5 Useful Calculators for AV Design
As someone who has been in AV for years and spent the time to get all of my AV certifications through AVIXA (CTS-D and CTS-I), I appreciate tools that help with designing systems. Through my years in AV, I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing engineers that developed their own calculators and spreadsheets for AV system design. However, we don’t all have access to these individuals or their proprietary worksheets.
There are, however, quite a few tools available to the industry in general that have proven helpful to me over time. Some require a login or an industry association membership, while others live free on websites. I thought I’d share a few I use frequently right here.
The Barco Lens Calculator was developed to help you find which lens goes with which Barco projector, and it is great at its job. But, that’s not why I’m recommending it here. I have used this tool anytime I’ve been designing a projection system with any brand projector (of course, Barco would prefer you use theirs).
This calculator is great because it gives you the ability to put in the ambient light level of the room, the aspect ratio and size of the screen and then choose a projector with the brightness level you need on the left. After you do this, scroll down and look on the right side to see what really matters in a projection system — Contrast and Lux. If your levels are too low, you know you need to add more projector, gain or ambient light rejection to try and compensate.
Below, I added a screenshot of what the specs for a 5000 verses a 9000-lumen projector under the same room conditions looks like.
My favorite hack for quickly sizing a screen actually came from Da-Lite with the AVIXA Display Image Size Calculator. In a 16:9 format, the screen diagonal should be equal to “Distance to farthest viewer,” divided by 2.
This formula was easy to use as most end users think of screens in terms of diagonals (we know our TV at home is 65 inches, but most of us don’t know what the height of it is). This was all based on a 16:9 format and the fact that programs like Excel and Word don’t autoscale and use 11-point Calibri as the default font.
However, not all screens are 16:9, and not all applications need the same level of detail. This is why I like the AVIXA calculator which is based on their DISCAS (Display Image Size for 2D Content in Audiovisual Systems) standard. Choose Basic or Analytical content and then the calculator will help you determine the Farthest Viewer, Minimum Image Height and Maximum Image Resolution based on the room parameters.
Audio follows the 6dB rule, meaning that it drops 6dB per doubling distance. Atlas put this into a tool (the Atlas IED SPL Calculator) so that you can quickly enter the Sound Pressure Level (SPL) at 1M and the distance to the listener to determine the SPL at the listener location. The idea is super simple, but useful nonetheless.
Ever wonder how much bandwidth video signals take up? Well, you can ____ multiple pixels by clock by bit rate by 3 and add the needed overhead. Or, you can use this tool Kramer put together ( the Kramer Bandwidth Calculator ) to help you quickly understand the bandwidth of signals, especially when thinking about network traffic.
OK, so you know you have a speaker with an efficiency of 80dB per 1W/1M and that you need to achieve 70db (25dB over noise floor) 40 feet away to get intelligible sound. How much amplifier power do you need? No need to break out your AV Math crib sheet, just rely on the Biamp Amplifier Power Calculator instead. Input speaker sensitivity, distance and desired SPL at the listener location and it will tell you the required power to get it there.
This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but instead, a start to building your calculator toolbox. What calculators are an essential part of your day-to-day designs? Share them with me in the comments below.