As Almo Professional AV prepares to celebrate 10 years in operation as business unit of Almo Corporation I feel grateful and proud to be part of this great organization. Looking back to 2009, at the origination of the division we had no vendor partners and no cus read more
Whether you are the owner of a small AV integration firm or a manager at a large national integrator chances are you are faced with the same struggle of finding the time to attend training for yourself or send your employees for training. Often this can be costly and read more
Each Spring and Fall Almo’s E4 Tour swings through two major cities and brings along with it an entire day’s worth of CTS accredited educational courses and gets roughly 40 of the top manufacturers in the professional audio video industry all in one room showcasing their newest product offerings.
As a technology professional and a self-proclaimed “AV Geek” these events are always exciting to me as I am often one of the first people to see new and emerging technology. Sometimes it’s electronics, or perhaps software, or even bent metal making the installation of said technology easier and more efficient. There were a handful of stand-out products that were featured at our Fall shows this year that are worth checking out.
1.) ATEN VM3909H – 9×9 HDMI HDBaseT-Lite Matrix Switch: Remember way back when where the number of hot dogs in a package did not always match the number of buns in a package? I realize it is a silly reference, but try doing a 3×3 video wall with an 8×8 matrix switch. The folks at ATEN were mindful of this when they introduced this 9×9 HDMI matrix switch earlier this year. An addition to the 9 HDMI outputs it has 9 HDBaseT Lite outputs allowing the switch to be located up to 70m away from the video wall using the appropriate HDBaseT receivers. A simple front panel control and GUI interface to create simple video wall layouts round out the feature set of this Red Dot Award winning product.
2.) Chief SYS Projector Mount System Series: The engineers at Chief really did their homework on this one keeping the installer in mind with features not found in other mounting systems. This system not only saves time on the install but is aesthetically pleasing. Installers will love the fact that the mount and column come pre-assembled and even the box is designed so that the parts needed first are packaged on top. Micro adjustments for perfect alignment can be made without any tools and the 0”-12” adjustable column has separate cable management channels for both high and low voltage cabling.
3.) tvONE ONErack – Universal Rack Mounting System for Small Devices: While small devices such as HDBaseT transmitters, format converters, small audio products and more are convenient because of their size they can quickly make a mess of your equipment rack since in many cases they are not specifically designed to be mounted or secured into a traditional 19” rack space. Not only that, but they also generally have large wall-wart type power supplies which can clutter power distribution units within the rack. Available in 4RU, 5RU, and 6RU chassis models, this system converts randomly sized small AV devices into slide-in modules while consolidating power for all devices within the system. An optional active cooling system is available for situations where you are populating a large number of devices.
4.) Atlona AT-UHD-HDVS-300-KIT – Soft Codec Conferencing System: As more and more companies adopt PC-based conferencing codecs like Skype, WebEx, & GoToMeeting in place of traditional hardware based codecs for smaller conference rooms and huddle spaces the need for external USB microphones and cameras has increased with the desire for quality meetings. In order to accomplish this typical systems require AV extenders, USB extenders, USB hubs, multiple remotes, plus all of the required cables. Atlona’s system accomplishes this with just two devices and a single category cable. This unit also is a 4 input auto sensing AV switcher and provides automatic display control via CEC, IP, and RS-232 allowing users to start meetings quickly and easily.
5.) Almo CONTROL – Control System & DSP Programming Services: Almo got into offering services two years ago with the introduction of digital signage content creation and since then have added services for installation as well as telecom services. Almo CONTROL is the most recent introduction and was launched at the E4 Fall tour this year. With Almo CONTROL integrators can potentially take on more projects with access to additional programming resources, or where they have expertise in one system but need resources for another. Our programmers have been providing outstanding control system programming and system commissioning support services since the year 2000.
With all of the changes in our industry and constantly evolving technology I look forward to see what lies ahead in 2017.
While lampless projectors are not brand new, the technology has evolved and continues to improve as time goes on. Imagine an installation grade projector that can run 24/7 with virtually no maintenance and no lamp changes and carry a three year warranty. Imagine not waiting for your projector to warm up or cool down, where the projector will reach maximum brightness and turn off almost immediately. Combine this with advanced features like projection mapping, edge blending, and an HDBaseT input packaged in a bright enough projector for large venues and you have quite a value proposition for your clients.
Laser projectors offer several benefits over traditional lamp based technologies. Let me clarify that laser simply refers to the light source, so the projection technologies like 3LCD are still a major part of these new projectors. Traditional lamp based projectors require the lamp to be replaced roughly every 1500 to 6000 hours depending upon the projector and the mode you run it in, while the average lifespan of a laser based projector is 20,000 hours.
Additionally, with most traditional lamp based projectors it takes a few minutes for the projector to warm up after powering on, and can take up to thirty minutes to provide a stable brightness level and often need to remain plugged in after powering off in order to properly cool the lamp. With laser based projectors they are ready to go almost immediately after being powered on and do not require a connected power source upon powering off with no worry of damaging the projector’s light source.
As far as the light source, projector lamps lose most of their brightness in the first half of their lifecycle whereas with a laser based light source the brightness loss is linear over the 20,000 hour lifecycle. What does this mean? This means that if you compare a laser based projector with a lamp based projector, both with the same light output rating (lumens) that within a very short period of time the laser projector will have the brighter image. Furthermore, even lamp based projectors with higher light output ratings than a laser based projector will quickly provide a lower light output than the laser projector due to the steep curve in degradation of the lamps brightness.
Epson’s popular Pro G and Pro Z installation grade projectors will soon be joined by the new Pro L series of laser based projectors with multiple choices ranging in brightness from 6,000 lumens to 12,000 lumens and multiple lens options with all of the features that users of the Pro G and Pro Z models have grown to love. Expect to start seeing these shipping in June of 2016. I know I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
For more information on Epson Projectors contact Brian Rhatigan at email@example.com or 888.420.2566 x6546
It seems flat panel displays are virtually everywhere these days and have gotten larger, thinner, lighter, and less expensive than ever. Not that long ago in applications requiring a large image a projector was the natural choice, however as flat panels have evolved you are now seeing them installed where historically it would have been a projector. I am not denying the benefits of using a flat panel display, but there are many reasons why projection would be the way to go.
For starters, let’s look at image size. Generally speaking 98” is about the largest flat panel that is readily available at this time. So in instances where an image of larger than 98” diagonal is required, projection becomes the only option to use for a single display device without the complexity of multi-screen video walls. This is pretty clear cut, but size is not the only consideration.
Often audio visual components are integrated into high end architectural spaces including corporate board rooms, lecture centers, training facilities, and more where the display device may not always be in use and for aesthetic reasons the client may not want to “see” the technology in the room. Most projectors are ceiling mounted and generally out of view or can be installed in a lift that can disappear into the ceiling. Projection screens also can disappear when not in use by recessing flush into the ceiling.
Another key consideration is cost. While flat panels have certainly become affordable, however once you get up into the larger sizes above 80”- 90” the costs can still be prohibitive in many cases where projection will often be much more affordable. For illustration purposes consider a 98” professional grade monitor at a cost of $32,679.00 compared to an installation class projector like the Epson PowerLite Pro G 6770WU which is 1920×1200 resolution at 6000 lumens available at a retail price of $5,699.00.
When it comes to unique display applications there are times when a flat panel display is simply not an option. Think about events where you have projection on floor surfaces or on buildings. With projection mapping some really unique projects can be pulled off. A really cool example of this was recently featured in a case study on the basketball arena at Pensacola Christian College using Epson Pro G projectors:
Both flat panel displays and projectors have their pros and cons, however projection is still and will continue to be a great choice for many display applications. For assistance in selecting the right Epson projector or to learn more, contact Brian Rhatigan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888.420.2566 x6546.
As audio video systems and installations have become more complex over time, the need for sending multiple signal types and control over long distances has increased. With that, it seems there are an endless number of choices in signal extension hardware, which might have you wondering which product is the right choice for your installation. Naturally image quality and reliability should be your two biggest concerns, as well as explaining the technology and selling your customer on the need for this type of hardware.
Until a few short years ago, each manufacturer of signal extension hardware typically used their own proprietary technologies so that for example a Kramer branded transmitter would likely not work with a Tripp Lite branded receiver. Additionally there seemed to be a big variance in quality between brands, especially when it came to extending HDMI signals. The introduction of HDBaseT was a game changer in that you now have a consistent chipset used by all manufacturers so reliability is much more consistent between products, and since it is a standard platform you can mix and match devices. It is becoming more and more common now to see an HDBaseT input already integrated into the display device whether it is a flat panel or projector, removing the need for a separate receiver all together.
For extension products that use the HDBaseT chipset, most manufacturers will recommend the use of solid shielded Cat6 cable with shielded connectors. This type of cable can be terminated in the field or it can be purchased in specific lengths already terminated.
There are many scenarios where signal extension would be a good option, or even required. So where do we start?
Let’s start by looking at cable lengths. While a hard and fast distance limitation is not defined, there are general guidelines that you should follow when planning an installation. In addition, differences in cable quality and video resolution will have an impact on distance as well. With analog signals such as composite, s-video, VGA, and component video you can usually send your signal over cable runs of 100 to 150 feet without experiencing a dramatic reduction in image quality. DVI is mandated to transmit at 5 meters or roughly 16 feet, and HDMI runs typically should be no more than 50 to 75 feet. The use of signal extension products will allow you to send analog signals to distances exceeding 1500 feet and digital signals up to about 330 feet. This distance can be longer with the use of fiber instead of twisted pair.
Next you will want to consider the cost of traditional cable compared to category cable as well as any physical limitations that may make it difficult to pull standard video cable. While shorter HDMI cables are relatively inexpensive, longer cables can start to get pricey. Even though there is a cost associated with the transmitter and receiver hardware, this often can be offset by a savings in labor costs as well. Remember that with HDBaseT extension products you will have the ability to send video, audio, Ethernet, power, and control (RS-232) over a single cable reducing the need for multiple runs. This greatly simplifies planning your installation since you will not need to know ahead of time whether audio and control signals will accompany the video signal in order to choose the correct extension hardware.
Note that you are not limited to point-to-point extension either. Hardware vendors in this category offer distribution amplifiers for sending a single source to multiple displays using a single transmitter as well as matrix switches with the option for HDBaseT on both the input and output side for larger systems. Some receivers also give you the ability to daisy chain to additional displays through a twisted pair output on the receiver. It is important to look closely at the specifications of different extension products to make sure they match your requirements for signal, resolution, and distance. In most cases having an available power outlet for the receiver will be required as well
Other features that are available on certain extension products include Gain & EQ control as well as Skew Compensation. Gain & EQ control will allow you to make fine picture adjustments at the receiving end while Skew Compensation can adjust for different parts of the signal reaching the receiver at different times due to the variable twist rates of the individual pairs within the cable and is usually only required for cable runs of 500 feet or more. While these types of features will add cost to the products you choose, they will be the difference between a happy customer and a dis-satisfied one.
In summary, like with anything else, careful planning and product selection will be the key to a successful installation. You must consider resolution, distance, signal type or types, and physical layout when choosing a signal extension product.
In many of today’s classrooms while many things remain the same as they were in 1992, display technologies used have evolved. It is commonplace now to see whiteboards or chalkboards replaced or being used in tandem with an interactive surface like a SmartBoard® along with a projector in order engage the students more and more during the education process. Challenges found with traditional ceiling mounted projectors like the shadow cast by the presenter have been alleviated with the introduction of wall mounted ultra-short throw projectors several years ago.
While the education sector is an extremely competitive market for technology providers the two companies that have become clear leaders in this space are Epson and Smart. Epson’s introduction of the BrightLink series electronic pen based interactive projectors a few years ago further strengthened their position in this market eliminating the need to purchase both a projector and an interactive surface such as a SmartBoard® and making the upgrade path even easier allowing schools to take advantage of existing whiteboard surfaces already installed in the classroom. With the latest generation of BrightLink projectors introduced during 2014, an option now exists that no longer even requires the electronic pen and can be used with the touch of a finger.
SMART Technologies who has been offering their SMART Notebook software along with their hardware products for over a decade is now on version 15.1 and is used by millions of teachers and students around the world each school day. Perpetual licenses of SMART Notebook are included with the purchase of all SMART interactive displays while version upgrades and special add-ons are available to users with an active Notebook Advantage subscription. Additionally SMART Notebook licenses are available for purchase to run on all other brands of interactive hardware including Epson, who has been offering their resellers the option to purchase the SMART Notebook license from Epson.
On November 3, 2015 Epson announced that all BrightLink Interactive projectors will now be bundled with SMART Notebook software including a one-year subscription of SMART Notebook Advantage. Now current Epson resellers can offer the award-winning SMART software with BrightLink projectors at no additional charge simplifying the ordering process since there is just one SKU to purchase. Included in the projector box will be a redemption code that customers will be able to use in order to obtain the activation key via email.
This new partnership will provide schools with greater access to market leading lesson creation and delivery software as well as provide dealers with better opportunities to increase sales of Epson BrightLink projectors. The BrightLink projector line has been fully tested and authorized by SMART for use with SMART Notebook software. Both Epson and SMART will provide customer support and training for their respective products.
Remember the age old debate between which was better, Plasma or LCD? I can tell you that early in my career in the AV industry during the mid to late 2000’s I was asked to answer that question several times a day both at work from customers and from friends and family. Honestly, I don’t miss that discussion very much; however it seems to me there has been less of an emphasis on picture quality over the last five years since LCD and now LED backlit and edge lit LCD has become the dominant technology which is strange to me. The quality of the image should be one of the main factors to consider when selecting a display for a professional application.
There are several characteristics to evaluate such as the viewing angle, black level, brightness, accurate color reproduction and motion blur. One of the problems we are faced with is that since that there is not a common standard used by all manufacturers to measure these specifications often spec sheets can be misleading. Thankfully, our industry provides many opportunities for integrators and dealers to look at these products at several trade events throughout the year.
When we started discussions with Toshiba to distribute their new line up of professional displays one of the things that I was most attracted to was the picture quality on all of the displays I previewed from them starting with their entry-level TD-E series all the way through the line including the TD-Z ruggedized 24/7 professional series and the TD-X series of ultra-thin bezel video wall displays. Knowing that the professional display market is somewhat crowded Toshiba needed to bring to market a product that could differentiate themselves from the pack, and they have succeeded in doing that.
The comprehensive lineup includes professional-grade large format displays, 4K Ultra HD displays, touchscreen displays, video wall displays, video wall servers, and accompanying control systems and accessories specifically designed for use in demanding commercial environments.
Almo was selected as one of a very small handful of distributors to partner with Toshiba in bringing their displays to the market. Almo resellers will be in a great position to specify Toshiba professional displays and not worry that the product is over distributed. Additionally, programs like bid registration, discounts for government and educational customers, an evaluation sample program, and a strong three year warranty with advanced exchange will help round out the offering. I encourage you to take a look at Toshiba professional displays: http://us.toshiba.com/digital-displays?src=MAKP&cm_mmc=TAI-_-Home-_-TopNav-_-TVDigitalDisplays.
In the ten years since I started my career in the audio visual industry I have seen the technology used in meeting rooms change pretty dramatically. The most noticeable to me include methods of connectivity, the shift away from a dedicated room PC, an increase in the number and types of devices, requirements for wireless presentation, and the rise in popularity of unified communication platforms.
Even five to six years ago I found it difficult to believe that the HD-15 connector commonly referred to as VGA would basically be on the verge of becoming extinct and even more surprising that HDMI would become the standard video connector for professional audio video applications. While HDMI is still not the most ideal connector for commercial applications, companies like Comprehensive Cable have introduced high grade HDMI cables with tensioned connectors to reduce the possibility of cables being unplugged unintentionally. Thankfully, many of the dreaded EDID issues associated with HDMI have also been reduced with improvements in switching and distribution equipment from companies like Kramer and ATEN. While Display Port is a very attractive format for commercial installs it just has not yet been as widely adopted.
While many meeting rooms still have a dedicated room PC it is rarely used as the main presentation source in the room. Meetings, from a technology standpoint have become more collaborative often with several presentation sources present. Sleek table connectivity solutions like the HydraPort® suite of products from AMX provide more flexibility to have multiple presenters in a meeting space while at the same time providing additional power outlets, network connectivity, along with a wide host of other connectivity options. Consider though that with all of the mobile devices that have become commonplace today there are limitations with hardwired systems.
Just about everyone now walks around with at least one presentation device on their person at all times including smart phones and tablets and as these devices have become more powerful the small and portable form factor have made them extremely attractive as an alternative to PC’s for presenting content. The challenge here is you have devices from many different manufactures running on multiple different platforms, some with proprietary connections.
Effective meeting spaces now need to be able to handle both wired and wireless devices seamlessly regardless if they are running Windows, iOS, or Android. Technology products like the Barco Clickshare, Kramer VIA, and AMX Enzo are great options to add this functionality to any meeting space, small or large. You will also find some great budget friendly options like the iProjection App which is provided free from Epson and is available on both the iOS and Android platform. The Epson iProjection App allows users to wirelessly project documents, photos, and web pages from your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Android mobile device as well as providing annotation capabilities.
Another interesting trend is the rise in popularity of unified communication platforms like Spontania from ClearOne. Picture instant messaging, but add the capability of video calling and on top of that add the ability to share your desktop or specific applications in a private virtual meeting room allowing users to join or host from multiple devices including PC’s, smartphones, tablets and more. There is no substitution for a fully integrated VTC system with high end cameras and multiple large displays, however the costs and complexity of those systems don’t work for everyone, and these types of cloud based systems alleviate the need for a dedicated room.
Advances in projection technology have offered us lighter, smaller, brighter, higher resolution projection devices, however there are still many things to think about when purchasing or specifying a new projector.
Projection Technology – This may not get talked about as much as it did a few years back however this is still a very important consideration when selecting a projector. The most common types of projection technology in the majority of today’s projectors are 1-Chip DLP and 3-Chip 3LCD. The 1-chip DLP system uses a spinning color wheel to render color which produces a lower color light output or color brightness than that of 3LCD technology. Brightness ratings, expressed in lumens for DLP projectors typically only refer to the white brightness level while the actual brightness of color may be as little as one third of the lumens stated. . Additionally 3LCD projectors are usually able to generate more vivid and saturated colors than DLP. While DLP projectors can be smaller and lighter than LCD projectors and can offer a higher contrast ratio, most people will find the benefits of 3LCD outweigh those of DLP.
Image Position and Adjustment – In a perfect world you would not have to worry about projector placement relative to the projection screen, however things like light fixtures, and HVAC systems can prevent you from the perfect projector placement. While most projectors offer both horizontal and vertical keystone correction this is not always the best option as there could be an associated degradation in picture quality. The better if you need to place a projector off axis from the screen would be to look for a projector that offers lens shift (both horizontal and vertical) so that the image can be shifted with no degradation. Other features like ScreenFit and Quick Corner® found in many Epson projectors will aid in precise alignment with your screen.
Throw Distance – Image size will be determined by the amount of distance or throw you have available in a particular room between the projector and the screen surface. Larger images require a longer throw and this needs to be considered when selecting a projector as often the room will dictate a limited area where the projector can be placed. Higher end projectors will offer different lens options to give you more flexibility, however if the projector you are considering does not offer lens options you are constrained to the throw ratio of the included lens. Thankfully, manufacturers offer us a wide range of options including short throw and ultra-short throw options without having to break the bank. You can use the Epson Throw Distance Calculator to assist with calculating proper throw distances for your Epson projector.
Interactivity – Given today’s technology climate people expect to be able to interact with display devices whether it be in a corporate setting, educational, or other. Epson’s interactive projectors can make practically any surface interactive without the additional expense of an interactive whiteboard. Combined with an ultra-short throw form factor these projectors eliminate the glare or shadow effect experienced with standard throw projectors. Interactive options include either the use of an electronic pen or finger-touch.
Resolution – Unlike the flat panel world in which you will no longer find 4:3 displays in production it is still quite common with projection systems, especially in legacy installations where you may be asked to replace a projector and still use the existing screen. While many people think of resolution in terms of 720p or 1080p business projectors typically are available in XGA (1024×768), WXGA (1280×800), or WUXGA (1920×1200). The important thing to note here is that both WXGA and WUXGA are actually in a 16:10 aspect ratio, not 16:9 which is common for home theater. This is very important to note if you are specifying a new projector and screen package or mating a new projector to an existing screen.
With any projection system there will be other factors to consider. Almo Pro A/V is a valuable resource to assist you as needed and welcome the opportunity.