An In-Depth Guide to Audio Visuals

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A well-balanced audio visual system should pull together audio, video, conferencing, lighting, and related displays. The objective: to create high quality business environments, boardrooms, conference facilities, auditoriums or training rooms. It's essential not only to select the right elements, but also to deploy them efficiently and effectively.

Many options are available, so let's get cracking.

Projection Systems

Projectors still have a major contribution to make, as they offer the ideal solution for medium and large displays at a cost effective price. They have a range of uses, including delivery of computer content, video, live TV, and video conferencing.

Factors to consider when choosing a projector are:

1: Resolution – this is determined by how many pixels are used to make up an image. The type, shape and quality of the image are determined by this. The most common resolutions include:

 ·   XGA – 1024 x 768 pixels. This can be used with desk top PC's (e.g. for PowerPoint presentations) or analogue video equipment like a DVD player.

 ·   WXGA – 1280 x 800 pixels. Designed to work with laptops, which usually have a "widescreen" display. It can also be used for PC's or analogue video equipment like a DVD player. In some cases it can be used to display digital video equipment, such as Blu-ray.

 ·   WXGA – 1366 x 768 pixels. As with the 1280 x 800 displays, this works with analogue video equipment, some digital video equipment, PC's and laptops.

 ·   SXGA+ - This is 1400 x 1050 pixels. It's used where a high resolution is required for more detailed graphics, such as spreadsheets or fine quality images.

 ·   HD – 1920 x 1080 pixels. Designed to work specifically with digital video equipment like a Blu-ray player. It can also handle analogue video equipment, High Definition PC's and laptops - though limitations exist.

·   WUXGA - 1920 x 1200 pixels. A widescreen display designed to work specifically with High Definition PC's and laptops. This is ideal when high quality graphic or video images are required.

2. Brightness – measured in lumens or ANSI lumens. In most cases, the brighter the projector, the better. However, brighter also means more expensive. You'll need to look at the location, the size of the room/audience, the ambient light conditions, projection surface, and application before deciding on a particular model.

3. Light Engine – The most common types of light engine include:

 ·   LCD – or liquid crystal display. These use three glass panels (red, green and blue) to create an image. Traditionally the LCD projector produces vivid colours and is better for graphical images like those from a PC.

 ·   DLP – or digital light processing; a proprietary technology developed by Texas Instruments. The DLP chip is a reflective surface made of thousands of tiny mirrors. Each mirror represents a single pixel. The mirrors move back and forth, directing light to create an image. Traditionally, the DLP projector is smaller, producing a higher contrast. It's better for video images like those from a Blu-ray player.

 ·   LED – or light emitting diode. This category employs a variety of technologies to produce a projected image. Most use an LED to produce the red and blue colours and a laser with a colour wheel to produce the green colour. These projectors don't usually have the colour range of either LCD or DLP. However, their long life is a major advantage.

Ultra Short Throw projectors have a very short projection distance (or throw distance). They are installed immediately above or below a projection screen or interactive white board - usually on a wall. Any shadowing produced by the presenter standing in front of the projection surface is greatly minimised. So too is the risk of the light source beaming into the presenters' eyes. These units are ideal for a small meeting room (where no greater than 2000mm wide image is required), or when used with an interactive whiteboard.

Short Throw projectors are gradually being replaced by the Ultra Short Throw models. When the environment dictates, the projector must be installed on the ceiling, or on a desk or projector trolley.

Fixed Installation projectors are ideal for large classrooms, lecture theatres, large meeting or boardrooms.

Large Venue projectors are used for a variety of locations, including theatres, auditoriums, conference centres and large outdoor applications.

Lamp-Less projectors use a combination of LED's and lasers to produce the colour and light source. Manufacturers such as Panasonic and Casio offer up to 20,000-hour warranties on the light source

Other leading names in the projector market are Panasonic, Epson, and NEC

Flat Panel Display Systems

Available as plasma, LCD or LED technologies, the display screens are ideal for public areas, meeting rooms and classrooms. Commercial displays are designed to operate in various environments, and for durations up to 24/7.

Plasma technology uses small cells containing electrically charged ionised gases to produce colours and images. The screens typically have better colour reproduction than LCD screens, and lend themselves to video content. Sizes range up to 150" diagonal.

LCD/LED screens use a liquid crystal display to produce colours and images. The light comes from a series of lamps at the back of the screen: fluorescent lamps for LCD, and Light Emitting Diodes for LED. Screens go up to 80" diagonal.

Market leaders include Panasonic, LG, Samsung, and NEC.

Video Walls

The wall consists of multiple display screens installed contiguously to produce one large screen. Video walls can be free standing, fixed to a wall or suspended from a ceiling. Typical display technologies include LCD panels, LED arrays, DLP tiles, and rear projection screens.

Leading names to watch for are Panasonic, NEC, Samsung, Eyevis, and Christie at the hardware level, with companies like Matrox and Datapath providing video processors

Corporate Interactive Technologies

Interactive technology allows for physical interaction between an individual and a computer program. Communication and collaboration solutions for meeting rooms, training rooms and workspaces can drive faster decision making, improve productivity, reduce time to market, and improve collaboration and team work at every level.

Technologies are available from leading manufacturers like SMART, C-Touch, Hitachi, and Panasonic. Some don't even need a PC; just plug in a USB stick, and away you go.

Digital Signage

Digital Signage is the use of live TV, video, still images, web content, RSS feeds and text to relay a specific message to a target audience. Multimedia content can be combined on a single "screen" to produce an engaging, entertaining and informative presentation.

Information can be relayed with the touch of a button. Messages can change as your audience changes, and be periodically updated. And there are no printing costs involved. 

Some leading manufacturers of both hardware and cloud based digital signage systems include Onelan, Signage Live, Sadeo, and Samsung Magicnet. 

Conferencing / Telepresence 

Audio Conferencing brings remote individuals together via a conference call, using either a traditional telephone or a specialist conference phone 

Video Conferencing uses a video stream that includes audio, and possibly an exchange of data. This can be from a desktop PC, a mobile device, or a fully integrated HD system.

Data Conferencing involves the exchange of data only, from a PC, mobile device, or fully integrated interactive system.

Leading manufactures include Polycom, Radvision, LifeSize, and Smart Technologies. At software level, Skype, Webex, and Microsoft Lync.

IPTV Systems

IPTV lets you distribute high-quality television, video, data, and graphics across your existing IP network infrastructure. Feeds can be live, or on-demand. The video or data stream can be delivered to a video wall, a projector in a boardroom, an LCD screen, a desktop PC, mobile device, or a combination of these.

 

Leading names are Exterity, AMX, and V-Brick.

 

Lecture Capture Systems

 

The recording of a lecture, lesson, or meeting can be either by audio or video, but is more often a combination of both. Recorded lectures can be viewed live as an IP stream or "on demand" as a video or podcast.

Lecture Capture systems can be either software or hardware based. Hardware ranges from a webcam on top of a PC to sophisticated systems with camera tracking and voice re-enforcement. Software ranges from simple Web servers to bespoke written programs. Systems are available in the cloud, or loaded onto a client's existing network infrastructure.

Exterity, V-Brick, Encoded Media, and Triple Play are market leaders here.

Control Systems

Control systems can be simple push button keypads or sophisticated touch screen systems. Control panels can be wall mounted, free standing on a desk, or mounted into a lectern or board room table. Software may be installed locally, or have Web-based functionality. 

Audio Systems

These range from a basic two channel set-up to full surround systems providing both program and voice reinforcement.

Program Sound is the audio delivered from a presentation device. It depends on the size of venue, the target audience and the materials used.

Voice Reinforcement refers to audio delivered by the people using the system. This can be via static wired microphones or wireless systems.  

Leading manufacturers include A-Part, Bose, Revolabs, and Sennheiser.

Induction Loop Systems

Induction loops are designed to provide assistance to people with a hearing impairment. They're often required in public spaces under Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) regulations. Loops may be portable or permanently installed.

Systems can come in two formats:

1.    Infrared or I/R systems are normally used in sensitive environments like council chambers, law courts and GP surgeries. They have a fixed area of coverage - important from a security and confidentiality perspective.

2.    Wired Induction systems are typically used in larger areas like lecture theatres, presentation rooms and public spaces where security and privacy aren't an issue. They transmit sound from a sound system, microphone, television or other source, directly to a hearing aid equipped with a telecoil or 'T' position.

Market leaders include Ampetronic, Sigma, and Sennheiser. 

The Great Outdoors?

For sports arenas, digital signage, retail promotions, and points of information, multimedia messages are ideal. Systems range from permanent installations to demountable ones for specific live events.

Leading suppliers include Panasonic, Bose, and Displaylite. 

Furniture, Too

Well-designed furniture can make all the difference to the performance of audio visual equipment. Ergonomic designs can make equipment more accessible, allowing for ease of use and increased functionality.

Depending on the application, you'll have the option of working with existing furniture, creating custom-made pieces, or using off the shelf products.

Dalen, JM Lecterns, and TeamMate are leading manufacturers.

Best Practices

These recommendations will apply whether you're implementing a solution in-house, or hiring a service

·   Review your practical, technical and budget requirements

·   Do a site survey, if possible

·   Consider cable routes, and access points for wireless networking

·   Look for opportunities and potential problems presented by existing display spaces (e.g. lines of sight, or acoustic baffles)

·   Determine how best to comply with Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) regulations

·   Define your target audience, and firm up the message you wish to convey

·   Select your optimal hardware, software, and control system solutions

·   Set up project management and IT services to support your plans

·   Monitor the performance of the system after installation, and make amendments if necessary

The evolution of technologies across the board has made audio-visuals one of the most useful areas to the modern business. Not only can collaborators from around the world contact each other quickly and easily for conferencing, but the sheer power of the technology available makes it an incredibly popular and useful tool.

For events, what’s achievable now, compared to just a few years ago, is enough to make any event go off with a bang and of course, this can all be shared around the world in such a way to reach a huge audience.