Technology Showcase: AV Room-control Systems
Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles
Choosing the right hardware for your specific needs is a challenge.
Based on the Motorola ColdFire processor, the IP-enabled Cue ipCue-epsilon controller is housed in a 2RU rack chassis with two bidirectional serial RS-232 ports, one bidirectional RS-485, eight IR/serial outputs, four analog outputs (0V-10V), eight relay terminals, and eight general-purpose I/O terminals all on rear-panel captive- screw connections. Setup, configuration, and diagnostics are done through an onboard web server and using a standard web browser. This user interface also provides graphical monitoring and remote control of AV room devices. An internal IR sensor serves as a learning port for IR codes and as an IR control receiver to accept commands from a handheld remote. Front-panel LED indicators show power, Cuenet activity, CPU, and the status of each interface port. An internal realtime clock with battery backup allows scheduled events, which are stored via 16MB RAM and 16MB internal flash memory. A wide selection of ready-made interface cables can also be ordered from www.cuesystem.com.
Extron's MLC 226 IP is an example of the all-in-one processor and user interface combination unit with 11 backlit buttons and an RS-232-linked volume control. As is the case with its smaller brother, the MLC 104 IP, this controller also incorporates an RJ-45 twisted-pair IP connection to use with either static or dynamic IP addressing. The controller can be programmed with Extron's Global Configurator/Viewer software. RS-232 drivers for a wide range of AV devices can be downloaded from the Extron website. IR drivers can be user-made by “teaching” them to an IR receiver built into the front panel of the unit. Actions can be sequenced with adjustable time delays and the MLC 226 IP can be set up to automatically generate email alerts for conditions such as high lamp times, blown lamps, or disconnected display devices. The internal web server allows for easy programming of time-scheduled events such as nightly projector shutdown.
Part of the Room Navigator line of products from FSR, the RN-WPCS wall-plate control system can control one serial and two IR devices along with all of the Room Navigator devices. Mounted in a single-gang Decora wall plate, the controller can be installed on a wall or desktop for AV source-switching and transport-control functions with an illuminated front panel. The unit features a built-in IR learner and internal command storage, mixed-format command scripting, a Windows-based configuration utility application, programmable delays, toggling command functions, time-based automatic execute functions, and auto power-up scripting. Downloadable control templates are available from the FSR website. Configuration files can be saved, emailed, and reused. The RN-WPCS uses 9VDC power at .35A, and it comes with the power supply, mating connector, serial cable, IR emitter, and a termination adapter. The hardware interfaces with the control unit on a rear-mounted 6-pin captive screw connector.
Another example of the in-wall, consolidated user interface and controller is the Kramer Electronics RC8IR eight-button universal room controller with IR learning, which is capable of controlling audio and video components as well as lights and screens. The unit has eight backlit, label-capable buttons, each of which can store up to four macros. Each macro can have up to 15 commands. The Ethernet port serves as the connection interface for Kramer's RC Configuration software and for IP-based external monitoring and control. There are two IR ports, and the unit can learn IR control codes from handheld remotes. Drapes, screens, and other devices can be controlled through two relay contact-closure ports. Through two RS-232 and one RS-485 port, three or more additional devices can be controlled with serial control protocols. The unit also has a lockout function for security, and the whole device fits inside a standard one-gang wall box. A single IR emitter and IR extension cables are available, and the unit operates on 12VDC at 155mA.
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