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Expert Roundtable: AV Meets IT

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney

Prominent systems integrators discuss the challenges of bridging gaps between the two sectors.

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The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York relies heavily on the integration of AV and IT for effective displays.

Like the raging streams of the mighty Nile River, the two currents of audiovisual (AV) communication and information technology (IT) are combining to form the greatest outpouring of communication ever to wash over the corporate world. But like those two Nile tributaries, AV and IT come from different sources, traverse different landscapes, and have origins derived from different functions, so getting them to cooperate can also be one of the greatest challenges for today's systems integrators.

AV is concerned with providing sight and sound input to the end viewer, so its priority is the audience's appreciation of the message it is communicating. IT was born from data transmission, which means its focus is the delivery of bits and bytes to other technologies. But as AV has evolved into file-based digital formats, many corporations are taking advantage of the ability to transport AV content over increasingly ubiquitous IT technologies, especially the Internet, using Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity via TCP/IP.

Part of the disparity is that conventional AV depends on an uninterrupted stream of communication while IT's origins are based on packet transmission. From these beginnings, each has developed its own glossary of terms — which, like verbal disputes between Yanks and Brits — can often become the common language that separates the two.

For example, an AV specialist would insist the word “mac” obviously refers to an Apple computer, while an IT pro recognizes it as “moves/adds/and changes.” Similarly, AV folks might expect a “multicast-enabled” network to be able to simultaneously distribute different video formats of the same program, while their IT compatriots will know the term refers to sending a single video stream through a network of data switchers using various bandwidth rates.

To help navigate the waters of AV over IT, five prominent systems integrators agreed to participate in a roundtable discussion about the challenges they face when trying to bridge the technology and human resources of both worlds.

Participants included Kevin McGinniss, systems design engineer at Advanced AV Systems Integration, West Chester, Pa.; Phillip Smith, director of videoconferencing at Southern Business Communications, Norcross, Ga.; Chris Bianchet, vice president of systems integration, Audio Visual Innovations, Tampa, Fla.; Mark Bellehumeur, president of Tek 7, New York; and Glenn Polly, president of VideoSonic, New York.

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