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Edition 2 of “This May Be a Dumb Question, but…”

This Blog Series is written by Exertis Almo's Business Development Managers: 
Ashley Nichols, CTS, DSCE, and John Borns, CTS, DSCE.

Welcome back to the 2nd edition of “This may be a dumb question, but…”, a now recurring blog series where two industry ‘veterans’ (or newbies, depending on who you talk to) help you find useful answers to the questions you’re too afraid to ask. Our 1st edition went over AV over IP, HDBaseT and RS-232, so follow this link if you want to learn more about those topics. This edition is all about Projection, so let’s get to the questions:

QUESTION
What is the difference between all of the different projector technologies? I see 3LCD, DLP, LCOS, Laser, Lamp, etc., and I don’t understand what the difference is and when to use them.

ANSWER

Hot Take: Projection is more complicated than your basic digital signage display. Yep, I said it. So many variables go into projection and choosing the right fit for your application, so it is no wonder we received so many questions around this topic. First, we need to separate the two parts of this question: the light source or light engine, and what I will refer to as the ‘color source’ or chipset1 for the purpose of this blog. I will keep this as short and simple as possible, but the two parts of this question will be broken up in this edition, and then in edition 3.

The light source, in this instance, is when you are looking at a lamp vs. a laser projector. Though there are still lamp projectors manufactured today, many of the top projection manufacturers in the professional space are moving to a laser light source. Why is this? Though lamp projectors are typically less expensive up front, the overall cost and maintenance of replacing lamp bulbs over the life of the projector brings the cost near equal. For reference, let’s say ‘Lamp-Based Projector A’ is $1,500 MSRP, and ‘Laser Projector B’ is $2,600 MSRP. The average projector lamp bulb only lasts 2,000 hours (8 hours a day, 5 days a week for about a year), so you will be paying to change the lamp bulb almost yearly. Additionally, the brightness (or lumens2) begins to fade over the lifetime of the bulb, which negatively affects the image and overall color accuracy. I have broken a light bulb that was $1.50 when trying to change it in my ceiling fan, so I also would not trust myself as a client to change a $900 bulb in a $3,000 projector every other year, which means someone has to roll a truck4 to change the bulb, further adding to the overall cost of ownership.

Laser projector brightness, or lumens, will eventually fade as well, but it is a much slower transition, and typical laser projectors are made to run 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for around 10 years (or 20,000 hours) with as little degradation as possible. Laser projection also runs physically cooler than a lamp bulb, which allows for higher brightness projectors to have longer lifespans, since heat and electronics don’t typically play nicely together over a long period of time. In commercial settings (read: anything other than your backyard projector movie night) I’d recommend going with a laser projector for the cleanest, longest lasting option possible.

laser projection
QUESTION
I’m overwhelmed by the screen options out there. How do I know when to use each type of screen?
ANSWER

This is a great question. I was also completely dumbfounded when I first learned that projection screens were anything more than just a piece of blank white fabric. There’s actually a surprising amount of chemistry and sorcery that goes into each screen surface. If you’re going to buy tires for your car, you need to consider several factors to come to the right choice. Are you going off-road a lot? Do you need tires that can handle the snow? How often do you compete in underground drift races? Choosing the right screen requires a similar approach. Only by knowing the intended purpose of the projection system can you come to the right surface. In some cases, a standard Matte White5 screen will work fine. However, in many cases, using those screens will create some undesirable outcomes. I’m going to highlight two of the most common challenges we face in screen surface selection below. In a future post, we will look more into optimizing your screen surfaces to really get the best results possible.

  1. Laser Projection. Ashley just described all of the advantages of laser projection above. It’s not uncommon for an end user to upgrade to a laser projector without also upgrading their screen. This is a common mistake, and it can create some unfortunate consequences. A key concern is that here is an unwanted speckling effect when you use a laser projector on an older textured matte white screen (see image below). To solve this problem, many manufacturers have created tensioned screens with very flat surfaces. When upgrading to a new projector technology, it’s critical to also update your screen to one that is designed for that type of projection. Thankfully, our friends at Da-Lite have a screen surface technology chart available to help you with these questions.
  2. Ambient Light. Probably the biggest concern in projection is getting the system to be bright enough to get a quality image. You’re probably thinking that the best way to solve this issue is to just get a bright projector, and you’re not necessarily wrong. However, unless you have an unlimited budget (if you do, call me, I have some great ideas), that may not always be on the table. Other options here either are to use a screen that adds gain6 or to use an ambient light rejecting screen7. Screens that add gain use chemistry and witchcraft to make the screen actually appear brighter (usually done at the cost of limiting the viewing angle8). Ambient Light Rejecting Screens will block other wanted light sources (such as overhead light above the screen) from washing out the image. See Da-Lite’s Parallax screen below as an example. These are great options in rooms where there is a lot of sunlight or no controllable lights. Luckily, our friends at Da-Lite have a very handy screen brightness calculator to help you figure out the best screen for your space (notice a trend?). Again, we’ll explore some of the more application specific surfaces in a future post. There’s obviously a lot more to consider here.
laser projection

example of unwanted speckling effect on screen

ambient light

example of ambient light on Parallax screen

Vocab Test Time!

Are these the most detailed definitions? No – we are not a dictionary, nor the AVIXA CTS Prep book. Will someone message us later telling us how much we missed? Possibly. After reading this post, will you have a basic working knowledge of these terms and why they matter? We hope so. Plus, we are 99% sure they help you school your uncles while you play Trivial Pursuit during the holidays. 🎄

  1. Chipset – Another widely-used term that vaguely means a set of electronic components that are wired together on a circuit. You will hear this term in regard to projectors, displays, but also anything from PCs to cars, to the fancy $400 toasters on Amazon that have a screen to show you how ‘toasty’ your bagels can get. You will hear this term more in Edition 3 if you want to Google it now.
  2. Lumens – Basically, this is a measurement of the light visible to the human eye. If you Google it, you will see some of the below terms, as well as more knowledge into the specifics of this term.
  3. Lumière – Talking candle that lives in a mansion with a reclusive beast. 🕯️
  4. Roll a Truck – Fun way to say send out a technician to do a task in person, which translates into $$.
  5. Matte White – The most common, basic, and boring form of a projection screen. Probably what you had in your high school classroom.
  6. Screen Gain – The amount of additional brightness that a screen can add to the system. Usually measured as something like 1.1 or 1.3, which means that it can reflect back an additional 10% more brightness or 30% more brightness.
  7. Ambient Light Rejection (ALR) – Screens that have the ability to block out some or all light coming from top the screen. This means that sunlight or overhead ceiling light will not affect the projected image.
  8. Viewing Angle – A measurement of how far off to either side of the screen you can stand and still be able to see the projected image well.

Thanks for Reading and Asking Your Questions!

Do you have more ‘dumb’ questions? Share your questions here and we will get you an answer.

Did you find this blog post helpful? Connect with us over on LinkedIn.

Ashley Nichols, Dir BizDev

Ashley Nichols | CTS, DSCE

Director of Business Development

Supported Manufacturers: Sony, Panasonic and our OWN brands – Mustang

John Borns, BDM

John Borns | CTS, DSCE

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Legrand AV (NE, SE, MW) – Chief, C2G, Da-Lite, Luxul, Middle Atlantic, Vaddio, Wiremold

Edition 1 of “This May Be a Dumb Question, but…”

This Blog Series is written by Exertis Almo's Business Development Managers: 
Ashley Nichols, CTS, DSCE, and John Borns, CTS, DSCE.

Edition 01 of Our NEW Blog Series

Welcome to “There’s No Such Thing as a Dumb Question” – a hopefully regular blog series where two AV industry “veterans,” with a combined nearly 2 decades of experience, attempt to create a safe space for people of all experience levels to ask basic questions, and get understandable and useful answers.

Have You Ever Been Too Embarrassed to Ask a Question?

The AV industry is filled with jargon, acronyms, and experiential knowledge. If you’re anything like us, you’ve found yourself in conversations where you’ve had absolutely no idea what was going on.

If you’ve felt this way before, this blog series is for you!

Who Are We, Exactly?

We’re Business Development Managers (and buddies) at Exertis Almo. Prior to our time here, we broke into the AV industry working for a manufacturer. We both started in our 20s with absolutely no AV experience whatsoever. We worked in sales and had intimidating conversations with people who basically invented the industry – and we had to figure it out on own by asking a bunch of “dumb” questions.

Our Goal is to Open Up the AV Conversation

Our goal here is to give newcomers to the AV industry and fellow ‘veterans’ alike the knowledge and confidence to have conversations with more seasoned industry professionals – without feeling like you’re speaking different languages. We welcome all questions, whether or not you’re already certified! And if you already have your CTS-I/D, you’re welcome to contact us about topics we’re not explaining well enough. But enough about us, let’s get to some questions!

QUESTION
What is the difference between HDBaseT and AV-over-IP (sometimes called AVOIP)?

ANSWER

Did you know that video signals have length limitations? The signals can only be carried along their standard cables so far before the signal deteriorates or drops off completely. Both HDBaseT and AVOIP are ways to carry standard video signals over longer distances. They do this using magic black boxes (not black magic 😉✨) that convert the signal into a new format.

The source of the confusion comes from the fact that both HDBaseT6 and AVOIP use category cables1 to do the trick. In the case of HDBaseT, that category cable is dedicated between one video source and display. One box goes near the video source (camera, Blue-Ray Player, PC, etc.) and the other goes near the display. The 2 are connected by a category cable, allowing for the signal to travel greater distances (up to 100 meters). AVOIP7 operates similarly, using category cables and black boxes as well, the difference being that some of the boxes act as ENCODERS, which is a cool way of saying that they put your video signal onto the network. It then lives on the network2 waiting for a DECODER to come looking to it. The DECODER will find the network-encoded video signal and allow it to be displayed. Additionally, a PC or other network enabled devices can act as decoders as well and find that ‘encoded video signal’.

network cables
control panel
QUESTION
How does RS232 control work, and what do people use it for?
ANSWER

My father-in-law has an expensive, high-end universal TV remote which he is entirely too proud of. It has a little touchscreen on it, and it can control his TV, stereo, Blue-Ray player, and 30-disc CD changer (for real 🎛️). When he got it, he had to spend a bunch of time getting the remote controller to “learn the codes” for all of the devices so that his one remote could control them all. Luckily, all of those devices use an IR signal5 for their different control functions. In Professional AV systems, RS2324 is very similar, except instead of being an IR-based signal, it’s a hardwired signal. And instead of a fancy little remote controller, it’s all operated by a control panel. Once all of the devices are wired to the control panel, you can go into the manuals of each product and program the various control codes into the controller. This will now allow you to turn on the projector, lower the screen, adjust the volume, change the channel, etc. of the various devices you have connected.

Fun Fact: One of the features that typically separates a professional display from a consumer display is the inclusion of an RS232 control port.

Vocab Test Time!

Are these the most detailed definitions? No – we are not a dictionary, nor the AVIXA CTS Prep book. Will someone message us later telling us how much we missed? Possibly. After reading this post, will you have a basic working knowledge of these terms and why they matter? We hope so. Plus, we are 99% sure they will come in handy at ‘Wednesday Night Trivia’ sometime at your local brewery. 🍻

  1. Category Cable – a.k.a. Ethernet cable, a.k.a. patch cable, a.k.a. Network cable. ‘Category’ cable comes from determining the capabilities of the cable, such as bandwidth. Examples you probably have seen are Cat5e, Cat6, etc.
  2. The Network – An ambiguous term that distills down to this: two or more computers or devices that are linked together and are able to share information with one another. We will have another more in depth segment on this.
  3. The Net’ – 90s movie with Oscar Winner Sandra Bullock running from assassins plotting nefarious deeds.
  4. RS232C – RS stands for ‘Registered Standard’. It is a ‘standard’ control protocol that many devices recognize and is used to command these devices to do things like turn on/off, change volume, schedule timers, and more.
  5. IR Signal – Yes, we are talking about that stuff you learned about in Chemistry. ‘Infrared’ signals are used for many devices to control them (think TV remotes). Different devices respond to different IR signals, which can be ‘coded’ to tell them to do different functions.
  6. HDBaseT – The AV industry standard ‘brand name’ for HDMI extension over category cable (think Kleenex vs. Tissue).
  7. AVOIP – AV over IP, a.k.a. Audio-Visual over Internet Protocol

Thanks for Reading and Asking Your Questions!

Do you have more ‘dumb’ questions? Share your questions here and we will get you an answer.

Did you find this blog post helpful? Connect with us over on LinkedIn.

Ashley Nichols, Dir BizDev

Ashley Nichols | CTS, DSCE

Director of Business Development

Supported Manufacturers: Sony, Panasonic and our OWN brands – Mustang

John Borns, BDM

John Borns | CTS, DSCE

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Legrand AV (NE, SE, MW) – Chief, C2G, Da-Lite, Luxul, Middle Atlantic, Vaddio, Wiremold

Five Ways to Use Futuristic AI Right Now

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the entirety of 2020 — though we don’t blame you if that’s what you were going for — you have probably been inundated with blogs and posts talking about the “new normal” or “these unprecedented times.” This won’t be one of those posts. Mostly. We at Sony like to refer to this time, instead, as the “new now.” Knowing what we know now (in the “new now”), there’s a lot we wished we had in the realm of technology when COVID-19 first emerged. But, as it turns out, many of the technology solutions we needed all along already existed! One of them is the REA-C1000 Edge Analytics Appliance from Sony, who must have had a premonition when it released the product prior to 2020; the REA-C1000 has been a triumphant success to enable continued meeting, teaching and worshipping together when we can’t actually physically be together.

The device uses artificial intelligence (but think more imaging and recognition and less freaky “I, Robot” movie scenes) to add upgraded features to PTZ cameras that revolutionize the presenter and audience experience — transforming how content is delivered and received. Global pandemic or not, the REA-C1000’s features, which we’ll break down below, can absolutely be put to use for hybrid applications today. What’s more, they’ll still be relevant when we are all back together and breathing the same recycled air.

Read on to see how the REA-C1000 Edge Analytics Appliance, Sony’s AI-based video analytics solution, brings us five ways to use AI in video presentation content — not just in the future but right now.

1. Handwriting Extraction Technology

Many homes are currently home to e-learning with elementary or middle school-aged kids. This presents some real challenges for the students and the teacher when trying to show complex problems or concepts to remote participants. This is a perfect example of where using AI in video makes perfect sense — to enhance education. The Handwriting Extraction feature license on the REA-C1000 can help.

Using the handwriting extraction feature would allow the presenter (the teacher) to use a standard white or black board to write on or solve problems behind them. As they finish, the REA-C1000 picks up the writing and creates an overlay in front of them on screen.

The instructor is still in the shot, standing “behind” the information and pointing out important features, without blocking the audience’s view of the information. The image above shows the overlay at around 30% opacity, but that’s adjustable based on the comfort level of the instructor/students. It can even be dialed up to 100% for camera-shy presenters.

2. Keep Presenters and Speakers in Frame At All Times

PTZ cameras have come a long way, but using AI technology alongside PTZ cameras pushes the possibilities further. Using four points of recognition — motion detection, face detection, color pattern recognition and shape recognition — the REA-C1000 uses highly accurate critical thinking to take the place of a human camera operator. The device’s PTZ Auto-Tracking feature license is as straightforward as it sounds — but where Sony has done it right is that the REA-C1000 requires no external lanyards that can be lost or broken. 

The ideal application for this technology is your conference and/or house of worship cases with someone on a stage that may want to move about. Or in your lecture or training halls where, again, someone may be moving back and forth to gesture, turning their back to the audience but still remaining in the shot. The camera will pan with them as they walk back and forth, even when others join them on stage. That one-to-one relationship makes Sony’s solution unique while remaining budget-friendly, because the auto-tracking license is actually free with the purchase of the REA-C1000 until March 31, 2021. The feature will require a Sony PTZ camera (which you were probably going to use anyway, right?) due to the software coding. 

3. Involve the Audience

The third REA-C1000 highlight that brings futuristic AI to video right now is its Close-Up by Gesture feature license — allowing you to involve your audience as much as you would the presenter. This is an excellent feature for the hybrid classroom or town hall, offering two points of view: one camera focused on the main presenter and another camera focused on the audience. When an audience member stands to speak, the REA-C1000 will zoom in on the speaker until they are finished and sitting down again.

4. Create Great Content — Without Specialists and Extreme Costs

Next up, possibly our favorite feature bringing AI to video presentations today, is the REA-C1000 Chroma Key-less CG Overlay: a budget-friendly way to create a studio or green screen without the green screen. With this feature, you can create amazing content in real time without a dedicated studio or specialized content creators. Using AI, the REA-C1000 can use any-color static wall to create a background of your choosing. These backgrounds can be aesthetically pleasing images, videos or even dynamic presentations. Any content, images or videos you can access with your computer, you can use as a background using this feature. Then, use your computer monitor as a focus monitor to gesture.

Why does this matter? Because having full-scale studios on-site can be incredibly — and we mean incredibly — costly: Between cameras, lighting and the real estate itself, you’re looking at five- and six-figure totals. Alternatively, many companies or individuals are choosing the “Airbnb of studio rentals” model, renting studio spaces by the hour or day. Looking at that cost structure in cities like New York City or Los Angeles, a rental studio space can be anywhere from $50 to $70 per hour for up to four people. Additional equipment — like the camera, one production light, the green screen, etc. — runs anywhere from $10 per item to $250 per item, or it’s priced per hour (source: peerspace.com).

If you’re a business that regularly produces training videos or commercials, or you wish to regularly present a professional live session but have limited resources, the REA-C1000 is the perfect middle ground between full-scale broadcast studios and third-party rentals. And the Chroma Key-less CG overlay feature is ideal for low-budget “studios” as a way to record professional-looking videos.

Sony’s solution draws anyone who wants to give the best, most immersive presentation possible while we cannot meet in person. Think of this in the context of corporate video production. Or even consider something as out of the box as a real estate professional giving a “live” tour of a space, not just on an iPhone. Taking into account the current climate of caution over contamination, owning the equipment to use at your disposal is still an invaluable resource that pays for itself over a handful of these rentals, and ten-fold over creating a full-scale production studio.

5. Focus Area Cropping

The fifth and final feature we’ll share today that allows for futuristic AI tech right now: Focus Area Cropping. This one may seem to have less of a wow factor than some of the others, but it has great importance when you or your client are trying to create a special experience for the audience and the presenter but don’t have the staff for a controller — or the budget for extra heads or other expensive hardware or software. Whether you are streaming your worship service over a web platform (which the REA-C1000 can do with its RTSP/RTMP port) or, when we are back in large groups, hosting a conference with a keynote speaker, you can be sure their movements, body language and facial expressions will be captured to emulate the full experience, no matter what.

In the “new now,” the REA-C1000 is — dare we say it, despite our earlier stated dislike for overused buzzwords — a true game-changer for so many applications; it creates impactful video presentation content that previously would have required significant time, expenses and human resources to produce. It’s hard to fit all the proof points into one story, so don’t just take our word for it: Check out this case study from the University of Hiroshima on how the school integrated Sony’s solution into its daily routine for professors teaching via multiple campuses simultaneously.

Want to learn more? Listen to this podcast on the Edge Analytics Appliance — it covers specs, use cases and more. And when you’re ready, reach out to your Almo sales rep to see a live demo of the product and get more information.

Note: The five features discussed today require the one-time purchase of a license for that feature. But good news: You get a 60-day trial for each feature with your purchase of a REA-C1000 device to test it out for yourself.

Ashley Nichols, CTS

Business Development Manager
Email: [email protected]
Toll-free: 888.420.2566 x6229
Fax: 267-350-0351

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