|United Visual offers Audio Visual Control Systems from both Crestron and AMX
How to Choose an Audio Visual Control System
reason for purchasing an audio visual control system is to provide simplified,
user-friendly access to the latest technology. A well-designed
AV control system eliminates the need for training and becomes a useful tool
even for the "technologically challenged."
Imagine yourself starting a very important meeting with your full attention on
your audience and the topic you are about to present. At some
point you find yourself shutting the drapes, dimming the lights,
lowering the wall screen, turning on the DVD player, powering up the projector,
selecting the proper input and turning on the projector's lamp,
selecting the chapter on your DVD and adjusting the sound. You cross your
fingers hoping you did everything correctly and with luck your
video presentation begins to play. Your audio visual equipment has just taken
control of your actions and interrupted the flow of your meeting.
Now imagine the same meeting with a well-designed AV control system installed.
All of these tasks are handled automatically at the push of a
button, putting you back in control of the meeting.
While we suggest you consult a professional Audio Visual Integrator, here are
some of the most important things to look for when selecting a
The most important specifications
Integrated or cardframe (custom) are the two
basic types of AV control systems and you should know the benefits
The integrated control system is by far the most
commonly used, since it is the most affordable, yet is versatile
enough to handle most situations. This stand-alone system
has a fixed number of inputs and outputs. Every device has
its own port, and a master control card keeps track of all
the components and their functions.
The cardframe controlleris a custom designed system that is
expandable to handle hundreds of devices, if necessary. The
AV system integrator assigns devices to various types of control
cards, programs the cards and adds them to the cardframe.
The system is easily expandable by adding other cards and
if needed even another cardframe. Because cardframes are
so versatile and expandable, they carry higher price tags
than integrated systems.
The control panel.The control panel is the most important
component of a control system. Once youve selected
and integrated or cardframe system, choosing the right control
panel is the next and most important step. The control
panel is the user interfacethe only piece of your system
that most people will ever interact with. You need an experienced
AV integrator to help you choose or design a panel that is
easy to understand and use.
handheld panel will probably remind you of your television
remote control. The most inexpensive of these panels uses
pushbuttons. Though layouts are standardized, each button
is programmable and can be used for almost any function or
multiple functions. Your dealer will have the buttons engraved
and perhaps color-coded, so that it will be easy to tell which
button does what. Still, the number of buttons is limited,
which limits the number of devices you can control.
the other end of the scale is the color video touch screen,
a completely programmable panel that can provide an unlimited
array of screen layouts. Offering anything from simple color
icons to multi-page menus to live video, these touch panels
can be wireless, table mounted or built-in to wall or lectern
surfaces. They vary in cost depending on functionality.
the two extremes are the mini-touch panels that offer
the programmability of the full-sized touch screens, but with
fewer capabilities and a smaller price tag. While they are
still fully programmable, they are limited to performing a
smaller set of common functions.
choose a simple push-button remote or a programmable touch panel,
youll need to decide if you want wired or wireless panels.
Hard-wired panels can be built-in to tables, podiums, and
equipment racks as well as wall-mounted in the most convenient
places for a presenter. They cannot be misplaced and they are
extremely reliable. The obvious advantage of wireless panels is
the freedom to move around while making a presentation. Wireless
panels, however, are not capable of two-way communication, as
wired panels are, so they are unable to receive useful feedback
from the equipment being controlled.
come in two types. Infrared panels, like your television
remote, use infrared light to transmit information. The panel
must be in direct line-of-sight of your control system's IR receiver
or you will need to bounce the signal off of a reflective surface
or use an IR repeater. RF panels use radio waves to transmit
signals. The panel does not need to be visible to the receiver
and can even transmit through most walls. You should have your
a/v integrator help you select the proper type of transmitter/receiver.
controllers offer you the ability to control equipment not
necessarily intended to interface with a central control system.
(Typically a high-end projector or VCR will have an RS-232C or
RS-422C input, which will allow it to plug directly into your
system.) You can buy a controller that will tie into almost any
monitor, projector, videoconferencing system, sound system, VCR,
DVD player, camera, computer, lighting system, motorized window
shades or draperies, even your heating or air conditioning,
Beyond the specifications
The key ingredient
to any control system is the programming. As such, the experience
and ability of the person programming your new system is extremely
important, especially for more complex or sophisticated systems.
Ask to see previous control panel designs from any a/v integrator
you are considering. They should be very simple to understand
buy, be sure you know who the system programming belongs to. The
source code is the key to your systems future and it
should be readily available to you. The source code is what makes
it possible to reprogram the control system when you upgrade or
change your system in any way. Many dealers do not share this
source code with their customers. Without the code, you will be
forced to use this same dealer for all upgrades and repairs; otherwise
you will have to pay to have the code completely rewritten.
can be an issue.Help should be a phone call away if you have
questions or problems. Be sure to find out if the company youre
buying from is an authorized repair facility for the systems it
sells. Training should also be included in your purchase price.
is very important. Any professional system should include a detailed
instruction book with screen-by-screen illustrations of the system.
You should also be provided with an equipment list, schematics
on how each device is wired and all manufacturers manuals
put together in a convenient format. You will use your system
for many years. You should be confident that if a question or
problem comes up, say, a decade from now, youll have the
documentation you need at your fingertips.