Greetings loyal Audiovisual Reality/Systems Contractor News readers! Welcome to the final installment of our saga. We've been following a fast-tracked AV project for a high-tech Silicon Valley venture capital firm called Ingenious Partners. The last issue of Audiovisual Reality covered the installation process as a form of tribute to installers everywhere. This time up to bat we're going to discuss turning the system on for the first time. In typical Joey D'Angelo fashion, I'm going to open my mouth too much, in an attempt to enlighten.
For those of you who have been following this project, you'll know that everyone worked hard from start to finish. The installers installed. The engineers engineered. The project managers project-managed. The client dutifully paid their bills-everything went smoothly and on schedule. Seems like a perfect world, right? Wrong. As I've mentioned in previous articles, there is no such thing as the perfect system. The only thing one can do is work harder then the gremlins that confront you. With every wire pulled, every piece of equipment mounted, and all the programming completed it was time to turn on the system for the first time.
The first time the system is turned on is always a momentous occasion. There may be those who will tell you that every time they turn on a system the first time, it's perfect, but that means they probably have a big ego and are full of %#*@. Most systems consist of thousands upon thousands of connectors, terminations and lines of code. What are the chances that it's all going to work the first time as advertised? Based on my experience, I'd say a gambler has a better chance at a craps table in Las Vegas than turning the key on a system and having it all work the first time around. So what then can we do to better our odds of success in the early hours of a system's life? At Ingenious Partners, we played the smart money by employing a few tried-and-true techniques.
The first tactic utilized in simplifying system commissioning was having an up-to-date set of as-built drawings on hand at all times. As INET made progress on the system design, the engineers here at Salter constantly had drawings dropped off with redlines on them. We'd take a look, call up INET and try to understand what, when, where, why and how the changes were made. Once we had done that, the record documents were changed, PDF'd, and sent back out full size to installers, project managers and the architect for good measure. When we were updating these drawings, we were also adding wire numbers.
Fast forward to the moment of truth: The button on the touchpanel that fires up the system is pressed and nothing happens. What do you do? You can try kicking the equipment rack, but that might not get you anywhere. Instead, John Pellhood from INET simply notices that the power sequencer on the second rack isn't turning on. He notes that there is a contact closure connection on the as-built drawing that is labeled CC025. A quick visual inspection of the start and finish points of the wire run as shown on the drawings reveals exactly where to look for potential problems. Thirty seconds later, the bad connection is found.
Fast forward to the second moment of truth: The button on the touchpanel that fires up the system is pressed and everything springs to life. The plasma panels begin to glow, fans start spinning, and we have the sights and sounds of victory. Or do we? Just because it works, doesn't mean IT WORKS. INET's team of installers quickly begins testing every single input on the system. This includes source decks, mic inputs, laptop computer inputs, and any auxiliary inputs. Every input is tested to every output combination. It takes time, but it is perhaps the single-most important aspect of a system installation. At Charles M. Salter Associates, we actually require that each input be tested, and the technician's name, the date and time be documented prior to a final system test. (In my eight years of doing this work, you would be surprised how many times I show up to test a system, plug in a video test generator, and find that a particular input doesn't work.)
Fast forward to the third moment of truth...the touchpanel system is put through its paces while testing all the inputs and displays. INET finds that the fourth quadrant of the 84-inch plasma panel flickers when a new video signal is routed to it. The as-builts are checked, connections are verified, could it be the touchpanel program? It's easy to check. INET had taken the time to have a port on Ingenious Partners' firewall opened to allow their programmer to remotely access the AMX system. The programmer called in, reviewed as-builts with the installers, and made changes all the way from Los Angeles while the system was being put through its paces. What a world we live in.
With the system kinks worked out, it was time for one of the most important tasks. A meeting was set up with Lewis Michael and his staff from Ingenious Partners, and they were thoroughly trained on the use of the system. We can't emphasize how important this is. If you pay your technicians $65 a hour, and they have to brave traffic, put mileage on a van, and burn $45 a gallon of gas just to show a client how to turn on their system or to realize the user didn't push [Function] F7 on their laptop, it can severely cut into hard-to-come-by profit margins.