The (Great) AV Treasure Hunt

By Greg Bronson, CTS-D

The members of the AV Club should be relatively unphased by, and perhaps even thrive on, the myriad of technical idiosyncrasies that seem to come with working with AV systems in education.  We grumble when “others” phase out, or come up with new, promising technology, seemingly unaware of how their actions may leave our applications high and dry. Nonetheless, we commiserate amongst ourselves, gain working knowledge on the technology hurdles of the day and set out to find possible solutions.   It would all be a little unsettling… if it wasn’t also a bit like a treasure hunt!

You know what I mean… if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be a career AV professional!

Of course, the mecca of the AV Club treasure seeker: InfoComm09 just wrapped up at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.  Treasure seekers scrambled amongst the more than 850 exhibitors on the show floor, sharpening their seeking skills and picking from some 300 educational opportunities.  And, don’t forget about Educomm, just a stone’s throw away (well, actually a good bit more than that…), where a stronger emphasis on the real End User provided even more clues about the ultimate treasure(s).

So, here are the “rules” of the treasure hunt.   I’ll list “clues” I’ve heard/seen other AV Clubbers grumble about lately (with a bit of my own take sprinkled in).  You’ll read the clues – merge them with your own experience, and form theories for possible solutions.   Theories can be tested (and collaborated on) via discussion lists like the rAVe Nation Education Forum or perhaps the AV-1 list (a popular current favorite).  Those unwilling to share knowledge and clues along the way (effectively trying to “grab up the whole scene,” a la It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) will only stifle timely progress.

OK.  Ready?  Here we go.

1st Clue:  And this hurts, coming from a guy who uses the word “innovative” in the first sentence of his bio.  Due to budget situations, we’re mostly back to basics.  Bells and whistles will be an especially hard sell, with the ripple effects of budget cropping continuing to redefine “doing more with less.”  A big part of that “less” is less people to cover a growing inventory.  Treasures come in the form of things that work rock solid and can be remotely managed (Ethernet, not Sneakernet).

2nd Clue:  Green AV means more than just hype (and, I’m sorry, but it’s borderline overhyped at this point).  It really does offer opportunity for real value to organizations, with potential to save on energy use, reduced maintenance (through managed run time) and less waste.  Treasures come in the form of room-based videoconferencing that’s built around CODECs that are priced like they’re truly aware of the footsteps heard from desktop applications.  More treasures are found with organizations that “get it” and make videoconferencing simply a way of work life.

3rd Clue:  HD video (high resolution wide screen) is a wonderful thing… if it works “end to end.”  We’re getting squeezed between new products that are dropping support for analog transport of HD signals (that worked just fine, thank you) and multiple flavors of digital transport popping up all around us (that work within narrow constraints, thank you very little).  Treasures come in the form of maintaining legacy analog HD interconnects until a digital standard proves to work in our applications.  Which, by the way (Legal Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney, and this is not legal advice) means an educator’s legitimate uses of content for instruction won’t be preempted or otherwise “dumbed down” by broad stroke encryption like HDCP.

4th Clue:  As it’s been said many times, the face of an AV system is its control interface.  And real end users are still needlessly tortured by the interfaces.  We’re still out of balance here folks.  Maybe 20 percent of new and existing systems are better off as a “unique” custom layout/function.  The remaining 80 percent simply need basic controls placed in a consistent orientation (say, ummm… Dashboard for Controls Template?).  Treasures come in the form of touch panel programming, as well as button panels, with the primary (basic) controls in the regions of the DFC control panel template.

Last Clue (actually, purely just a rant):  Will somebody talk to PC (and portable media device) manufacturers about the 1/8” unbalanced mini connectors?  If you must fiddle with connections, how about looking past the external video/monitor port and ADDING A BALANCED LINE OUTPUT!??  I’ll even settle for yet another one of those crazy proprietary connectors (with accompanying ransom price) to adapt it to Pro AV systems!

Happy AV Treasure Hunting!  If you have a Clue, be sure to share it.



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