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Why small changes made a massive difference at ISE 2019

By Pete Jones


I spent two days at ISE 2019.  That’s not enough time to see even half of the 1300 exhibitors spread across the RAI’s 15 halls, and I wasn’t about to try, but the conclusion I reached is that show technology has reached a tipping point.  The overwhelming sense I got throughout the exhibition halls and across all the different applications I experienced, was that our industry equipment has now evolved so much that there’s almost nothing it can’t do.

Whether you want to project from anywhere, onto anything, put cameras tucked in somewhere, track something, map onto anything, send audio and video anywhere, integrate lighting into something – the answer to whether show technology can deliver any creative request is now a resounding “Yes.”

I didn’t see anything that I’ve never seen before at the show, instead the new developments were iterations on previous versions of systems and software.  But that didn’t mean that the products were any less spectacular, and there were moments where I was physically moved by the scale, resolution and image quality of what was on display.

Sony’s Crystal LED Display System is a case in point.  While the physical size of the display at this year’s show was impressive enough to stop most visitors in their tracks, the resolution and contrast of the display was, literally, stunning.  The unique glass coating on the ultrafine pixels that make up these panels is largely responsible for boosting the contrast ratio, making the visuals really vibrant and also giving the display a reflective quality.  But Sony aren’t the only manufacturers using LED encapsulation to change the properties of their screens – different approaches to coating pixels are being used by various suppliers to make fine pixel pitch panels more robust, reduce the “pixelation” and provide a more analogue appearance to visuals.

Projection has been completely reinvented over the last few years, through a series of incremental changes in lenses, brightness, reliability and projection surfaces that collectively have smashed away the traditional restrictions. This point is proved by the insanely bright 50K laser projector launched by Panasonic at this year’s show – gone are the days when projection struggled against ambient light levels.  Lens development should also be credited with unleashing the power of projection over recent years – whereas projectors previously had to be set up within a constrained cone away from the screens, they can now be positioned almost anywhere without compromising image quality.

The increase in the range of transparent screens available at the show was amazing – we saw everything from very transparent LED to more traditional mesh screens, products coated onto glass, transparent OLED signage and even a number of projection options.  It’s a far cry from a few years ago when there were only one or two products available.

But  none of these epic displays would be possible if it wasn’t for the incredible increase in the processing power of the servers that feed and control the content.



Moore’s Law tells us that the processing power for computers doubles every 2 years, and I believe that it’s the increased capability of the IT systems that drive our show technology that made the difference at this year’s show.   And it’s indicative of a change in the nature of our industry.


Whereas fifteen years ago the technical team just needed to be familiar with trusses, lights, speakers and screens, now IT is at the heart of every show. We can model, track, map and control everything.





Nobody who attended ISE 2019 can pretend to understand half the technology at the show because there was simply too much of it. That’s why it makes sense to have technical teams that are increasingly specialised – it’s when you bring the different experts together that you can integrate the tech in new and exciting ways.  And that’s when things get really exciting.


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Watch our highlights reel from ISE 2019 below