BARCO Tech Tip: Go Forth and Educate Thyself! -

BARCO Tech Tip: Go Forth and Educate Thyself!

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One of the best "tech tips" I can provide is to take a few hours each month and learn something new about our industry. This education can take many forms. For example, one could take a formal class, such as a manufacturer's training session, attend a meeting of one of the many professional associations that support the events market, or simply spend time on the web researching and browsing on various association web sites.

The Big Four
There are a number of associations that affect what we do and how we go about performing our magic on site. In my opinion, the big four associations are InfoComm, SMPTE, VESA and ESTA.

* InfoComm ( is the first place where one should invest time and effort in education. Besides the tradeshow every June, InfoComm has the CTS training program that provides a great foundation education in the ways of A/V. InfoComm also offers councils that discuss key issues and provide important guidelines on how the association can work with industry A/V groups. These councils focus on areas such as Rental and Staging, Manufacturing, Installation and much more.

* SMPTE ( is the place where all video technicians need to spend time and energy. SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) sets the standards for high definition and standard definition television, as well as all digital cinema specifications. Knowing these standards will clearly improve your ability to use these formats in your next production. There are SMPTE chapters in every major region throughout the U.S., and monthly meetings are typically held at manufacturer or dealer sites. It's a great way to interact and network with other engineers and discover new, high tech ways to "skin the cat."

* VESA ( is the organization that gives us VESA mounts for monitors, VESA standards for resolutions (VGA, XGA, WXGA, etc.) and other standards that we often take for granted. The acronym stands for Video Electronics Standards Associaion. From my perspective, by providing one set of standards for the tech industry to uphold, VESA is the group that keeps the peace (amongst the potential insanity) when it comes to high tech product development. VESA standards make moving from one PC to the next less painful.

* ESTA ( is the organization that (among other important services), sets the rules for placing a two hundred pound projector over the heads of a few thousand concert attendees. If you hang anything from a truss or an air wall track, I would highly recommend that you spend some quality time on the ESTA (Entertainment Services & Technology Association) site. I would also recommend that your lighting, sound and video department heads attend one or more basic rigging courses. Even if you use the "local guys" for rigging, knowing the fundamentals of safe rigging will save you from depending on the "expert" in front of you, and just possibly, prevent some heart-stopping moments up in the trusses.

In addition to personal growth, increasing your knowledge makes you more marketable, and a more valued asset to the production team. By all accounts, with belt-tightening occurring in the industry, any advantage and opportunity you have to separate yourself from the pack should be taken. Even in prosperous times, the person that can add the most to the job generally gets the nod. Unless you can shine above all others in a specialty role, your best bet is to be the strongest utility player on the team, and you can pave the road to that goal with a solid (and on-going) education.


BARCO Tech Tip: Switch Hitter

During a recent meeting with a new client, I introduced our product line to the heads of their video department. While taking them through our seamless switcher product line, one of the team members expressed the lack of "quick switching" as the reason for not using that type of product in their workflow.  Their typical show solution was to sub-switch graphic sources "upstream" of a basic video production switcher.

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Barco Tech Tips

Tech Tips is sponsored by Barco, and offers insights into techniques and equipment employed by stagers working in the corporate and entertainment event market. For more information about Barco products, log onto the world of seamless switchers, the term KEY refers to a process in which part of one video image is mixed on top of another video image. Seamless switchers switch and convert multiple sources with various resolutions to a common resolution. The KEY effect in these devices is most commonly used to add titles to camera images. Another use of this effect is referred to as "Green Screen" in which an actor is filmed in front of a flat Green or Blue wall and then inserted into a virtual environment or in front of a weather map.

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BARCO Tech Tip: DVI Demystified

During one of my "dog and pony shows" last week, a question floated my way concerning the differences between the multiple DVI connectors out in the world. In answering this question - and cognizant of the fact that my deadline for this article was a mere three days away -- I chose to make this month's Tech Tip a discussion of the realities of DVI.

BARCO TECH TIP: Getting Graphical

The last couple of "tech calls" I've taken revolved around what type of graphics card the customer should select for some specific applications. When I answer these questions, I tend to take a "Switzerland" approach, and answer in very general terms and performance standards. The bottom line is that each graphics card manufacturer offers a unique spin on the same concept: delivering pictures from your PC to a display.

BARCO TECH TIP: Cable Wisdom: The Good, the Bad, the Repairable

It all started with a note from a friend. I received an e-mail last week from a longtime buddy about video cables. Specifically, he wanted to know if RG-59/ RGB cable ever goes bad. If so, when should he replace it? It was at this point that I wished I worked for one of the fine cable manufacturers we all know and love. Maybe that is why he asked me, instead of one of the fine cable manufacturers. In any case, I rattled off the answer that I imagine most of you are thinking right now: Cable does not go bad.

BARCO Tech Tip: The World in Color

In light of the convergence of Barco and High End Systems last month (pun intended), I thought it might be nice to review one of the key differences between the way the lighting and video guys look at color. These two visual mediums view the production of color in one of three main color spaces: CMY, RGB or YUV (SMPTE).

Barco Tech Tips: 220...240 -- Whatever It Takes!

When you're tasked with selecting a frame rate for your seamless switcher's output, many people adopt the same attitude as Jack Butler (Michael Keaton's character in the 1983 film Mr. Mom). To paraphrase Mr. Butler's memorable quip, "59.94 Hz or 60 Hz...whatever it takes." In most professional seamless switchers, there's an excellent reason why a choice is provided between these two (seemingly close) frame rates -- and the reason is not quite as random as "whatever it takes."