Yorktel's VideoCloud integration across various platforms The key to successful integration of audiovisual equipment, several integrators tell Government Video, is full disclosure of the clients’ needs and expectations, including equipment, budget and schedule.
“A project won’t succeed unless all the parties go in with a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished, and what the end-product result is going to be,” said Larry Brody, president and CEO of Communications Engineering Inc., an integration firm located in Newington, Va.
The integrator needs to get a clear picture of what the client is trying to accomplish and what technology is being contemplated for implementation, Brody said. When dealing with a government agency, knowing the agency’s mission is important in determining which technology will help that mission, he said.
Jim Hatcher, chief technology officer for integration company Human Circuit of Gaithersburg, Md., said the two main objectives an integrator should focus on are fully understanding what the client’s goals are and understanding the client’s issues.
That information is used to create a statement of work that the client agrees to, Hatcher said. “The SOW protects both the client and integrator because it details what the client expects from us,” he said. Therefore, to ensure everyone is operating under the same expectations, the SOW should include a schedule that lists all the tasks; how long the integrator is going to be onsite; and how long it is going to take to build the system, Hatcher said.
Greg Douglas, Yorktel’s vice president on integration, also said conversations with the client about their needs are essential from the start, and that the time to propose a solution is after learning what the client’s needs are. “In that light, the client often has his own sensibilities about what [the project] is going to look like; how it is going to look and feel; and how do they want it to operate,” he said.
However, the integrator also has to be prepared for the opposite, according to Brody. “It’s going to be different for each client. Some government clients are extremely knowledgeable about what they want to do and how they want to do it,” he said. “But there are government entities that are not so knowledgeable about what they want, so they have to be educated about what they need to be looking for [from the project].”
Integrators should be prepared to educate a client about the process even after a request for proposals has been let out and an award issued, according to Brody. When meeting a client, it might become clear the client does not “have a super-clear idea of what it is they’re trying to be accomplished,” he said. “It’s up to the integrator to draw it out of them.”
Nonetheless, once the integrator offers a solution acceptable to the client, “the process of producing a more detailed design gets underway,” Douglas said. That process includes “having critical design ideas along the way,” he said.
THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Those design ideas involve decisions about which equipment best serves the client’s needs, said Dee Ann Harn, CEO of RFI Communications & Security Systems Inc. located in San Jose, Calif. Once the client’s needs are ascertained and a system designed, an integration company’s engineers undertake the process of determining what equipment will best satisfy those needs, Harn said.
When it comes to developing a technical solution, any number of manufacturers might be included in that solution, according to Brody. CEI has relationships with all the major manufacturers, and can usually single out one or two manufacturers who fit the bill for a particular job, he said. “At that point we might have some detailed discussions about a product’s performance, and following that we can make a recommendation for the best possible solution,” he added.
The client’s budget for the project also impacts what equipment can be acquired, Harn said. On some jobs the client supplies the equipment, on others the equipment is part of the bid, she said. “It can go both ways, [a client] can give us a roundabout budget, or a needs budget,” she said. “They might say, ‘This is what we have to work with. Can you make it work?’”
Brody agrees, adding that there are reasons for the client to list a preference for a manufacturer such as only one manufacturer makes a particular product. But if that is not the case, there are situations where the client might be open to proposals on the equipment such as when the integrator provides a better solution. “There are no hard and fast rules,” he said. “In the end you’re trying to provide the client with the best solution.”
Of course, integrators also need the proper equipment to successfully install AV products. Some of the latest integration equipment has been complied and covers a range of uses.
AMX’s Rapid Project Maker AMX’s Rapid Project Maker is a cloud-based configuration tool that enables integrators, AV technicians or IT professionals to configure an AMX system by using a step-by-step process, according to Lane Shannon, the company’s marketing communications’ managing editor.
RPM is a comprehensive tool designed to help throughout the process, according to AMX. With no programming required, the user can configure the project, create a user interface and generate instructions on how to install the system, the firm said. Users can store their projects on AMX.com, enabling installers to access and manage the projects from anywhere, the firm said.
Biamp Systems’ Tesira products For those integrators in need of a sound reinforcement device, there is Biamp Systems’ networked media system, the Tesira, said Patrick Prothe, the company’s marketing communications director. Tesira products are scalable media systems for digital audio networking using audio/video bridging, he said.
The Tesira is versatile, according to Prothe. “From a sound-reinforcement perspective, there are few things you can’t do with it,” he said. The Tesira features a digital network server that is configured with an AVB-1 card, a digital signal processor-2 card (with an optional capacity for seven more), and support for an additional AVB-1 or 1 SCM-1 CobraNet card; a four-channel microphone/line input card and a four-channel mic/line output card; and a PoE Ethernet control surface mount and the same inwall mount.
Tesira also features Biamp’s SpeechSense Technology, which is designed to enhance speech processing by more accurately distinguishing between human speech and ambient noise. The unit can be deployed in auditoriums, convention halls, in large facilities or for video conferencing. SpeechSense makes “the sound incredibly intelligible,” said Prothe.
Crestron’s 3-Series CP3 Integrating all of a building’s technologies so they work together as a single system rather than as many separate systems is the focus the Creston’s 3-Series CP3 control processor.
The 3-Series processor’s features include a data communication protocol for building automation and control networks called “BACnet” and Internet protocol support, enabling “seamless integration with existing building management systems,” according to Creston. The modular programming architecture enables all systems to operate independently and communicate with each other on the same platform, creating an integrated building platform, the company said.
Extron Electronics’ SMD 101 Extron Electronics offers integrators the SMD 101, which is a compact, high-performance H.264 decoder used with Extron’s SME 100 encoders to provide complete end-to-end AV streaming systems, according to the company. Both solutions offer features that provide superior quality and flexibility when integrating streaming into AV systems. Those features also include signal processing, scaling and aspect ratio management and a range of control options including RS-232, wired infrared and Ethernet.
The SMD 101 has an “intuitive embedded Web interface.” Streaming protocols are available to support unicast and multicast applications based on the network and operating conditions, the firm said. Audio output signals are available as HDMI embedded audio as well as analog stereo audio, making it directly compatible with embedded display speakers or existing audio systems.
The SMD 101 offers integration-friendly control capabilities including an optional handheld IR remote and an easy-to-navigate Web interface. The interface provides simple, flexible control and management, and the advanced AV signal processing and control features make the SMD 101 suitable for a variety of streaming applications in government or educational environments, Extron said.
PESA’s easyPORT HDMI Systems integrators can obtain an advantage by using PESA’s easyPORT HDMI utility converter/extender/switcher module, said Dan Holland, the company’s vice president of product marketing. Integrators would be interested in the easyPORT HDMI because it is a full monitor system, he said.
The easyPORT HDMI provides all the essential tools for format conversion, signal extension and signal switching capabilities. All video formats are transcoded or converted internally and the signals can be distributed over several different transmission paths, including coax and fiber, or over IP, according to the company.
The easyPORT integrates HDMI components seamlessly into any broadcast or post-production distribution chain. It provides size, weight and power savings by enabling multiport capabilities in one unit, as well as two HDMI to four SDI sources or four SDI sources switchable to two HDMI displays, PESA said.
Communications Engineering Inc.:
Human Circuit Inc.:
RFI Communications & Security Systems Inc.: