New Tools for Your Toolbox?

On August 23rd, at 2 PM the Technology Manager’s Council of InfoComm will hold a quarterly conference call.  This call is particularly interesting because we have invited the Independent Technical Service Providers Council (ITSP) to join us in the call. Several of us in the planning sub-committee had a conference call with them last week and are very excited about how this council can work together with ours. Continue reading New Tools for Your Toolbox?

InfoComm 2012 Part 1 – The Toys

Like many of you I spent the middle of last month in Vegas at InfoComm. I’m going to take a stab at blogging about the experience.

I think I may get three posts out of it. This is the first – the tech one. In the next I’ll talk about the classes, the events, the alcohol, any good dirt or gossip I can remember, and the alcohol. The third – if the blue helicopters don’t whisk me away before I finish it – will be a post-InfoComm revisit of the whole Extron situation. Continue reading InfoComm 2012 Part 1 – The Toys

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s that time again. The day AV boys and girls wait for all year. That morning we’ll wake up, jump out of our hotel room beds, and run down to the show floor all a buzz with anticipation, wondering what magical new AV toys the manufacturers have brought us this year. It’s Christmas in June – it’s InfoComm time. (Not to mention the coming of a savior to listen to many of the marketing claims.) Continue reading It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s Like Christmas Every Day

One of the things I love about my job (and this industry), is that it is never the same.  I can truly say that from day to day I never know what new project is going to be requested of me and my team.    Every day is like Christmas morning, you never know what is in that wrapped box.

At the end of 2011, Bates College announced our new President.  We wanted to make a splash, so we kept the name secret until the last minute.  Our communications offfice wanted to stream the event, and wanted a nice production.  That led to the purchase of a NewTek Tricaster, contracts with Content Delivery Networks, and all types of coordination with firms we hired for the video portion.  Some may have complained about the short notice (we had about 9 days) but for me it was a thrill.  Check out what we did.

And that is only one example.  We have also started projects in classroom capture (using the new Crestron Capture HD platform and Sony Vaddio Cameras), are in the process of transitioning to digital (I think I could write a book, never mind a blog on this issue) installed a digital signage network on campus (we use the server version of Tightrope Media Systems) and continue to find ways to support our users in their daily use of campus equipment.  For all I know, tomorrow, I may be asked to design an audio and video installation for a field house style gymnasium, with terrible acoustics.  Oh wait, that was last Friday I got that request.

No day is ever the same for someone in a job like this, and I think that is why we love it. However, I have to go now, I have to do some research on scissor lifts for that gym project. Merry Christmas!

I Guess We’re All Free Wednesday Night

Well my Wednesday night InfoComm dance card just opened up, as I’m sure it did for many of you. I was as surprised by Extron’s announcement as anyone, although, after some thought, their exit doesn’t seem that crazy to me.

The Extron booth was a pretty low priority for me at the show. I’m familiar with their product line, plus they send out news and product information constantly – electronically and printed. They also have one of the best web sites in the industry.

It will be one less chance to catch up on their new products, but most of those were often the better part of a year from shipping. Kind of makes them seem a better candidate for “new product” next year, but I’m just a tech guy, what do I know?

My time at the show was better spent with other manufacturers, the smaller AV companies I don’t know quite as well, the folks I won’t see in glossy full-page magazine ads every month. (Not that we don’t appreciate those – helping to keep those magazines in print.) Those smaller companies are usually where I have found the products that have made the biggest changes to the systems we build. The big booths – let me guess: this year is smaller, lighter, brighter, faster, cheaper, or higher resolution. Am I right? And I’m kind of over the 3D and telepresence demos.

Of course the big thing everyone keeps talking about is The Bash. Sure it was fun, but how do you justify a huge party like that business-wise? Besides, wasn’t it just an exercise in “my Wednesday night party is bigger than your Thursday night party”?

I am disappointed that they aren’t going to be doing any classes or training. The Extron classes at InfoComm were consistently exceptional. This is probably the most short-sighted aspect of their exit in my eyes. With their size and eclectic product line they are in a key position to provide valuable industry training. I would have liked to have seen a bit more largess in this area and for training (open to the great unwashed AV masses) to continue at the show, not just for private invitees to the home office.

In retrospect I think they had no place to go. They set a very high bar for themselves – the biggest booth and the biggest party. They would jump the shark every year. That’s a tough act to sustain. What do you do for an encore?

For a long time they were the little guy who had something to prove. Once their size and key role in the industry became second nature to all of us, what was the rational for a huge booth and party? And to back down from either of those – to do anything less than this complete cut-and-run – would have had us all speculating far worse than the “they think they don’t need InfoComm” that most opinion seems to be boiling down to.

That’s my take, what about you folks? What do you think about Extron deciding to no longer participate in the InfoComm show?

AV-1 Insiders Initiative Announced

Since 2001, AV-1 has grown into a global community of thousands of leaders and learners, teachers and techies from more than 500 institutions (K-20, corporate, municipal, and military), all sharing a genuine commitment to measurable success in the art and science of communications and learning technologies.

AV-1 is where we seek guidance and freely share our experiences and our tools, so that our colleagues need not reinvent the wheel. It is the rising tide that lifts all boats. Continue reading AV-1 Insiders Initiative Announced

Vulnerability in Video Conferencing Systems

I started reading and realized quickly that as AV and IT merged and intermingled, our disciplines have yet to successfully communicate and at times understand each other. The network, security, server and the AV trades are all in the same boat and from the early rifts, I think we have come a long way in understanding what each discipline brings to the table, but we still seem to fail continuously when working with each another. This seems to be a classic example of how the AV implementations can jeopardize the network and act as portal into your systems. Clamping down on the AV systems in response to perceived threats means hampering the communication within the organization or with customers and clients.

I have had hacking attempts on my gateways from many countries but mainly from China. None have yet to manage to make a relay through my system or into it (or at least I have not found evidence in logs) but fact of the matter is that we are just as vulnerable as everyone else connected to the network/internet….

What’s our combined future? Obviously neither discipline will go away or lose in relevance. Will AV guys end up having to understand networks and security or is this a new field of AV security on the horizon? How about the encryption or the privileged doctor-patient or lawyer-client relationships that we may have to protect or the implementation of campus wide IPTV systems that live on the network and as such could become targets of infiltration attempts… We have seen the infiltration of roadway signs, will large digital signage systems or advertizing networks become the next targets?


AV Anxiety

Many of us suffer from anxiety when running a live show of any type. We constantly run though our minds of all the possible problems and we plan ahead for anything that can go wrong.

However, I wonder, who else has ever suffered from anxiety during a show for which you are not even responsible.  Whether it is at a local basketball game, a church service or even watching the Oscars last night, I find myself a little stressed out.  At the basketball game, I hear some feedback and think, oh man, that headset mic is too hot, they gotta bring the gain down.  During the Oscars when they shut off the mics when a thank you speech goes on too long I think, man, I am glad that I did not have to shut that off during this gal’s one moment!  At the church service when a mic crackles I wonder if they are going to turn to me and ask me to do something.

Am I alone in this, or are there others out there who suffer from this affliction?

AV Hearts a Twitter

Yes, I am going to talk about Twitter. Yes you should read this, because you can learn a lot about our industry with it. And if you aren’t the sort constantly on the lookout to learn something new, you made a very odd career choice.

I know, you are thinking: Twitter? Isn’t that where millions of people drone on incessantly, generating inane streams of completely irrelevant information, all of it in obnoxious 140 character bursts? Well, yes, but only most of it is like that.

There are some very smart people on Twitter, and if you find them – and follow them – you can learn a lot. You don’t need to say anything. And you can follow or unfollow anyone at any time.

The first thing you really need (after an account) is a “Twitter client.” The actual Twitter interface page, in a word, sucks. (Ah, see, the sort of detailed and insightful technical perspective you have come to expect here at AV-1.)

There are a number of fine ones out there, I happen to use and like TweetDeck. Aside from just being a much nicer interface with which to follow others, they really simplify your ability to follow “hashtags.”

Twitter “handles” begin with “@” – I am @AVGreg for example. Twitter hashtags begin with “#” and are how Twitter allows users to create groups around a common interest. If you tweet and include a hashtag everyone following that hashtag sees that tweet. In a Twitter client like TweetDeck you can add these hashtag groups and they just appear in new vertical columns.

That brings me to my whole point tonight. (I know, about time.) There is usually an AV Chat at “#avchat” (Go figure huh?) every Thursday at noon Pacific Time. This week the topic is classroom technology – the common thread most of us share.

If you tweet – or have just been thinking about it – jump in and check it out. Come spend some time with your AVTweeps.

Surely You Gesture

Integrated Systems Europe 2012 was held two weeks ago in Amsterdam. One of the more interesting items to come out of it was a demo by Crestron that showed a Microsoft Kinect integrated with a control system – in this case controlling the PowerPoint and lighting. Here is the link. Go watch it. I’ll wait….

Cool huh? Sure it’s pretty basic, but could this be the predecessor of our future control systems? It is Crestron dabbling in this after all; I don’t think that’s insignificant.

One advantage I have heard mentioned is no more gunky touch screens. (Do you really have people who clean them periodically?)

A gesture based system may allow for control from a wider range of locations. I am assuming, like mine, your faculty relate to AV control locations the way cats relate to patio doors: the other side would be better.

Many of us have wondered where touch-sensitive monitors are going. Are they going to take over for interactive whiteboards and give us something easier to integrate into an auditorium? If gesture control develops fast enough could it steal some of that thunder and let us turn any image into an interactive whiteboard? I think that level of annotation and interaction, coupled with the ability to wander around the teaching area, might just be the “killer app.”

Voice control? I don’t know. Siri seems to be having quite a bit of trouble with accents. I’m sure the algorithms will get better, but most of our campuses are quite the eclectic mix of nationalities. I can’t help but think we will be a difficult application to master. Besides, how much error-free consistency do you want to see in a control system before you install it in a room? With voice control the first one they yell at is the system, and you know who the second is….

I think it’s intriguing. I think it’s something we are going to see more of. I think it has some great potential. What do you think? Is this the (ahem) wave of the future.

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