Isn’t Technology Grand!

August 20, 2012 in AV Design Tips by Sam Davisson

Technology for Technologies SakeI’ll start with a little site notice first, an upgrade from the previous site. I’ve added a download page where I will be adding design tools, sample drawing packages and just about anything else I develop or find that I think is cool enough to add to my own site to share. The link is obviously on top but I also linked a little of the text above mostly for google and friends to enjoy and spider. This blog is mostly about AV system design tips and issues so it only seems appropriate that I share what helps me in the design process.

One of the things an AV design engineer has to be careful with letting technology and not client needs rule their design. Technology is coo and I would assume that most of us got into this business because of our love of technology. I often see pieces big and small that I would love to find a project I could design them into. Seriously, this is really cool but I doubt I will ever have a client who needs this

Maybe that is a little over the top when it comes to an example… or maybe it is way over the top so how about I come up with another one. In one of my LinkedIn groups the following design requirements were posted: Shooting club wants to add a camera 1500′ down range that will feed a display at the shooters location. The club doesn’t have any real budget and is hoping to do this themselves and are just looking at what they may need.

The solution, to me, seems pretty simple and pretty old school. You are only feeding a display, no recording devices and no one cares if the video meets broadcast specifications. Just mount the camera, run a good coax cable and be done with it. If the picture isn’t quite good enough add a distribution amp. The focus of the whole thing is for the shooter to be able to see the target and where his bullet hit it. But it is an old school solution where the only quality factor you are taking into account is if there is enough signal to make a viewable picture on the screen.

Or, if your not quite sure that is going to work there are analog baluns that will do 1500′ over a UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair aka Cat 5e cable). Personally I’d opt for testing the coax cable solution because I could always reuse a hunk of cable that long on a different project so a very small risk is involved. He could even teach them to terminate the cable ends themselves or take 15 minutes of his time to terminate them.

But, my suggestion was in the minority. The majority seemed to be split between differing UTP and fiber solutions. I’ll be honest here, I didn’t analyze the various UTP solutions to see if they would work. A lot of UTP stuff is distance limited to 330′. I’m sure some of the ones suggested were and some were not but I just didn’t see a reason to evaluate them.

Is there any question that fiber would be the best in technology solution. None what so ever but… single mode fiber (which is what is needed for over 1000′) is kind of expensive. Fiber transmitters and receivers are very expensive. Add in the fiber splice and terminating the ends and you’ve got a solution of around 10k as opposed to less than 2k and a fiber solution is not a DIY solution for people outside of the industry.

In summary, technology is great. It is fun to keep up with and always makes me want to drool and use it on my next design but technology is a tool and it is the design engineers job to come up with the right set of tools for the job and the job is satisfying the clients needs.

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