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.
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.