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Enterprise Room Scheduling Platform

AV Control v2.0: The Industry’s Long Overdue Firmware Update

By Greg Mattson, product management, Installed Systems, QSC

You ever wonder why people avoid pressing that “upgrade firmware” button on their devices? I have a theory:

    • Some people suffer from a basic lack of awareness. They don’t know that a better solution is out there.
    • Some people are busy. They flat-out avoid updates because it might require them to learn something new.
    • Some people are weary of the consequences. It’s just easier to suffer through the quirks and simply turn a blind eye to the promise of improvement.

This scenario is pretty similar to the world of AV programmers. As control programmers, we struggle on a daily basis with the outdated process of AV control, dedicated hardware strung together with old tech, and antiquated programming languages. We either accepted these issues as necessary evils, or cling to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Or maybe we are simply unaware of the alternative.

Enter the new breed of AV customers: IT end users and decision makers. This shift changed the world of AV control overnight. They are demanding control solutions that can easily integrate with standard IT infrastructures, and they want to enable their teams to potentially monitor and service these systems.

All of a sudden, the “firmware update” within our industry, which I’m calling “AV Control v2.0,” can no longer be ignored. It’s time to hit the “update button” and challenge our existing toolbox, and align our work with more standard IT environments and modern programming methodologies.

Step One: Remove the Complexity
In a typical meeting room, we are programming up to 90 separate control links. When a small change is made to the system—a control ID change, a component added, or even a simple gain structure change—there are repercussions that require several back-and-forth conversations between us and the DSP programmer, which can hinder getting a space up and running.

I ran into problems on a recent install that required me to sit down with the DSP programmer to assess the issue. The back-and-forth interplay between us took hours; the process can be maddening!

With a system that combines DSP duties, control processing, conference camera control, and routing under one platform, you start to eliminate hardware and more importantly, tons of integration points. There is no back-and-forth because the platform manufacturer has done that work for you!

Suddenly, the repercussions of one change aren’t quite as daunting and the complexity of building a system is dramatically reduced.

Step Two: Embrace Open Standards and Modern Languages
Our AV programming toolkit has remained relatively contained within our industry, primarily because the programming languages we use have not evolved at the same pace as the IT world. We have spent a good portion of our careers learning the ins and outs of these arcane languages with only a few outlets for training and sharing.

However, the available tools have evolved. There are better control solutions out there that use standard IT languages and paradigms that are far easier to use and much more accessible outside of this industry. This is a huge opportunity for us!

Transitioning to more open standards and modern control programming languages will enable AV programmers to work even more efficiently. Our value of that code does not diminish simply because we arrived at the solution with better tools. Quite to the contrary; working in some of these streamlined toolsets is going to open up countless business opportunities that the older architecture simply would not allow. It also frees us up: we can now have more bandwidth and resources to focus on developing solutions that are more advanced.

On top of that, being able to offer a system to the IT customer that empowers them to make those minute-to-minute troubleshooting adjustments will ultimately open more doors. The IT customer is more likely to embrace the solution if they know it is as accessible as the rest of their infrastructure.

Step Three: Allow for Scalability
As companies start to expand their AV capabilities on a global scale, they are looking to invest in technology they can grow at the pace of their business. Platform-based solutions built around IT standards eliminate the need to “rip and replace” the technology, and allow the end user to scale up or down while maintaining their entire AV programming design and end point configuration.

Furthermore, as these systems scale within the IT infrastructures, the need for system-wide management of AV devices becomes vitally important. Becoming familiar with software-based management will open doors for additional value-added programming opportunities and even additional revenue streams for our companies.

Let’s do this.

This a firmware update that our AV programming community deserves. It’s time to simplify our process and expand our business offering.

Crestron, Amazon Web Services Launch Alexa For Business

From launching a web conference to pulling up presentation materials on-screen, together Crestron and Amazon Alexa will help ensure meetings are timely and productive.

With Alexa for Business, Crestron is bringing voice control to conference rooms across North America with the availability of its enterprise skill for Amazon Alexa. Alexa for Business is a new service by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that lets you use Amazon Alexa to voice-enable your workplace. Now, employees can start a meeting simply by saying “Alexa, start my meeting.” From launching a web conference to pulling up presentation materials on-screen, together Crestron and AWS will help ensure meetings are timely and productive.

Alexa for Business
Photo: Amazon Web Services (AWS)

“Everyone has a meeting horror story, and it often involves trying to use the technology for collaboration or a presentation,” said Fred Bargetzi, Chief Technology Officer at Crestron. “It isn’t just annoying – meetings start an average of 10-12 minutes late, and unproductive meetings cost American businesses an estimated $37 billion annually. Now, leveraging the power of Amazon Alexa voice control, Crestron can handle it all for you. Today’s announcement is just the beginning – enterprise voice control is going to be a productivity game-changer.”

Crestron and AWS have been working together for more than a year in the residential and hospitality markets, using voice control to optimize living situations. For example, asking Amazon Alexa to set the mood for dinner could lower the shades and lights, and turn on a specific selection of music. Now, the many Fortune 500 companies that use Crestron technology can add similar voice-controlled skills to manage their office space.

“Voice control is transforming the way we live and work, so the enterprise skill is a natural extension of our existing collaboration,” said Dan Jackson, Head of Enterprise Innovation at Crestron. “People already love Amazon Alexa in their homes, and importantly, they already know how it works. We’re creating one consistent, responsive experience to anticipate your needs, no matter where you are.”

Blended Projection Solutions

Vaddio Launches DocCAM 20 HDBT In-Ceiling Document Camera

Vaddio has launched the DocCAM 20 HDBT Camera, a new high definition, recessed in-ceiling overhead document camera which features 20x optical zoom and high-definition 1080p/60Hz resolution.

DocCAM 20 HDBT features a 59.5-degree horizontal field of view to capture more of the tabletop in the camera view. Its laser dot alignment feature frames the subject matter quickly and easily with a remote control.

With its USB 3.0 output, end users can send uncompressed, high resolution video over USB by pairing with the OneLINK AV Bridge AV Interface. It has a web-based user interface for remote configuration, management, and control. Users can automatically or manually adjust image color, shading, backlight, and wide dynamic range to optimize color for various settings.

Equipped with a OneLINK HDBaseT port, the DocCAM easily connects to Vaddio’s OneLINK extension systems or other HDBaseT-compatible devices to simplify cabling installation and extend video, power, control and network up to 328 feet (100m).

The Bottom Line: The DocCAM 20 HDBT Camera is designed for use in higher education classrooms, board rooms, city council chambers and courtrooms, or settings where getting a clear overhead picture is required for presentations.

Using TesiraFORTÉ DAN with Shure MXA310 and MXA910

The purpose of this article is to provide a starting point to aid in the successful deployment of the TesiraFORTÉ DAN with Shure MXA310 and/or MXA910 microphone arrays. Specific understanding of the Shure MXA products is best gleaned from documentation and training provided by Shure. Links to these resources can be found later in this article.

TesiraFORTÉ DAN

Interoperability

The TesiraFORTÉ DAN product family uses the same TesiraFORTÉ base platform we know and love and adds Dante audio networking. This offers streamlined interoperability with Shure MXA and MXW products as well as Dante products from other manufacturers. Each TesiraFORTÉ DAN is capable of 32 channels in and 32 channels out via the Dante network port. If you are working with an AEC capable TesiraFORTÉ DAN, then you now have up to 12 channels of AEC processing available for Dante microphone sources. This means that a single TesiraFORTÉ DAN can provide AEC processing for up to (3) MXA310 (4 channels each) or a single MXA910 (8 channels each). We’ll borrow some imagery from our System Design Guides to help illustrate these examples:

    

Biamp_System_Design_Guide_Boardroom_TesiraFORTE_DAN_MXA310_EN-US.pdf

Biamp_System_Design_Guide_Boardroom_TesiraFORTE_DANMXA910_EN-US.pdf

Entire System Design Guide suite.

Tesira Software

When designing a system file in Tesira software, there are now custom MXA310 and MXA910 blocks located under the “SHURE Mic” option.  This can be found in the “Network I/O Blocks” segment under I/O Blocks within the Object Bar.  Once selected, you’ll be prompted to choose the desired Microphone Model and Channel Count. The channel or lobe count will need to match the number of lobes expected from the source microphone array. It has been observed that using four individual lobe outputs with Biamp per channel AEC processing performs better than the mixed output option. However, each room and system is unique, so please select the appropriate initialization state.

  

Now that the appropriate input block is created, add the corresponding Control IP Address of the respective MXA mic array in the SHURE Mic Configuration menu. Though not required, this will allow quick access to the Management Web GUI for this specific set of inputs. If the MXA mic array IP address has not already been documented, the Shure Web Device Discovery tool can be used to discover and adjust this information and as needed.

clipboard_edb5688c0f4d6ca3ce686d142c621a67d.png

clipboard_e87bc0ac383f438757e833e288d69c5c4.png

 

Once the Biamp configuration is sent to the Tesira, available Dante channels will populate within Dante Controller for proper routing.

MXA LED Control & Example Files

Below are some example files, images and downloadable resources. These example files include examples of how to control Mute state and LED’s of the MXA310 & MXA910 from Tesira.

Dual MXA310 System:

Single MXA910 System:

Processing Library:

File download: MXA910_-_Starting_Points_Catalog_v03.tlf

The Processing Library is a little known tool within Tesira software that allows users to create catalogs of their favorite blocks. These catalogs can be exported and shared with other Tesira users. The following image shows the icon used to import the library that was just downloaded.

Now, when the Processing Library is opened you will see all of the items that comprise the selected catalog. This catalog contains all the blocks that were used to build the example files above. These items can be added to the current system file simply by dragging and dropping them into the file.

 

Tips & Tricks:

  • It is a good idea to plan out the IP scheme for each system ahead of time.
    • Each Shure MXA device requires two IP addresses, one for control and one for Dante.
    • The TesiraFORTÉ DAN will also require two IP addresses, one for control and one for Dante.
    • If these addresses are statically set, they will remain the same.
    • If these addresses are set to DHCP and drop to link-local (169.254.x.x), the microphones may hop to different IP addresses with each reboot. This would break control and auto-launch functions that were configured in Tesira.
    • If there is a DHCP server, it may be best to reserve the necessary IP addresses for the respective devices.
  • It is also helpful to strategically name and document each Dante endpoint as this will make routing flows in Dante Controller much more intuitive.

Crestron and Amazon Web Services Join Forces to Make Meetings Productive

Rockleigh, NJ – November 30, 2017 – Crestron, a global leader in workplace technology, today announced that, with Alexa for Business, it is bringing voice control to conference rooms across North America with the availability of its enterprise skill for Amazon Alexa. Alexa for Business is a new service announced today by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that lets you use Amazon Alexa to voice-enable your workplace. Now, employees can start a meeting simply by saying “Alexa, start my meeting.” From launching a web conference to pulling up presentation materials on-screen, the power of Crestron and Amazon Alexa will help ensure meetings are timely and productive.

“Everyone has a meeting horror story, and it often involves trying to use the technology for collaboration or a presentation,” said Fred Bargetzi, Chief Technology Officer at Crestron. “It isn’t just annoying – meetings start an average of 10-12 minutes late, and unproductive meetings cost American businesses an estimated $37 billion annually. Now, leveraging the power of Amazon Alexa voice control, Crestron can handle it all for you. Today’s announcement is just the beginning – enterprise voice control is going to be a productivity game-changer.”

Crestron and AWS have been working together for more than a year in the residential and hospitality markets, using voice control to optimize living situations. For example, asking Amazon Alexa to set the mood for dinner could lower the shades and lights, and turn on a specific selection of music. Now, the many Fortune 500 companies that use Crestron technology can add similar Amazon Alexa voice-controlled skills to manage their office space.

“Voice control is transforming the way we live and work, so the enterprise skill is a natural extension of our existing collaboration,” said Dan Jackson, Director of Enterprise Technology at Crestron. “People already love Amazon Alexa in their homes, and importantly, they already know how it works. We’re creating one consistent, responsive experience to anticipate your needs, no matter where you are.”

For more information about Crestron and Amazon Alexa, visit crestron.com/alexa.

Peerless-AV Launches All-in-One Kiosk Powered by BrightSign

The What: Peerless-AV has launched an All-in-One Kiosk, powered by BrightSign. Featuring a sleek design with a small footprint, the All-in-One Kiosk offers a complete digital signage solution for any indoor application setting, from corporate to retail, to hospitality, and beyond.
The What Else: Powered by a BrightSign built-in Digital Signage Module, the All-in-One Kiosk delivers 1080p60 single video decoding, HTML support, networked content playback, as well as an abundant set of features, including interactivity via the GPIO port, remote snapshot, live text, media feeds, and multi-zone.
“Our new All-in-One Kiosk is an easy-to-use, cost-effective digital signage solution that can be installed right out of the box,” said Brian McClimans, vice president of sales for North America and APAC, Peerless-AV. “The integrated kiosk’s sleek, stylish design offers the ruggedness needed for public use, as well as a simple installation process requiring little to no maintenance. It’s the fully integrated solution that our customers have been asking for.”
The All-in-One Kiosk features easy setup via micro SD card, six points of IR touch for user engagement, and robust HTML5 engine supporting playback of content and modular assets layered with video. It also has the ability to update messaging and interact with the kiosk via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or the BrightSign app, and can use of live data and media feeds to display popular news, finance, weather, or social media feeds.
“With our media player’s power, and Peerless-AV’s integrated design, the All-in-One Kiosk is the perfect fit for any indoor space,” said Ann Holland, vice president, marketing, BrightSign. “It has been a pleasure to partner with Peerless-AV. We’re proud to have been chosen to power this new solution.”
The Bottom Line: With an integrated 55-inch commercial LCD display offering six points of IR touch, the All-in-One Kiosk fully engages users, making it well suited for a variety of uses, such as wayfinding, entertainment, and digital merchandising.

Breaking Product News: Biamp’s AVB-Based TesiraLUX Video Streaming Solution Now Shipping

Biamp is now shipping its TesiraLUX product line of video streaming solutions to its global base of customers.

The TesiraLUX suite, utilizing IEEE Audio Video Bridging/Time-Senstive Networking (AVB/TSN), includes an AVB video encoder (TesiraLUX IDH-1) and an AVB video decoder (TesiraLUX OH-1). The encoder features one HDMI port, one DisplayPort port, and includes two mic/line level analog inputs. The decoder includes one HDMI port and two-line level analog outputs.

A Single Software Environment for Networked Audio and Video

While video over Ethernet is nothing new, Biamp sees increased value in offering a holistic ecosystem for networked audio and video. TesiraLUX natively integrates with the entire Tesira platform, therefore installers and tech managers can use a single software environment for both audio and video. It integrates streaming video with audio DSP; no breakout boxes or workarounds are required to get audio and video signals to work together.

TesiraLUX supports advanced video formats including 4K, 4096×2160 at 60Hz, high dynamic range (HDR), and the Rec. 2020 color space. It can accept video at up to 16-bit color depth with 4:4:4 chroma subsampling. It also supports eight channels of embedded PCM audio which can be broken out to be routed and processed independently. 1GB and 10GB connections are supported.

“AVB is the sanest and fastest way to manage network bandwidth usage and traffic for applications streaming audio and video,” Chris Fitzsimmons, Video Products manager of Biamp Systems, told AV Technology magazine yesterday. “It sets up faster, doesn’t require chattier protocols (such as IGMPv2) and won’t force the client into unnecessarily provisioning their switch infrastructure to ensure no bottlenecks occur.”

Fitzsimmons added that TesiraLUX also does not use special networking technologies (e.g. Jumbo Frames) which can interfere with other switch traffic.

The Networked Landscape: Where Does AVB Fit?

With 132 manufacturers shipping its products, Audinate’s Dante is the best-supported audio protocol, far outstripping the other technologies combined. But AV/IT industry stakeholders, including Cisco, Meyer Sound, and Biamp, believe in the potential of open standards such as IEEE AVB/TSN as technologies evolve. An often misunderstood element of AVB/TSN is that they are not communications protocols. Like VLAN and Power over Ethernet, AVB/TSN are core network capabilities that can be used by any (open or proprietary) communications system that needs them.

The AVB core and specs of the Biamp TesiraLUX line are “very promising,” said Phil Hippensteel, PhD, AV Technology contributor and instructor at Penn State Harrisburg. “[It offers] very high quality video, extremely low bandwidth, and guaranteed bandwidth availability.”

Chris Fitzsimmons shares more details of the TesiraLUX in this video

INFO
Biamp’s TesiraLUX
http://blog.biamp.com/tesiralux-is-now-shipping/

Making a Mega Project Work

These days, the term “mega projects” indicates large buildings for public assembly, such as sports complexes, corporate headquarters, and transportation facilities like airport shopping centers, said Ted Leamy, senior vice president for Panasonic’s AV direct sales group. “These sports venues are not stadiums but are becoming meeting grounds. They’re multi-function spaces hosting rodeos, concerts, and other events.”

Panasonic’s 84-foot video display, created for the Sacramento Kings, is regarded as the largest single piece of digital signage in the NBA.

In fact, mega projects are actually campuses, often with entire restaurant and entertainment districts, associated hotels, and sometimes small convention centers. “In sports venues, for example, the premium club spaces are still revenue generating on non-game days,” he noted. “Any one of the big names in the corporate world have these large, multi-building campuses where people spend a large percentage of their day, beyond the eight-hour workday. In our world of AV, we want to treat that entire campus as a single AV system, even on one with multiple venues. We need to be able to transmit both audio and video throughout the campus with each venue standing on its own.”

Leamy pointed to SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta as an example of a mixed-use area of residential and commercial, “The walk-through neighborhood draws you into the game. Even if patrons don’t go to the game at one of these mega projects, they may arrive hours before to experience a concert in the plaza, dinner, a visit to the hall of fame or a museum. These are really meeting places to support folks through the whole day, and it’s the same with mega corporate spaces.”

A CAMPUS IS A CAMPUS

The concept of a campus goes beyond sports; it’s about the idea of creating campus standards, Leamy said. “The IT department is a factor because we’re transporting AV over the existing enterprise IT network. AV is one of several factors that are dragged into these campus-wide standards. This requires standards that are flexible and comprehensive enough to fit the needs of many different types of users, so we have to create systems and control GUIs that the average user can easily operate.”

This, he added, is the challenge for both integrators and designers. “There is a lot of thought that goes into the engineering and designing for these multiple functionalities that must be presented to the user in a simple fashion. Increasingly, it’s the AV integrators who need to have people onboard who are experts in enterprise network systems.”

Mega projects can absolutely incorporate the latest technology while still being user friendly. “The newest technology is based on IoT,” Hanak said. “As the standards become clear the technology is less costly, easier to use, and more impressive. If I had told you 15 years ago that by now we’d be able to search the web, listen to music, and videoconference on a single device, you wouldn’t have believed me.

“Now, a lot of folks are multitasking and we’re talking about the ‘latest and greatest’ technologies,” he added. “The root technology is here, but it’s on the application side that we’re creating exciting things for fans to interact with. We want to give a platform for our clients to scale beyond the solution because we don’t know where it’s all going.

Another interesting aspect, Leamy said, is the interoperability of the systems that allow owners to monitor, maintain, and adjust most systems that are part of a converged IT full blown network. “This idea of interoperability between audio and video, security, and building management, etc. is driving this. It’s not the technology; it’s the ease of use.”

BEWARE THE CREEP

The solution for preventing scope creep, Hanak suggested, is to have that detailed and “painful discussion” early on. “Regardless of size, many projects have the same elements,” he said. “Look at the holistic scope of the project and be diligent from the beginning. The more energy put in at the front end, the fewer gaps you’ll have to deal with down the road.”

Often, what happens is that people don’t take the time or have a checklist ready at the front end, Hanak continued. “We are checklist driven, we have a scope matrix, and we communicate with our clients to make sure it matches up and to identify any gaps. Doing your R and P (research and planning) will provide clarifications. You have to speak up and address gaps early on. Prioritize items that can cause the most economic damage. And sometimes the bidder who made the biggest mistake wins because if you guarantee the job and you made a mistake in your estimation, why not pick you?”

NOW HEAR THIS

Audio and video in these projects is more intertwined than ever before. “It’s all about the experience created—especially in sports—for fans’ expectations, encompassing many senses,” Leamy said. “Audio is a big part of that. How do we draw fans into the experience, including real-time social networking, and the many facets of engagement? Audio, more than ever, is not forgotten and pays a big role in achieving that goal.

“Our roles in these mega projects is challenged as these budgets become extraordinarily large,” he cautioned. “It takes a high level of design to ascertain that the correct kind of audio matches the space. Audio is the number-one criteria to convey information; intelligibility measured by the standard of speech transmission index for public address is critical to design. Speakers and components today are advanced, allowing us to provide great intelligibility along with a fun music experience and dynamic musical range.”

In the past, there was a choice to be made between providing a clear announcement or big, fun music. “Now, componentry is capable of offering both, but it’s important to remember that it’s application specific,” Leamy said. “You need the right piece and that goes back to the extraordinary amount of design engineering necessary to meet owner and fan expectations.”

BIG IS BEAUTIFUL

The bottom line, Hanak said, is that these larger projects start earlier. “With more runway you can do things that are more interesting. With a year and a half timeline, you have an opportunity to develop intimacy with the client, to see what’s coming over the horizon, and to make some changes. In general, with this time, we can do some interesting things.”

Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Boulder, CO.

MEGA PROJECT, MEGA LIGHT

When it comes to mega projects, don’t forget about power control for AVL, cautioned Mark Bishop, president, LynTec.

In any install, most AVL equipment is being used only three to five percent of the time, he said, so it goes without saying that large venues need robust power control. “The ability to turn these solutions on and off at the circuit level not only reduces the overall cost of operations, but also dramatically increases the lifespan of your equipment.”

Bishop noted three major challenges for AVL mega projects, including that of space. “End users want as much public space as possible and often view electrical rooms as ‘wasted space.’ Be aware of your real estate needs when considering power control,” he said. “Relay panels will often take up twice the wall space of motorized circuit breaker panels by virtue of the fact that relay panels have to connect to a conventional circuit breaker panel. Be prepared to defend your territory.”

Allow for future expansion, Bishop added. “If history has taught us anything, it’s that new technology is always right around the corner, and circuiting needs go up, not down. It is much easier to build in expandability from the beginning than to try to add it after the fact. There will never be a time where you will need less circuits, especially in these mega installs. ‘Oh no! I have too many spare circuits!’ is something no one ever said.”

Finally, remember communication is key, he said. “Communicate your needs to the electrical engineer, the electrical contractor, and the end user. Attend all meetings. Don’t just tell them what you need, but explain why you need it. Power control isn’t the shiniest or most sparkly part of the system and it can easily be overlooked by those who don’t realize how important it is. Without power control, none of the other technology will run. Strong power foundations are just as important as the multimillion dollar lighting arrays they support. Spending a little more time explaining your power control needs in the design/pre-construction phase will save a lot of time and money in the long run.”

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