| Volume 13, Issue 12 — June 29, 2016|
|Stop Worrying And Love Your Local Big Box Dealers|
By Lee Distad
Big box retailers are like the weather: We all like to complain about them, but none of us ever do anything about them. But as entertaining as it is to hate them, and make jokes at their expense, the relationship between big box retail and boutique professional firms is nuanced and complex.
The business practices of big box retail can be enormously irritating: Running margins into the dirt, and the commoditization of not only products but services as well continues to make life harder than it needs to be for the industry.
I’ll let you in on a secret: Those practices aren’t just annoying for AV pros on the service side, they’re hugely aggravating for those of us on the distribution side. Manufacturers and distributors don’t like it either. A lot of effort is put into trying to show big box that there are better ways to sell. Sadly, these efforts are usually unsuccessful.
Ultimately, we’re all in the same ecosystem, and each of us fills our own niche. And, like actual ecosystems, all of us, large and small, depend on each other to some degree. So, to build on my ecosystem analogy, I’ll detail the ways in which the big box retailers benefit you, the boutique AV Pro, even if you don’t always recognize it.
First off, they’re a useful filter. Not everyone can or even should be your client. Regardless of whatever level of AV systems you specialize in, there are going to be price shoppers, DIY’ers, and people who are going to buy it on Amazon anyway. The presence of a big box store in your market means fewer of those people wandering by accident through your front door.
At the same time, the presence of that big box store gives you an opportunity to show the people who you need your services exactly why they should deal with you. It’s not hard to look substantially more competent and professional than the big box chains. Which brings me to the next point: the profit to be had fixing their screw-ups. Some customers end up having the big box store do installs for them, and it doesn’t always go well.
I’ve seen plenty of tragic “custom installs” that big-box installers have left behind in people’s homes, and I’m sure you have, too. On the bright side, I’ve never seen one that could be called criminally negligent, so let’s not be too hard on them. I’ve known quite a few dealers who’ve made a living coming to the aid of customers in distress. It’s not just a one-off profit opportunity, either; it’s opportunity to earn a client for life.
AV pros aren’t the only ones who can learn from their mistakes; customers can, too. I’ve seen people who needed to be bailed out of a sub-$5K install gone bad, come back and spend high five figures or more with a specialty AV pro, once they realized what they could really have done in their home in the first place.
Some AV pros understand that the big box is also the incubator (I was going to say “preschool” but that might seem demeaning) for future hires. For all the editorials I’ve written in the past about cross-pollination, and recruiting from other channels, retail remains a primary source for new hires into the design and installation channels. Not every kid working at the big box is a stereotypical underachiever. Many of them are hard working and eager to learn. If they’re smart and highly motivated, there’s a good chance that they won’t want to stay at a big box forever, and will start looking around for a place where their aptitude and passion for will be better compensated.
Don’t just see the local big box competition as either a threat or the butt of jokes (or both). Think about the opportunities they present and capitalize on them.Leave a Comment
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|All the Feels|
By Hope Roth
Our cat passed away a few months ago, and we kinda sorta forgot to pick up her ashes. Our vet’s office sent us a very kind letter where they struck just the right balance between “we’re very sorry for your loss” and “you really need to come back and get these cremains.” The thought that they put into their letter was very much appreciated on that sad occasion, and it cemented my family’s loyalty to our vet.
Your customer’s emotional needs might not always be as obvious as they were in this particular situation, but they are important. Understanding those emotions and making sure that you meet them with your products and services is a great way to build lifelong business relationships.
I do a lot of work in the residential market, where it’s usually fairly easy to figure out where a customer’s emotions might come into play. Someone who is home by themselves a lot, because a spouse works long hours and/or travels, will often be emotionally attached to their security system. This means you need to prioritize work on alarm and camera integration. It also means that you might need to put special care into your UI.
I had a client who liked to use her touch panels as mini camera monitors. We worked on a panel design that made it easy for her to put the cameras up and then leave them showing, without the panels going into standby mode. She could then use a button on the panel to put the panel into standby when she went to bed. Knowing that she felt nervous when she was home by herself, I worked hard to design a system that made her feel reassured and in control. The programming tweaks that we made to her system were very basic. It was the emotional component of the process that really met her needs.
Often it’s the few moments of conversation with a client as you’re getting set up for the day that will give you the insight that you need to really make their system meet their needs. I sincerely enjoy chatting with my customers. I also file everything they tell me away in the back of my head. You never know when a stray comment might give you that extra piece of information that you need to put together the best system possible.
A security system and fear are a fairly obvious combination, but there are all sorts of ways in setting up someone’s house where emotions come into play. Outdoor lights can help someone feel more secure, so maybe you need to put those controls on all the panels in the house. Hosting friends for parties is usually a joyous occasion, so there might be some aspect of the audio system that can help make things more fun. Intercoms often make people feel connected. Lighting scenes literally set a mood.
“That’s all very nice, Hope” you might be thinking, “but I set up cookie-cutter conference rooms. There’s no emotional component to that.” For the most part, nobody is looking for joy in a huddle space. But there can still be emotional aspects to commercial work. You just might need to pay a little extra attention. Conference rooms and multi-purpose spaces are often used for big company announcements, both the happy and the not-so-happy. Which means that your systems could potentially be emotionally linked to the announcement that everyone is getting an extra-big bonus this year. Or that a lot of people are about to be laid off. You might not have much control over this link, but understanding that it’s there should help you build better systems for your clients.
At the end of the day, it’s putting together a functional system that is our core objective. But meeting that core functionality, and then going that extra mile to meet your clients’ emotional needs? That’s where you can truly shine.Leave a Comment
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|Want to Learn How to Develop Products the Right Way? Ask Milestone AV|
By Gary Kayye
I am not sure there is a better example for how to design and market products right now in the ProAV market than how Milestone AV Technologies – parent company for Chief Manufacturing, Da-Lite, Vaddio, Sanus and Projecta — is doing it.
I won’t bore you by going through each and every product case over the past few years, so I will focus on two biggies: Chief’s debut of their ConnexSys mount line and Da-Lite’s newly released FastFold NXT.
When Chief launched ConnexSys touted it as a design driven by customer and user feedback. Ho-hum. We’ve heard that forever from nearly every company — it’s a marketing strategy. Claim that the customer inspired the design and garner more attention as it actually came from user-feedback, etc. Blah, blah, blah.
But, truth is, that’s exactly what Chief did. They actually went into the field and watched installers use their mounts, asked them what was good and what was bad, what needed improvement and how they could make the install and alignment (think: video wall alignment) faster and easier. And, they took them literally. They actually added the features like simpler leveling, single strut hanging, a tool-free latching, etc. from actual user feedback. And, as they evolved different designs, they kept going back to the users and asking for more and more feedback.Same with Da-Lite and the FastFold NXT. Is there anything more boring than a rental-screen? Commonly referred to as snap-screens (due to the way the screen material snaps — yes, using snaps) to the frame, the FastFold was the market leader for like 20-years — in rental and staging screen applications where you put up and take down screens constantly. And, the design as remained relatively the same for over 30 years.
Well, at this year’s InfoComm, Da-Lite relaunched the FastFold screen as the FastFold NXT (I assume for “next generation”) and they literally re-invented the way a portable screen works. No snapping, no pinched fingers, no cranks, no pull-table and no rivets. It slides together quickly and the screen stretches to the frame without hurting the thumbs of the rental tech!
How’d they do it? Easy – they simply went to the users and asked them to be honest about what they hated about the snap-screen and how they’d improve it. And, they listened to the free advice and built an all new FastFold screen that every rental company I spoke to at InfoComm claimed they were going to buy.
And, best part about this for Milestone AV is that this is truly marketing genius. Why? Well, they can market these products as actually redesigned thanks to customer/user feedback but, more importantly, those customers they actually talked to will feel OBLIGATED to buy they, too. It was their idea — how can they not use it themselves.
Genius.Leave a Comment
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|VESA Develops Early Certification Program for USB Type-C Devices Using DisplayPort Alt ModeThe Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) has announced the official launch of its early certification test program for products incorporating the new USB Type-C connector and the DisplayPort Alternate Mode (“Alt Mode”) standard. Using the DisplayPort Alt Mode standard, a USB Type-C connector and cable can deliver full DisplayPort audio/video performance (driving monitor resolutions of 4K and beyond), SuperSpeed USB data, and up to 100 watts of power. DisplayPort is the only display interface alt mode natively supported by both standard USB-C connectors and cables. The new DisplayPort Alt Mode over USB-C Early Product Certification Program is intended to help ensure interoperability early in the development cycle.|
“During new-technology development, products often are ready to ship before compliance test programs are complete. Conformance testing, however, is still vital to helping ensure a smooth roll-out and positive user experience with early products,” said Jim Choate, compliance program manager for VESA. “To help USB Type-C product manufacturers address this challenge, VESA created the DisplayPort Alt Mode over USB-C Early Product Certification Program to help speed both the path to compliance and time to market for new products.”
The DisplayPort Alt Mode over USB-C Early Product Certification Program includes a comprehensive test plan that covers all supported features and capabilities. Currently, leading test laboratories Allion Labs and Granite River Labs (GRL) are executing to these test plans as part of the early certification program. VESA also organizes and sponsors PlugTest events throughout the year, in the U.S. and Taiwan, at which VESA member companies can participate in official testing activities.
Early product developers who take advantage of the DisplayPort Alt Mode over USB-C Early Product Certification Program gain the ability to use the DP Certified logo on their products. Nearly a dozen tablets, laptops and monitors have been certified through the pilot phase of this early certification program, including products from Intel (Skylake reference design), Dell, Asus, HP and LG Electronics. Several dozen more certified products are expected to be available by the end of the year.
VESA published the DisplayPort Alt Mode on USB Type-C Standard in September 2014. Developed jointly between VESA and the USB 3.0 Promoter group, the DisplayPort Alt Mode enables the highest display performance available, combined with the USB Type-C connector’s high-speed data transfer and power delivery functions. Earlier this year, VESA published the latest version of the DisplayPort standard, v1.4, which incorporates new capabilities that enhance the ability to take advantage of the USB Type-C connector. For example, DP 1.4 incorporates VESA’s Display Stream Compression (DSC) technology to facilitate High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 8K video across the USB-C connector.
More information is here.Leave a Comment
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|New Sony 4K Ultra HD TV ShipSony released the pricing and availability today of three new 4K Ultra HD television series: the XBR-X800D, the XBR-X750D and the XBR-X700D. The XBR-X800D series also features High Dynamic Range (HDR) compatibility to receive and process the new video standard. The XBR-X750D and XBR-X700D TVs will be upgradable to HDR compatibility via a firmware update later this year.|
All three models support Google’s Android TV operating system, making it easy to stream video, download entertainment, or use as a gaming device. Android TV brings the world’s most popular mobile platform to Sony’s TVs, providing a tailored and intuitive entertainment experience. TV lovers can watch hit shows and timeless movies from Google Play, Amazon Video, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, PBS and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s ULTRA streaming service. Users can also access a huge selection of games and additional apps from the Google Play store right on the TV. Additional popular apps available via Android TV include HBO NOW, EPIX, Starz Play, iHeartRadio, Fusion, PlutoTV and Vevo.
Beyond streaming content, Sony’s Android TV platform allows Home Automation control directly from the TV’s user interface using a Logitech Harmony Hub. More than 270,000 home entertainment products and IoT (internet of things) devices, such as lights, shades and thermostats can be controlled and automated at the push of a button on the TV’s remote. In addition, Android TV’s Voice Search feature has been enhanced to support natural language voice actions and longer, more complex sentences. And with Google Cast, users can cast their favorite entertainment apps such as HBO GO from their Android or iOS device, Mac or Windows computer or Chromebook to the TV.
Models and prices:
- XBR-49X800D, 49” class, $1,499.99
- XBR-43X800D, 43” class, $1,299.99
- XBR-65X750D, 65” class, $2,299.99
- XBR-55X700D, 55” class, $1,499.99
- XBR-49X700D, 49” class, $999.99
Here are all the details.Leave a Comment
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|Epson Debuts a Wireless 4K HDR Projector for Under $3,000|
Epson today announced two new home theater projectors, including the world’s first WirelessHD projector with 4K content support. The Home Cinema 5040UB and wireless Home Cinema 5040UBe feature 4K display capability (the projectors are native 1920×1080 but shifts each pixel diagonally by 0.5 pixels to double the resolution to 3840 x 2160) and high dynamic range (HDR) support. These newly designed Home Cinema projectors are spec’d to project 2,500 lumens of color brightness and 2,500 lumens of white brightness and a color gamut to display the entire sRGB and DCI color spaces and include a contrast ratio of up to 1,000,000:1.
The Home Cinema 5040UBe and 5040UB with 4K input support are compatible with HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 standards for displaying 4K UHD content. The projectors automatically detect an encoded HDR signals.
The Home Cinema 5040UBe enables users to connect wirelessly as it includes both an HDMI transmitter built-in receiver. The transmitter connects up to four HDMI devices simultaneously and supports 4K HDCP2.2 standards. It also includes one HDMI out connection and one optical port, with one HDMI port supporting MHL.
Other features include lens preset memory recall of up to 10 positions for zoom, focus and lens shift (up to ± 96.3 percent on the vertical axis and ±47.1 percent on the horizontal axis), a non-inverting optical engine design utilizes an additional high-quality relay lens for Epson’s best color field uniformity to date, a center-mounted lens and an auto-iris lens.
But the big news here is the price. The Home Cinema 5040UBe (list at $3,299) and 5040UB (list at $2,999) will be available in August. All the specs are here.Leave a Comment
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|Epson Launches New Pro Cinema Projectors With 4K HDR SupportEpson today announced their new flagship home projector in the form of the Pro Cinema 6040UB and Pro Cinema 4040 featuring the company’s 4K Enhancement Technology (these projectors are native 1920×1080 but they shift each pixel diagonally by 0.5 pixels to double the resolution to 3840×2160) thus they accept a 4K input signal and display content with high dynamic range (HDR) support. These newly designed Pro Cinema projectors project up to 2,500 lumens of color brightness and 2,500 lumens of white brightness and have a color gamut to display the entire sRGB and DCI color spaces. Both projectors include an enhanced optical engine and a new, all-glass cinema lens engineered to deliver better sharpness and color uniformity.|
Installers will like the projectors’ powered lens position memory, which enables users to preset up to 10 positions for motorized zoom, focus and lens shift for both standard projection and wide cinema ratios. In addition, a wide lens shift range offers installation flexibility, with both projectors delivering a super-wide range of up to ± 96.3 percent on the vertical axis and ± 47 percent on the horizontal axis. The projectors also include a new, non-inverting optical engine design, which utilizes an additional high-quality relay lens for Epson’s best color field uniformity to date.
The Pro Cinema 6040UB meets the ISF Certification standard and features built-in ISF calibration tools and specific ISF picture memory modes, such as ISF Day and ISF Night, as well as additional modes including a Red-only Mode. Installers will benefit from other features, including the ability to electronically lock calibration settings. Additionally, Red and Green pixels can be turned off for making adjustments without using a special filter.
The Pro Cinema 6040UB lists for $3,999 and 4040 is only $2,699 and both will be available in August 2016. Here are all the specs.Leave a Comment
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|Crestron Enters AV over IP Network MarketAt InfoComm, Crestron demo’d it’s new video over 1Gb Ethernet infrastructure product line that allows for AV signal routing without a matrix switcher. The network allows for routing of HD signals and H. 264 sources, such as IP cameras, anywhere on the network, including Crestron touch screens, digital signage displays, remote buildings, and global offices. Network AV utilizes existing Ethernet infrastructure and standard devices, so no new wiring or technology is required.|
DM transmits H.264 video at around 10Mb/s and bandwidth consumption is controllable — up to 25 Mb/s for the highest quality, down to less than 1 Mb/s for long distance and mobile applications, where bandwidth is limited and/or very expensive.
In addition to network AV input and output cards for DM modular matrix switchers, Crestron offers the HD Streaming Transmitter/Receiver (DM-TXRX-100-STR) and HD Streaming Receiver & Room Controller 100 (DM-RMC-100-STR). Together, they provide low-cost solutions for adding network AV to any space. Crestron says that no switcher or control system is required.
Configurable as a standalone transmitter or receiver, the DM-TXRX-100-STR is a H.264 network AV encoder/decoder designed to transmit HD content anywhere on the IP network and receive network AV content from anywhere on the network.
The DM-TXRX-100-STR can be integrated with a DMPS3-4K Series Presentation System, a 4K 8X1 switcher (HD-MD8X1-4K or DM-MD8X1-4K-C), or one of the DM transmitters.
With its ability to receive H.264 video over a single PoE LAN connection, the DM-RMC-100-STR provides a solution for displaying network AV content in lobbies, lounges, cafeterias, or anywhere you want to display HD content. Image overlay capability enables organizations to brand their network AV content by overlaying a logo. Dynamic text makes it simple to label video, or display instructions, schedules, alerts, and other messaging.
Here are all the specs.Leave a Comment
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|SVS SoundPath Pivoting Wall/Ceiling Bracket|
SVS has announced a new SoundPath pivoting wall and ceiling bracket. Using a flexible ball and clamp design, the SoundPath Pivoting Wall/Ceiling Bracket allow it to rotate 360°, pan 180° and tilt beyond 30°. No matter where it’s placed, an installed speaker can be adjusted to fire directly at the listening area for the most immersive and realistic audio experience possible.
The SVS SoundPath Pivoting Wall/Ceiling Bracket features a wide variety of mounting hardware and works with nearly any brand or model of speaker up to 7.7 lbs. All bracket hardware and components are constructed of durable cast aluminum and high density ABS for secure, long-term use.
Here are all the specs.Leave a Comment
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|Auralex Shipping GeoFusor Sound Diffusors|
Auralex Acoustics is now shipping the GeoFusor, a sound diffusor based on the geodesic dome pattern. The GeoFusor’s dimensional shape offers smooth, even diffusion and allows back filling with absorptive material for enhanced low-end control.
The GeoFusor is wall- and ceiling-mountable and is offered in two sizes (1’x1′ and 2’x2′). The 2’x2′ GeoFusor is sized to fit in ceiling grids and offered in fire-rated and non fire-rated variations. The GeoFusor’s contemporary aesthetic complements residential or commercial environments, and the complementary design of the 1’x1′ and 2’x2′ models permits arraying for acoustical and design purposes.
- Addresses standing waves & flutter echo without removing acoustic energy
- 1′ x 1′ & 2′ x 2′ versions available
- Improve the accuracy of a critical listening environment
- GeoFusor specifications:
- GeoFusor 22 FR 2′ x 2′ x 4.5″ (23.75″ x 23.75″ x 4.5″)
- GeoFusor 22 2′ x 2′ x 4.5″ (23.75″ x 23.75″ x 4.5″)
- GeoFusor 11 1′ x 1′ x 2.25″ (12” x 12” x 4.25”)
- Fire Rating: *ASTM E48 Class A (GeoFusor 22 FR only)
Here are all the specs.Leave a Comment
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For all you REGULAR readers of rAVe HomeAV Edition out there, hopefully you enjoyed another opinion-packed issue!
For those of you NEW to rAVe, you just read how we are — we are 100% opinionated. We not only report the news and new product stories of the high-end HomeAV industry, but we stuff the articles full of our opinions. That may include (but is not limited to) whether or not the product is even worth looking at, challenging the manufacturers on their specifications, calling a marketing-spec bluff and suggesting ways integrators market their products better. But, one thing is for sure, we are NOT a trade publication that gets paid for running editorial or product stories. Traditional trade publications get paid to run product stories — that’s why you see what you see in most of the pubs out there. We are different: we run what we want to run and NO ONE is going to pay us to write anything good (or bad).
Don’t like us, then go away — unsubscribe! Just use the link below.
To send me feedback, don’t reply to this newsletter – instead, write directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or for editorial ideas: Editor-in-Chief Sara Abrons at email@example.com
A little about me: I graduated from Journalism School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where I am adjunct faculty). I’ve been in the AV-industry since 1987 where I started with Extron and eventually moved to AMX. So, I guess I am an industry veteran (although I don’t think I am that old). I have been an opinionated columnist for a number of industry publications and in the late 1990s I started the widely read KNews eNewsletter (the first in the AV market) and also created the model for and was co-founder of AV Avenue – which is now known as InfoComm IQ. rAVe Publications has been around since 2003, when we launched our original newsletter, rAVe ProAV Edition.
rAVe HomeAV Edition, co-published with CEDIA, launched in February, 2004.
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rAVe HomeAV Edition contains the opinions of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of other persons or companies or its sponsors.