Ghosts of AV Systems Past: The AV Technologically-Challenged (Not!), Part Two
By Greg Bronson, CTS-D
Ah, yes… last month we had a grand old time at the AV Club holiday party; telling stories about non-techies that just don’t get it. It seemed nice to blow off a bit of steam, eh? No harm, no foul, right?
Well, actually, even though the need to make sure all End Users get the support resources required also came up, I’ve been haunted with dream-like memories of real End Users who far exceeded my expectations with their grasp of the technology; let’s call them ghosts of AV systems past.
The dreams start with a montage of End Users who are struggling (although persistent) with AV systems. But these folks aren’t technophobes. They’re what will come to be known as “early adopters.” Vividly, a memory of a “seasoned” School of Dentistry faculty member appears from a distant decade. She’s been using one of the few fully media-equipped classrooms recently installed on campus. And while generally providing positive feedback, also continues to log trouble calls for a “projector that won’t switch.” We make several good faith attempts to duplicate the problem – it switched fine for us — in between class periods, but the service calls end the same way: with techie talk that implies user error or perhaps outright imagination.
Finally another complaint from the same key faculty member, this time less patient, lands yours truly in the back of an “Advanced Periodontics” (or what ever it was) classroom. Right away I’m struck at what a great instructor she is… and, how great the CRT projector image is! And then, only a few minutes into class she switches from the computer we had custom configured and aligned for her, to a different video demonstration source, except as she does, she waits… and waits … for the projector to switch (at the time, a process that took the better part of a minute, not seconds)… and she glared at me with a “SEE! IT’S NOT SWITCHING!” look. Sure, the system wasn’t “broken” (our interpretation of the complaint); the hardware simply could not do what she wanted and needed. And as time proved out, what she wanted (a dynamic “multi-media” presentation) became key design criteria for future AV in education systems.
Next, the dream forwards half a dozen years. I’ve moved on to new professional challenges and am proud of a newly implemented brain child electronic classroom configuration. To be sure, this had all the latest multimedia sources (and switching interval was minimal)! In this memory, I’m scurrying about, addressing too many concurrent design and install projects, while also looking in on classes with the newly minted AV systems. In one, I know a Child Psychology professor is planning system use and has also asked to have a portable camcorder set up to record his lecture for professional development purposes. Privately looking forward to asking to also have a copy of his video (envisioning it showing a dynamic multimedia extravaganza) my attention is immediately caught with how the AV is being used. The “document camera” is set up to view a “set” of miniature dolls, furniture, etc. such that students are seeing an overhead shot of his live manipulation of a family role play. Blown away by the creative use of the technology, I have to lick my wounds when a post class review of the recording shows absolutely no switching off that single document camera source for the entire class.
Lastly, the dream advances into the new millennium. Similar to the previous memory, I’m doing a “spot check” on a major new install of technology during the first week of classes. Slipping into the projection booth of a large lecture, I brace for a bumpy presentation by a faculty member I know blew off the new system training – even though we offered it two different times. However, this is not the case. The Textiles and Apparel faculty member is not only switching between multiple sources, but is also flawlessly manipulating the two side-by-side digital projection systems, as she drives home bullet points of the PowerPoint on one screen, with live 3D manipulation close-ups of cloth swatches on the other. My head spinning at how quickly she’s mastered the new touch panel and lectern layout, I’m enlightened to the power of simultaneous multiple digital images.
Of course the individuals in this dream are not ghosts, and the memories are not haunting ones. But the actual experiences did have lasting impacts on my approach to AV systems in education that followed. While observing the power and pitfalls encountered by the real End Users, future implementations evolved to even better instructional tools (within the constraints of available products, of course!). But, fundamentally, it was the awareness of the successful applications early adopters form, whether or not they matched my “vision,” that count(ed) the most.
Hmm, maybe the next AV Club party should be a mixer, and we can introduce some early adopters to the Club. Come to think of it, I have a few technology challenged folks I’d like them to meet, also.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Setting Expectations, Part Two: What are the User's Responsibility in A/V?
By Scott Tiner, CTS
Last time, I wrote about reasonable expectations for the reliability of AV systems. This time I am considering reasonable expectations of people who use these systems. Specifically, how much should people be expected to know about an A/V system?
I have previously discussed the not so distant past of A/V, and how we are still trying to get beyond the "reputation." In particular, for a long time A/V was not professionally integrated in our spaces and frankly, did not work very well. The behind-the-scenes AV was not close to the systems we have today and it was confusing to use. Remember, it was not that long ago that a professor may have used a mixing board to increase volume in the classroom! AV techs NEEDED to be available to help run this equipment. Clearly, with the saturation and usage rates of equipment, this is no longer possible. We simply can not be everywhere anymore.
At Bates College, we have begun to change support expectations. The first step in this process is to develop systems that are easy to use, reliable and well-maintained. For example, if you have touch panels, you should seriously consider using Dashboard for Controls. Choosing a standard like this helps your staff, my staff and all the presenters who travel from one location to another.
One test that I have used to determine how simple a room is to use, is to bring someone in who has never used a control device before. I point them to the touch panel or button pad and ask them to turn the projector on and select the dedicated computer. If they cannot do that, then the system is not easy enough to use. As a side note, I am looking for more people to be my test users, so far my wife, brother and father have all been used. Would enlisting my 8 year old daughter be wrong?
After we were comfortable that our systems were easy to use and reliable, we started offering training (during regular work hours) as opposed to on-site support during usage of the system. At Bates we believe that the money we spend on control systems is returned by not requiring technicians at every event. If you are going to send an AV tech to be present at every event, then why did you put in the control system to begin with? You could have saved money and left the remote controls and mixing board in place.
At first our users worried about us not being at every event. They were worried about their presentation failing, and that makes sense since it is a fear that all presenters have. However, after several successful events (507 events in the fall semester, with two reported problems), the users realized they can use the systems on their own. By the way, the two reported problems turned out to be matters of convenience, neither stopped the presentation from moving forward.
Under the right conditions, I will sometimes joke with a nervous presenter and remind them that the A/V system in the room is much easier to use than a photocopier, fax machine or a cell phone (and likely more reliable than any of those) and they manage to use them everyday. We developed these changes as policy and posted so all our clients could have access to them.
Our second struggle is with outside presenters. Too many times we have seen problems with presentations because no expectations or responsibilities were made clear in advance. Presenters show up with all types of various computers, media and peripherals. We have had events in which we were told no AV was being used, and the presenter showed up with a laptop that had a proprietary video output, and they did not have the adapter. Because no expectations were set in advance, solving this problem became the responsibility of the AV staff. Of course, we did not have the adapter, so the presenter could not use their laptop. This unfairly made the AV staff look bad and, more importantly, the event did not go off as well as it could have and should have.
After a couple of these occurrences, we set expectations and responsibilities. We made it clear that outside speakers have responsibilities to know how to use their own technology. We went around campus talking with people who sponsor outside speakers and made sure they were aware of our new policy. As current practice, we send the previous link to everyone who is a guest speaker at the College. Again, this was a change and people were not fully comfortable with the change, but after a full semester, it is clear (the aforementioned 507 successful events) that the policy has made events flow more smoothly.
The point we try to get across to users of the system is that our responsibilities include providing you with reliable, easy-to-use rooms and training on how the rooms work. Your responsibilities include taking the time to learn how the system works, and only bringing your own devices if you know how they work.
Scott Tiner, CTS, has worked in the AV/IT field in public K-12, private K-12 and higher education institutions. As a trained educator he has a deep interest in the use of various types of technology in the classroom. Currently, as the Manager of Digital Media and Event Support at Bates College, Scott designs the technology for learning spaces and works with faculty on innovative ways to use technology in these learning spaces. He also is responsible for the digital video and audio editing support on campus. He can be reached via email@example.com or @stiner on Twitter.
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HD Over Component Video is Dead (Almost)
By Gary Kayye, CTS
Everyone’s used component video for HD. Everyone. In fact, some surveys find that as many of 85 percent of ProAV installations using HD are still being integrated over component video.
Well, did you know that as of December 31, 2010 analog outputs decrypted (AACS) content will be limited to 480i and 480p (maximum resolution)? The date is referred to as “analog’s sunset.”
Translation: We’d better hurry up and start integrating systems using HDMI and DVI or we (or better yet, our clients) will be left with systems that once were HD and, all-of-a-sudden, are SD.
Here’s the official wording from the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) – the governing body that was tasked by our industry in coming up with a standard for switching from the old analog system for sending content to the new digital systems we’re seeing today (e.g., DVI, HDMI):
| ||1.7.1 2010 Sunset. Existing Models (as defined in Section 1.7.2) may be manufactured and sold by Adopter up until December 31, 2011. For any licensed Player (other than Existing Models) manufactured after December 31, 2010, analog outputs for Decrypted AACS Content shall be limited to SD Interlace Modes Only (i.e., Composite, S-Video, 480i component)…|
I won't bore you with all the details and data, but if you’re interested in reading the document yourself, go to http://www.aacsla.com/home and download it.
Simply put, we ALL need to rapidly transition our design, sales and integration teams towards digital standards when dealing with HD content (e.g., Blu-ray players, DirecTV, Dish Network and HD downloads). If you’re only doing systems with computers, don’t worry; you’re OK. But, if you integrate systems with HD video, you need to understand and learn all about the digital signal standards out there and how to integrate systems using them –they aren’t as simple as using DAs and switchers.
In fact, just this year, both Crestron and Extron have released educational guides on designing systems using digital gear, simply to educate integration firms on the complexities of digital interfacing, switching and distribution of AV signals in a digital environment. Both guides are excellent educational tools and I highly recommend that you order them and distribute them company-wide. In both cases, they require you to register yourself to get a copy – that’s why I can’t just put in the URL for each one in my column.
And, as we enter this totally-digital chain of AV integration, we will all experience, together, the evolution of the AV gear market. For example, content delivery will simplify as everything will be produced, delivered and displayed all-digital — that analog step in the middle of the chain will be eliminated — allowing for perfect images and many delivery formats for content, such as HD, PC-based, iPhone-based, HD-conferencing-based and even IM-based video chat style content delivery of everything. It’ll be a lot like TV is today. Think about it. If you want to watch a TV show, you have many, many options. You can all gather around the TV at the broadcast time of the show (say, 8:00 pm on Wednesday) and watch. Or, you can record it to your DVR and watch it later. If you totally missed even recording it, you can buy it from iTunes and watch it on your TV. If it’s not available, yet, on iTunes, you can rent it from Netflix. Or, you can hop on over to YouTube where someone’s bound to have uploaded a copy of it (albeit illegally) for all to see – for free.
Imagine the world of meetings working this way. A professor needs to deliver a presentation, he/she can bring in his laptop, connect it to the projector in the room and voila – it’s there for all to see. Or, if you missed the lecture, you can watch it at a later date via the school’s content server (you will be setting this up, by the way, as an AV integrator – once you understand routing digital signals and managing digital content). Or, the class can be offered up in iTunes-U as a class that anyone can take anywhere they want – any time. Or, watch it on your iPhone or Blackberry. All because we, the ProAV market, began designing, building and integrating digital content delivery systems – not just classrooms and meeting rooms.
Wow! If this doesn’t kick start an economic recovery in AV, nothing will!!!
Reprinted with permission from Sound & Communications. Founded in 1955, Sound & Communications is the premiere magazine for AV systems integrators, contractors and consultants. To subscribe or read sample articles, go to http://www.soundandcommunications.com
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rAVe Publishes Gary Kayye's 2010 Predictions
Welcome to my 11th annual Kayye’s Krystal Ball feature article, including my personal predictions for the upcoming year for Professional AV, and even some HomeAV technology, trends and products. If you’re a regular reader of this column, then you know that each year I actually start by reviewing my own predictions from last year’s column. Last year’s column you can read here: http://www.ravepro.com/issues/2009/01/rpvol7iss1/index.htm#feat1
Why do I do it this way? Well, when I was a kid I loved TV and always loved watching those TV psychics sell their predictions to viewers who called in with their credit card numbers. Every year, they would reappear on TV selling the next year’s predictions. But, I could never remember what they predicted to see if they were right. I always wanted them to remind us of their predictions from the previous year so I could see if it was worth the price (I knew my dad’s credit card number).
In this case, I’m free. You didn’t pay to read this, so keep this in perspective. But, if I may say so myself, over the past ten years, I’ve actually done a pretty good job – or been really lucky.
Interested in reading our predictions for 2010? Go here: http://www.ravepro.com/issues/2009/12/rpvol7iss24/index.html#t1081
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Sanyo Launches 3K Lumen Ultra-Portable
At $1195, the new XW300 XGA resolution (1024×768) from Sanyo would attract some attention, but when we read that it was listed as having a 3000 ANSI lumen spec, we were astonished at the price. At about five pounds, the XW300 is the ultimate ED projector as it’s specified with all the right install features including network and RS232 control. It’s designed to be carried or installed in a classroom.
Check it out at: http://us.sanyo.com/Projectors-by-Market-House-of-Worship-Classroom/PLC-XW300
I’m thinking back to how many times the “native resolution” bar moved up over the years… and along with it, a rush to replace projectors. Along came good old XGA and it’s been a staple for many years – now its wide WXGA cousin is poised to take over.
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InFocus Adds Five New Projectors Aimed at Education and Boardroom Markets
Last week, InFocus debuted five new projectors in its IN2100 and IN3100 series projectors, including their first networked projector for under $1000.
The IN2100 is available now starting at $599 and comes standard with a long life lamp that InFocus says should last most schools and businesses many years with typical usage. Two computer and assignable audio inputs offer convenience for multiple presenters, while security features and an available networking option offer easier management of projector assets.
The IN3100 projectors start at $1499 and support HDMI compatibility, DisplayLink, LitePort for PC-free presenting, LiteShow II for wireless connectivity for multiple users over standard WiFi, and Wireless DisplayLink for point-to-point connectivity over Ultra-wideband (UWB). The IN2116 and IN3116 are widescreen models, ideal for smaller presentation environments.
All new projectors in the IN2100 and IN3100 series offer a so-called green-friendly Eco Mode for lower power consumption and are designed to consume less than 1-watt of power in standby mode. Native resolutions range from SVGA, XGA, to WXGA and a maximum resolution of WUXGA (1900×1200).
The IN2112 (MSRP: $599), IN2114 (MSRP: $899) and IN3114 (MSRP: $1499) projectors are available now. The IN2116 and IN3116 will be available in Q1 2010; pricing has not been released on these models.
For more information on the IN2100 series, go here: http://www.infocus.com/ProductFamilies/IN2100_Series.aspx
For more information on the IN3100 series, go here: http://www.infocus.com/ProductFamilies/IN3100_Series.aspx
Gotta read this one twice, folks, just to take in the myriad of features and models.
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Da-Lite Adds Flat Panel Carts to Line
PixMate Flat Panel Carts are now available in Da-Lite’s Advance line of carts and stands. These models are UL listed and feature heavy-duty, five-inch swivel casters. The Flat Panel Carts feature a universal flat panel mount that is compatible with monitors up to 50” in diagonal. The flat panel mount is designed with a unique rail mounting system to make installation simple for any plasma with mounting holes 1 5/8" to 26 1/2" apart horizontally and up to 15 1/2" apart vertically. The PM7UL-47JF holds monitors up to 70 pounds and is height adjustable from 45” to 47”. The PM8UL-44F accommodates monitors up to 80 pounds and the PM10UL-44F supports monitors up to 100 pounds. All three models feature a black powder coated finish.
See them at: http://www.dalite.com/products/product.php?cID=40&pID=472
Well, being a bit “old school,” have to say I remember these carts with big old CRT TVs on them… with straps to hold ‘em down! Looks like the updated versions are ready for the brave new flat screen world.
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Extron Launches Online Video Education on PoleVault and VoiceLift Systems
Extron just launched an educational training video aimed at educators, specifiers and media center directors that thoroughly explains their PoleVault System components and application. The 15-minute video provides valuable information for teachers to effectively use the VoiceLift and PoleVault Systems in the classroom. Topics include using the VoiceLift Microphone and PoleVault System controller, and proper system connectivity to computers, DVD players, and other AV devices.
You can watch the video at: http://www.extron.com/schools/launch.aspx
I’m probably repeating myself, but have to give a gold star to Extron for how informative their website is. Expanding with training videos gets a smiley face sticker to go next to the gold star!
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AGL Launches Outdoor LCDs for Campus-wide Digital Signage Apps
Placing Digital Signs all over campus for wayfinding, information, news, weather, emergency services and even art is getting easier and easier with all the Digital Signage tools out there. But, when the majority of your student-body is outside between class schedules, getting LCDs that can weather the environment has been a struggle without building special housing structures – until now. AGL has just launched a series of 22-inch, 24-inch and 32-inch “commercial-grade” LCD monitors with 1920×1080 full HD resolution and 1000 nit high brightness spec for outdoor applications.
These monitors are supposedly waterproof, usable in direct sunlight, touch screen sensitive and can operate in -22 to +140 degrees F.
To learn more, go to: http://www.appliedgreenlight.com/?q=taxonomy/term/25
This is an interesting “find.” Definitely one to bookmark and get a closer look if/when the application arises.
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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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