Display technology in the corporate AV market

South Africa has become a favoured location for international corporations and blue chips have set up headquarters that require the best AV for working locally and across borders. When it comes to choosing displays for corporate applications, one size doesn’t fit all, but getting it right is key to business success. For this reason Pro Systems News chatted to South Africa’s top installers and integrators to ask them about what display technologies are most appropriate or most popular in the corporate market. As the leader of information and communication technology (ICT) development in Africa, and boasting a 99.9% digital telecoms network, the South Africa’s corporate AV market has been growing steadily in the past few years. However, the country is not impervious to the global financial crisis and it is still recovering from its own 2008/9 recession.

“The financial crisis has brought about changes in procurement policies within large corporates,” comments Stuart Pringle, MD at Omega Digital Technologies. “Due to this sales cycles are longer, competition is fiercer and therefore margins are under huge pressure. “Clients still spend their money, but unlike the USA, the financial crisis didn’t turn the lights off immediately, but rather heighted the need for companies to watch where they spend money and how much they get in return for their investment. Relying on hardware margins alone is not possible anymore. A mature services business is an absolute must for all AV integrators such as ourselves that wish to compete in the SA market today.”

In fact, according to recent reports, South Africa’s economy is expected to grow 2.5 % this year, instead of the 3.1% the World Bank estimated in November 2011 and the 2.7% the government predicted in February. The less optimistic forecast for economic growth comes as a consequence of a global slowdown and high unemployment in the country.

In a move to bolster the economy the South African Reserve Bank has cut interest rates by 50 basis points, from 5.5% to 5%. Pringle says: “I don’t expect a major impact for our industry in the short term due to the drop in interest rates, but every bit of relief is a step in the right direction.”

 

Size isn’t everything

 

Whether you are thinking of revamping a boardroom, an auditorium or a training facility, the size of the screen is only one of the many factors you need to take into account. The number of people expected to use the space, its ambient light, the type of network connections and connections with mobile devices are all essential components of today’s corporate installations. For applications where a larger image is needed, projectors are the usual choice. However, with flat screen prices going down and screen sizes increasing, they are becoming a viable alternative to projectors.

Says Questek MD, George van Gills: “The technology trend in projection is DLP, due to its low cost of ownership.

However we find for smaller facilities flat screen (LCD) is gaining more ground.” Questek uses Barco projectors for high-end installation and projectiondesign and Optoma for smaller installations.”

Danie Venter from BIS, a specialist in dynamic as well as complex AV & ICT solutions, says: “Projection technology will maintain its rightful place in larger environments but flat screen is a favourite in the smaller collaboration environments.”

Adré Joubert, director at systems integrator and video conferencing specialist F.R.O.G. AV agrees: “For video conference applications we are using flat screen LCD or LED displays or a combination of projector with LCD or LED screens. Educational institutions use a combination of interactive whiteboards and projectors.”

F.R.O.G. AV is a distributor for Dell projectors in South Africa. These projectors, which go only up to 5 000 ANSI lumens, are suitable for medium and small end installations. For large auditorium installations the company supplies other brands such as Epson, Vivitek or Panasonic.

In the corporate market system integrator Audio Visual Centre (AVC), works with large global or local stock-listed corporations installing mainly boardrooms and training facilities. Warren Tree, AVC’s technical director, agrees that price is important when choosing technologies.

He describes the three typical corporate installations: “In boardrooms we usually use LCD projectors, but there is a significant shift to flat screen displays. Due to the low-cost of maintenance and the reduced pricing of LCD and LED technologies, more corporates are implementing these types of displays over LCD / DLP projectors, specifically in venues with a pax of less than 10.

“Auditoriums are larger venues which need displays greater than 120”. LCD projectors with a higher brightness are the most cost effective way to achieve these sizes. For training facility we tend to use DLP projectors.”

AVC’s brands of choice for high-end installation are: NEC, Sony and Projectiondesign. Epson is used for medium sized installations and for the lower end projects it uses Sony, Optoma and Vivitek. Omega’s Stuart Pringle details some of the technical requirements: “The most important point in specifying the projection system is the ability to create the correct real-life contrast at the correct resolution. This is a function of the brightness of the projector, the ambient light in the room and the room size. Other contributing factors are the ability to use lens shift and the lens robustness, the quality of their products and the after sales service that they offer. “We attempt to limit the number of manufactures we use and even the amount of different models from their line up to ensure that we can support our clients best (loan equipment),” he explained. “We use Christie, Panasonic or NEC projectors.”

Pringle adds: “Flat screens are neat and quiet, offer terrific contrast, they are increasingly better at motion handling, increasing in size and also decreasing in cost. The consumer market is driving the manufacturers to innovate continuously while making the technology cost effective.

“Flat screens are often deployed with a signage solution in a foyer area outside of an auditorium to display notices, schedules or even as way-finders. Interactive whiteboards are almost exclusively used in training venues. These are highly collaborative areas that require the trainer to capture and hold the audiences’ attention while explaining concepts. They also offer the opportunity for the audience to participate. It is vital that whiteboards are complimented with powerful software including galleries and data sharing capabilities.”

Kevin McMillan Craig from Audiotech doesn’t see that much of a shift from projection technology to flat screens.

“Projectors are capable of anything an LCD can do and both technologies have their place.”

Christiaan Stoop Technical and Operations Manager at Symantix, says: “Although the LCD projectors deliver a sharper quality picture especially for spreadsheets, I still prefer to install DLP projectors as I find LCDs not as reliable in the South African climate.

We usually install LCD flat screens when we do a video conference setup whereby the LCD screens are used for the video and a projection screen in the centre for data sharing.”

 

Symantix works with Vivitek projectors and PVision flat screens, “due to a good after sale service, pricing and quality,” adds Stoop. Craig explains that Audiotech normally uses LCD projectors because of their brightness, better colour spectrum and larger image. As the company is very much focused on the integration of audio, devices with built-in Wifi and good networkability are a must.

 

Collaboration

 

All the respondents agree that the main driver for audiovisual solutions in the corporate market is the need to effectively communicate ideas and information. This applies to the day to day running of the business as well as to collaboration with remote parties and other companies.

 

“In today’s business world, the need to reduce costs is most important,” comments Pringle “Using video and audio conferencing along with rich collaboration tools is vital in this quest as there are direct benefits when compared with the costs of travel and the efficiencies created from the time saved.”

 

Tree adds: “Collaboration is the main driver for AV adoption in our customer base, closely followed by training.”

 

Stoop from Symantix provides an example: “We do on site support for Kumba Iron Ore, part of Anglo American. The company relies a lot on AV, for instance for planning how and where to mine, different departments use it to streamline their operations. Then you have the training facilities that are used on a daily basis. On the operations side of the business they collaborate between different sites sometimes with up to six different sites at once. Then of course you get to top management, which is scattered around the world and need to have a meeting once a week. Smaller companies will mainly use AV for staff training and supplier info sessions.“

 

Joubert says: “We find that clients that benefit from video conference systems are keener to adopt fully integrated audiovisual systems. Once clients see the value in converging audio, video and data and start to share resources and interact with each other over various communication transport media; they get quicker return on their investment.”

 

BIS’ Venter and McMillan Craig from Audiotech also recognise a growing demand for AV systems that cater for the integration of personal devises; from laptops to iPads, tablets and mobiles. Pringle explains a further use of tablets: “At times when training is done remotely via video conferencing, interactive tablets are often used instead of white boards so that the trainer can be in view of the remote audience while making annotations.”

 

Checklist top tips

 

Our experts advise when choosing an AV integrator and before making a purchasing decision best suited for your business, there are various things to consider.

 

Adré Joubert encourages you to ask the following questions:

• Is the company selling an AV product or service to you a specialist in their field?

• Can they support and maintain the product or service sold to you?

Danie Venter emphasises: • Skills and training are very important in delivering high-end solutions.

• The budget supplier is often not better skilled.

• Cost of ownership (warrantees and long life lamps) along with manageability (network) and wireless display are important factors.

• DLP or LCD is not a selling point as both technologies have pros and cons.

• LED optical engines in projection devices will be an important factor in the future.

 

Joubert points out: “In South Africa price always plays a role. Clients want brightest projector at best price. We have found that lamp replacement cost does affect the decision the client makes. We are looking forward to higher lumens LED projectors. Currently they are only made for applications with display size up to 70”. These projectors have an average of 20 000 hours life cycle which means you never have to budget for replacement lamps again.”

 

Van Gills confesses that Questek’s end users tend to look at primary specifications such as resolution and light output, rather than technical support and cost of ownership. However the company has found ways to optimise resources for its clients. A good example of this is the work it has been doing for KPMG in South Africa. From the users point of view this is also an advantage because they are familiar with the interface of the devices in their various facilities. Coupled with this, we have two full time staff on site supporting the operation.”

 

Tree also mentions the ‘Analogue Sunset.’ “End users are not making their AV venues’ cable infrastructure digitally ready, although their displays can accept these types of signals. When AV sources (Notebook, PC, Video Codec) no longer have analogue outputs, these customers are going to have to do major AV upgrades.” All companies agree that corporate clients need to check whether their new installations are interoperable with existing and legacy equipment; if it is scalable to accommodate future upgrades; whether it can be integrated with personal devices; used for collaboration; and what is the return on their investment. Following this advice from the experts should ensure corporate installations are fit for purpose and future poof.

 

projectiondesign F32 series

 

The projectiondesign F32 series of professional grade DLP projectors is a single chip model that gives out up to 8 000 lumens brightness. Fitted with an adjustable iris and lamp power it enables many variations in light output to fit various requirements. It is specifically designed for graphically challenging applications, such as multi channel seamless visualisation walls, domes and high-resolution imaging. The F32 series features WUXGA, 1080p, or SXGA+ resolution options for optimum application fit. They are designed to operate 24/7 and they have an active cooling system.

 

The projectors also feature RealColor, which is projectiondesign’s unique colour management calibration suite. Each F32 projector is uniquely characterised during its manufacture. With RealColor, it is possible to match any number of projectors, and ensure they all project the same primaries and grey scale, without going through a very complicated process. Distributed by www.questekadvanced.co.za

 

Christie HD10K-M 1080 HD DLP projector

 

Christie’s HD10K-M 1080 HD DLP digital projector is a flexible, threechip high definition unit that provides 10 000 lumen. Designed on a sleek, compact chassis the dual lamp (350W) projector, it offers high efficiency and low cost of ownership by drawing a maximum power of 1320W providing more brightness while using less power. The lamp life is of 1 500 hours or up to 2 000 in eco mode.

 

The Christie M Series projector has a true HD native resolution of 1920 x 1080 with two HD input channels that allow 4:4:4 HD signals. It also comes with embedded Christie Twist™ image warping and edge-blending and colour matching. Although landscape is the most common use for these projectors, the Christie HD10K-M, has built-in portrait capabilities for more installation flexibility. Its Intelligent Lens System (ILS) automatically recognises and calibrates a lens when it is installed.

 

Sony monitors

 

Sony’s B-Series LCD displays monitor models are ideal for corporate applications. The FWD-55B2, FWD-46B2 and FWD-42B2 offer approximately 30% less power consumption than a conventional CCFL monitors thanks to its LED backlighting. These screens achieve high brightness of 450 to 500 cd/m² and a high contrast ratio of 4000:1*. This quality helps to enable excellent colour reproduction and high visibility in indoor applications.

 

Because they use commercial-grade LCD panels and cooling systems, these displays can be positioned either vertically (portrait) or horizontally (landscape) with no change in the backlight level or service life. Users can monitor the display status and control multiple displays over a LAN, VPN or the Internet using Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 or later.

 

NEC’s 5500-lumen PA550W is a widescreen, advanced professional installation model that appeases corporate and higher education users. With integrated RJ45, optional high-speed wireless (LAN IEEE 80.11b/g/n) and a multitude of simple-to-use asset management technologies, the PA550W helps users present seamlessly. It comes with built-in stacking correction capabilities (up to four projectors) allowing the projectors to boost an image brightness of up to 22 000 lumens, ideal for larger-sized screens and environments with heavy ambient light. Its ECO Mode technology helps extend lamp life and lowers power consumption. Distributed by www.electrosonic.co.za

 

Vivitek D535 The Vivitek D535 digital projector is distinctive in design, lightweight and packed with user-friendly features. Connectivity options for the D535 include HDMI v1.3 and is 3D-ready, make it ready for the latest multimedia applications. With a high brightness level of 3 200 lumens and a weight of only 4.2 lbs, the Vivitek D535 is the portable solutions to deliver sharp, vibrant pictures and presentations. The DLP chipset-based D535 can play HD, 3D or SD content, thanks to its various connections: VGA for PC or laptop, HDMI and video input for everyday video devices, right and left audio, audio-in, Rs232c, and S-Video for composite video. Distributed by www.audiosure.co.za

 

Epson EB-G5650WNL The Epson EB-G565WNL has been designed for large installations. It comes with a WXGA native resolution, 4 500 ANSI lumens and white and Colour Light Output (CLO). It also has wireless connection, and EasyMP Network functions for online monitoring. The quality of the image caters for spreadsheets and data, allowing audiences to see everything as it is displayed on a widescreen computer as this format offers 30% more pixels than XGA. Barco’s LDX-55 Featuring LED backlit LCD technology, the LDX-55 boasts a high brightness and durable LED backlight technology and provides an exceptionally thin and space-saving design. Available in native full high definition (1920 x 1080 pixels), the LDX-55 is a high-quality display for long-term usage. The LDX-55 combines the typical benefits of liquid crystal technology (such as low maintenance costs) with energy-efficient LED backlights, reducing image burn-in and colorations, which makes it suited for long-term usage. The wide viewing angle (178°) and large surface are very beneficial in collaborative environments where detailed information is viewed by multiple participants.

 

The LDX-55 is based on Edge LED technology, meaning that the LEDs are positioned around the outer rim of the screen which provides the LDX-55 with a thin and space-saving design. The display has been designed for easy installation of high-quality standalone applications or as a complementary visualisation solution in modern control rooms. The screen shows large amounts of data in accurate and highquality images. Any input source can be shown pixel-on-pixel, which avoids unnecessary scaling artifacts often found on lower-resolution displays. Combined with the displays’ non-glossy professional LCD panel and anti-image retention functionality, the LDX-55 delivers bright and crisp images that do full justice to high-resolution graphics and video. Distributed by www.questekadvanced.co.za

 

PVision DID Range The PVision DID (Digital Information Display) LCD ranges of product offer commercial connectivity with high-impact picture quality. Display management is made easy with RS232C* control and incorporate measures to protect the display controls in a public environment, e.g no buttons on the bezel. The DID range of Video monitors features: • Matte black steel cabinet • Built-in video wall capability up to 12 x 12 • Daisy chain via composite • Timer ON/OFF Control • DVI-D; HDMI; VGA; RGB-HV; Composite; Audio In/Out Available in Sizes: 32”, 40”, 42”, 46”, 55”, 65”, 70” and 82.

 

By Geny Caloisi

 

First published on: Pro Systems News

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