Three Reasons Why an AV Consultant is a Great Investment

THREE REASONS WHY AN AV CONSULTANT IS A GREAT INVESTMENT

Written by: Adrian Magno

In the summer of 2011 as a young and financially limited engineering student; I vividly remember attending a thesis conference. Here students were required to give speeches on something that was of great interest to them. Whilst gaining insight to the feasibility of a space elevator and the methodology behind swarm technology for drones, the most relatable and far most interesting speech for me was ‘3 engineer approved ways to save on petrol consumption’. The speaker had debunked many myths about petrol saving methodologies, but what has alwasy stuck with me through the years was the following:

‘At speeds above 80km/hr, it is more fuel efficient to use air conditioning to cool down a car than to have the windows open.’

​​​​​​​I was always raised to believe that air conditioning was a luxury afforded to only the wealthiest people. Or as my parents had eloquently donned them, ‘the rich’. I would blitz down highways, not hearing a thing my passengers would say to me as cannons of air funnelled through my vehicle: naive to the notion that the amount of air billowing through my car was creating more drag, using more fuel to maintain the desired speed on the road.

It’s an analogy I often use when explaining to people why an AV consultant can often be cheaper. Normally, this wouldn’t make sense. How would something that costs money save money? The same way using petrol can save you petrol.

It’s in what you don’t quite see. Whilst impossible to list them all, I’ve boiled it down to three main reasons:​​​​​​​

1.      Consultants ensure you don’t over engineer your AV

AV Consulting is a delicate balance between knowing the technology that exists, and understanding what the Client actually needs. Sometimes when a Client asks for sophisticated and complex AV requirements, internally the designer gets excited drawing schematics in his head to make something work. But the consultant has to constantly ask the question and bring back the notion, ‘Is this an actual need for the end user?’.

Don’t get me wrong, if you need a waterproof outdoor high brightness video wall, we’d be more than ecstatic to take on a project like that, but most Clients who say they want wireless presenting, wall plate with adaptors, resident PC, touch interactivity, video conferencing all in a huddle space; mostly only need one or two of those things. The rest of which can be placed around the floor in other meeting rooms.

2.      Consultants find hidden fees

There’s a bit of a wicked strategy some bad AV integrators employ. They quote a project at a ridiculously low price, win the project, then start charging extra fees (or variations) to make up the loss. An AV Consultant worth his own dime would be able to know the actual cost of a project, see where people are cutting corners when bidding for your project/charging additional fees and drill down into why. For a number of projects now, I’ve saved my Client our consulting fee three times over by catching mistakes in variations and project pricing. Not including savings on admin, documentation, audits etc.

3.      Third Party testing of an AV system

Many problems with an AV system are not always apparent straight away. Bad AV integrators have a knack of programming a system  to peform something once, but not designed to work day in and out. Some integrators don’t adhere to ventilation requirements or cabling guidelines causing products to die eralier and void warranty. The AV consultant often is well versed in these common pitfalls and point them out early to be rectified before equipment can be damaged.

It’s fair enough to think cutting out the middle man will save you some money. That’s what the internet retails is built on, straight from the manufacturer to the user. But ask anyone who has bought a dodgy cable eBay, in more times that not we often get what we pay for.

Fit for purpose meeting room technology

Written by: Alex Frew

With so many product options available to wirelessly stream your mobile device in HD quality, and large screens so readily available, we’re often asked why we recommend commercial grade devices for meeting rooms and office fit outs.

Surely a consumer grade product that does a similar job would be sufficient, and of course it’s normally much cheaper. Typically these products are also easier to source, with anyone being able to buy them directly from a large retailer.

Now I could launch into the Pro’s and Con’s of consumer versus commercial grade products, but I think it’s far more important to understand the situation or purpose you are going to use these devices for. In fact, we always recommend devices that are fit for the intended purpose.

In some instances, such as a TV in lunch room or staff breakout, a consumer TV is perfectly appropriate, and does exactly what you need it to do. If it stops working, you could simply replace it with a similar product and the impact to your business in this downtime is minimal.

However, if you have a training room or meeting room where you may have different connection options for different meeting types, this may require special screen connections, resolutions, or colour depth for a particular application. The screen is also vital to the majority of meetings in that room, and if it breaks, this would cause the functionality of the room to be severely affected. The end result could have a significant impact on meetings, and the wider business to some extent.

So again, what we are actually recommending, is that the product you purchase be fit for the purpose of your space, or related technology system.

We recommend products that not only have a good warranty, but good support and service within the country. And yes this support costs money, which is ultimately incorporated to the cost of the product, but we ask you to evaluate the cost to your business if these meeting room technology systems are down for any length of time.

Just to summarise, technology equipment should be fit for your intended purpose. The functional purpose of the meeting room should be the driver for selection of your technology equipment.

WORK WITH AN “AVT & ICT EXPERT”, NOT AN “ORDER TAKER”!

Written by: David Allara 

When you hire a professional in any field, what are you hiring them for? To simply take your order based on the instructions you give them? Or do you hire them for their unique experience and expertise? I am guessing for most of you it is the latter. You are not the expert, and you don’t truly know what you need. You don’t know what you don’t know. Am I right? 

In the field of professional AVT and ICT technology, the above has never been more true. Products and technologies are constantly changing and it is simply not possible to stay on top in this industry unless it happens to be your career and passion. So often I start a technology consulting project with a customer and at the very first meeting they launch into telling me all the things they need. There is almost always a focus on specific products or solutions that they are convinced are fundamental for their organisation.

It is also at this first meeting that many excited technology designers will immediately dive into “order taking mode” and take direction from the customer. There is great enthusiasm from both parties, and it seems like everything is going so well. The designer is already thinking about how to design the solutions, and the customer is so happy to be getting all this new and important technology. What could go wrong?

Unfortunately, a great deal can and does go wrong.

Neither party realises that they have skipped some extremely important steps.

This “order taking” approach is flawed and leads to the wrong solution for the customer almost every time.

No needs analysis or discovery with the customer has been undertaken.

Let’s take a quick look at a situation that we can all relate to. When you go to the doctor, do you tell him or her what you need or want? Sometimes. A good doctor will listen to what you have to say, and then dig deeper. Most of the time when you consult with your doctor you discuss a particular problem or symptom you are experiencing, and your expectation is that the doctor will be able to provide a solution. In order to do this effectively the doctor will draw on their experience and ask you a series of key questions. At the end of the consult, in most cases, the doctor’s advice and solution to your specific problem is likely quite different to what you thought it was. Sound familiar?

So, turning our attention back to AVT and ICT technology.

Working with a customer on their AVT and ICT technology requirements is no different to the doctor consult example. A seasoned “AVT and ICT Expert” aims to find out as much as possible about the customer’s situation. What are their current problems? What do they really require from their technology solutions today, and in the near future? It is crucial to understand the business requirements of the organisation. How does the type of technology, and the way it is used, directly affect the business? What do the people (internal and external) really need from the technology? What does the organisation want the experience with the technology to be for their people?

So many questions.

An “Order Taker” will provide a customer with something that they do not actually need. A seasoned “AVT and ICT Expert” spends a great deal of time getting to know the customer, their people, their organisation, and their true needs.

Armed with the truth, the expert will always provide the customer with exactly what they need. 

Choose to work with a seasoned AVT and ICT expert.

How meeting room finishes affect acoustics

Written by: Alex Frew

In general there are a couple of principles that can make for a “good” sounding room or space, dependent on what a person is listening to. One general set of classifications can be:

  • Contemporary Music – the listening experience can be enhanced by echo or reverberation to some degree. However, speakers often need to have good bass response and the reverberation (echo) should be consistent at all frequencies.
  • Classical Music – long reverberation or echo can improve the perceived sound quality to the extent that speaker systems are often not used, and the natural echo or reverberation of a hall or space is preferred. Think of a Church or Classical Recital Hall.
  • Speech – bass response is not important, but high frequencies are critical. High frequencies help us determine critical vowel and consonant sounds. Limiting reverberation (echo) is also key to a good speech sound system.

Of course these are general rules and there are rarely spaces designed these days for one purpose in particular. So there always needs to be some balance and consideration to all the uses of a room or space.

There is an Australian Standard for business meeting rooms, however, which sets an RT60 range of 0.5-0.7s for standard meeting rooms, and slightly less for rooms with Video Conferencing functionality.

There are no general rules to determine if a room will meet these criteria or not. Typically, calculating the reverberation time (echo) requires many variables including room volume, internal surface area, and the absorption efficiency (coefficient) of those surfaces.

However, the simplest reference when planning for these types of rooms is that a typical residential lounge room has similar reverberation time to a standard meeting room. I’ve often found that trying to design the meeting room finishes with an even balance (surface area) of “hard” or “soft” finishes gets the reverberation time pretty close to achieving the standard.

Soft finishes are typically things like:

  • Ceiling tiles
  • Pin board panels
  • Specialist perforated plasterboard or timber panels
  • Carpets and rugs, softer and thick if possible
  • Curtains

Hard finishes are typically things like:

  • Glass & mirrors
  • Concrete, brick, blockwork, or rendered masonry
  • Whiteboard or Metal
  • Polished or Laminated Timber

It is possible to achieve these design standards by using a balance of finishes across the surface areas of a room. If required specialist acoustic panels can be used to offset large areas of hard surfaces. However this solution is likely to be more expensive and be less predictable than evenly distributed soft finishes or acoustic absorption.

On the other hand, Video conferencing spaces or similar highly important communication spaces are more critical in terms of voice listening and intelligibility. Specialist acoustic treatment is often required to achieve the quality and frequency control that is needed for lots of voice communication. These rooms are more likely to require careful acoustic, speaker, and microphone planning and placement to achieve good results.

These more critical types of spaces normally require the input and advice of an Audio Visual or Acoustic engineer, however the general outline above is still a good starting point and will certainly get you close to design standards.