Are You Leveraging Negative Energy?

AtomsEver since cavemen sat around a fire and pointed at cave drawings, light has played a key role in communication. It is hard to imagine an AV industry without devices powered by artificial light.

We owe a lot to people like Volta and Edison and their little glowing pieces of wire. Going a level deeper, it’s amazing to think that all we see in this world, whether lit by natural or artificial sources, we owe to little sources negative energy.

If you remember your physics courses at all, every atom has electrons circling its nucleus. They do so at varying levels and in different patterns, including ellipses and figure 8’s. When an atom is excited, the electrons can “jump levels” of orbit, and WHAMO!, light is released.

It’s quite amazing actually, even if it is not entirely necessary to understand when designing an AV system or installing a projector.

However, I may argue that a little more understanding of light in general may not be unwarranted considering its importance in our AV world.

I’m not implying that every AV sales person and Technician should get a degree in advanced Physics or even be ISF Certified (I certainly do not have the former, though I keep sparring with the idea of securing the latter). What I am saying though, is that a good understanding of light can be an amazing ally when dealing with clients, either in specifying the right equipment, educating a client on the equipment you recommend and why, or walking them through service and support issues.

Are You Leveraging Negative Energy in Your Client Interactions?

As an example, I used to sell quite a few projector based systems, installed in either home theaters, conference rooms, or houses of worship. Many times, clients didn’t fully understand the reasons for higher light output projectors in their venues, or why we were so concerned with base light levels in the rooms themselves. They saw a projector on Dell.com that said it was for screens up to 200″, so “Why can’t we just use that and not overcomplicate things?”, they’d ask.

I had similar conversations quite a few times before I learned one phrase that helped me immensely in explaining why we were specifying brighter projectors. That phrase?

“You can’t project black.”

I would take my sample book of screen materials with me to the venue in question and hold up the screen material in the screen location. I’d then ask the client what color the material was. They’d say white, gray, etc, and I’d say, “Nope. That’s black.” They’d chuckle, or smile, or stare inquisitively for a moment and then I’d let them in on the secret to projected light. “We can’t project black, as black is the absence of light. Whatever color the screen is in this room will be your black level. The only way I can make that seem any darker is to project a white so bright that your eyes “see” it as black by comparison. We can’t do that with a 2000 lumen projector on a 147″ screen in this room unfortunately, which is why I recommend. . .”

So knowing a little about light, (not being able to project black) and about contrast (the perceived difference between two things) you can easily demonstrate to a client why your price is a little higher than the competition, and ultimately that the extra money provides an innate value the other firm failed to offer.

The same thing holds true when describing why any transmissive, backlit technologies like DLP, LCD, LCoS, etc will have an innate black level that is really gray. Knowing that would help you explain why higher end panels are backlit in sections, allowing the backlight to be left off completely in sections when not needed to increase black levels and contrast.

It also helps to explain why emissive technologies like the old CRT’s, Plasma, and even true LED arrays, as well as futuristic and expensive laser, OLED, and Quantum Dot technologies, have better black levels than their transmissive counterparts.

Knowing that an LCD panel only colors, blocks, and polarizes light that is pushed through it helps explain why transparent LCD is not a great fit for many jobs unless you can control the light source of the space behind it.

Knowing angle of entry equals angle of reflection can help you explain how you can create holographic effects for clients with a piece of reflective Mylar set at an angle to the audience.

Knowing that overlapping two projectors to blend an image will result in a new black level in the overlap, helps you do a better job in adjusting those levels at the edges or in securing the proper optical filters.

The audience themselves just wants to be entertained or needs to be communicated with, so explaining the concepts at that level, sometimes makes little sense. However, for technology managers, IT managers, and even marketing people charged with creating amazing customer experiences, they want to buy more than some magic beans. They want to know that you can accomplish what you say you can with their funds, and for that, a little explanation on a personal, intuitive level, can go a long way.

My challenge for 2014, brush up a little on the science behind the art of AV. Avoid the impulse to do a raw data dump on your clients to prove your superior knowledge, but instead develop some non-confrontational, fun, and educational stories and demonstrations that help you bring to light all you can offer.

Disagree? Pick a fight in the comments below and I’ll either illuminate you or “light you up” depending on your own level of negative energy 🙂