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Technology Showcase: AV Control Systems

A wide variety of AV control systems to suit your production needs. 2/01/2009 7:00 AM Eastern

Technology Showcase: AV Control Systems

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

A wide variety of AV control systems to suit your production needs.




AMX NI-700 NetLinx Integrated Controller

AMX NI-700 NetLinx Integrated Controller

There are a number of factors that make the selection of an AV control system a critical choice — one that requires careful consideration and research. First, there is the decision of whether to go with a more proprietary control approach or to opt for an open-system model. It is important to note on this aspect that the selection need not be totally exclusive. The trend over the past five years or so has been toward using the more generic control protocols even among those manufacturers that strive to provide a complete solution within their own product line and use a proprietary protocol such as AMX AxLink or Crestron's Cresnet for communication between the various hardware elements. This communication typically is made over a special cable containing all the color-coded wiring needed for power, ground, and control signals.

Another vital and basic factor comes in the decision to use hardware buttons and switches on a dedicated control panel or to go with soft buttons on a touchpanel. The obvious advantage to touchpanels is that through display pages, manufacturers can incorporate many more controls in a small space but the trade-off here is complexity of operation. One has to know all the navigational features of the touchpanel. With modern hardware panels, however, the various buttons can be programmed to change color and even show different function labels after changing modes. Many non-techno-savvy users tend to be less intimidated by hardware panels.

Among the systems in their product lines, some of the leading AV control system manufacturers also provide the choice between networked and non-networked connectivity. The more basic systems have local control only, but normally these can be augmented later with a hardware add-on in the form of an IP-linked interface. Some of these can extend complete control to a central office, while others only extend control of the display device and provide some monitoring of power status and usage hours. The selection between these devices requires careful evaluation of the equipment to be controlled and the technical expertise of the users. The fewer wiring connections involved, the more reliable the system. If eventual networked control is planned, it can be a wise investment to incur the greater initial expense and install an AV control system that incorporates network connectivity in the original hardware.

Finally, the number and types of control connections must be considered to match the present and, to a degree, future device control needs of each room system. If projectors are the primary display devices, at least one RS-232 terminal and the appropriate driver must be available, but if the rooms will have a large number of consumer-level DVD and other media players, multiple infrared control channels will be required to avoid the need for external add-on hardware. IR controls may extend to motorized display screens, although contact closure is frequently used here. Drapes, lifts, window shades, thermostats, and lighting normally use the contact-closure terminals, and the maximum voltage level specs on these must be matched to the control system's contact-closure specs.

The good news is that there is a wide field full of choices in AV control, so the selection challenge — while daunting at first — is a good one. In our present survey, a wide range of control devices is included. Everything from tiny control-protocol translators to touchpanels to hard-button devices is included. While only one product or line from each manufacturer is mentioned, most of the companies listed offer a wide range of AV control products.

Altinex MultiTouch panel CP450-012

Altinex MultiTouch panel CP450-012

Altinex, the maker of the MultiTasker control system, has introduced the MultiTouch line of touchpanels that include all of the hardware connections right on the bottom panel of the touch unit rather than using a proprietary control line between the touchpanel and a central rackmounted processor. The CP450 series touchpanels sense touch from a finger, stylus, pen, pencil, gloved finger, or other tool. Through their two COM ports, they can control RS-232 equipment directly or operate a separate hardware controller. This in turn connects via RS-232, IR, or contact closure to the various devices to be operated. The touchpanels boot to the control application, and for security, they do not allow direct initial access to the Windows XP operating system. The GUI may be customized using the AVSnap application on a PC and transferred to a CP450 through a USB connection on the bottom panel. Also available along the bottom of the units are two LAN ports for centralized connection and control. The units also sport a pair of internal loudspeakers; enhanced write-filter protection; Bluetooth personal-area-network (PAN) connectivity; and stand-, wall-, or rackmounting options.


Technology Showcase: AV Control Systems

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

A wide variety of AV control systems to suit your production needs.




Among its considerable offerings in the area of AV control devices, AMX puts forth a couple of small hardware modules for relatively small-scale control solutions. The NI-700 NetLinx Integrated Controller serves the needs of single-room control with one serial/IR output port, one IR receiver port, four digital I/O ports, two configurable RS-232/RS-422/RS-485 serial ports, and two ports for AxLink and Ethernet communication networks. These are operated by an onboard 304 MIPS processor using 64MB of RAM and 32MB of memory, along with 512KB of nonvolatile memory. The unit is also Duet-enabled and capable of dynamic device discovery on the network. The NI-900 augments these capabilities and can be used for the needs of several rooms. Both units have a series of front-panel DIP switches for easy hardware configuration and status lights for all their control signals. Each unit is powered with a 12V adapter and can be rackmounted using the optional AC-RK Accessory Rack Kit.

Among central AV controllers, Aurora Multimedia has a system for any conceivable need. If expandability is a key factor in the choice of a system, the WACI NX Jr E2 is worth serious consideration. Measuring less than 6in. in any dimension, the compact unit has 12 serial ports, eight isolated 24VDC 1-amp relays, 10 IR/RS-232 transmission ports, and eight DSP I/O ports. There is also an onboard IR learner for creating custom infrared drivers. This is accompanied by a USB port and a high-speed 2.1Gbps card slot. As has become quite typical of such AV controllers, the WACI NX Jr E2 also provides an internal web server to present a common web interface for configuration and control, as well as a built-in event manager. Expandability is facilitated on the WACI units though the WACI expansion bus — allowing hard-disk storage, battery backup features, streaming audio/video, and additional ports. Programming software options include Flash, HTML, DHTML, SOAP, XML, CGI, RPC, and Visual Basic. Server-side operation ensures that no dedicated server is needed and that no special applications need to be installed on a PC to access the WACI control system.

The SDS5110N from Bitlogix represents a low-cost answer for connecting networked and non-networked projectors when used with the company's NetControl software application. The unit is a small hardware module that has an Ethernet port and one RS-232 port on a DB9 male connector. Among the RS-232 signals used are TxD, RxD, RTS, CTS, DTR, DSR, DCD, and ground. Flow-control options also include XON/XOFF. The serial data rate is 110bps to 230.4kbps, and the protocols include ICMP, IP, TCP, UDP, DHCP, ARP, BOOTP, Telnet, DNS, SNMP, HTTP, and SMTP. The SDS5110N comes with a power adapter and a quick-installation guide, along with administration software and documentation on a CD-ROM. The unit can operate on 12VDC to 48VDC, and power consumption is 128.7mA at 12V and 72mA at 24V. The weight is only 3oz., and the manufacturer's warranty is five years.

Touting its open-architecture approach, Calypso Control Systems offers the ION-LT2 for relatively small-scale applications with the maximum flexibility packed into the smallest box. Controlled with Calypso's c_Link software application, the ION-LT2 provides two serial ports, two relay contact-closure ports, dual IR and VGA sync-detect ports, and an infrared learner port. The c_Link application enables the unit to trigger events using activation by a wide range of sources including Microsoft PowerPoint and desktop icons. Control actions can also be initiated through wall-mount panels, IR touchpanels, push buttons, handheld remote controls, and custom HTML interfaces. The onboard web server presents a standard interface, and a 128-event-by-512-action database allows a huge range of timed events to be programmed. The VGA Sync Detect feature enables the connection of a computer to the system's VGA cable to trigger an action or a sequence of actions. Disconnecting the VGA cable can initiate a projector-off command.

Crestron MPC Media Presentation Controller M25

Crestron MPC Media Presentation Controller M25

The MPC Media Presentation Controller M25 from Crestron Electronics is part of the family of 2-Series AV control systems designed for podium- or wall-mounting. The unit presents a hardware button style that is fully programmable with customizable backlit labeling, volume control, five-way navigation pad, and wireless remote capability. Central control is available through the onboard e-Control web server. The 15 hard key buttons are programmable for system power, input source selection, transport control, lighting presets, and other operations. The MPC-M25 is also expandable to provide more control with the addition of the C2N-VEQ4 module. This adds four channels of audio volume and EQ. Crestron QuickMedia wall plate and FlipTop interfaces, switchers, and receivers can also be used with the MPC-M25. The RoomView application communicates directly with the controller for facility wide AV asset control and management. The unit also has an ambient light sensor that can be used to control backlight intensity or room lighting.


Technology Showcase: AV Control Systems

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

A wide variety of AV control systems to suit your production needs.




One of several AV control systems offered by Cue USA, the ipCue-delta provides control through two bidirectional RS-232 ports, four RS-232/422/485 ports, one bidirectional RS-485 4-pin connector, eight IR/serial outputs, eight general I/O 2-pin connectors, and 16VDC-to-24VDC relay connections. Based on the Motorola ColdFire processor, the ipCue-delta has an onboard realtime clock and an internal web server for setup and diagnostics using a web browser. The unit is also fully compatible with Cue's existing range of button panels and touchpanels. The front-panel LEDs indicate the status of all control ports, and the internal IR sensor allows custom IR drivers to be learned from handheld infrared remotes. A +5VDC power output provides power to external equipment, and there is also a Cuewire port. The chassis is suitable for desktop-, rack-, DIN rail-, and wall-mounting applications with all port connections made through captive screw connectors on the rear panel.

One very handy little AV control module recently added to the product line at Extron Electronics is the IPL T PC1. This small box is ideal for adding centralized control to a small local AV system. Extron's IPL series modules are intended to provide such control to systems not originally designed for networking. The PC1 includes a serial port for control of a local projector or other display device, as well as a contact-closure sensor that can be used to trigger events such as projector shutdown after a motion sensor has detected no motion in the room for a preset time. An IR port can be used to control a local media player through a wired IR bud attached to the infrared sensor area on the player. One of the handiest features included in the PC1's box of tricks is the IP-linked AC outlet control. This can be used to reboot a projector, computer, or other device after it hangs, which is frequently a problem with projectors subjected to momentary voltage drops. The AC control can reboot the machine, and then the serial control can be used to turn the device back on — all from a central monitoring and control location.

The Room Navigator from FSR is a multiformat video switcher and AV controller in a 1RU enclosure with four serial ports, four IR ports, and four contact closures. It offers 4×1 RGBHV, 8×1 composite switching, and 8×1 S-Video switching. Inputs 1-4 are multipurpose connectors, and they can be used with either RGBHV or composite and S-Video. The unit also provides 8×1 stereo audio switching with audio input level trim and volume control. Remote control is available through FSR's wall plates, RS-232, or a built-in IP port with an integrated web server. Functions on the basic wall plate — which fits a 2-gang wall box — include volume control, audio and projector mute, source selection, and six user-definable buttons. For a larger system, the advanced wall plate — installed into a 4-gang box — has an additional six user-definable buttons, transport control buttons, and menu navigation keys.

For small-room applications where a single 1-gang wall-plate controller is all that is required, the RC-6iR from Kramer Electronics has six programmable, backlit, and label-capable buttons to operate audio, video, lights, screens, and other devices. Programming options include four macros per button and 15 commands per macro for a total of up to 360 commands. An RJ-45 IP connection allows remote operation from anywhere by Internet and control and configuration through Kramer's RC Configuration software. The IR learning function permits the unit to be programmed with IR commands derived from handheld IR remotes. In addition, there are two relay closure ports, two bidirectional RS-232 ports, one RS-485 port, and a lock-out feature to prevent tampering with the controller settings. The power required is 12VDC at 155mA.

For single device control in an extremely small box, the LANMate MT-1-LM from Mediatech can provide the control necessary in translating IP-linked central operation to RS-232 serial activation with data rates of 300bps to 921,600bps. The LANMate is configured and operated with Mediatech's ControlCenter software application (MT-CC-SW), and it can be set up through a web interface made possible by the internal web server and operated with any web browser on an Ethernet 10Base-T or 100Base-TX network. The unit can autosense which type of network is being used. The chassis has LED indicators for power, network link, and network activity. A 6VDC, 0.5-amp power supply is included.

For point to multipoint video distribution and control, the Panorama PANVP500 and PANVP700 can work with NetStreams wall plates to route up to four HD video signals around one or more rooms. The PAN6400 Video Distribution Center is the central switch, and it handles four composite, four S-Video, or four component video sources via Cat-5 to as many as six Panorama video ports for output to a maximum of six displays. The PAN6400 can also be cascaded for expansion to a much larger system. The unit is capable of learning IR control codes from the handheld remote controls for the displays and transmitting those via wire for complete display control. Panorama may be used on a standalone basis, integrated with NetStreams Musica 5000 series multiroom audio system, or integrated with NetStreams DigiLinX IP-based multiroom audio and control system or third-party control systems.


Technology Showcase: AV Control Systems

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

A wide variety of AV control systems to suit your production needs.




The SP Controls PixiePro PX2-MP-IR is a modular control system that uses infrared learning and fits in a 4-gang backbox. Capable of controlling up to eight devices, the PixiePro offers operation of DVD players, document cameras, switchers, lifts, screens, amplifiers, and many more devices with IR control. Access control and security is available as an option with up-to-six-digit PINs, and an automated shutdown timer can save on expensive projector lamps. Versatile programming options include audible feedback from illuminated buttons on the panel, which can be used to initiate macros and control ambient lighting. For a number of rooms with the same setup, the configuration can be quickly cloned from one unit to another.

The Multicustom from Vity Technology is an open- architecture modular controller, the main box for which can have up to 10 customization cards installed to suit any specific control and installation scenario. The cards can combine to provide infrared, RS-232, X-10, relays, and more control options. These can communicate with the Vity touchpanels through the company's MBC wired bus. The unit can also be controlled via Ethernet using a PC and a web browser. With Multicustom/IP, the browser can be transformed into a virtual touchpanel. Up to 255 infrared control codes can be learned for control of nearly any consumer media device.


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