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Remote control phobia? This is for you.

Remote controls are very useful, but when you are controlling a new audio-visual system, is there a better way?

Usually, when a screen or projector is installed it will come with a remote in the box that can be used to turn the projector on or put the screen up and down, but these can be easily misplaced, leaving you with no way to easily control those devices. Therefore, we usually recommend a wall-mounted control panel, meaning that you can leave the remote controls locked away safely.

One particular product we use a lot is a small wall-mounted panel that takes away the need for remote controls, by becoming a central controller for the visual system. These controllers come in a range of sizes to suit the size of the system and some have additional features such as volume controls which can be programmed to control background music volume, for example. Ultimately, you still need to keep the remote controls handy as a backup - better to have them and not need them, as the saying goes.

Why is it better than lots of remotes?

  • Centralised Control: These controllers allow for centralised control of multiple AV components, including projectors and input selection from a single point. This simplifies operation and reduces the need for multiple remote controls.
  • Making life easy: Wall controllers can automate various functions, such as turning on or off the projector, adjusting brightness and volume, and selecting input sources. This streamlines the setup process and enhances user experience. In other words, it makes controlling your AV system much easier, and that is always a good thing.
  • Integration: The wall control panels we use are designed to integrate with various AV and automation systems, making them compatible with a wide range of equipment. This means they are useful in all sorts of installations.
  • User-Friendly: This is especially important in environments where multiple groups of people will be using the system, such as village halls or education installations. Each button function can be labelled accordingly, making the process of operating the system self-explanatory.

But what if I really like remote controls?

There are not many people who feel that way, but we want to be inclusive, so if you do love lots of remote controls, here are some reasons why you might want to stick with them over a control panel.

  • Cost: High-quality controllers can be relatively expensive, particularly when factoring in installation and programming costs. This cost may not be justifiable for smaller or budget-conscious setups.
  • Complexity: Setting up and programming SY controllers can be complex and time-consuming. It often requires specialized knowledge and expertise, so unless you are tech-savvy, you will need to call in the professionals.
  • Compatibility: While SY controllers are designed to work with a wide range of AV equipment, compatibility issues can still arise, especially with older or non-standard devices.
  • They can go wrong: SY controllers rely on technology, which can sometimes fail or experience glitches. They also rely on power supplies, which can get damaged by power surges or simply overheat due to age. When technical issues occur, they can disrupt presentations or events until resolved.
  • Maintenance: Regular maintenance and updates may be required to ensure that the SY controller and associated equipment function smoothly. This can lead to ongoing costs and potential downtime during maintenance activities.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, wall-mounted AV controllers are user-friendly, simplify control of equipment and will bring all system control to one central location. While you still need to keep the remotes safe, you will not need to juggle them to turn your system on, but instead walk over to one point and within 2 buttons, the projector or screens will be on and the input source selected.

In today's digital age, video content has become an integral part of our lives, with 72 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every 60 seconds. When we want to connect our laptop to a display, we will usually use an HDMI cable.

While HDMI offers exceptional quality and convenience, it does come with limitations, especially when it comes to running long cables in places like churches. In this blog post, we will explore what HDMI is, its advantages and the reasons why running a long HDMI cable the length of a church is a bad idea.

What is HDMI?

HDMI, which stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface, is a standard for transmitting high-definition audio and video signals between compatible devices. It was introduced in 2003 as a replacement for older analogue video standards like VGA and component video. HDMI cables and ports are commonly found throughout the video market. Televisions, computer monitors, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, and projectors. In fact, almost all modern video devices now come with an HDMI connection as standard, especially now that Apple has decided to re-introduce them for the latest generation of their laptops (goodbye USB-C adapter!).

So, what are the advantages of HDMI?

Before delving into the limitations of long HDMI cable runs, let's first understand the advantages that HDMI offers:

1. High-Quality Audio and Video: HDMI provides an all-digital connection, ensuring that both audio and video signals are transmitted in their highest quality without any loss of signal quality. With the ever-increasing quality of video equipment, HDMI cables are now rated up to 8K resolution, which is really, really good quality video.

2. Single-Cable Solution: HDMI consolidates multiple audio and video cables into a single cable, simplifying connections and reducing cable clutter.

3. Compatibility: HDMI is a universal standard used by a wide range of consumer electronics, making it easy to connect devices from different manufacturers.

4. Cost: Because HDMI is so widely used throughout the world of modern video, you are able to buy short high-quality cables for a very reasonable price.

Why Can't You Run a Long HDMI Cable in a Church?

While HDMI is undoubtedly a versatile and powerful technology, it has limitations when it comes to long cable runs in larger spaces like churches. Here are some key reasons why running a long HDMI cable the length of a church can be problematic:

1. Signal Degradation: HDMI signals can degrade over long cable lengths. The longer the cable, the more the signal quality may deteriorate, resulting in issues such as pixelation, audio dropouts, or complete signal loss.

2. Cable Quality Matters: Not all HDMI cables are created equal. High-quality HDMI cables are designed to maintain signal integrity over longer distances, but using low-quality or excessively long cables can exacerbate signal degradation issues.

3. HDMI Versions: HDMI standards have evolved over the years, with newer versions offering better support for longer cable runs. Using an outdated HDMI version may limit the distance the signal can travel without degradation.

4. Need for Signal Boosters: In larger spaces like churches, signal boosters or extenders may be required to maintain signal quality over long distances. These are often built into longer-length HDMI cables, but the large 'bullet' shape makes it difficult to hide in trunking.

5. Cost and Aesthetics: Running a long HDMI cable the length of a church can be costly, both in terms of cable and equipment expenses. Additionally, managing and concealing such a long cable can be aesthetically challenging.

Alternative Solutions:

To overcome the limitations of long HDMI cable runs, churches and similar venues often employ alternative solutions, including:

1. Wireless HDMI: Using wireless HDMI transmitters and receivers can eliminate the need for long cables and minimise signal degradation issues. But they need to have a clear line of site otherwise they don't work correctly, and the professional-quality systems are more expensive than a cabled solution.

2. HDMI over Cat5/6: HDMI signals can be extended over long distances using Cat5e or Cat6 network cables in conjunction with HDMI extenders. These have a distance limit of 70m with standard equipment but can allow for a signal to be carried over 100m with the right extenders.

3. Active HDMI: It is possible to run HDMI cables over longer distances, but these have an active element which boosts the signal at each end, so often require power. They sometimes have a booster in the middle to ensure that the signal strength is maintained, but although this works, it is hard to hide this in trunking or when cabling has been surface-mounted.

4. Optical HDMI: Much like the active HDMI cables, optical cables are made of a different material which means an HDMI signal can be sent over very long distances at a very high quality. These cables are often thinner than normal HDMI cables and do not have a booster, but this all comes at a very hefty price.

Conclusion:

HDMI technology has revolutionised the way we connect and transmit audio and video signals in the digital age. However, running a long HDMI cable the length of a church presents significant challenges due to signal degradation and other factors. To ensure reliable audio and video transmission in such environments, it's essential to consider alternative solutions like wireless HDMI or HDMI over Cat5/6 depending on the specific needs and budget of the church. These solutions can help maintain the quality and integrity of the multimedia experience in houses of worship and other large venues.

Why not keep reading about HDMI and how it can be used in streaming here?

LED Laser projectors have been with us for some time with most major manufacturers firmly embracing laser technology at both the install and portable ends of the market. However, you may be unsure as to what having a laser projector really means; we’re here to help you understand.

As you have probably already guessed, the answer is no, but it is still very clever! In simple terms, in a laser projector, the traditional lamp has been replaced by a bright white laser LED source. With a lamp, the light from the lamp that creates the bright white illumination travels through LCD panels to create the image. This means that the actual image is created the same way in both types, but the light source is the key difference. A 5000-lumen lamp projector and a 5000-lumen laser projector will have the same brightness and look almost identical on the screen.

So why do we need laser projectors? Lamps have several downsides:
  1. They contain mercury, a metal which is dangerous if released into the environment.
  2. Lamps are much less energy efficient, producing a good deal of heat as well as light.
  3. Lamps have a much shorter lifespan, typically 10x less than a laser equivalent and have a lower average light output in long-term use.
  4. Lamped projectors require lamp changes and servicing whereas laser units are designed to be almost maintenance-free.
So what are the deciding factors now when choosing laser over lamped units?

Currently, there is still a considerable percentage difference in the cost of laser above lamps within all levels of the market, typically adding 30% to the purchase price.  Although in some market areas laser is fast becoming the only option. Some situations will also be more suited to laser, as we will come on to in a minute.

A diagram showing the inner-workings of a projector.

So the decision you make depends on your usage pattern:

If you are running the projector every day for several hours you are going to be replacing lamps on a regular basis (possibly every 18 months). So the total cost of ownership is going to be heavily influenced by the cost of lamps, and possibly by the additional cost of access and installation of the lamps if your projector is sited at a high level. Using a laser-based product in these circumstances would definitely be a good idea if you can stand the initial purchase cost.

For those with less demanding usage requirements, the decision is slightly harder, as in many cases, such as churches where use can be confined to a few hours a week, the original lamp may well be the only one in the life of the projector. With technology and resolutions moving so fast, many customers prefer to change the projector rather than fit an expensive lamp in an out-of-warranty unit. However, this is not good from an environmental perspective.

However, where this equation changes is in a situation where the projector is mounted in a location that is difficult or expensive to access safely.  If you have to factor in the cost of two technicians and a scaffold tower or powered lift, then a laser unit with 10,000+ hours of laser life and long-life or filterless design becomes very attractive.

Add to this the advantage of laser technology that overcomes the traditional lamp issue of rapid reduction in light output after around 50% of lamp hours, and the declining cost of laser projectors, laser becomes an attractive alternative.

Some projector brands are already saying that in two years they will not be selling a lamped projector in the UK, having replaced all of their product with laser alternatives.

To discuss how APi Sound and Visual could assist your church with a laser projector, please call us on 0845 5578350 or contact us online.

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