시스템 인티그레이션

시스템 인티그레이션

[펌] Take Control-networked control

2008-08-24 15:03
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Wouldn’t it be nice if your church’s technology director could train volunteers to operate video switchers and lighting consoles within a matter of days, let alone hours? The key to making someone’s job easier, of course, is limiting the number of choices they need to make. That’s why a touchpanel with six buttons is inherently easier to “teach” than a broadcast switcher with a hundred. Everyone, after all, can use an ATM.

With a networked video and audio system in place in your church, you’re one small step closer to taking a Sunday off. This article assumes that your church already has or is planning to install at least one of two elements: a distributed audio system built around a matrix switch; or a display or displays that are connected to multiple sources via some sort of hardware switcher (whether seamless or matrix). Without at least one of these, a control infrastructure would have limited utility.

A few megachurches have already adopted control systems from major manufacturers such as Richardson, Texas-based AMX and Crestron of Rockleigh, New Jersey. So isn’t touchpanel control technology out of the price range of all but the largest churches?

The major manufacturers of touchpanels and other types of control hardware say no. According to the guys who make the networking and control backbones, the newfound ubiquity of large LCD and plasma screens in various environments has increased the demand for their gear as well. That means economies of scale for them and lower prices for the end user. I’ll look at a few cost-effective full setups below.

What Can Control Do for You?
Robert Noble is CTO of AMX, a company that is, along with Crestron, one of the dominant manufacturers of touchpanel devices and A/V matrix switchers/routers. He’s also a member of Prestonwood in Plano, Texas, a large Baptist church that makes quite extensive use of AMX devices to control both video recording and audio adjustments.

However, “It’s not very often that you have a touchpanel set up to be a virtual mixing board,” he says. That, of course, would require the programming of page after confusing page of touchscreen menus. Noble says that touchpanels are used mainly to execute mixing adjustments in very common situations with known quantities of microphones. “Preset one might be an ensemble that’s singing,” he says, “and here are the mics they’re using. Here’s a preset two, when someone comes up to speak at the lectern.”

Most of the time, the idea is to give a less technologically savvy volunteer the power to execute simple events, such as dimming the lights during a certain segment of the worship. Joe Hoffman, regional sales manager (commercial) at Crestron, says the emphasis is conforming the video and lighting to specific “scenes” that recur from week to week, such as a low-light “meditation” scene in which, after a button-press on the touchpanel, both of the sanctuary’s projectors are automatically turned off. That’s due mainly to the amount of software programming that a systems integrator needs to do on the front end before signing off on a control system. This is generally a one-time expense―and opportunity―so it’s crucial for your church leadership to know what it wants as it begins to pursue an integrated control infrastructure.

In some cases, traditional frontpanel control of video and lighting systems will be enough. Mike Andrews is director of marketing communications with Extron Electronics USA, headquartered in Anaheim, California, that makes a wide range of A/V system “backbone” products, and he belongs to Trinity United Presbyterian in Santa Ana, California. Recently the church installed a networked video system. “The key thing in video routing,” says Andrews, “is you have all these sources. Most churches, because they want things to be seamless and look nice, [route video sources] through a seamless switcher that scales everything to one resolution—the native resolution of the main display.”

The ISS 506 can be controlled not only via the front panel like a traditional switcher, but can also controlled through either an RS-232 port or via Ethernet from a control system, such as one based on AMD, Crestron or Stardraw Control technologies.

Gaining Control
When your church is looking to integrate an A/V and lighting control system, it’s not just touchpanels that you’re after, obviously. That’s the tip of the iceberg. These touchpanels talk to a hardware processor that sits back in a rack and accepts control connections from various sources, such as DVD players and cameras. The processor also needs to communicate with a switcher, which, of course, is also connected to video and audio sources.

The first step in developing such a complicated system is an idea session with the church’s technology committee. Industry experts recommend hiring an A/V consultant, and not just going directly to an integrator, even if there’s an ongoing relationship with one already. The consultant will create an over-arching specification and identify local companies that are qualified to bid on the job, according to Andrews. “You’ll involve them all along,” he says. “[The A/V consultant is] going to sign off on the system and make sure it’s really ready. Often systems that should not be signed off are signed off. It’s unfortunate that money gets wasted.”

Then A/V integrators will bid, proposing prices for the various hardware components, the installation work, and―somewhat unique to touchpanel installations―the programming of the control software. “It could be a little heavy up front,” says Hoffman. “It all depends. In most cases it’s a one-time shot; it’s generally work agreements afterwards.”

Control Glue
The dominant conduit through which control commands pass is the serial, or RS-232, port. Some RS-232-enabled devices include matrix switchers, pan/tilt/zoom cameras, professional plasma displays, and even motorized display mounts. Note, however, that on some devices, the nine-pin RS-232 port is activated only for firmware upgrades―not control commands. IR (infra-red) control is another possibility, as is IP control via Ethernet. For devices that only accept RS-232 or IR control signals, devices such as GlobalCache’s GC-100 network adapter enables these devices to be controlled via Ethernet as well.

As you design a system, your consultant will most likely take responsibility for these details. But this knowledge is crucial if, for example, your church decides to purchase on its own a particular replacement LCD screen at some point down the road. The new LCD screen may not accept the same control signals at the one it replaced, requiring some reprogramming of the control system.

A Budget Touchpanel?
With all these costs considered, are affordable systems even possible? All three of the manufacturers with whom I spoke were able to, off the top of their heads, describe basic A/V control systems that came in at around $10,000 or just under (this price did not include displays or sources).

Hoffman suggested a middle-of-the-road system for medium-sized churches. On the front end, this setup would include a 10-inch touchpanel, the wired TPS4000 that has a video preview window. (Crestron and AMX both also offer wireless touchpanels for mobile control.) As for a processor, the CP2E connects to all the sources on the control side, in most cases over RS-232. To switch video sources, a matrix switcher is necessary. Hoffman says that an RGBHV switcher with eight inputs and four outputs is generally sufficient for most churches (that’s 8x4). “That’s a $6,000-7,000 price range for the hardware described,” says Hoffman. “Add another $1,000 for programming.” For churches looking to spend less, there’s always the option of forgoing the touchpanel entirely and controlling the system via a computer interface via free Crestron software.

AMX offers similar options. “For a very small, entry-level control system,” says Noble, “you could get a 10-inch panel for probably $2,000-3,000 MSRP, and an entry-level controller for around $1,000-2,000, depending on how many ports you want.” Then, of course, there’s the video switching hardware and programming. AMX offers its Autopatch line of switchers, with options from composite video up to HD.

Dimming: Green and BrightMany lighting consoles incorporate RS-232 technology, so they can easily integrate into a facility-wide A/V control system. This makes it easy for operators to dim lights in various zones via touchpanels or hardware panels.

Installing lighting control can be a complicated proposition for an existing church. For new construction, dimming systems are a fairly commonplace item to add to an equipment list. For those older structures, Crestron offers its InfiNET wireless technology. “It allows you to put in a dimming switch where an older dimming switch was in place but is not controlled,” says Hoffman. “You can take those old dimming switches out and put an InfiNET dimming switch in. And you don’t have to run any additional wire to that dimming switch. Take the old one out, slap the InfiNET dimmer in, and you wouldn’t have to run any additional cable, which is key for an existing facility.” As long as they’re within 100 feet of each other, these dimming switches can talk to each other and to a receiver via Crestron’s own wireless protocol. The black-box receiver communicates with the larger system via RS-232.

While these systems work well for smaller lighting requirements or retrofits, what about large facilities where remote control over numerous spaces is desired? Various manufacturers such as Leprecon and ETC provide architectural dimming systems, and Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) is introducing their new Unison Paradigm product line at the Lightfair trade show at the end of May, including Paradigm touch screens that would integrate not only with the Paradigm architectural dimming system but your A/V systems as well, putting full control of all these systems at your fingertips.

Hoffman says that regardless of the specific type of dimming system that a church adopts, centralizing control over lighting makes it much easier for a church to get a handle on its energy consumption. That helps the bottom line, and it’s a plus for churches that want to adopt environmentally friendly practices that also make financial sense.

Trevor Boyer is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He likes to write professional A/V and video production stories (like this one) that can be reported via subway travel.

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