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On the Circuit

May 7, 2014 2:58 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart

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At NAB there was a lot of discussion about networks. I’m taking networks seriously myself. I was a very early user of the original MediaMatrix, so I started believing in networks a long time ago. I also have long experience with how difficult and seemingly inscrutable they can sometimes be.

Last month we dug into some of the history, jargon, and standards activity for AV networks. This month, we’re covering a Dante network at a new-build high school that’s more comprehensive and better equipped than many professional systems. We didn’t go into all the many aspects of the system; the equipment list was big and enviable, definitely the latest and greatest concept that the school was looking for. For the article we zeroed in a bit on the network. It was one of the bigger and more complex deployments of Dante last year, and it helped prove that AV networks can be accessible for a school application.

I do want to say something here. Although I’m committed to network coverage, to learning along with you and to helping all of us rise to this new opportunity, I’m not naïve. I’ve been onsite, in rack rooms, and at budget meetings where we need to “trim.” I’ve stood and stared at a system that can’t say why it’s sick; once it was just because the janitor needed the outlet to run the vacuum, but it’s usually not that simple. I do understand that any component in an AV system has the potential to consume profit and sanity when it doesn’t work for reasons that aren’t obvious. (We must now add firmware updates to our version of Murphy’s Law.)

I understand not wanting to risk a project or a business on IT switches, but clients will keep needing networks in order to thrive. That’s a headache, but it’s also an opportunity—glib, I know, but also true. The ability to make AV networks function is now core to sharing great images, sound, and communication. It’s not just fashion. If you want to be part of where human enterprise is going, you’ll need to apply your fine technical brain to mastering networks at some level.

I’m trying to help but not because I think it’s easy. I usually hear that it’s hard, that it takes skill, and that it can be frustrating. I also hear from these same people that once they learned a few things it was easier than they thought and it ended up capturing their imagination. Certainly, network engineering is not as close to the classic sciences as pure AV is—it’s a step removed from physics, imaging, and sound. But it’s still engineering.

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