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European Custom Installer

System Integration for the Connected Home


Visual Presentation Spaces, Part II: Gauging Height, Width and Depth

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by Steven J. Thorburn, PE, CTS-D, CTS-I

Designing presentation facilities can be challenging, yet the basic principles are not difficult. In a previous rAVe Europe issue, we looked at how to determine the screen size for a presentation facility, taking into account the 4-6-8 rule that dictates the image height based on the type of content being presented.

The next step in the design process is to look at the space and determine the minimum distance from the floor to the bottom of the image. The most precise method to achieve this is to use ray tracing from the furthest viewer using an eye height of approximately three-and-a-half feet above the finished floor and looking over the top of seated heads at four feet above the finished floor. This will indicate how low the bottom of the screen can be without having the person’s head in front of a viewer obstruct the image.

OK, now for the napkin version: The boardroom ceiling is 10 feet high. We want to start at the bottom of the image/screen at four feet above finished floor in order to get over the heads of other viewers. From there we want to make the image as tall as possible, yet keeping it six inches below the ceiling to miss the track lights and sprinkler heads. From that, our image height is 10 feet minus four feet minus six inches, or 5’6”. We then look at standard screen sizes and round up to the next biggest size.

The final step is determining the viewing cone or viewing angle that the projected image can cover in the room without creating problems for the viewer. Generally, a 90-degree viewing cone is preferred. To measure, a scaled floor plan should be marked with a straight line from the center of the screen, perpendicular to the screen. Then measure 45 degrees to either side of that center line. Anyone within this cone should see the image well. If seats or viewers are going to be located outside of this area, then additional screens should be added to provide coverage. That may mean having two side-by-side images in a wide room or having supplemental displays on the side walls in a deep room.

Steve Thorburn

These basic principles should be applied to any presentation space design. While compromises may be necessary, by following these guides the best choices can be made for everyone involved. Steve Thorburn

Author Steve Thorburn enjoys helping others understand the principals of acoustics and audiovisual technology almost as much as he enjoys sipping a good single malt scotch.

He’s been InfoComm’s Educator of the Year, is a two-time InfoComm Facility Design Award Winner, author, teacher and has AV design experience on more than 2000 projects including Universal Studios Toon Lagoon, Hershey Park and Six Flags Great America.

Find his company Thorburn Associates online.

Is the Third Wave of Home Automation in Your Hand?

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Green Peak Remote

If the CEO of Green-Peak is right, the Third Wave of Home Automation...the wave that just might finally make it to the home shore...will wash up like the proverbial message-in-a-bottle....This time the message is inside the humble Remote Control.

CEO Cees Links runs a fabless semiconductor company. They offer low power wireless and battery-free data comm controller chips for consumer electronics and control applications.

And Links (yes, Links is such a great name for a home automation specialist) wakes up each morning thinking about...remote controls.

Sure, there’s a lot of attention on the TV itself, especially with the connected TV. You can even find industry analysts that insist it’s the game console, the PlayStation, the Xbox, the Wii that will finally bring in true home automation. Others think smart meters.



49 Gutsy Survival Tips from Steve Hays, SnapAV

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49 Gutsy Survival Tips from Steve Hays, SnapAV

Steve Hays at SnapAV in USA wowed an audience of American installers at EHX with his “49 Gutsy Survival Tips” in 49 minutes…

We contacted Steve to ask if he could share a few tips with European installers. Instead, he sent us all 49 but the good news is you can take your time in absorbing them. We’re providing it via a download (below).

See 49 Gutsy Survival Tips

Support Grows for Universal Power Adapter

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Driven by the proliferation of devices like cell phones, MP3 players and digital cameras, at least 3 billion power adapters will be shipped worldwide this year, up from 2.2 billion only three years ago.

Find a way to eliminate the need to ship a separate power adapter to convert AC into the required DC power for each and every electronics device…and you've found a technology that can really help the environment.

And that's exactly what one start-up company has found: Green Plug's technology allows each device to communicate its individual power requirements to the power adapter, allowing several devices to share one adapter.

Overall success depends on getting support from manufacturers who will embed Green Plug's firmware into their devices so power requirements can be communicated to the adapter. Green Plug offers its firmware to electronics makers for free (they hope to make money by licensing the technology to chip-makers.) Vendors who want to include the technology in each device may spend about $2 to do so.

At the second meeting of the Alliance for Universal Power Supplies (group of electronics vendors, power supply makers, utility companies and others promoting standard power systems), Westinghouse Electronics publicly signed on for Green Plug.

Westinghouse, American maker of LCD TVs, PC monitors and digital photo frames, hopes its commitment to use Green Plug's single "universal adapter" to power their laptops, cell phones and other electronics gear will inspire other makers.

What's holding up such a great idea if it's free? Some companies think if they ship a product without an adapter, the consumer may worry and decide to buy a competitive product that does offers one.

Other vendors don't want to eliminate unique power supplies (and connector cables) as they represent high margin add-on profits for the company.

And some company lawyers are worried about liability. Unless it is an industry standard, any company connected could be sued in USA if a fire starts in a home around the devices.


Go Green Plug
Go Alliance for Universal Power Supplies

Rise of Home Gateways

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Managed home gateways in No. America and W.Europe will rise from 16.2 million in 2007 to an estimated 34 million in 2009, says the Home Gateway Initiative (HGI).

“The home gateway is not simply a router, but a service enabler,” explains Milan Erbes, ambassador for the HGI and Business Development and Standardization Manager for DS2. “The HGI focuses on the home gateway itself, but encompasses also the Home Network Infrastructure Devices as well, providing guidelines on remote access, parental control in the home, performance metrics, quality of service (QoS) and security.”

Kurt Scherf, VP at Parks Associates, adds: “The deployment of home gateways is accelerating hand-in-hand with the rollout of triple play services.”  

HGI intends to address support for the SOHO environment, energy saving, extended QoS, diagnostics, Home Network Infrastructure Devices support, the Home Gateway and Network Termination two-boxes approach for Next-Gen Networks, Home Gateway resilience, IPv6 and the evolution of  support to IPTV and IMS.

The HGI was founded and launched by nine telecom operators (Belgacom, BT, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, KPN, TeliaSonera, NTT, Telefonica and Telecom Italia) in 2004, and now has members from five continents. 


Converting the “Screen-Less”

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by Marco Adriaans
Marketing & Communications, PROJECTA BV

Why would a business that invests a small fortune in beamers and laptops (and on people who spend days to create a PowerPoint or video presentation) then project their images onto a surface that would blur and distort viewing?

The answer is that, today, almost every corporate on the FT 500 list owns multiple screens, while many SMEs are still learning…and may (out of ignorance or because they think they are saving money) be trapped in that space known as “Screen-less.”

The “Screen-less” don’t know, don’t recognize that any chain is only as good as its weakest link and-- in an AV chain--a blank wall used as a projection surface easily qualifies as the weakest link. A wall is simply not intended for projection.

Installers of screens must still spend time trying to educate the SME business customers to the fact that a good screen improves communication and enhances presentations. Maybe today, we should call the screen a “high definition fabric display.”

If SMEs weren’t enough of an educational challenge, now comes along a new version of an old problem: the emerging home theater market. Here’s where installers have to ask their customers in Socratic fashion, “Why would you compile a fantastic film collection, buy an expensive high def DVD player-- only to break the chain of quality by adding a dumb wall where a quality fabric component should be?”

More and more people only discover how much more pleasant it is to watch something on a large screen when they visit a sports bar, pub or auditorium where the result of a completed quality chain is so apparent. Exposure to professional solutions is a driving force in the home market where the consumer can inspire to emulate (to his own budget limitation) the video quality that impresses him/her the most.

(In this same manner, (i.e., by exposure to quality systems in pro AV environments), more and more SMEs now also understand that a top-notch presentation calls for a top quality chain of projection components including a screen at least equal to the weakest component.)

The projection screen is an indispensable component of any presentation or Home Cinema set-up, just as important as the source media, player and beamer. A quick look at a screen might be deceptive but the factors that go into a good screen are numerous. The quality of the fabric (which is not a single quality but a multiplicity of qualities to achieve the right formula to build into the screen fabric the many characteristics it needs to display an image), the quality of the black border (which should be there to add to the perceived clarity), the control mechanism (to raise and lower the screen whether manually of electronically), the ease and durability of a mounting mechanism, and even the way to transport the screen to the installer and to the installer’s customers (without tearing or degrading of the screen).

In the home, an image must be projected so several people can see it all at the same time. Each situation is unique and for the best possible projection quality (clarity of the image), the customers need to understand that light output of the projector, size of the projection screen and the reflection value of the screen fabric should be attuned to one another.

Projecta screens use a special black border (or frame) to improve the perceived clarity of the projected image. With certain Home Cinema models, there is even an extra high black border on the top and/or bottom of the screen, allowing the user to choose the ideal viewing height. That makes a difference when placement will be in high rooms and in home cinema viewing rooms.

Dealers, distributors and installers who want to look at the difference a good screen makes can look at web site or contact us.

But any way you look at it… you’re better off looking at it with a good screen!

Go Projecta Screens

Blu-Ray: Plenty of Thunder & Lightning, No Rainmaker

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by Bob Snyder

Warner Bros. will back Sony's format for storing high def movies and this gave the Blu-Ray camp the urge to declare their rivals HD DVD were “beaten.”

“We’ve heard that before,” insisted executives from HD DVD. But it was scary when the HD-DVD group cancelled their own CES press conference because it followed too close after the Warner Bros. announcement.

If Blu-Ray wins (or HD DVD, for that matter), the question will not be whether or not one group or another had another more thunder or lightning. The real question is whether either camp could ever be a Rainmaker.

With Apple, Amazon, NetFlix, Cisco, Microsoft and others push downloadable content, with cable and phone companies flogging on-demand, all day/all night HD, and with I.T. companies pushing on-line storage and new form factors, the DVD business is looking as promising as the last Dodo bird.

JVC, for one example, showed a flat-screenTV at CES that allows users to simply insert an iPod to watch video content. So any slim media player can become an alternative to digital video discs. And Denon, for another example, is building iPod docks into its AVRs like Altec, third example, is doing for loudspeakers.

IPTV, in fact, was the dominant theme of CES. Sharp, Samsung, and Panasonic all entered content alliances that will let consumers look at headlines or videos from the net on their TVs.

Content will jump full-blown into on-line delivery. Any and every device with an IP connection will be content-ready.

Obviously there will still be customers who ask for high def DVD in their set-up. But more and more you will have to confront customers who will resist in favor of an online content solution. Customers who have already bought and re-bought their favorite music in LP, 8-track, cassette, CD, and then plain ol’DVD may be the first to resist adding any more hardware that requires re-purchasing content.  These same Blu-Ray resistant buyers may be susceptible to sales approaches that incorporate newer ways to access music/movies on line.

In the Old World, we showed households how to hook up Audio and Video in the home in order to play their recorded media. In the New World, we’ll be compelled to help them to throw away DVDs.