Survey Results: Projector Freeze

Have you ever asked a question to which you were certain that you already knew the answer? On this week’s survey, we thought we had done just that. Expecting to hear that one particular brand of projector, when coupled with one particular control system manufacturer would cause periodic problems with RS-232, we relished the “reveal” moment when we could proclaim, “It was Colonel Mustard in the parlor with a knife!” Sadly, we hadn’t a clue.

The Numbers.

There can be no question that a widespread problem exists within the AV-1 community associated with projectors  controlled via RS-232. 90% of survey respondents indicated that at least once a month their projectors have “locked up” and stopped responding to RS-232 commands. Ill-timed, random malfunctions of this sort can result in event interruptions and loss of end user confidence in our systems and service. Translation: this is a serious issue that must be resolved.

Projector Makers v. Control System Mfgs.

65% of our responders indicated that they DO NOT feel they have received adequate tech support from the projector manufacturer, while 55% DO feel they have received adequate tech support from the control system manufacturer.

Of course, to say that the projector is the cause of the problem may not be accurate. As one of our respondents pointed out, accurate troubleshooting can be difficult if technicians are “… too quick to pull the plug [to reset the projector] and not even record diagnostic LED indications (overheating, filter, bulb fault, ballast fault), control system state or diagnostics.”

No smoking gun.

In the final analysis, we found no common problems associated with the combination of specific control systems and projector brands. Reported issues split almost evenly between AMX, Crestron, Extron as well as some third-tier controls.

The projector manufacturers also were evenly split.

In the end it seems that the data have thwarted our goal of identifying a single culprit and approaching some specific manufacturer to get them to come clean and fix a problem. The problem is simply too wide spread across projectors and controls, regardless of brand.

Several respondents have pointed out that this may not be an equipment problem, per se, suggesting that a problem could manifest under a combination of conditions (specific installations, RS-232 programming, soldering, etc.). Could it be that faulty installations or programming may be contributing to these problems?

Since Monday, AV-1 has spoken with a number of concerned manufacturers who have offered to discuss these issues and related best practices with the AV-1 community. Let us know your thoughts on how the industry might be able to assist.

One thoughtful AV-1 member put it this way…

I think your survey is too limited in what it asks [and] I don’t believe this is just an RS-232 port problem. We need to isolate the causes of projector/control lockups.

People are too quick to pull the plug and not even record diagnostic LED indications (overheat, filter, bulb fault, ballast fault) or control system state or diagnostics.

Do IR hand control and projector buttons still work or is the projector completely locked up?

Like many devices with microprocessors, a power brown-out can cause improper boot up.

Long, improper, badly routed and unshielded control cables can pickup noise which can cause lockup.

And of course badly written code could be the cause. We write our own RS232 code for the 150+ AMX and have seen no difference from the many 40+ Crestron systems (with canned drivers) which we also have. If same code and projector model fails in only a few locations and works fine in many others then its unlikely to be code.

The projector model, manufacturer batch, and install location (installation, maintenance, power issues) seem to be main contributing factors. We’ve worked with manufacturers to identify projector batches with firmware, ballast, and ventilation problems. I’ve had good luck identifying bad units by moving them around to find a pattern of failure.

We also have had problems with the control systems themselves locking up. This can also be from many causes: brown-outs, network issues, hacking?, badly written code, etc.

Have you additional thoughts on this issue? Use the comment section below or chime in on the AV-1 list.

7 thoughts on “Survey Results: Projector Freeze”

  1. Our NEC protectors and Crestron systems have lockup problems almost daily. This only happens with two projectors. Each one is in a different room with another projector in the system. We must pull the power in order door them to reset. This also locks up the control system as it is waiting for reply from the projector.

    1. The same for us. We had 2 rooms with Crestron AV2 controllers and NEC projectors that would lock up once a week. Unresponsive to touch panel controls, remote control, and even pushing the buttons on the projector itself, yet throwing no errors. The only remedy was to power it off via rocker switch, which is a terrible solution for one of which was at a height of about 25ft.

      In the end we pulled NEC projectors out and put up new Epsons. We have not seen a problem in either location since.

      We’ve also started putting up ethernet power controllers in any location that’s being renovated and can’t easily be powered off by standing on a chair.

  2. I’ve personally tracked this issue for a long time now and I hate to admit it, but I haven’t been able to track down a consistent “guilty party” either… The complaint is always “the projector is frozen” and usually the end user has pulled the plug before a technician can arrive on the scene to troubleshoot. The handfull of times that I’ve gotten lucky and experienced this first hand have returned conflicting results.

    Normally when a projector locks up I can send it serial commands through a terminal program, but I never get responses back from the projector. In other words I have $tx but not $rx. I normally have control of the projector’s input and other functions through the control system but not power control for some reason. When this happens, the IR remote and soft-buttons on the projectors will not turn them off either. We resolve this issue by unplugging the projector (as advised by the manufacturer).

    Earlier this week we had a projector lock up with all of the same symptoms that we normally see (it’s truly a shame that we consider this ‘normal’) and we didn’t have a class waiting on us, so we took the opportunity to troubleshoot a bit more in depth. My colleague attempted connecting to the room through toolbox (now you know whose control systems we use) and it could not connect. We connected to all of the rooms around the one in questions but could not talk to the processor in that specific room. Immediately following a control processor reboot, toolbox connection was successful and for some reason 232 communication to the projector was restored as well. The projector began operating properly again.

    It seems that each time I have the problem narrowed down to a logical cause, the test results yield new information that makes me change my mind. I’m beginning to suspect environmental variables like the network or AC voltage. Things I can’t easily test for or fix…

  3. We have most recently had projector issues but in the near past the controller has been more suspect. Lock-ups for the most part have been complete with rareresponses from external control devices. Much has been reduced/resolved via VLAN with managed switches implementation. The more recent issuses appear to be couple to power conditioning. Most of our NEC projectors have not shown any status change indications once effected with power cycling not resolving conditions. Many of our devices also entered a state of not being able to synch with the incoming signal despite RS-232 commands sent acknowledged and recieved with proper reply, These units were still responsive to IR & Manual setting adjustment.The only way to get a lasting setting change was to reset to factory defaults and re-setup the entire configuration. The most recent NEC issue has been that several NEC projectors initially project a crisp image and then become soft and somewhat washed with loss of contrast. This same problem occurs in multiple locations with projectors of similar model from different purchasing cycles. This type of ongoing erratic issues highly errodes confidence and professionalism

  4. Brown outs, power bumps, bad grounds…….I will reiterate that we have had 100% success by placing an AMX PC1 at the projector. Our Crestron controls the relay in the AMX box to take projector power away at log off and restore it at log on…….a projector re-boot at every log on.

  5. I find that freeze up are mostly related projector hardware. Specifically I find that some Projector models have weak IP stacks on their NIC. Freeze ups often occur during network storms. Some brands freeze up much easier than others.
    Isolating projectors on their own V-LAN and statically assigning IP addresses has eliminated most of the freeze up problems for me.
    Ideally, UPS use and/or having a programmable power relay switch on a crestron/amx
    helps to re-establish a synch reset.

  6. After reading this article, I will begin moving projectors around to help eliminate possible issues. We also use the same program for all the rooms, verifying its not a programming issue. Unfortunately the problem is very intermittent, making it difficult to isolate. We may also add a power controller to our Crestron systems allowing for scheduled restarts of the projectors.

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