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The World Is Flat - AvNetwork.com

The World Is Flat

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Time was when the designer of a restaurant or hospitality venue would be aghast at the suggestion that someone include a television or other video display in the interior design scheme. After all, this is a dining establishment, not a corner bar, would be the defense.

Of course, that notion is long since gone, with sports bars, themed restaurants, and the simple trend towards being connected to data, news, sports, information and possibly even customized sponsored programming in a cable and satellite-centric world. Even sedated, dining establishments may now put a screen or two in the bar, and with catering and events representing a significant revenue stream, video is not just for play.

Corporate events, teleconferences, and even family events all seem to involve playback of something that requires a video screen whether for data and PowerPoint presentations or DVD, tape or electronically delivered material. Add in the flexibility provided by plasma and LCD flat-panel displays and you have a recipe for increased system sales to a growth market segment.

Looking at FPD (flat-panel display) mounts, and using them as a tool to increase your installation prowess, you may want to divide your knowledge of the field two ways. First, be knowledgeable about what is available so that you can work with the room's designer to make sure that you can accommodate the most far-out screen placement request. Particularly when you are the designer and specifier for the video display arrays, key in on all the possible options so that you can not only deal with the obvious, but create the unique.

Moving displays in and out of sight gets a bit trickier as their size increases, but the boom in flat-panel sales in homes has spawned a wide range of products you can put to use in situations where the video is either a "sometimes" thing, or where the area where it needs to be showing changes.

Remote-controllable mounts with multi-axis tilt/pivot/extend are now available from multiple sources, with Peerless and K2 among those with this type of product. With both RS-232 and IR control options, motorized mounts not only enable the display to be moved for placement in relation to the viewing area, it also provides the option to adjust the display's tilt or pivot should that be necessary to adjust for changing light conditions within the venue. Remember, particularly with PDPs, daylight through windows or skylights or changes in the room's scene, lighting may cause different issues with regard to screen reflections throughout the day or business application cycle. With FPDs typically mounted off the floor, the cost of a motorized mount may be quickly paid back in the increased usage it gives to the display.

The ultimate motorized mount, however, is the one that makes the display disappear altogether. Slipping displays up and down into casework is something many associate with Las Vegas hotel suites or the local broadcast station's news set, but the ability to make a display appear out of nowhere when needed, and then discretely move out of sight is a tremendous option in high-end establishments. Companies such as Display Devices, SVS, and longtime lift specialist, Auton, offer a wide selection of lifts that let your imagination run wild.

Lifts can not only bring the FPD up out of the end of a boardroom table or buffet-type cabinet or down out of the ceiling, you can be creative with the orientation of the system when it is track-driven and slide the display out of an in-wall pocket horizontally, instead of the more traditional vertical lift.

Auton, in particular, has products specifically designed for this sort of application. Looking at it another way, a traditional vertical lift can be put to work not to move the display, but rather something as mundane as a white board or as sophisticated as a piece of art out of the way when the display is needed, but back down when the display is to be put into the background.

Alternatively, a wide range of "cover the display with artwork" devices have become popular in the consumer world that roll down a covering that resembles artwork to cover the display. The interesting option in the hospitality world is to have custom art produced either to fit corporate identity or design standards, or perhaps to reinforce a venue's theme. Again, have the display visible when needed, hidden when not. The true pony in this is the reasonable ease with which the "art" can not only be replicated on a mass scale for chain operations, but also that it is possible to change the covering when updates are needed for seasonal changes, or whenever a refresh is required.

Taking motorized lifts to their ultimate, creative installers have applied the "flap down" approach normally restricted to small monitor-sized LCDs to large-size panels with spectacular results. Others have installed lift rails at an angle to similarly impressive "oohs and ahhs" when the screens appear or disappear.

Of course, rather than lift or move the display to hide it, the increasing number of LCD and plasma models in truly large sizes starting at 70 inches diagonal and soon to be available up to 103 inches diagonal reminds us that sometimes the most creative option may be the least obvious. You probably won't want to put these behemoths on a lift, so once they are securely mounted to the wall, why not consider the "old-fashioned way" and put motorized curtains in front of the LCD or PDP and orchestrate them with a theatrical reveal. Part them in the middle to the left and right as is mostly the case in a cinema or raise them up as if you were in a live theater, and the audience will be agog at the effect. After all, who says that curtains are only for projection screens, since these new FPDs rival their front-projection cousins in size for many installations.

A few more ideas that may lead to more FPD sales include adapting multiple-monitor mounts normally used for brokerage desk, financial or command/control applications to the hospitality world. Some may call a 4-display mount information overload, but in a sports bar or "news"-themed venue, the patrons probably won't be able to get enough of it and it will validate your installation choice by returning to the venue. Same thing for desktop or "pipe" mounts that have swivel mounts so that a display may be rotated to point to the proper direction depending on who is sitting where.

It's all too easy to let the appeal of flat-panel displays with regard to narrow depth and the "George Jetson's house" look do the selling, but these things don't jump out of the carton, fly onto the wall and stick there with Velcro (a great material, but something we do not recommend as a monitor or FPD mounting technique).

By all means, show your technique by accommodating what the client, their designer, architect, or consultant, or the dreaded "home office" recommends. However, don't ignore the wider range of possibilities for display use and placement when you consider the wide range of mounting options for flat panels. Columbus is said to have proved that the world wasn't flat, but today it is certainly becoming a flat-panel world.

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