REDBAND: The Unintelligible Argument by Josh Srago

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There is something brewing underneath a lot of our recognition in the commercial audio industry.  Many of us have heard about it, read about it, been asked for a reaction to its presence in the marketplace, taken informational courses on it, and maybe even gotten to the point of implementing it.  What I’m talking about is Emergency Communication Systems.

Over the last several years the term MNS (Mass Notification System) has crept into our normal industry vernacular.  Mass Notification can take many forms.  It can be visual, audible, or, as many of us recently experienced on the western coast, it can take the form of a government issued Amber Alert text message at 2 am.  It has very quietly become a part of our daily lives.  But there’s one specific portion of MNS that has been going through an interesting game of ping-pong behind the scenes.

This back and forth that’s taking place under the radar starts with the fact that every building out there has a fire alarm system.  These systems have become more and more sophisticated with their ability to notify both locally and remotely, sense not just heat but smoke and even carbon dioxide.  The part of the system that hasn’t improved, though, was the audio broadcasting device.  Sure that signal will set the SPL meter ablaze, but when the spoken word tries to come through those speakers, all is lost.  The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) tried to rectify this back in 2010 with the release of the NFPA 72 code book.  This code brought out a whole new possibility for complete Emergency Communication Systems that would work in conjunction with, and addition to, fire alarm systems.  One of the key elements that the NFPA code brought to the forefront was the idea that these emergency communication systems would be required to take intelligible speech into account.  The code book even laid the ground work for what that measurement would entail.  However, it was far from a hard and fast rule and the majority of the code was prefaced with the concept that what parts to enforce was at the discrepancy of the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).  So whomever the local AHJ was got to determine if that portion of the code applied to the building at hand.

To be honest, this was a good jumping off point for the idea of mandatory intelligible audio for emergency communication systems.  It opened the door for A/V contractors to enter a whole new market where their skills in providing not only proper SPL coverage, but also proper intelligible sound coverage could now work with the integrators providing fire alarm solutions.

Cut to 2013 and the release of NFPA 72 for 2013. Over the last 3 years the audio industry has prepared courses in understanding what the new Emergency Communication Systems are capable of and how they are designed.  UL has introduced new product certifications to ensure durability in emergency systems and integrators and consultants alike saw the need and benefit of ensuring this intelligibility was present in all their systems as required by code.  That is until they read the 2013 code book.  The NFPA 72 code book did a complete 180 and actually makes the statement that a quantitative measurement for intelligibility is no longer required.  They still provide the guidelines for how they recommend taking the measurement, but no longer require it take place.  In essence, leaving the decision up to the subjective hearing of the AHJ on a project by project basis and cutting the potential involvement of a qualified audio contractor out of the project.

Emergencies happen across this country everyday and the ability to understand information to keep yourself and those around you safe is critical in those instances to the point of potentially saving lives.  I’m sure there are many reasons introduced that caused the removal of the required intelligibility measurement, but this is definitely something we as an industry need to be watching very closely.  It’s an opportunity for us where we excel as a group and another avenue of business for those always looking for a growth market.  The real question is at what point will some area of this country suffer a massive tragedy, again, due to the fact that people couldn’t understand the message that was being delivered to keep them safe?

Josh Srago

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Josh Srago is a seasoned audio professional with a musical background, like so many others in this industry.  With experience in studio production, live sound, commercial A/V, and broadcasting, if sound was involved he chased the opportunity to be a part of it.  Having worked as a national trainer he adopted the philosophy that the best way to help people with A/V is to help them understand A/V.  He currently works for an A/V contractor in the SF Bay Area as a PM and handling their social media.  Connect with him at @JSrago on twitter.

REDBAND: Technology Leadership Series: Self Awareness by Mike Brandes

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Leaders at any level, whether CIO, CTO or even lower management, need to have a firm grasp of their team’s pulse, as a result it is important for all leaders to have tremendous self-awareness. It is important for a leader to have a good accounting of their own strengths and weaknesses drawing on strengths when necessary and avoiding pitfalls of their weaknesses when confronted by them.

Leaders must be able to take a complete inventory of the perception of themselves within their team(s).  All too often leaders don’t take this important step, preventing them from being as successful as leaders who accurately utilize introspection and awareness. Without being insecure, leaders must be able to use this inventory to ensure they are providing their teams with meaningful leadership, direction, vision and emotional intelligence; guiding them towards success and solidly supporting and empowering employees.

Another key component of leadership having exceptional self-awareness is to always be cognizant of ensuring leaders never blame others for team or department failures. I’ve heard it said one of the simplest keys to being a great leader, and having highly performing teams, is to avoid personalizing failures and actively share successes with your team. Self Awareness is also integral to another key concept previously discussed: building successful teams.  A leader needs to be aware of their deficits to ensure they build teams with complementary strengths, in order to be as complete and diverse as possible. Leaders who are not-self aware, or actively taking inventory of their strengths and weaknesses are susceptible to failure in the blind spots. It is crucial to constantly be aware of how your attitude, actions and leadership affects others.

For the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

Mike Brandes

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Mike is an experienced audio video and information technology specialist, with 5 years experience in AV/IT; and previous experience in Pro Audio including full-time touring experience. Mike is active in InfoComm, the Audiovisual Industry Association, and serves on the Technology Managers Council and the Certification Committee. Check out Mike’s website http://mikebrandesav.com/ and Follow him on Twitter.

REDBAND: What I Learned From the New Steve Jobs Movie by Todd Anthony Puma

I hear it all the time: “My business is slow, but there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s the economy.”

In fact, there is something you can do about it. Evolve, change, learn, and grow. It’s the static company and entrepreneur that is struggling to find business. As I was reminded while watching the new Steve Jobs movie, “Jobs,” that those who constantly move with the times and expand into different product classes or product categories are the ones that grow.

In the NYC area, we are seeing a huge surge in demand. This is demand that I didn’t expect for the typically quiet third quarter when wealthy New Yorkers tend to go to the Hamptons or on European vacations. While this may not be true across the country, real estate seems to be picking up across most major markets, so our businesses should be doing better than a few years ago. However, don’t get complacent. Get ready for the next bump in the road.

1. Expand Your Product Class
The ultra high net worth individual that my compatriots John Sciacca and Ira Friedmanhave written about is a client that often isn’t affected by economic downturns. At least not as much as the rest of America. The one percent stays the one percent, so take time to learn about the products and brands that these clients need and want.
a. Train on a full control system like Crestron, AMX, Savant, etc.
b. Get familiar with great outdoor systems that are more than a few rock speakers and under-eaves outdoor speakers
c. Train on media servers like Kaleidescape, Fusion Research, Mozaex, or S1 Digital.
d. Explore higher end projector lines like Digital Projection, Wolf, Runco, or SIM2.
e. Learn about enterprise-grade networking products from companies like Access Networks, Pakedge, or Luxul.

To continue reading click Here

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Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

REDBAND: 8 Tips For Google Hangouts On Air by Nate Schneider

It’s one thing to use Google Hangouts the same way people use Skype for a private video chat with friends.  It’s another thing when you decide to experiment with the “On Air” feature to make your video stream public on YouTube and beyond.  I’ve learned through experience there are some important things you should consider.  A few hours of planning prior to your live event will go a long way.  Hangouts On Air is a free feature offered to Google+ users that allows you to use the internet to broadcast with nothing more than a webcam and web browser.  It could be a church service, town meeting, little league game, live performance or even a wedding.  If you want to have a good laugh you can watch my first attempts at participating in a couple live video streams here.  Here are 8 live streaming tips for Google Hangouts On Air.  Hangouts On Air will be abbreviated as HOA.

1. Maximize CPU Power

There’s a reason why stock cars don’t have head lights or air conditioning.  They’re built for speed.  When you’re doing a HOA you need to use the best computer you have access to with the fastest CPU (Central Processing Unit) otherwise know as a processor.  That computer needs to be dedicated to the HOA only.  No web surfing or other programs going on in the background so that you can conserve your computers horsepower.  Encoding live video into ones and zeros and sending time sensitive packets of data all over the world for real-time communication requires power.  Make sure you’re doing all you can to keep your computer dedicated to the live stream.  If you have access to two computers dedicate one to the HOA and another to monitoring the live feed and moderating comments.  You’re already at the mercy of your internet service upload speed and Google’s encoding & decoding methods.  Don’t sacrifice quality by stealing CPU power to play Snood or Words with Friends in the background.

2. Do A Dry Run

Test everything before the event, then test it a second time.  Keep in mind Murphy’s Law will be hard at work.  If something could go wrong, it will.  In the world of theater and live events they have these things called dress rehearsals.  It’s remarkable the number of issues that can be caught and prevented by doing a walk through the day before.  Once you get your HOA team on the same page and comfortable with the technology things will go more smoothly.  I just did a HOA with the Redband crew and our dry run was very helpful.  That said, Murphy and his law manifested itself in various ways that no one could have predicted.  One example was that my lower thirds were not functioning after we went live.  They worked perfectly during the dry run but when it came time to go live all I could get were some silly mustache overlays but no lower thirds!  Oh well, you get what you pay for, we still had a blast doing the live show.  Speaking of Murphy’s Law – I believe George Tucker (one of my Redband blogger buddies) actually experienced a blue screen of death minutes before Redband Radio episode 2 went live!  Redband Blogger Buddies will be abbreviated as RBB.

 3. Define How People Should View & Participate

This may seem redundant but I’m serious.  You need to understand what’s happening behind the scenes and spell it out very clearly so that your audience of eager participants knows where to interact and leave comments.  Define your live stream headquarters.  This is important because there are at least three ways people can stumble across your live video feed…

  • Google+ (initiate the HOA here)
  • YouTube watch page (copy the embed code from here)
  • Custom webpage (paste the embed code here)

As the person running the show it’s important to know where the HOA lives so you can promote it properly.  Whether you realize it or not YouTube has its own thriving ecosystem.  You may have a number of viewers commenting on the YouTube watch page while you are focused only on Google+ or your website.  You can either designate a moderator to keep an eye on all the incoming comments from Google+, YouTube, and a custom webpage or you can direct users to a central location for live interaction.  Personally, I like the idea of using a specific twitter hashtag that corresponds to your live event.  You can designate someone to keep an eye on the hashtag using TweetDeck and bounce back and forth from the topic of the show to live audience interaction every 5 minutes or so.

 4. Social Media Should Be Social

Mention viewers and their comments on the air!  Interaction is key!  If you’ve ever called into a radio program and had the chance to hear your voice on the air it’s a very cool feeling.  Maybe it’s just me but there’s some sort of magical thrill about hearing your name and remarks live on the air.  Doing this will not only foster loyalty among regular listeners but once your show becomes a scheduled occurrence and your audience begins to grow to thousands of viewers from around the world you will have a unique interactive experience that traditional broadcast mediums simply do not have – yet – for the most part.  Traditional broadcast is starting to become more social media friendly.  The best part about all of this is that you don’t need $500k of video equipment to broadcast live.  If you’re a true social media pioneer, you can start a podcast from your basement and be pretty successful without taking on any risk.  Plus it’s fun.

Click here to continue reading this article.

Be Social.

Nate Schneider

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Nate Schneider has worked in the AV Industry since 2005 in both Live Sound and Commercial Integration. Currently he is an AV Designer by day and a YouTube Partner by night. Visit BigNate84.com to learn more about Nate and check him out on twitter at @BigNate84Howto

REDBAND: Technology Leadership Series: Vision by Mike Brandes

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Successful leadership always starts with a vision. Compelling visions have led to several of the greatest moments in human history. President John F. Kennedy’s vision to place a man on the moon forever changed the way we look at a nighttime sky. Likewise, every CIO, CTO and technology manager must have a far-reaching vision of where their department must be in twelve, eighteen and thirty-six months into the future. Without a vision, or any concrete direction to move in, IT departments become stagnant and obsolete virtually immediately. A leader must be able to see where the organization is heading to position their teams in the best possible way, in order for the company to be successful. For a vision to be successful it needs to be:

Clearly set with the organizational direction and purpose. Visions must be in line with company core values an directives. Contradictory directives can derail any successful, high-performing team.

Help employees believe they are part of something bigger than themselves and their daily work. Everyone wants to be part of something larger than themselves. Vision empowers employees to make their daily work more than just a task list, but a series of steps in a much larger, more important, journey.

Flexible. This is the most important part of any vision, and probably any leader. Flexibility to change, adjust and adapt a vision is vital. As often as technology and technologies change, every vision must be adapted or they will quickly become anachronistic

Vision is imperative to the success of an organization. Leaders can be good, even great, without possessing some of the qualities previously discussed. However, a leader must have a vision and a direction as to where to lead their teams. Without a direction and a vision, any movement is controlled chaos at best and a complete disaster at worst. Take a step back, solicit feedback and constantly re-evaluate the direction and effectiveness of your vision. Don’t become too committed to the vision to be flexible and adapt when necessary.

For the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

Mike Brandes

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Mike is an experienced audio video and information technology specialist, with 5 years experience in AV/IT, and previous experience in Pro Audio including full-time touring experience. Mike is active in InfoComm, the Audiovisual Industry Association, and serves on the Technology Managers Council. Check out Mike’swebsite http://mikebrandesav.com/ and Follow him on Twitter.

REDBAND: Reflections and Afterthoughts from the Live Podcast at Verrex By Jaclyn Puma

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Coming from a business management background myself, I know firsthand that building strong employee morale is crucial to the success of any business. It helps create a sense of unity within a team that encourages progress and allows for minimal turnover. Tom Berry Jr. of the Verrex Corporation has created just such an environment for his team over in Mountainside, New Jersey. Verrex is a Commercial AV company that has been family owned and operated for over 60 years.

Walking through the halls of Verrex, photo after photo of the team’s personality and triumphs can be seen hanging on all the walls. Collages of large projects, team outings and photographs of the team working hard in their own office setting are amongst the many pictures displayed here. Tom likes to celebrate the successes of his employees on a personal level so a $2 million trophy was created where he adds the names of each person who hits the $2 million dollar mark and he exhibits this in the entryway for all to admire.

Concerned that the employees spent too much time at their desks and not enough time bonding with each other, Tom created a dining area set up to look like a 50’s diner for the team to have lunch in together. He even took the time to personally go out and choose different music genre posters to wallpaper the diner with. The most impressive “team building activity” that I witnessed was that 4 members of the Verrex team found that their combined talents were the making of a killer office band. They are even permitted to hold band practice in the Verrex warehouse after hours. How much easier is it to jam when all of your wiring is already right at your fingertips?

As a business owner and an employer, it is important to be approachable yet respected by the people who work for you. Study’s actually show that employees are motivated more by praise and value than by financial recognition. They will stay longer at a job where they feel important and significant, even to the highest level of leaders in their company. Before coming into the AV world, I was a Retail Sales Manager. While the hours were grueling and the pay was minimal, I was with that company for over 4 years because of how the executive team treated their employees. They were based out of California and still took the time and effort to get to know everyone at every store. I strived to do my best not because I had to (well yes I had to) but also because I wanted to make them proud. The same way that I’m sure Tom’s team wants to make him proud and help him and Verrex fulfill another 60 years in the AV community.

Jaclyn

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Jaclyn Puma is the Operations Manager at The Source Home Theater. She brings organization and structure to the company along with a strong background in both retail and customer service.  Connect with Jacyln on Twitter at @Thesourcehti

REDBAND: Selecting the Right Control Partner for Small and Mid-Size Projects by Todd Anthony Puma

When doing large, whole-home, fully integrated projects, we all have our favorite go-to major manufacturer partner, be it Crestron, Savant, AMX, or similar. We all also have a preferred partner for small and mid-size jobs, like those involving a single room, apartment, or condo. In my conversations with fellow integrators, it’s these smaller jobs with the more basic control systems that provide the biggest headaches.

With these jobs being smaller and with smaller profits, service calls can be a killer. In my experience and discussions, I’ve found that problems on these projects are an epidemic because of poor RF performance, bad code datasets, and poor integration with components.

While it would be great to put a $2,000-5,000 control system into every job, it just isn’t economically feasible for a $10,000 living room surround sound installation. For those projects, there are well-respected industry brands to serve our channel. Unfortunately, in crowded, RF-rich, interference-strewn urban markets, these more modestly priced control solutions seem to struggle with RF interference, which inevitably leads to service calls to move an antenna or relocate an RF receiver, and from inconsistencies in their database, where codes that seem to be available just don’t work or just don’t perform well. Sometimes there’s an integration issue with a component, as well.

Continue reading on Residential Systems by clicking he link below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=637

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Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

REDBAND: Get Better or Get Left Behind by Matt D. Scott

“We’re up all night ’til the sun, 

We’re up all night to get some, 

We’re up all night for good fun, 

We’re up all night to get lucky.”

-  Daft Punk

The song of the summer this year seems to be Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. Now if you’re old enough, you’ll remember some of the great track that Daft Punk was known for and you’ll be very pleased with the album they’ve recently released. If you haven’t picked up/downloaded a copy, this is my endorsement, go get it!

Now back to the topic at hand, You’re wondering what Daft Punk has to do with my article today. Well, nothing actually! I just wanted to bring Daft Punk into a blog post. Now to be honest, the title is GET BETTER… Which is close to Get Lucky. I know, it’s a stretch, don’t worry about it!

So what do I mean by Get Better! I’m talking to all of us in this business.

I Want YOU to GET BETTER! — Yes, You!

I want you to do better in your job, to do a better job every day. I’m getting tired of seeing integrators cutting corners, cheeping out, using inferior equipment. It’s time to take some pride in what you do. Pretend that you ACTUALLY care about what you do and that you care about the end result that you provide your clients. It’s time for you to grow up and put in some effort.

Now I’m not talking to everyone out there, but there’s an awful large number out there that need to listen to what I’m saying (well typing, technically). I know there are many of you who are working hard at being the best you can be and I get that. Unfortunately there are too many integrators out there that have just put forth a very lackadaisical effort towards their work. I’m hoping this isn’t you, and hopefully it isn’t but let me get into some examples   and you can reflect.

  1. It’s time to take some pride in your work, this means your regular work. This can easily come down to just the care and pride you take to make your work neat. I own my company and I am a neat freak when it comes to things like this. Our racks are exceptional, our structured wiring installs are perfectly straight, even and level. Now this is the same in our Resi work as it is in our commercial work. We label (and not just a sharpie on the cable jacket) all of our wiring, we document our work. Now, I’m not bragging on myself or my guys, I’m strictly trying to explain a point. If you’ve done your job properly, another company should be able to walk onto one of your jobs and determine everything you did in a matter of minutes. That is the truest test I know to ensure that you’ve provided a clear and concise solution in every aspect of your project.
  2. It’s time to provide proper products, stop giving your clients crap! This is one of my biggest issues in our industry. It’s the guys that are trying (and unfortunately they are succeeding all too often) to sell their clients on inferior products as if they are name brand products. Let me give you a few examples: We recently fixed an entire residential audio system that consisted of some knock off/house brand speakers and controls that were sold at price points comparable to main brands that you would know. Unfortunately because they aren’t built to the same specs as the name-brand products, the performance isn’t there and worse they have worn out and are needing to be replaced much early then the expected lifecycle. We also recently worked on a commercial project that constituted of knock off CCTV products, which were again sold fairly similar to the price points of proper name-brand equipment. We were called in because of the constant service calls that were required to attempt to keep this sub-par system running. Now I know that there will always be clients who want a cheap solution and don’t care about the quality of the system but it’s time for us as professionals to step up and stop offering crap that we wouldn’t put into our homes or businesses into our clients!
  3. Stop trying to work outside of your expertise, you’re not helping yourself, and more importantly you’re not helping your clients! I’m getting tired of alarm companies and electricians, thinking because they watched a YouTube how-to, or attending a Cedia webinar and all the sudden they want to build your client a huge custom theatre. It doesn’t work like that. They would feel the same way if we decided that we were gonna jump into their fields. Think I’m wrong, I’m not… I’ve felt that pushback as a big Lutron RadioRA2 dealer. They push back hard. In the commercial world it’s the same thing, being a rental shop doesn’t mean that you’re instantly qualified to spec boardrooms. Every time you jump out and try to provide a solution you hope will work, you’re hurting our industry. You’re hurting my industry, and to be honest I take offence to that.
  4. Stop selling 20 year old solutions! I can’t believe I’ve got to touch on this, but seriously people. I don’t want to see any more systems deployed with AV gear that I  wouldn’t have even built-in 1999. Seriously people, step it up. There are so many amazing products that have come to market in the last 2 years that are designed to solve problems and make systems effective and yet I continue to see big huge power sucking amps that haven’t changed in 15 yrs when a tiny drive core would be more than sufficient. Let’s pretend that we actually go to the shows and we actually pay some attention to new technologies. I know, I know, it’s as shocking to me as it is to you, but there has been some innovation in our industry in the last five years. Why not actually make use of some of that innovation!

Now don’t get me wrong, If you are learning and trying to grow… I’m all good with that! Are you kidding, I’ll help you any way I can and even help train you myself if you’d like. I also know that this doesn’t apply to all of us, but If you’re honest with yourself and honest about your business. You know that you have areas you can improve in. I know I’m always going over what I’m doing and what my company is doing to find areas where we can do better! When you stop trying to increase and grow, you become stagnant and that’s not what I want for my business or our industry! I want to grow our industry, but not with low quality work, low quality products, and low quality solutions. We need to see an increase in people and quality in our industry, but we don’t just need extra bodies floating around providing bad solutions and bad products to the general populace. The only thing providing a bad solution will accomplish is to tarnish our reputation and cause our clients to become jaded towards our industry.

You see you need to get past the concept of just selling a project to pay the bills today and take a little bit of responsibility towards your business and our industry in general. Once we realize that every project we do equates to a small part of our business’ identity, I believe we’ll continually attempt to increase the quality of our work, with in turn will increase the quality of our businesses. Bottom line: It’s time for all of us to GET BETTER!

- Matt D. Scott

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Matt D. Scott is the president and founder of OMEGA Audio Video, in London, Ontario. Matt had his first encounter with Pro-Audio at age 6 when a PA loudspeaker fell, cracking his head, and leaving a scar to this day. After mopping up the blood, Matt started his AV career and has been working in Pro AV, Commercial AV, and Residential AV ever since. Matt loves the industry and all things tech! Check out his website: omegaaudiovideo.com and  follow him on Twitter: @mattdscott.