The Need for Transparency

Integrators, Manufacturers Should be More Open With Their Designs, Specs
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We’ve all heard it before: “Don’t get too technical,” or “The client isn’t interested in the minutia.” Most of us understand that it is easy to overwhelm clients with too much information. But how do our clients know that we are making the right recommendations if we don’t substantiate them? The answer is “transparency.”

Positional analysis, sound power calculations, sight line studies, and projector/screen light studies are all part of what makes your private theater specification valid. Why not take a moment to clearly explain these benefits to your client? Package the results of your engineering with a clear explanation of what advantages this system will provide, then take the time to clearly explain these benefits. You will find your client appreciative of the work that you have done, and it is more than likely that he or she will stop you partway through the delivery and express how you have earned his or her trust. This so much more effective than just saying, “Trust me, I’m an expert!” This method of creating a specification should, by the way, be a for-fee service.

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Package the results of your engineering with a clear explanation of what advantages this system will provide, then take the time to clearly explain these benefits.

To provide this service, however, you will need the support of your industry-partner manufacturers, and their own bit of transparency. An example would be for loudspeaker and amplifier manufacturers to provide all data needed to accurately specify loudspeakers to SMPTE, ITU, CEDIA, or other industry criterion. In the home theater market, it is not common to find this information, so the equipment must be tested. Testing, however, is expensive, time consuming, and risky. The residential market has been lucky to date, but our industry is maturing. Where, in the past, untested systems in untested rooms may have passed subjective judgment, it is now common for rooms to be commissioned. This means measurements of system and room performance are taken and inadequacies are unmistakably detected. Subsequently, the integrator now shares the risk.

A better scenario would be for manufacturers to test and publish performance specs of their equipment. With loudspeakers, sensitivity and accurate power handling for each amplified section should be available, at a minimum. There is more we really need, of course (such as frequency-relevant dispersion with roll-off data for the entire loudspeaker), but just getting the aforementioned specifications would be an improvement.

Many video manufacturers keep essential data behind a veil, as well. A lot of the reasoning is understandable. The proper placement, configuration, and environment of a high-performance video system can be quite complicated, and there are many variables. For that reason, some manufacturers do not publish critical specification data, such as offset parameters, requiring dealers to submit drawings. Again, transparency on both sides of this relationship would be the best. Manufacturers should publish all necessary specification data and make such data available to qualified integrators, designers, engineers, and specifiers, so that these professionals can carry out their work. Designers and engineers should then submit drawings to the manufacturer for verification.

This is the proper order of things, as a theater is a multifaceted space with many design elements to consider. The designer or engineer has a better perspective on these diverse characteristics. It would be incumbent on them to study the published video system specifications and make the proper selection based on their specific application. All of the above information would be included in the final theater documentation and made available to the construction team and client.

Audio and video manufacturers are not alone. In almost every product category in our business, essential information is hard to find, compromising the effectiveness of everyone involved and undermining the potential of our industry.

Often, the reason that information is not openly shared comes from fear that the disclosure of this data could harm a company’s competitive position. In my experience, however, it is quite the opposite. The professionals involved in the private theater industry, be they manufacturers, designers, engineers, or integrators, are a highly talented group. The products that they manufacturer and the rooms that they produce represent some of the most exciting innovation and highest quality in the industry. Open sharing of information by such a talented fraternity would mean the best application of the best products for the best results. In that scenario, everyone wins.

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