AV Technology editors: How is AV/IT convergence playing out in your facility?
RonDyck, IT manager, FrischkornMEDIACO Ron Dyck: As part of the live event industry, we often work in public meeting facilities where converged AV/IT applications are driving enhanced audience engagement, particularly with the visualization and interaction of social media assets. Bandwidth demand is increasing as clients and audiences seek to extend the experience of a live event beyond physical boundaries, similar to traditional heavy bandwidth webcasting.
Many facilities will need to increase both bandwidth availability and IT management capability, addressing client demand for highly available content libraries and integration into future events. Client digital portfolios are expected to grow along with the need for storage capacity.
What AV/IT problems have you solved recently?
Ron Dyck: With the advent of 4K in the media production and live event industry, the average video data rate has steadily increased and shows no sign of abating. Our storage requirements have exploded, leading to the selection of a Storageflex RAID Array.
We previously used a combination of storage methods, ranging from individual hard drives filed away in a cabinet to smaller NAS storage. This was confusing and difficult to manage, while creating many potential points of failure. The use of a larger Storageflex RAID Array provided a consolidated platform for accessing and sharing digital media files. This not only helps improve productivity in the video editing studio, but IT gains far better visibility and control of essential digital media assets.
By moving to an enterprise-class product, we have improved speed and concurrent editing capability in our studios. Performance is no longer an issue when dealing with large media files.
What types of new tech or products do you want to learn more about?
Ron Dyck: Since solid-state technology has matured and is more accepted into the mainstream, it’s interesting to see how this technology is being incorporated into storage systems. Many storage products entering the market feature hybrid arrangements between magnetic and flash storage, increasing the sweet spot between performance and value—an appealing mix.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT), and it will certainly accelerate AV/IT convergence even faster. The possibilities of connecting anything to anything are endless. Coupled with major advances in wireless networking, IoT will change the face of many AV staging applications; however, I retain healthy skepticism about anything that claims to be universal.
What AV/IT do you hope to buy in the near future?
Ron Dyck: There are so many attractive products and services that it can be really difficult to prioritize what to acquire. Some of our acquisitions are being led by client interest or requests, and others will enhance existing services or open up new offerings.
We’re implementing an interactive digital signage system in the near future, and we may need to expand our Storageflex RAID Array capacity to meet the growing digital onslaught. We’re also testing some enhanced collaboration tools for internal use.
Where are technology manufacturers getting it wrong or missing opportunities?
Ron Dyck: In some cases, proprietary hardware is definitely what I would call getting it wrong. For example, there is a video recording unit we use that has expensive disk modules that are being represented as a “certified” product to maintain performance. When disassembling one of these modules, a standard laptop hard drive was revealed that you could get at any computer store for much less. I understand the need for proprietary hardware in specialized applications where standard parts don’t meet specs, but this just seemed a little blatant. The proprietary theme extends to the IT side of things to a certain extent, but the overall trend is going in the right direction.
I’d like to see a unifying open standard protocol on AV gear, such as cameras, switchers, signal converters, and projectors. There’s serial control, but it’s hard to integrate and deploy compared to IP-based control. It would be interesting to see something like a screen blender or projection mapping software controlling the cameras in a room if you wanted it to, all over a common network. Audio and lighting seem to be much further along, but they are still discrete protocols, like EtherSound and OpenDMX. Of course, that would require broader cooperation between manufacturers in a working group, but I believe IoT is likely going to force the issue.
What is the biggest obstacle to collaboration?
Ron Dyck: Platform disparity has been a challenging obstacle to simple collaboration with our clients. Since there is tight integration of the client into the project management aspect of our events, we attempt to provide the best possible service, and that usually means getting on board with their preferred solution. Our people often work with several different tools— all operating at the same time and across multiple devices. In some cases, we are unable to access the client’s preferred service because of platform limitations.
What are your collaboration strategies?
Ron Dyck: Implementing platform agnostic solutions and pushing them out to clients has been a successful strategy for us, as long as they are simple to access and easy to use—typically web-based. So far we haven’t quite found the “perfect” mix of features, but there are many promising innovations in the industry.
A great time-saver for us has been implementing standalone solutions for discrete functions, such as getting visual design and layout elements approved by clients.