How many times have you heard that from a client? You get a frantic call that “nothing works.” From what you can see remotely, everything looks good. All of the devices are online and all firmware is up to date. You have a good sense that is probably the IR emitter on the TV, but the client is either too worked up to troubleshoot with you or just doesn’t feel comfortable touching anything. And they are right — to them, nothing works. The TV doesn’t turn on, so they can’t see a picture and since there is no HDCP handshake, they likely don’t get sound either.
I can’t tell you how many service calls we’ve had because of IR emitters knocked off of TVs, cable boxes, DVD players, AVRs, and the like in the more than 15 years that I’ve owned The Source. It was usually a very quick service call to reattach the emitter. In order to fully charge for the hour without incurring the wrath of an angry customer, we would usually take that time to run some firmware updates, dust the rack and equipment, and do some other small maintenance chores to fill 30–45 minutes and make the service call worthwhile to both the customer and to us. Regardless, it was a very frustrating situation, with clients unable to use a TV for at least a day and often longer before we could get a tech on-site.
Fortunately, we have many more, and more reliable, options today.
Also by Todd Anthony Puma: 5 System Design Criteria for a Successful Takeover
My absolute favorite is using CEC to control TVs. I know what you are all saying — “CEC is the devil! I always disable it on every install.” That is true — unless you are using Crestron for control. Using Crestron DM or NVX (traditional video matrix or AV over IP, respectively), all CEC commands between source and sink are disabled, and only Crestron commands are allowed through. The TV always turns on and off with 100 percent reliability. I have yet to have a service call related to TV control when using CEC (knock on wood). However, CEC is only viable with TVs at this point.
Next up is serial control. If a TV has easy serial control, we will often go that route. We also use serial almost all of the time on AVRs, unless we are using the Marantz slim-line, which do not have serial connections. Again, 100 percent flawless with the benefit of two-way feedback into the system so we can program off of device state. Unfortunately, not many other AV devices have serial control other than TVs and AVRs.
Last on the non-IR list is IP control. While many professionals I know swear by IP control, I have been burned too many times by firmware updates changing something in the device, knocking out IP control and often requiring a truck roll. Most notable was the Sony TV fiasco several years ago, when a firmware update erased the IP settings on the TV, requiring a tech to go back and re-input the passcode, as well as reconfigure the network settings. It was a nightmare. And I know many people will say those issues are few and far between and are much less likely than an IR issue, but when these happen, it is across all of our sites, all at the same time. I can’t imagine having dozens or even hundreds of clients calling within a few days with the same issue. Talk about a disaster. Yes, we do use IP control, but we do it sparingly — Roku has been flawless, Sonos hasn’t missed a beat (as long as we keep our drivers up to date), and the Marantz slim-line AVRs (the NR series) work great.
Also by Todd Anthony Puma: 5 Ways to Be the Client’s Favorite Trade on the Job
Finally, when no other option exists, we go with IR control. But we over-engineer it. The emitter is attached with a hot-glue gun or super glue; a ‘boot’ is placed over the emitter to hold it in place; and the wire is run across the top of the device being controlled (obviously not for TVs) and is taped into place with heavy duty Gorilla tape so that if the emitter does come loose, the wire still hold it in place. Special mention here goes to Sony, who have an IR input on their TVs with a 3.5mm jack. We control all of our Sony TVs over IR via this jack now. It is absolutely flawless and since we are only doing on/off, no feedback is really necessary back into the control system. We typically do not need to worry about displaying on-screen volume anywhere other than the TV screen when we are using the TV speakers, so even if we are doing volume control of the TV, it isn’t a big deal and it is 100 percent reliable.
So what are your tips and tricks to prevent the cleaning lady, or anyone else for that matter, from messing up your control system?