Office Automation

Overview of Audio/Video Control Systems for Boardrooms

This article is more on the lines of why a control system is required for Audio/Video systems in a board room/ conference/meeting rooms and what all you can do with such a control system. We would also discuss certain advanced features supported by such A/V control systems.

The Audio/Video components in a Board Room/Conference room:

First, let us try to list down the various audio-video components that are normally found in Conference rooms:

¤ LCD/DLP Projectors (For projecting the content of a laptop/DVD player etc. on a bigger screen).
¤ Motorized Projector Screen (To provide a plain surface/screen for projected image. Some of them can be controlled by a remote control to automatically come down from a folded state, and go back).
¤ Motorized Ceiling Mount (In some conference rooms, the projector is hidden beyond the ceiling. To, bring it down automatically, a motorized ceiling mount is used along with a remote control).
¤ Audio System (This can be just amplifiers and speakers or additional devices like audio switchers and mixers are also used in a conference room).
¤ Microphones (Different type of microphones like podium mic, collar mic, table mic etc. are used for the speech to be audible in bigger conference rooms).
¤ Video Conferencing Systems (With Camera, codec and mic to see and talk to people from a remote location over IP/ISDN lines)
¤ Plasma Display/ LCD Monitors (This is used as a display unit for video conference systems or shows the output of a DVD player etc.).
¤ Document Camera (This is used to present some object or a page of text in real time by connecting to the projector or video conference system).
¤ PC, Laptop, Monitors etc.

What does an Audio/Video Control System do?

An Audio/Video control system primarily consists of a Central Controller where all the various audio/video devices converge and are controlled through some type of a control interface like a touch panel etc.

Imagine that you have an important meeting on a Monday. You walk in to the conference room in the morning, switch on the touch panel and select the meeting mode (one touch). The projector screen gets lowered automatically, the projector comes down from the ceiling with the motorized ceiling mount kit, the projector is switched on, your laptop source is automatically detected and the laptop screen is projected via the projector. Wait, it’s not yet over! The audio system is switched on (speakers, mixers, amplifiers etc) and the Mic’s are activated. The video conferencing system is switched on and the camera’s are focused as per their preset positions, ready for the conference to start!

With the same touch of a button, some vendors provide additional functionalities too: The lights are automatically dimmed (zone wise), the air conditioning system can be set to a specified temperature required for the meeting, the widow drapes can be automatically closed to ensure that it is dark enough to see the projector display properly.

The above is just for one preset mode, and there could be multiple such preset modes – For example, for a casual meeting, it could be programmed to just switch On the plasma display, DVD player, open the window drapes and switch On the Air Conditioning with a single touch of a button.

Some Interesting features of Audio/Video Control Systems:

¤ The touch panel can have a wireless (Wi-Fi) interface to connect to the Controller. This ensures that there is no cluttering of the cables and it is mobile. The speaker can annotate, draw and type directly over any computer source right on the touch panel and save them for future use. Trainers are also allowed to preview multi-video/source content on the touch panel prior to showing it on the display devices. There are button based non-touch type panels, flip tops, table top panels etc.

¤ The controllers can control all the audio/video devices through the LAN over the IP Network. That enables a centralized control over a large number of devices easier – the devices can be across the building or even across the LAN. Some vendors also provide web based control/management.

¤ Audio/Video devices, PC’s, Printers, lamps etc. can be programmed to automatically shut down when they are not used or at a certain point of time. The LCD projectors can be programmed to be switched off automatically when no active source is detected for a certain period of time. Or the whole thing can be coordinated to be switched on or switched off at certain times (like prior to a meeting, after a meeting) or on certain days (Switched off automatically during weekends etc).

¤ On a slightly advanced level, even motion sensors can be integrated to detect the movement of people in a particular room and when detected, a certain section of the audio/video devices can be automatically turned on.

¤ The lighting of the conference rooms can also be controlled. There are lighting dimmers which reduce the brightness of a certain zone of lights (near the screen etc.) when the projector is switched on. The lights can be made to glow in their full brightness during the discussion. The A/v controller and touch panel enable the centralized control of such lighting systems as well.

¤ In a HVAC centralized cooling environment, zones could be defined and certain sensors can detect if people are there in a particular zone and the Air Conditioning can be turned on only for that zone. This helps save energy.

¤ Audio/Video Controllers can help apply input compensation to help maintain consistent volume levels when switching between multiple sources. With some vendors, amplifiers are built-in.

The above points describe just some of the features to give a glimpse of the functionalities of the audio video control system in enterprise boardrooms/conference rooms. There are some disadvantages of such A/v controllers too as they are expensive and complex to deploy and program in large installations. Some of the cables used with such control systems are proprietary, and may not be available in the general market. The code is also proprietary but some of them give an API or SDK to extend the functionalities of the control systems.

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  • Praveen

    Hi this is good.

    Please let me know in case I want to use a single PC to control Video conferencing , Audio system, Video Projection etc. How is it possible, I don’t want to open separate windows on PC for controlling above, is it possible to have control on ordinary PC like Touch panel.

    Praveen Kumar