by Lindsey Adler and Chuck Ansbacher
Due to a rare break in print production schedules, this past Thursday assistant editor Lindsey Adler and managing editor Chuck Ansbacher enjoyed the luxury of attending a full-day educational AV experience at Almo's E4 AV Tour stop in New York City. At what is essentially a mini trade expo, the Residential Systems and Systems Contractor News editors spent most of the day in and out of various educational sessions and just a brief time browsing booths which all seemed consumed by lots of foot traffic. Here are their summaries, in tag-team style:
Lindsey: Starting off in an area I've wanted to learn about in more depth for some time, and coming off the heels of last week's AES Convention, the Basic Acoustics and Quantifying Background Noise general session felt like the right place to be. InfoComm's Paul Streffon led the seminar, and I picked up some new audio techie vocab terms to throw around: Haas or precedence effect (also known as the law of the first wavefront); NTi Audio’s Minirator, a fun toy for measuring audio signals (also a must-have computer tool); and axial room modes, of which we saw some snazzy diagrams that really illustrated the complexities of audio room design. And then there were these great videos at the end. It was tough for the other sessions to top flaming audio waves or kaleidoscopic salt resonance displays.
Chuck: That was an old physics experiment called a Rubens' Tube, which uses fire to demonstrate the vertical relationship between sound waves and sound pressure. It’s an impressive way of visualizing the concept of sound waves having physical properties—something we hear about constantly but rarely see. The Quantifying Background Noise session was also great because it focused on spaces like conference rooms, which are jobs that so many integrators are usually working on, but often get the cold shoulder in favor of more glamorous projects like concert halls.
Having said that, I was amazed by the Art of Techorating session. Going into this seminar, I assumed we were in store for a valuable lesson on artfully hiding Cat-5 cables and disguising flat-panel mounting hardware. Boy was I mistaken. Alan and Jonathan Brawn of Brawn Consulting delivered a session containing mind-blowing examples of the future of AV as a form of decorative entertainment on a massive scale. Unfortunately, we only caught the tail end of that class. We'll have to ask those guys to write one of their SCN columns about it.
Lindsey: There was clearly a lot of interest in that subject, and it was not at all what I expected either. The concept was much more immersive and entertaining than I imagined it would be. Hiding mounts and wires is far less sexy than psychedelic building faces. As Alan Brawn said, "Techorating is the next great wave in AV," so it's a perfect subject to grace the pages of SCN. It wasn't about blending technology with interior decorating, a subject I touch on frequently in my work for Residential Systems; techorating is about creating art using technology, on a commercial scale in this case.
I was a little surprised that I didn't find much technology I could write about on the residential side of AV. Sure, the acoustic design had some crossover, but I think it's a whole other beast when you're designing a room devoted almost exclusively for dedicated theater use. It would have been interesting to hear how the acoustics design changes when designing outdoor systems. This may have had more crossover with outdoor residential installations, but of course, this would be fodder for a much more full-length course. I couldn’t see it fitting into the hour allotted. I bet our illustrious instructor, InfoComm's Paul Streffon has a more detailed lesson plan like this on his lectern.
What a nice coincidence that we wound up sitting with our illustrious instructor Paul during the vegetarian-friendly lunch buffet (always a sure way to win my praise). The whole IT/AV convergence was a big topic of conversation, and Paul had a lot to say regarding the hesitations that both industries have had in partnering up. He firmly believes this trend is here to stay for commercial AV, but I wonder if there's a broader sense of resistance elsewhere in the industry?
Chuck: While I believe the trend is an undeniable one, I also think that it doesn't apply across the board. By that I mean that integrators that operate on a smaller scale don't have the luxury of ignoring the convergence anymore, while those that are firmly established will have no trouble sticking to their sweet spot. I look to writers jumping on the social media bandwagon as a suitable comparison. The most established authors and journalists out there have been slow to adopt platforms like Twitter. Everyone will buy their book or read their articles on reputation alone. But the writers looking to make a name for themselves? They're flocking to Twitter. And for many of them, the crossover is paying off.
But we digress. Back to E4, the NEC session on flat-panel displays that capped our day was another standout for me. I had the pleasure of going to an NEC event last week where the company unveiled a number of its new P Series displays, and it was incredible to see some of the creative uses they've been put to in the past. From conference rooms to car dealership floors to Broadway shows, the versatility and unlimited ways to couple these displays together affords integrators a very exciting opportunity for creativity.
Lindsey: I agree with you on the NEC session. The most interesting element of it was the wide range of specific installations that NEC's Michael Ferrer presented. I expected to hear more about the technology, which was indeed covered, but the crux of the seminar was more focused on real-world examples.
Lastly, we would be remiss not to mention the Cat-5 Connectivity for HDMI and HDMI Plug and Play, presented by Key Digital's Glenn Gentilin, who was able to turn a challenging subject for us non-techies into something we could actually follow. I can't say I'm any closer to being a Cat-5/HDMI connectivity guru, but Glenn's brusque jokes really helped some of these concepts stick a little more for me. There's something about laughing that has always helped me retain information better.
Chuck: That guy was the perfect combination of Billy Crystal and John Turturo. He could have given a two-hour speech on the negative consequences of fluoridated drinking water, and I would have been enthralled.
Wrapping up, I just want to point out that E4 will be back on the road this spring, and our readers would all be doing themselves a favor to keep their eyes peeled for a schedule announcement. The event was a fantastic way to spend a day, especially a rainy one!
by Lindsey Adler and Chuck Ansbacher