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Road to InfoComm: Chris Maione on Managing Multiple AV Systems

Show 152, Part 1

SVC Podcast – Show Notes – Show 152-1

In this special Infocomm edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Chris Maione of Christopher Maione Associates about the course he will teaching at InfoComm 2016. Chris previews what he will cover in his seminar Managing Multiple AV Facilities through Enterprise Level Control and Monitoring Systems. He also discusses the current AV/IT relationship, the people on each side and what they can learn from each other.  

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From Sound & Video Contractor Magazine, this is the SVC Podcast with Chris Maione of Christopher Maione Associates. Show notes for the podcast are on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at

AV is on the network to stay and the merging of AV and IT continues. So how do you plan it right and make it easy to use? Chris Maione is here to tell us about his upcoming InfoComm course, Managing Multiple AV Facilities through Enterprise Level Control & Monitoring Systems, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

Chris, it’s wonderful to have you with us on the SVC Podcast again. This is the first of our series on the upcoming InfoComm Education courses that will be taught at the show. You will be there with one, and I think that’s happening on Wednesday, June 8th from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. Does that sound familiar?

That sounds right.

Okay, and that’s going to be Managing Multiple AV Facilities through Enterprise Level Control & Monitoring Systems. Big title and very big topic.

Good afternoon and thank you, Bennett, once again.

Great to have you here, Chris. This is a very interesting topic because it’s getting more relevant with every InfoComm show. You’ve been there before with this one and people responded.

We’re getting great response. We’re into this class now for over a decade and we’re seeing more and more interest at the IT manager level as the AV systems become more embraced over the network. [Timestamp: 1:40]

Well, that’s the trend and it’s been pushing AV and IT together similar to the way we’ve also seen broadcast and IT merging over the past decade or two. You’re going to be talking about how to get into the networked AV system, how to design it and set it up and how to manage it. One of the great things is that this makes it possible for minimal AV staff to provide maximum support in a wide range of environments. So what are the ingredients for a successful networked AV management system? Is it pretty much the same formula regardless of whether it’s in higher ed or corporate or anywhere else?

I think it’s fairly much the same formula across similar type of AV systems. So I don’t think it’s necessarily dependent on the vertical market niche, corporate education, etc. I think it’s more about integrating with the types of facilities at any particular building or any particular campus whether they be huddle rooms, small, medium, large conference rooms, auditorium, training room or classrooms, a managed network control system can help managers and support persons better facilitate the operation and support of the AV systems across the entire campus. [Timestamp: 2:51]

And of course it has to be designed and set up right from the very beginning or it can actually get awkward and more error prone than just handling each room separately as it used to be done. You see a lot of this so what are the most common “gotchas” that you see in networked AV systems?

I think the biggest gotcha is I should have had a V8; people thinking that they should have done it much earlier than they actually did. Trying to implement this as a hardcore afterthought is certainly not as easy as bringing it into the mix in the proper planning stage. As you’re deploying AV facilities, giving thought to the enterprise support that’s going to be behind them can help properly plan so that when you do put the enterprise level system for monitoring control online, the systems are a welcome refresh to be able to talk at the enterprise level. [Timestamp: 3:42]

And the two main components of course, are what the system can tell you about what’s going on with each AV system and then what you can do in terms of remote control. Is it all an in-band solution or are there some out-of-band things, like AC power control, that might be good to design into the system?

Take a typical AV system. We can look at video projectors, the status, the lamp life. We know flat panels, whether they’re on or off and what inputs are selected. We know what inputs or outputs are selected from a matrix switcher. With regards to power and conditioning, yes, we can monitor power, energy management. We can monitor the temperature of the AV cabinets. We can look at video feeds. We can sense room occupancy, audio levels, security, and then if we tie ourselves into the environment we can also see what the lights and the shades and the temperature of the room are. So anywhere that we can hook in on a typical conference room and extend our connection, we can usually monitor and have that information report back to the central control system. [Timestamp: 4:49]

Have you ever gone into using various means to be able to actually see what the projector in a room somewhere is showing or is that worth what it takes to set that up that capability?

We kind of call them spy cams and we’ve been putting a lot of indiscrete video cameras at the back of rooms. And these are not meant to actually be spying or invading on anyone’s privacy. They’re just to give a technician a snapshot of what the room is seeing. So that comes in very helpful to assist users or to see if meetings are starting on time, if the images are actually up on the projector or the flat screen. It doesn‘t have to have audio, which is typically the bigger concern. And we found that putting the cameras at the back of the room becomes a very good tool to help the people who are behind the scenes supporting the rooms. [Timestamp: 5:34]

Yeah, I can imagine that because sometimes when I respond to a trouble call as soon as I get to the classroom and see what’s on the screen I can sometimes diagnose what the problem is right there at the door.

Sure. You can see blue screen or you can see wiggly lines and you can usually ascertain what the potential problem might be. And then on the flip side, we’ve done systems where operator of the help desk can actually appear on the screen or a voice can come into the room over the AV system and it gives the user the confidence that somebody is just about there without actually having someone physically show up in the room. [Timestamp: 6:09]

There are a lot of different potential AV environments and a corporate system can go worldwide and you can be managing AV systems across the planet but on a university campus it might not be deployed over as wide an area but it can be heavily concentrated with, say, twenty or thirty separate AV systems or more just in one building. What would you say is the most demanding AV environment, higher ed or corporate or does that depend on a different aspect of it?

I guess the most challenging is wherever there’s very high security involved, particularly when you’re leaving building to building in some very high-security environments firewalls tend to create a challenge. On the typical campus, if you’re behind the university’s firewall, you can usually get anywhere from building to building without too much difficulty. And that’s a great environment for deploying an enterprise-level system. You could have 20 or 30 classrooms spread out over a couple of buildings and you can centrally monitor and control them as long as you’re behind the university firewall. [Timestamp: 7:08]

Yeah, you have such a wide variety of users on the university campus. You can go all the way from people who don’t want to push a button to some who might even like to take it apart and modify it themselves. Hopefully not. How do you avoid or prevent at least, the most common mistakes that AV system users make?

I believe the answer to that is try to simplify everything. I think there’s too much complicated touch panels, too much complicated graphical user interfaces, over-designed, over-engineered systems. I think if you start with simpler systems and focus on what is typically the 80 or 90 percent use case for that particular AV system, you can greatly cut out a lot of the gibberish that nobody uses and just causes user frustration because the systems then appear over-complicated. [Timestamp: 8:00]

And you have to work with the IT people and sometimes that can present some challenges and for them working with us. I know it’s changing all the time but what do you see as the general attitude of IP network managers toward AV on their networks?

Right. Well, when we first started this pre-CAT 5, we had certainly bandwidth concerns. As we are now at CAT 5, CAT 5E and CAT 6, the bandwidth concerns have started to disappear. We still have the security concerns. I have found that by addressing both the bandwidth issue and the security issue, and ensuring that our equipment is safe to ride on the network, that’s usually the first hurdle in getting the IT guys signed up for using this type of system. [Timestamp: 8:46]

And in understanding each other, who do you think is more educated on the other, the AV or IT people?

I think the AV folks understand the network because we need to in order to get our devices to work. I think the IT folks are trying much harder to understand AV because they see this as a large unknown and they are seeing more and more devices asking for IP connectivity on the network. So I think the IT guys are doing a good job of trying to come up to speed and understand what the risks are when we start to drop our AV equipment on their network. [Timestamp: 9:21]

In previous days there was a lot of concern by IT network managers about having AV on their operation and they were even talking about running separate networks for IT and AV. If you’re just taking about a few control bursts what would be the point in that but if you were talking about actually transmitting audio and video signals over the network, things got a little stickier about handling that.

Yeah. I mean, there still are good cases for off-network solutions. There are still some special cases for having a separate network. I think, though, in better than three-quarters of the applications, a separate V-LAN is probably enough to keep the IT folks happy. And actually does a better job of managing the AV traffic on the network when it’s somewhat virtually separated. [Timestamp: 10:04]

I know you get a lot of comments from people at the show just relating their own experiences, but as far as what you want them to come away from the course with, what are the main topics you plan to cover on this?

The seminar helps provide an understanding of how AV facilities’ support staff, technicians or operators of IT technologies can utilized a managed control system to support and operate and test and monitor AV systems remotely. So it’s an enterprise-level approach, which is very common in the world of IT, but not as common in the world of AV. And we try to show how having a managed control system can greatly streamline operations. It can improve end user support. It can ensure reliable operations of the AV systems and also assist in proper maintenance and testing of the AV systems. [Timestamp: 11:00]

This has been a very popular course and it looks as though this one will be no different with higher attendance every time. It’s been good, Chris. Chris Maione of Christopher Maione Associates in Northpoint, New York and have a good show at InfoComm.

Thanks a lot, Bennett. Appreciate your time.

Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with Chris Maione. Show notes are on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at Be back with us next week for Part 2 when we’ll have Josh Srago tell us about his course Government Regulation and the AV Industry. That’s on the next SVC Podcast.

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