Regular Checkups Ensure Client
Satisfaction, Add to Revenue Stream
Anthony Grimani (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
president of Performance Media Industries,
with offices in Novato and San Anselmo,
During the last year, you’ve installed
super-high-impact, allegedly reliable
home theaters for your favorite clients.
You trust that these rooms are all still
working right, but shouldn’t you also
verify it? I am talking about a new “old
way” to generate revenue: servicing your
clients’ systems with a regular check-up
visit. You can do this in person, or–if
you leverage technology the right way–
without ever leaving your offices.
It almost always find some type of
defective or inoperable gear when I do
calibration checkups. The latest surprises
from last week’s calibration session
included a blown amplifier that took
down the left-channel woofer, a defective
signal processor that muted the surround
speakers, and a surround decoder that had
failed a few months earlier and didn’t have
all the settings reloaded correctly. A few hours of troubleshooting and gear swapping
got everything back in order; the client was smiling,
and I walked off with a nice check for the work.
Due to the laws of chaos physics on the myriad
pieces of gear and interconnections that make up a
sophisticated home theater, you should prepare for
a checkup visit at least every six months, and make it
part of your recurring revenue stream.
As a general rule, I suggest doing at least the
following quick checks on a system’s vital signs. For
audio, drop the 5.1 Audio Toolkit test DVD from
Gold Line into the player and run Title 1, Chapter 19.
It will play a seven-channel series of wideband pink
noise test signals in sequence around the whole room
(L/C/R/Sr/Br+Bl/Sl). You can then play Title 1,
Chapter 16 (or better yet Title 0.1, Chapter 1) to verify
the presence and potency of the subwoofers. Further,
you can play Title 1, Chapters 1-7 and use a sound
level meter from Radio Shack to verify that levels
of the individual channels are still correct. You should probably also conclude this
process with a quick listening test to your favorite demo disc. Be sure to use multiple
microphone positions in order to get a spatial average around the main listening area.
Even though you trust the home theaters you
installed work well, you should still verify so
with a regular system checkup.
For video, you can drop the recent Joe Kane Productions HD Basics Blu-ray Disc
into the tray, and go right to the basic test patterns. Check through the color bars and
PLUGE signals using a blue
filter or the blue glasses you get
from THX. Then check the
focus, resolution, and geometry
alignment. Here again, if all
the patterns look good, take a
gander at the demonstration
materials on this disc.
If all goes well, this process
will take about an hour, but
if there are problems, there is
no telling when you will finish
For remote audio
monitoring, you can set up
a reference microphone in a
concealed area of the room.
You can measure the response
of each speaker after the room
is fully calibrated and equalized
using high-grade mics at the seating locations. Then, you can measure the
resulting response of these speakers with the basic mic hidden in the ceiling
fabric layers, near a sconce, or some other tricky place to plant a “spy”
mic. This mic would be plugged into an analyzer system–either running
on a dedicated box, such as the TEF network addressable analyzers, or
connected to a PC with a remote desktop hook-up. You can generate the
right stimulus from either a dedicated super-basic DVD player controlled
by remote or the same PC running an S/PDIF signal to a switched input
of the audio path. If you have references of what the audio is supposed to
look like at the concealed mic location, you can easily test it all remotely.
If you are tricky about it, you can even broadcast the mic sound over the
internet back to your office.
On the electronics side, some manufacturers offer remote IP access
to their products, which comes in handy if
the client accidentally changes some of your
default settings, or a power surge wipes out the
Things are a bit trickier for video, but you
can probably do a lot with a decent HD camera
plugged into an HD IP monitoring station. The
feed would go back to your office, and you could
compare the video signals against the reference
measured right after the in-room calibration
(ISF or other). If something looks way out, it’s
time for a drive to the client’s place with a new
bulb, video analyzer, and even a new HDMI
cable or EDID control box in your bags.
Remote monitoring and/or onsite
checkups of your clients’ home theaters are
crucial to the ongoing enjoyment of the rooms
and continued referrals. You can leverage
technology to make it painless for you,
you can charge for the service contract,
and you will keep your clients happy in the
process. It’s good to trust and verify.
Chase Walton contributed to this column.