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How to choose the best Audio-Visual Design and Build Integration company

All AV companies are not created the same. Selecting the right Audio-Visual Design & Build Firm will be one of the most important decisions you and your team will make. And while it may seem challenging, it doesn’t need to be that way. Not anymore. The need for Audio Visual technology has grown to become one of the most important disciplines within the commercial, healthcare and higher education industries. How important is AV to you and your organization? The answer can be found by determining how much distress your organization has when PowerPoints don’t display correctly on the Samsung 4K LED, when people can’t be heard on a Cisco SX80 video or audio call or when users call to say “…Crestron is not working” and I need someone here “NOW”. Odds are your organization uses technology everywhere, has a younger and dispersed work force comprised of employees and 3rd parties, requires agility, communication across many time zones and platforms including, Skype for Business, On-Premises, Cloud, mobile, PC, rooms etc. Security, once the responsibility of a 3rd party vendor who provided a uniformed presence at the perimeter, has felt its effects to every device and RJ45 jack in the organization. If you are still reading, you and your organization are one of the many organizations who have concluded that to be effective and competitive you need a coherent Audio-Visual technology strategy and partner to help you to implement that strategy. Step 2, How do you find the best team to bring the most value to your strategy and your projects? There are many considerations to take into account, some of them incredibly hard to pinpoint, all with the goal of clearing the fog. Thankfully, we have outlined some best practices you can use to identify the right team & fit that will suit your company’s and project needs. Team Expertise and Knowledge A firm is as good as its team. This is even more true for the Audio-Visual Industry where the technological envelope is constantly being pushed to new limits of: More, Faster, Cheaper, Now. Deep Knowledge is the ability to gain a variety of information on a variety of topics, or going in deep on a certain subject or topic. Used commonly in the study of the universe, its definition applies directly the Audio-Visual Industry. An expert Audio-Visual Engineering team includes individuals with the knowledge of audio and video signal flow and now requires the added deep knowledge of systems, equipment, networking and security, previously only found in the best firms of the IT world. (Think Cisco) Knowledge is basis of a strong team; finding a team that disseminates the unnecessary from the business critical, as it applies to your strategy, is essential to clearing the fog. Professional Audio-Visual systems strategy teams require the ability to continue to gather knowledge in multiple areas, organize that knowledge to allow for it to be distributed to the relevant team members through the company’s internal best practice and process to educate and promote individuals into leadership positions that promote more knowledge transfer. Work with a team that is a deep as it is wide, in knowledge and understanding. Best practice includes, best hire practices, best employee retainage practices and best training practices and understanding ideas that challenge the status quo. If the AV Company staff is thoroughly vetted, reliable and possesses a long-standing reputation of integrity in the industry, then that company is certainly the one to focus on. Technical certifications are important. The Audio-Visual Company that is either a direct dealer or approved distributor means the Audio-Visual company’s staff has most likely already met each manufactures criterion to represent their brand & therefore may help you identify which one is better for you. Certifications help an AV Company provide long term value, on-time delivery, quality installations in addition to a solid career path for their employees. Here are a few certifications from the leading manufactures of Audio-Visual Components and industry associations to look for: AVIXA: (formerly InfoComm International): CTS, CTS-D, CTS-I Creston: DMC-E-4K, DMC-T-4K, DMC-S, CTI-P-101, CTI-P-201, CTI-P-301, CTI-FUSION-P, CTI-CSD, DM-NVX Extron: Extron Control Professional, Extron Control Specialist, Extron XTP Systems Design Engineer, Extron XTP Systems Technician BiAmp: Tesira SERVER/SERVER I-O, TesiraFORTÉ, TesiraLUX, Vocia, VoIP, Audia for Technicians QSC: Q-SYS Level 1, Q-SYS Level 2 Cisco: CCNA Collaboration, CCNP Collaboration Reputation Reputation is important. It is also the right way to see whether a company’s style, approach, ethics and philosophy is a good fit for you and your team. Read the reviews, talk with people that worked with the companies previously and, if possible, visit the sites of their completed projects and ask questions. If they are established in the industry, they should be proud to show off their work, providing the confidence to move to the next step. Technical Compatibility, Interdependency and Operability Many companies rely on “cookie-cutter” templates, that lack additional knowledge needed to provide a comprehensive solution. Cookie cutter will not pass the bar for the modern AV / IT systems which is integrated at many levels of the organization. In the Audio-Visual industry, Compatibility, Interdependency and Operability include the Electronics and Infrastructure, Solutions within the installed space, legacy systems and user groups. Every piece of equipment doesn’t work in every application. Every application is not correct for every organization. Knowing what works and what doesn’t in unique circumstances is obviously critical and now is added to the Audio Visual / Unified Communication discipline. It’s a higher bar that many unqualified integrators can’t reach. Examples of this higher criterion are everywhere. (1) the impact to the network when audio and video is distributed over segments of the infrastructure. (Dante and AES67 requires a higher level and degree of compatibility between devices, switches, and clients’ infrastructure). (2) Securing devices and the individual users to what can be shared on the Unified Communications platform. Deploying a robust SSH layer has become increasingly important and should not be overlooked in an AV system. Room and Space Compatibility This is where AV has an opportunity to work with the architects and designers. Simply said, after the equipment has been pre-confirmed for the application, then the AV Designer and AV Engineer must work to make sure that the actual equipment is compatible in the room, space and furniture. Sure the rack will “fit in the credenza” but does the Shure MXA910 Ceiling Array fit into the optimal position of the Reflected Ceiling Plan? Is there a HVAC vent effecting the performance of the microphone? Is credenza properly ventilated for the rack components? Will the microphones that are being drilled into the table be obstructed by the doors on the cable cubbies? These are few of the questions that require the attention of a qualified Audio-Visual Engineer and Project team. Most importantly, as it relates to compatibility, is the proposed solution compatible for the actual end-user of the space? If the Audio-Visual team has taken the time to ask the right questions of the user community, they will find out if there is a preference for wireless lavalier or wired microphones, room schedulers to keep the peace, a white board solution that is able to record the presentation and so on. Compatibility is important! Process – Process- Process - Final Deliverables and the Closeout Process Is there a documented process throughout the delivery of the system? How well does the AV company provide and respond to the multiple RFI’s and RFQ’s that are common across many departments (Facilities, IT, Security, Executive Committee, etc.) in the Audio-Visual Industry? How is the final deliverable shared & what is included in the “Final Deliverable Submittal”? Are the Final Deliverables provided on a CD AND huge binder, (still a common practice) or has the AV company employed the best practices of using a shared a portal which remains transparent throughout the project and final delivery process? Is the closeout process straightforward and process driven providing meaningful information or is it a document dump (also an all too common practice)? Does the AV company provide a serialized equipment list with MAC addresses, complete sets of as-built drawings & editable programming and DSP code? It is obvious that the answer should be resounding YES! Don’t let your End-Game process of the project close out be marginalized. A great End-of Project system is a terrific indicator that your post installation service experience will be as well. Pricing and Warranty Everything come down to price. No revelation there. However, Best & Final may not always reflect all the criteria of a thoughtful and thorough selection process. And while staff expertise, compatibility, pricing, certifications and a long-term partner relationship take longer to asses on the front end, an informed decision maker and team will make better decisions with higher successes every time. The AV firm that possess the qualities outlined below is an asset especially when considering the alternatives of using an unqualified firm without the knowledge and expertise to design, deliver and support your Audio-Visual Systems and Environments. Warranty, while secondary to many, is another important part to consider. While each manufacturer warranty on the hardware may vary (Crestron 3 – 5 years depending on vertical), the AV Company Warranty on the system, the wiring, the programming, the operation and usability, reflects how confident they are in their staff workmanship & the overall finished product. Service Service Service We have saved the best for last. It all comes down to service. It’s as true for Audio Visual as it is for any project you’re planning to undertake. If the team you are assembling is unresponsive, unprepared or otherwise incapable of resolving the issues at hand for lack or attention then that is the experience you will remember. Proving a positive exemplary service experience in a modern commercial Audio Visual unified communication environment is truly a team effort.

Securing the AV Network and System

This is a good news blog, not a cautionary tale. For many years the AV community has been focused on ease of use, user experience, schedules, lower cost, and touch panel layouts as a function of construction and delivery. With this approach the industry has delivered some extraordinary results that surround us every day. Our dreams realized, we now have Silicon Core Video Walls that change from Art Scene to Interconnected Executive Boardroom with Cisco SX80 Speaker Track Systems, Shure Dante enabled MXA 912 celling array microphones, Wireless Mersive Solstice Pod Inputs and Controlled by a Crestron DMPS3-4K with only a Fusion Scheduling Interface and Occupancy Sensor; No visible wires and seamless user experience. Along with the experience comes the pre-eminent AV service model of a 1-year warranty period, that still spells out specifically, bi-annual cleaning the filters on the Digital Projection E-Vision 4500 data projector and more vaguely describes the AV enabled network equipment that should be focused on. The DM-NVX-350 DigitalMedia™ 4K60 4:4:4 HDR Network AV Encoder/Decoder, with 10/27/2017 Firmware - DM-NVX-350_DM-NVX-351_DM-NVX-350C_DM-NVX-351C ver.1.3450.00029 is just another black box and not necessarily as a place for continual attention. So, while the future seems to have arrived as expected, it has brought with it a host of vulnerabilities that require attention not inherently part of the AV mindset. I’m talking about the dreaded Network Security. CAPTUS was founded for just this very moment in time. Good News. Many of the newest products and firmware releases from Crestron, SVSI, Extron, Altona, AMX and others have addressed vulnerabilities in previous releases and products that interact on the network. A prime example of this is the Crestron DigitalMedia NVX that uses the SSH protocol vs Telnet protocol. This added layer of security provides encryption to devices and “boxes” with RJ45 jacks that were under the radar and not considered a problem for many years. And while this is an excellent start it means that there are still potentially thousands of open doors that may be visible to the outside world keeping many CSO, CIO and CTO up through the night. Many, but not all, of the larger enterprise clients have taken the necessary steps to ensure a solid defense to an omnipresent threat but the AV Industry has been slower than the IT community to adopt the new higher-level standards for securing the network. But make no mistake, the risk is real to everyone and it demands immediate action. Especially at risk is the Small and Mid-size business who may have a higher percentage of legacy vulnerable products and may have more limited resources. This risk extends to satellite offices of the larger enterprise where the AV procurement may be handled by an office manager or facility person who may not have the support or skills to implement the proper security protocol yet has been doing the AV for years. Thankfully this too is changing and CAPTUS is here to deliver by extending the warranty period and providing a qualified partner for the long term. Our team of qualified, certified network AV specialists are distinguished by their knowledge and adherence to the CAPTUS process which means nothing falls through the cracks.

Increase Worker Productivity with Sound Masking

It’s about 10:45am on Monday… and it begins. “What’s for lunch…? Did that email really go to spam? What’s the dial-in for the 11 o’clock call? Why is it so hot on this side of the office and so cold by Reception” Just another day at the office… and all these comments OVER the slurping coffee drinker, the phlegmy sneezer and clashing Pandora’s because really who can agree on anything besides Christmas music. Distractions, distractions, and yes - more distractions! Who thought an open office floorplan with cement floors was a good idea in the first place? I guess from a collaborative viewpoint - bringing down walls to make people talk to promote teamwork and nurture innovation – yeah maybe. But is it really paying off? Many recent studies show that all of these daily distractions lead to lack of focus + unhappy workers = lack of productivity! Per the Journal of Environmental Psychology - "benefits of enhanced interaction didn't offset disadvantages in open-plan offices." Another by the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management - suggests this type of floor plan produces an increase in noise, conflict, stress, and turnover. Additionally, a 2008 Basex study estimated that distractions cost businesses $587 billion. Unwanted noise is a problem that corporate America is dealing with every day. It may dramatically effect productivity having an oversized effect on today’s Information Workers; earbuds in or not. Noise interruptions heard during deep thinking and complex work means that the workers will be out of sync for longer periods of time. Studies have shown that work places with multiple or regular interruptions are most likely to have long-term negative effects on performance, productivity and mood with an overall effect on the entire team. Ok – so there we go… Now what do we do? The answer may be found in the way we design the modern work space taking into account of Sound Management. Aka Noise Control. CAPTUS Solutions: Our AV / IT communities impact is limited to the one which is most successful; sound masking. Sound masking experts are usually brought into the process after certain design elements are set in stone. While the design community recommends several strategies for speech privacy, CAPTUS focuses our expertise on the technology used for non-intrusive speech privacy known as Sound Masking. As per the Cambridge Sound Management website: “Sound masking is the process of adding background sound to reduce noise distractions, protect speech privacy and increase office comfort.” “Sound masking is specifically engineered to match the frequencies of human speech and to sound comfortable, even pleasant, to the human ear. When implemented properly, sound masking should just fade into the background “hum” of a workplace while simultaneously making (ambient) speech more difficult to hear and understand.” Sound Masking is a cost-effective way to provide an increased level of worker focus, reduce distractions, reduce stress & overall provide an increase in productivity. Sound Masking has been around for over 40 years, and is already widely used in Fortune 500 companies, smaller businesses, healthcare & government institutions – modern sound masking systems are in increased demand due to this open floorplan craze. Ironically, adding sound to a space does make the space seem quieter. It’s true – believe me. In conclusion, while being in the loop on EVERYTHING that happens in an office certainly may fulfill your curiosity, there’s work to be done. Please contact Captus System today for a free quote on a Sound Masking solution.

Audio Visual Engineering – A Unique Specialty
Audio Visual Engineering – A Unique Specialty

CAPTUS Design Process (CDP) - Audio Visual Engineering – A Unique Specialty CAPTUS was founded for just this very moment in time. CAPTUS believes improving client expectation, and construction team expectation begins with better process, better communication and technical tools. CAPTUS approaches AV projects from an IT core. AV is IT. AV and IT rely on the market to inform direction and advancement. Very few people understand this very simple statement the way that CAPTUS does. The CAPTUS Design Process and Team removes the tunnel-vision and replaces it with better communication, detailed coordination and productivity all without adding cost. The CAPTUS Design Process includes best practices and benefits found in the IT model of ITIL The ITIL process provides discipline, clarification and prioritization of the investments in the services used to deliver the systems being demanded by the business. ITIL has been influential in evolving the process of systems delivery architecture within the success of IT. ITIL focuses on helping organizations deploy, improve and develop over time. Sounds great, right? CAPTUS has adopted the processes and best practices within our organization closing the loop and adding oversight rarely seen in the AV world. For years, the “AV standard” has fallen short of meeting the higher expectation across the project spectrum, from IT, Facilities, C-Level, Architects, and the construction community. It is at pivotal times like these (in the construction and technology delivery landscape) that the famous Einstein quote is again applicable: “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” CAPTUS does not believe that cookie-cutter standards are going to solve the problems we face today or tomorrow. Frankly, we believe that cookie-cutter standards should only be applied to cookies. This is why the CAPTUS approach is: Start - Review – Modify – Test - Implement - Repeat Welcome to AV 2.0 At CAPTUS we are delivering that new kind of thinking. What will the future look like? The systems we deliver today need to meet expectation, deliver value today, tomorrow and for years to come. While 2017 was a wildly successful year for CAPTUS and the industry as a whole, we find that the vast majority of systems delivered in 2017 look far too similar to what was delivered 15 years ago. Yes. The NEC display is larger, the resolution is 4K or higher, the Crestron touch panel is sleeker, the Middle Atlantic rack is smaller, the Cisco and Polycom codec is faster and enabled with more features, the AMX interface is standardized, the Skype for Business (SFB) is on every desktop and Smart device, but the physical rooms, table interfaces and more importantly, how we engage with the systems still looks and feels the same. And that’s just the rooms. In many cases the specifications are submitted with the a 10+ year old boilerplate. Rhetorical Question: Is this what we want the rooms to look like? Do we demand change? Do we want systems to look different in 10 years? Do we want the delivery and operational processes to evolve with the users? Do we want more accountability? And Lower Cost? If so, then the CAPTUS approach to deliver the new “thinking” is timely. CAPTUS is learning from our engagement with the design community, and business leaders to deliver the next wave of innovation at this very moment in time.

New website launched

We are pleased to announce that our new website is live and ready for the world to view. We have completely redesigned our layout with simplicity, ease of use, and accessibility in mind. It will be a tool for both fulfilling our customers and helping us provide better resources to our customers. This new website will keep pace with our rapidly growing company by rolling out new content, latest innovations, and other initiatives in the coming months.This includes updating our products offering and providing better information to our customers, and integrating more with social media. We hope you enjoy the new website. Please feel free to send us comments or feedback. On behalf of all the Captus Systems's staff, thanks for visiting.

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