my firm belief that AV providers can still offer SMEs with smaller budgets an impressive AV solution by using simple, straight-forward technology but in an innovative way. I remember at one show we installed two standard seamless plasma screens, which served as a visual incentive for delegates to enter the stand. However, the innovative use of these screens was through having the walls facing each other and programming the display content in such a way that the exhibitor’s key messages ‘bounced’ from one screen to the other. This interactive set-up proved to be a great hit with delegates, while at the same time getting the key message across in a clear, exciting yet cost effective way.

The main piece of advice I have for any company looking to introduce 3D content to their event is that the content has to be correctly designed AND displayed in order to achieve the maximum impact.

The most successfully designed content is concise, memorable, relevant and targeted to the event’s audience. Then, once that is locked in, the right sort of display system has to be used. If displaying complex 3D graphics, you’d have high spec screens to show it on. Conversely, if your content only requires a standard screen, then use one. There’s no need to spend your budget on an expensive high-end display system if you don’t need to.

The level and amount of AV technology available can be overwhelming for organisers, exhibitors and design agencies and it’s a mistake to think that any event will be an automatic success simply by using the latest and most dynamic technology. I’ve always advised clients that it’s not the technology you use, but how it is used that is crucial in complementing particular needs and requirements.

Looking into the future, I expect to see more products that allow greater interaction between companies and their customers. So this could be things like more 3D, or even systems like our ecoXpress technology. ecoXpress is designed to be both environmentally friendly and interactive. Environmentally friendly because it replaces the need for exhibitors to have printed brochures and corporate information on their stands; and interactive because an exhibitor’s clients use the touch screen-based system to search for and view the specific information they need. If required, they can then email the selected information to their work email accounts.

Also, in the future, playback systems, such as PCs, will have to become more advanced because the content that is displayed on screens, such as graphics, videos and animation, is becoming more media rich, in terms of higher definition and greater resolution. Therefore, more powerful computers and sophisticated graphic cards will be required to handle and play this content.

When used correctly AV provides a visually stunning addition to an event, as it helps grab attention, allow interaction with potential customer and ensure that all important ‘wow’ factor, which separates ordinary events from extraordinary ones.

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