Making Audiovisual Systems Easy to Use

As technology evolves it seems that it becomes harder to operate and control. Manufacturers are giving us features and options that while useful at some level are not needed most of the time. Control systems are what make systems easier to use.

Complicated Systems
In the project described below the control system was what allowed the Clerk of the Board to run the meeting from a parliamentarian point of view and from a presentation point of view. To run the meeting three people had the ability to control items; the Clerk, the production operator in the control room, and the Chair of the session. All of these individuals had a touch sensitive control panel located at their seat. The Clerk and the Production Operator had the same controls. They typically would use the control system to:

– Power the system on and off
– Select the proper meeting set up; the system could be used for meetings from 7 to 39 depending on the governing body that was using the facility.
– Board Member’s Page with list of Board Member’s associated with their seat at the dais. The clerk has the ability to edit/add/remove names for board members. Once set these board member names will be stored for future use. The Clerk has the ability to mark a board member absent or non-voting for that session. Once set the board member assignments will be used for subsequent voting and vote tallying pages.
– Display control with controls to turn on/off the video projection equipment and determine what source is displayed on the Video Projection Screens.
– Lighting and volume control. – Audio and Video conference system control.
– Presenter Timer controls the public speaker’s allotted time and allotted warning time in one-minute increments. The Clerk and Session Chairperson have the ability to stop/start/pause the allotted time. These timer settings control 3 lights at the podium to alert the presenter of their status.
– The voting module uses the currently selected Board member’s page along with columns for their vote. When the Clerk initiates voting this tally area will indicate voting is occurring and will provides indication which member has cast their vote. It does not show their actual vote until the clerk selects the Vote Tally button. At that point the actual votes will be displayed by the member’s name on all of the video projectors and monitors.
– Speaker Queue Page with buttons indicating who has selected their request to speak button and the order in which that was selected. The Clerk or the Session Chairperson has the ability to select the next speaker which will un-mute their microphone or to directly select anyone on the list which will cause their name to move to the top of the list and un-mute their microphone.

The Chair of the Session has the following limited control.
– Speaker Queue Page.
– The volume and mute controls for each board member’s microphone.
– The chairperson has the ability to pass the chair position to any other member at the dais at which point their panel will assume the chair functions and the previous Chair’s panel will revert to a regular member panel, the Chair’s panel functions can only be passed, they cannot be taken. When the system is turned on a selected default position is selected as chair.

All in all a complicated system that could only be handled with a custom programmed control system.

Simple Systems
 At the other end of the spectrum we are seeing simplified systems of push buttons on a wall panel in many higher education and some corporate training rooms. The wall panel sends the commands to the display device to select the source, raise and lower the volume, dim the lights, lower the projection screen, etc. at a fraction of the cost that existed a few years ago.

The Solution
The common point to both extremes is to have a clear understanding of what needs to be controlled, select the correct system either complicated or simple, but most importantly clearly label buttons with words and terms that the end user understands.