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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

Joe Cornwall’s USB-C “Must See” TV….at E4v

If you’re like many of us in the industry, you have a lot of questions about USB-C and how it fits into AV applications. Fortunately, Legrand AV’s “Technology Evangelist” Joe Cornwall is here to help. Joe presented a very thorough presentation on how USB-C fits into modern AV installations during Almo’s recent E4v.

During Almo’s recent E4v, Joe gave a detailed presentation on how USB-C fits into modern AV installations.

If you missed it, not to worry – you still have a chance! Courtesy of Almo, these trainings are available for another month at the E4v Flex Experience.

Below are three key takeaways from Joe’s session that you’ll definitely want to see:

#1 Cable Lengths and Connectors Matter

The great news about USB-C is that there is finally a single connector, and you don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s upside down anymore. Anyone who has touched a USB cable in the past has certainly dealt with the roller coaster of emotions that come with trying to figure out which way to plug in the cable. USB-C will solve that problem. Unfortunately, because of how much data these new cables are able to handle, they’re limited to very short cable lengths. The longest one you’ll find is six feet! Tune in to Joe’s presentation to learn why you should be excited about these cables, even with such a short length limitation.

#2 New Terms: EMCA Cables and Billboard Devices

Unlike most standard cables, the USB-C connector actually has small chipsets built right into the connector. This means that the cables work in a different manner than previous USB versions. Here are a few terms and features to be aware of: “EMCA Connectors” and “Billboard Devices.” Failing to account for these when needed could create headaches for you and your customers. Joe will teach you what to look for and how to navigate these new waters.

#3 We’re Going to Need a Bigger Docking Station

If you’re planning on deploying USB-C, you should plan on learning the role of docking stations, as these little devices display the true power of USB-C. USB-C allows for the transmission of power, video, audio, data and control bi-directionality. You’ll need a docking station to fully take advantage of all of these features and get the most out of your USB-C products in your system.

Joe’s presentation is worth a 1 AVIXA CTS Renewal Unit. He does a deep dive on these topics (and many more), in a way that only Legrand AV’s Joe Cornwall with can. This is one session you won’t want to miss!

3 Observations from my first Infocomm Connected as a BDM for Almo

This time last year I was a few months into my role as Business Development Manager (“BDM”) here at Almo ProAV. I had spent the previous 6 years with an AV manufacturer, and we thought it would be an interesting opportunity for me to share some of my insights from seeing the Infocomm show through the lens of a distributor. This year would have been my 2nd show as an Almo BDM, and the plan was for me to do another post-show recap. Well, obviously a lot of plans have changed in 2020. The Infocomm show went virtual as a response to COVID-19, and for the first time we got to see how an event of Infocomm’s size and scope would translate into a virtual space. Here are some of my thoughts.

The Amount of options felt overwhelming – In a good way

If there’s one thing that felt like it wasn’t missing from Infocomm this year, it was the quantity and quality of things to do and places to see. I’ve been to 6 of the live shows now, and at each one I always had a bit of FOMO throughout the entire event. With trainings happening upstairs, events happening in booths throughout the day, and with so much space to explore – it’s easy to miss something good. One feels like they have to pick and choose where to spend their time because one cannot possibly see and do everything. With Infocomm Connected, that feeling was still very much present. There were trainings happening pretty much all day, and with overlapping schedules in some cases. I found myself having to build my daily itinerary each morning to make sure that I could get to as much of the content that I was interested in, and that wasn’t even including trying to carve out time to visit presenter’s microsites and more. 

It’s very Impressive How Quickly So Many Companies Have Been Able to Adjust

When you think about the wheels that were in motion for AVIXA (and really any company) in Feb 2020 and how those wheels had to be so suddenly turned in a different direction – it’s mind-blowing that there was even a virtual show to begin with. For many, Infocomm planning starts in the fall of the previous year. So to be able to re-direct a show of that scale with that energy and put something together in a few months is truly awe-inspiring. Almo went through a similar experience in coming up with the virtual E4 Evolution show this spring, and I can’t say enough for how hard everyone had to work to put that together. I can’t think of any presentation I saw that didn’t have the “current challenges of our COVID-19 world” front and center. New products have been developed, new marketing strategies rolled and new ideas for solving new challenges are ready to go. No one thought we would be here 5 months ago, but none-the-less we’re back to doing what people in AV have always done, which is figure out a way to make it work and make it better.

Nothing Beats the Real Thing

For all of the things that Infocomm did well, it still felt like something was missing. This is by no means a knock on the Infocomm Connected, so much as it is a credit to the standard that the Infocomm live events created. There were some fun features, like playing music between presentations and some fun transitions we moved through the day. But for me, nothing beats the lights and the pounding music and the 50 foot LED displays that you get from a traditional Infocomm event. Audio Visual, more than most other industries, exists to provide people with experiences. It’s these experiences that drive the manufacturers in the industry to build the best products. We can all talk about the great things that various products do, but the real magic is in seeing the finished product of a fully built out AV system. This is my way of saying that Infocomm Connected was a tremendous success and it’ll certainly be interesting to see how virtual tradeshows evolve from here….BUT, I’m really looking forward to walking the show floor in 2021, if possible. There’s nothing better.

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