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Tight spot can be the right spot for AV

Mar 10, 2005 8:00 AM


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Big screens in small rooms, with lots of connectivity and control options hidden in tiny spaces. That’s often the challenge to the AV integrator working in the corporate environment. And a growing range of options, many driven by the burgeoning consumer display market, is available to help meet that challenge.

Many of today’s new AV systems–particularly displays—have been created to fit in minimal spaces. Plasmas, LCDs, and other flat-panel displays are obvious examples, but so are rear-projection TVs that require less and less “throw distance” to serve larger and larger images. New LCD and DLP RPTVs often generate images that are 60in. or larger with roughly a foot of depth.

“Cramped,” of course, not only describes the space available between the walls of an AV venue, but also the space within the walls. Jeff Singer, PR manager at Creston, cites thinner walls as a frequent challenge to AV installers. “When you have to turn a bundle of cables into a wall receptacle, often it doesn’t bend very easily,” Singer says. “Even with a single cable, the casing can be very rigid.”

One answer, Singer says, is to use common, highly flexible cables, even ordinary Cat-5 and Cat-6 twisted-pair cables. Crestron’s QuickMedia products can use these “pretty commonplace cables” to transport composite video, S-Video, stereo audio, and other data.

AV integrators may hope for a generous ceiling plenum that can accommodate cables and other devices—but today these hopes are often in vain, Singer says. “There may not be a lot of space up in the plenum these days,” he says. “All kinds of stuff is stuck up there.”

“We’re running high-res video over Cat-5 wires today,” says Glenn Polly of VideoSonic Systems in New York. Digital signal processing, which can move functions from separate rack-mounted components to circuit boards, is also helping meet the demands of tight spaces. “The size of the space we require for back-of-house equipment has been greatly reduced,” Polly says.

"In the past," he adds, “outboard audio gear and video players for a typical 12-channel show occupied three to four full-size racks.” Now, the same resources can be packed into fewer than 12 spaces on a single rack.

For example, VideoSonic recently designed and installed a multimedia show aboard the USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier moored in the Hudson River in New York City. Warships have never been known for elbow room, and the new compactness of AV systems was critical to fitting a high-impact show into a very confined space, according to Polly.

Similarly, Polly’s firm opted to turn a tempered glass ceiling into a display screen in designing elements of a new visitors center at the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The screen forms part of the ceiling of the statue’s six-story stone pedestal.

"Elsewhere in the center," he adds, “to install monitor brackets we either had to use existing holes in the granite walls or go up through the suspended ceiling. In some cases, we encountered HVAC ducting above the ceiling and had to use strut to span to either side, to have a secure mounting point below it.”

Digitization and other strategies are helping assure that no space is too small for high-end AV.



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