This Integration Guide was sponsored by Peerless-AV as a supplement to Residential Systems, November 2015
Head-end rooms, usually a closet-size AV control center, have for years relied on racks and enclosures to discretely serve as the backbone of integrated AV and automation/control systems, in much the same way that mounts have literally supported the evolving frames of televisions and projectors. In today’s mobile and hyper-connected world, where our smartphones have redefined everything from our hand gestures to our expectations for how our environments should react as we enter them, and networks that have become an essential aspect of daily life, it is not entirely surprising that something as simple and straightforward as the design of a rack or enclosure, or the functionality of a TV mount would also be affected.
Sanus Systems has developed custom rack mounts faceplates to accommodate the newest AV network devices
“The greatest influence in today’s systems has been decentralized control and distribution,” said Gina Schneider, Sanus Systems’ product manager. “Most residential system designs have migrated away from matrix switching and morphed into a server/client system based on an ethernet backbone. Internet protocol is king for both content and control. Mobile devices have taken over as control devices and have become ubiquitous in everyone’s hand. Audio and video has been chopped up into IP packets, easily transported in error-corrected data strings and parsed out cleanly—as long as QOS is preserved.”
The move toward smaller, yet more widely connected devices has meant a transformation in how integrators utilize the space offered in rack and enclosure solutions, with CI manufacturers responding with creative and inventive design additions (and in some cases subtractions) to accommodate the evolving sizes and functionality of their racks and enclosures.
The same is true for mount solutions, especially with the advent of lighter televisions, and as mentioned by Omnimount’s director of sales, Americas, Bill Ennis, growing consumer confidence in the decorative appeal in mounting newer television models. “New installs for innovations like curved TVs won’t intimidate consumers as they may have in the past, and the aesthetics of mounted TVs and wall furniture grows ever more attractive,” Ennis noted. “Wall furniture is adapting too; consumers want to mirror what they are seeing on home makeover shows with invisible cables and decorative functionality.”
Middle Atlantic Products racks offer built-in capabilities for storing components in otherwise unused spaces.
RETHINKING RACK AND ENCLOSURE DESIGN
With the need to address the increased use of smaller devices—including switchers, extenders, routers, and power supplies—in system integration projects, manufacturers like Middle Atlantic, Sanus Systems, and Chief Manufacturing have readjusted the way they design and lay out space in their rack and enclosure products.
“Our racks offer built-in capabilities for storing these components in otherwise unused spaces, and our rack-mount accessories with patented designs facilitate mounting these small devices, all while providing cable management and tie-down points for complete system integration,” said Jay Franetovich, application engineer of racks and enclosures for Middle Atlantic. “From a simplified installation standpoint, integrators are able to reliably deliver clean racks, configured with greater ease, ultimately saving them precious time on the job.”
Middle Atlantic’s BGR series rack enclosures provides integrators with 23 inches of work area, allowing them to easily mount small devices in different areas of the rack without encumbering other components, Franetovich explained. The leading line of the unit is equipped with several embedded slot-shaped tie points that enable both hook and loop-type fasteners for use with category and fiber optic cabling—effectively eliminating over-tightening and improving transmission capabilities. The BGR series features a curved Plexiglas front door and the option to add wood cladding, appealing to the more décor-conscious residential customers looking to maintain a unified look within their home.
Sanus Systems has developed custom rack-mount faceplates to accommodate the newest AV network devices, including ATVs and connects, noted Schneider, who added, “Rack-space needs have been shrinking and we have developed rack frames that can accommodate smaller head-end systems, yet maintain all rack accessory needs. Our best sellers have been the modular open-frame racks. Quick to set up and easy to expand, they have become the go-to rack for integrators.”
Chief Manufacturing, sister company to Sanus Systems (both share Schneider as a product manager), has found considerable market success with its new PAC boxes, with the largest of these, the PAC526 able to hold a digital receiver, wireless device, control processer, and ethernet switch in one location. Schneider noted that integrators enjoy the multi-depth capability of the boxes, as well as the size and the PACUNV1 accessory that helps with using the space in the box. Chief offers the boxes in separately shippable parts allowing for customization, and has added surge protection to the units.
Acknowledging the influence of mobile technology on the design of its racks, mounts, and enclosures, especially in relation to wireless and network connectivity and the connection issues that can ensue when using metal and solid objects close to such components, Nick Belcore, executive vice president of Peerless-AV noted that the company has added features such as removable front doors, rear doors, and side panels, as well as a more open-frame style to its solutions.
“We have also accounted for wireless signals when we constructed our Outdoor IP68 Media Player enclosure,” Belcore said. “We have made one half of the enclosure out of a composite material, which allows for wireless signals to penetrate while maintaining the IP68 seal. This allows for our solutions to better support the propagation of wireless signals.”
With integrator demands as a driving factor for its mount designs, Video Mount Products (VMP) has determined the features that are consistent across a broad spectrum of installations and incorporated them, while still allowing CI pros to customize the enclosure to their projects.
“Our EREN-27 has been a big hit with installers and end users,” said VMP’s president, Keith Fulmer. “This fully welded steel cabinet ships assembled and comes complete with 5-by-2U vented shelves, 5-by-2U blanks, a two-fan kit, casters, leveling feet, removable side panels, a smoky gray tempered-glass front door, and a twin ‘center-open’ steel rear door. This inclusive design eliminates a lot of guesswork, as well as making the ordering process much more streamlined.”
“The largest influences we focus our mount and rack products around are solution-based designs that create efficient and reliable installations,” said Bret Leatherwood, SnapAV’s product manager for strong mounts and racks. “We develop these ideas by having a close ear to our customers’ feedback and working with them hands-on in the field to discover problems that we can create a solution for. This integrator-focused mentality helps us create solution-based products, not just products on a shelf.”
The outcome of this in-the-field approach for SnapAV is its Razor low-profile mounts that, in combination with the company’s VersaBox in-wall storage boxes, have proven to be an ideal solution for their dealers, noted Leatherwood. The Razor mounts are designed for easy and efficient TV installation while the VersaBox provides ample room behind the TV for cable management, storage, and powering equipment. In addition, the company’s FS line of pre-built racks also have integrator-friendly features such as side panels, doors, casters, integrated fans, rack shelves, and vents that can be time savers when ordering and on the job.
Video Mount Products’ EREN-27 has been a big hit with installers and end users.
For OmniMount, products such as its OWS60 AV wall shelves are considered great alternatives to furniture because they work with any size TV and offer storage for components. The company’s OmniClassic series of mounts have also proven of interest for end users.
“Consumers are especially attracted to the full-motion mounts for a variety of reasons, like the ability to easily access the back of the TV without removing the TV from the wall, and the ability to position and reposition the screen dependent on where they are in their space,” Ennis said. “Plus, since trends for the lighter TVs are increasing and TVs are looking more streamlined, consumers are beginning to feel more comfortable installing bigger TVs on the wall. Features like Lift n’ Lock, complete hardware kits, level adjustments post-installation, UL certified, and ‘tested for safety’ resonate with consumers and with integrators, as does the fact that the product does what we say the product will do.”
With technology, especially wireless networking, acting as a component shrink ray, the AV backbone ecosystem—as housed in racks, mounts, and enclosures—currently operates in a metaphoric middle ground. Often a centralizing base, this ecosystem is increasingly being decentralized as components find new homes in everyday furniture, behind or on common shelves, or simply in plain view because their diminutive size isn’t distracting. For CI manufacturers in this category, the goal then becomes redefining and reemphasizing the benefits of having dedicated, properly built housing and supporting units for prized components.
“With the recurrent use of mobile technologies and the central location of gear in rack-style settings, it will be interesting to see how the industry keeps up with this continued evolution of the classic AV ecosystem,” Belcore said. “All the gear housed in a rack, from headend controllers to the handheld network-enabled user interfaces, need to maintain connection and provide a reliable experience to the end user, and manufacturers will need to design for this.
“With mounts, I anticipate the designs to continue becoming thinner,” Belcore added. “In both commercial and residential settings, the main focus is on the display and its content. Mount designers understand this and will keep moving toward developing solutions that can support large, ultra-thin displays that still offer the ability to create varied display designs.”