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The CEDIA Podcast: Why We Teach What We Teach

A chat with Steve Rissi, CEDIA’s director of technical training.

CEDIA HQ Training Room
CEDIA HQ has upgraded the rooms used to teach home cinema basics. Photo by Brian Weiss.

Steve Rissi and his colleagues are due for a vacation: After packing class after class at this year’s CEDIA Expo with both content and students, the CEDIA education crew could use a break.

One example: A class that was a smash at ISE wound up requiring more space than the organizers had anticipated when it debuted at Expo in Denver. The Home Cinema Master Class saw the size of its presentation space double, and even Rissi was a bit surprised by the response.

“A huge hats off to our colleagues in the U.K. for putting this whole thing together for ISE originally,” says Rissi. “It sold out a couple of weeks before Expo, but we were still getting requests from members that were really interested in taking the class.”

The Master Class, taught by Theo Kalomirakis (room design), Joel Silver (image quality), and Anthony Grimani (audio), gets to the heart of something that’s close to the bone for Rissi: It shatters preconceived notions.

The Myth of the Golden Ear
Take the concept of the “subjective audio experience,” for example. “All of the mythologies around audio bother me,” says Rissi. “So when you have somebody like Anthony Grimani that can come in and show the science, and you look at the physics of how sound pressure waves interact and what that does, it’s amazing.

“It’s a way to really engage clients and the industry in general, to say, ‘Here’s the science behind this.’ Human beings experience sound in a very specific way based on our biology and, based on the physics of the world around us, we can manage how that sound is experienced and what type of final product you can produce from a performance perspective for different applications.”

While it’s true to a certain extent that people have their preferences and biases when they listen to music or a movie soundtrack, Rissi is determined to show everyone from integrator to end-user that there’s a provable, measurable difference between Good Audio and Bad Audio.

“I really dislike it when people tell me, ‘Oh, well it’s all subjective, and I can’t hear the difference,’” says Rissi. “Honestly, either [a] they’re lying, or [b] they’ve never stopped to actually try and hear the difference, which is mostly the case. Most general consumers have been misled to believe you have to have a golden ear to hear these very special differences, and why one speaker sounds different than another speaker, and why it matters.”

And why does it matter? “It bothers me, because you’re taking something away from those people. There’s an amazing experience that’s out there, that’s available, that our members provide on a daily basis, that changes people’s lives. When you really experience good music, it can change your life.”

Related: Building the Next Generation of Technicians

From Expo Back to Boot Camps
Rissi and company have also been busy ensuring the education that happens back at CEDIA HQ continues to raise the bar after Expo has come and gone. And since we’re already on the subject of audio, we’ll start there when it comes to the small home cinema rooms that have been built specifically for the purpose of teaching home theater basics.

“We’ve undertaken a huge upgrade on the rooms that are in this facility as opposed to our last location. They’re permanent to the structure. They have an extremely low noise floor. They’re designed with really good specifications so that when the students come in to actually calibrate them, they’re starting with a room that works well.

“We now have new speakers. We’re doing full Atmos 5.1.4 configurations. And then we also have 4K projection, 4K display, and UHD video source.”

As far as what seems to excite Rissi the most (although, to be fair, the Advanced Networking classes he teaches are literally “tied for first”), the teaching of audio is all about “the speed of sound,” as he puts it.

“If you understand the science and the engineering, you can apply that to any budget. It doesn’t matter what the equipment is. Once you know how to do it correctly, you can get the best performance, regardless of your individual client’s budget.”