Educational Prosumer AV(?)
By Greg Bronson, CTS-D
Historically, AV equipment in education has had its roots in a form of “commercial grade” gear. The largely niche equipment was specifically intended for the rigors of portable use in a classroom and had basic operations — think overhead projectors and portable tape decks. Over time, and less frequently, applications for institutional media departments and/or media (such as “film studies”) academic departments, use(d) “broadcast grade” equipment for high quality performance and intentional mimicking of real world applications — think ¾-inch u-matic and complex editing controllers. Lastly, but perhaps most common, were applications of “professional grade” gear, originally in the form of sound systems for lecture halls and evolving to also include video and control — think integrated amplifiers and digital video projectors.
End of story, right?
Well, not really — the educational AV equipment use classifications don’t stop there. For the same period of time that education has drawn from commercial, broadcast and professional equipment, there has also been a good dose of consumer equipment finding its way into the classroom. While this mostly came in the form of low-cost, high turnover source devices like PCs and VCRs, pockets of broader consumer equipment use (think home grade stereo receivers and TVs) also continued to come and go.
With the advent (and subsequent ubiquity) of technology, or “smart” classrooms, elements of AV that existed in all of the above classifications converged within the same system. Sometimes out of necessity (no other product choices existed) and sometimes out of naïveté, creating the early technology classroom took an almost Frankenstein semblance of disparate gear. Thankfully, things have evolved in the ProAV arena so gear selection is quite a bit more precise. Observing some elements of niche educational user needs and drawing from the product features of existing classification types, we have the newest form of AV in education.
End of story, right?
Well, not really — over the same time periods referenced above, some individual devices evolved into hybrids of part professional – part consumer, often referred to as Prosumer. Observing shortcomings in consumer gear performance and struggling with price premium for professional, technology managers sought out prosumer gear that more closely matched performance/value expectations. But is this really an accepted classification of AV gear in education?
A Wikipedia definition says Prosumer electronics are “considered to be on the fence as a product of lower quality than a professional product, and higher quality (sometimes in the form of bells and whistles) than a consumer product,” with the users of said gear (also called Prosumers) “often rising above the level of dilettante (an amateur, someone who dabbles in a field out of casual interest rather than as a profession or serious interest) to the point of commanding skills equal to that of professionals.”
End of story, right?
Well, not really — the AV Club acknowledges that most institutions have, and will continue, to purchase AV gear across all classifications, for various needs. But at the same time some portion of the technology classroom gear may well fall under the Wikipedia definition of “Prosumer,” with the following wish list of bells and whistles for a proposed classification of Educational Prosumer AV:
- Every piece of educational prosumer gear that is sold with a remote control should actually include two remotes. One, the “full function” remote has all features functions that the manufacturer is inclined to provide, and the technology manager needs for care and feeding. The second “executive” remote has only the most basic of functions (i.e., on/off, input, stop, play, volume) that the Real End User needs in presentation mode.
- All primary devices (i.e., amplifier, switcher, controller, and monitor) must offer choices that qualify as Energy Star. Granted, some *really* unique Educational Prosumer AV devices are sufficiently uncommon (and likely not power hogs to start with) that Energy Star isn’t of highest priority. But for everything else (note examples above), reducing power draw is very important and will increasingly influence purchase decisions.
- After price, upgraded connections are probably the next thing the technology manager is going to evaluate on prospective gear. However, as crossover classification equipment, this actually means pro *and* consumer connects (i.e., think balanced XLR *and* unbalanced RCA audio).
- Finally, but to a lesser degree, as many commercial/broadcast/professional grade components on the market have added value in features that elevate them over consumer (such as extended standard warranties and ruggedized chassis), so may educational prosumer AV gear. However, such enhancements will be scrutinized by technology managers for a negligible value proposition over the anticipated device’s life span.
The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors’ employer(s), past or present.
|Greg Bronson, CTS-D, applies AV technologies in the development of innovative learning spaces for higher education. Greg spent the first 10 years of his career as AV technician and service manager, with the past 12 years as an AV system designer and project manager. Bronson currently works for Cornell University and has also worked for two SUNY (State University of New York) campuses as well as a regional secondary education service depot. Bronson is the originator of concept for Infocomm’s Dashboard for Controls and has had completed projects featured in industry publications. You can reach Greg at email@example.com|
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EPSON Launches Sub-$1000, XGA projector
Dubbed the PowerLite 1716, the 4-pound, 3LCD projector is aimed at the portable market but will have an impact in the educational market with its price and performance. It’s specified to have 2700 ANSI lumens, includes wireless (802.11g) and USB-based projection, and what EPSON claims is a 4000-hour lamp.
In any case, if you want to learn more you’ll have to wait as it’s not on their website yet, but when it is, you can find it here: http://www.epsonprojectors.com/mobile.jsp
The features listed here certainly seem to point to the mobile presenter. In Education, mobile can mean campus to campus – or even more likely, classroom to classroom!
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Canon Aims New Projectors at Journalism and Art Schools
Last week, Canon announced the addition of two new LCoS projectors to its REALiS line. Dubbed the WUX10 Mark II and SX80 Mark II, both of these projectors include what Canon calls a new Photo Image Mode allowing for advanced color management and adjustments for ambient lighting conditions. This new mode is ideal for professionals with the most discerning image quality needs, including those in the fields of photography, education, engineering and the arts and sciences.
Canon, no doubt the leader in SLR cameras for years told rAVe that they’ve married what they learned in building their SLR cameras with projection technology to produce these two models aimed at photojournalism schools and other photo-perfect applications. Canon says with the introduction of the Photo Image Mode, users can take advantage of added flexibility to improve the look and feel of images being projected. The new Ambient Light function allows users to adjust for lighting conditions by selecting from easy-to-use presets for both the type of lighting (Tungsten, Fluorescent and Fluorescent H) and intensity (Low, Medium or High). When selected, these options will automatically adjust the settings to ensure optimum color reproduction and image quality. In addition to adjusting for ambient lighting, the Photo Image Mode allows for fine-tuning of both color levels (intensity of colors) and color temperature. The Canon REALiS SX80 Mark II Multimedia Projector is an SXGA+ (1400×1050) resolution model and is specified to deliver 3000 lumens. The Canon REALiS WUX10 Mark II is native WUXGA (1920×1200) resolution (2.30 megapixels), 3200 lumens in a 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio. Both projectors are network-enabled.
You can read all the specs here: http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=ProductCatIndexAct&fcategoryid=109
The AV Club has noted that color management is a growing “need” area for Education. Looks like Canon is adding enhancements in an area they’ve already been paying attention to.
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ViewCast Launches Adobe Flash H.264 Streaming Video Server
Dubbed the Niagara 2120, ViewCast's newest streaming video appliance is being promoted as a low-cost streaming solution that’s compatible with Adobe Flash, H.264, which ViewCast says includes multiple, simultaneous resolutions and bit rates to computers, cell phones and mobile devices anywhere around the world.
At just the size of a half rack (1 RU x 7.5”), the Niagara 2120 inputs video from component video sources, S-Video sources and composite video sources and encodes them into a Flash H.264 format that can be sent via the “network” via two 1-Gbit Ethernet ports. Processing includes scaling, cropping, de-interlacing, inverse telecine, closed caption rendering and it’s all housed in a 4.9-pound package.
rAVe believes that this is an example of a new generation of source converters/streaming media appliances you will see being deployed in large DS networks where Flash Video is driving content to not only flat-panels, but simultaneously to many devices that are flash capable (i.e., cell phones, computers, tablet PCs, home and DOOH media players, etc.)
To learn more about it, go to: http://www.viewcast.com/products/niagara-2120
Certainly agree with rAVe that this product is an example of a trend toward streaming media using Flash for content across various types of playback devices.
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Extron's USB 2.0 Hub for Architectural Mount Applications Ships
Extron has announced that the new USB HUB4, Four-Port USB 2.0 Hub for architectural mount applications is now shipping. The USB HUB4 allows the sharing of up to four USB devices on a single host port and is available in two versions: AAP – Architectural Adapter Plate and MAAP – Mini Architectural Adapter Plate. Extron says it streamlines integration by eliminating the need for separate USB Host ports and their cables, and is ideal for any environment where multiple USB devices must share a single USB port.
For integration flexibility, the USB HUB4 is equipped with both USB "Mini" Type B and captive screw host inputs. The captive screw input is ideal for installation in lecterns, junction boxes, and other space-constrained applications. The USB HUB4 also provides 5V, 500mA on each output, delivering power to multiple peripherals such as mass storage devices, keyboards, mice, or other HID – Human Interface Devices. Both versions of the USB HUB4 are designed to mount easily in Cable Cubby furniture-mountable access enclosures, HSA – Hideaway Surface Access enclosures, AVTrac floor-mounted raceway for A/V connectivity, wall plates, and other products that accept a double space AAP or MAAP.
To learn all about the USB 2.0 HUB4 AAP, go to: http://www.extron.com/product/product.aspx?id=usbhub4aap&s=1
To learn all about the USB 2.0 HUB4 MAAP, go to: http://www.extron.com/product/product.aspx?id=usbhub4maap&s=2
To the average Real End User, a USB Hub in any form may not be news in October of 2009. BUT, to the technology manager this is cool stuff!
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Bretford Offers MBT (Micro Barrier Technologies) on Tables and Carts
Bretford Manufacturing has become what they say is the first commercial AV manufacturer to introduce multi-surface antimicrobial finishes on more than 50 different tables and carts for learning and training environments. According to Bretford, these finishes are intended to help prevent the spread of germs and contribute to the health and well being of children and adults. In fact, Bretford says with their Microbe Barrier Technologies antimicrobial surface protection, the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew and fungi is reduced by 99.99 percent for the life of the product. This provides an added line of defense against sickness-related germs in both schools and offices.
This is a great up-sell as we move into a fall filled with the fear of flu season. Check out this video to understand this anti-bacterial coating that Bretford has: http://bretford.com/MBT.asp
Frankly, with all the press and discussions going on with flu pandemic concerns, it’s a little surprising we haven’t seen more impact on AV products. Good to know, though.
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Well, that's it for this edition of rAVe! Thank you for spending time with us as we muse the industry's happenings. To continue getting my newsletter, or to sign up a friend, click the link below. To send feedback, don't reply to this newsletter – instead, write to Contributing Editor Greg Bronson at firstname.lastname@example.org, Publisher Gary Kayye at email@example.com or Editor-in-Chief Sara Abrons at firstname.lastname@example.org
A little about Gary Kayye, CTS, founder of rAVe and Kayye Consulting. Gary Kayye, an audiovisual veteran and columnist, began the widely-read KNews, a premier industry newsletter, in the late 1990s, and created the model for and was co-founder of AV Avenue – which later became InfoComm IQ. Kayye Consulting is a company that is committed to furthering the interests and success of dealers, manufacturers, and other companies within the professional audiovisual industry.
rAVe Pro Edition launched in February 2003. rAVe Home Edition, co-sponsored by CEDIA, launched in February 2004. rAVe Rental [and Staging] launched in November 2007. rAVe Ed [Education] began publication in May 2008.
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