Spotted at InfoComm 16: Video Walls!

Last week, some of the CCI Solutions team got to spend the week on the surface of the sun—also known as Las Vegas—checking out this year’s InfoComm show. Since we’re not really doing video coverage of the shows any more (too many others doing it, too much work, not enough time…), I thought I’d share with you some of the stuff we saw that was notable. 

Collaboration and Connection

This year, it seemed the themes were getting connected. Quite a few vendors were showing control systems and ways to integrate audio, video, data and control all in a single network. Some of it was quite cool, actually, but as it has limited value for a live production, we didn’t spend much time there. However, if you have multiple campuses with staff spread out all over the place and want ways to bring everyone together into the same virtual room, know that it’s getting easier and cheaper.

4K Everywhere

Like at NAB, 4K resolution is everywhere. We saw a number of 4K video walls from Absen, Leyard and Sony; more than a few projectors; and tons of displays from just about everyone. There are more 4K cameras and ways to process the content every show as well. However, none of us feel 4K IMAG is something anyone really needs—or wants to pay for—so we won’t spend much time there, either. Now we can see some use cases for 4K acquisition, as you can zoom in and pan around a shot if you just can’t be bothered to frame the shot correctly in the first place (sorry, old guy cynicism coming through there). But overall, a lot of people I talked with at the show think 4K is an answer to a question no one is asking, at least for our world. Cinema, now that’s a different kettle of fish. 

The viewing angle of the N2 is pretty amazing.

The viewing angle of the N2 is pretty amazing.

Absen N-series Video Walls

We saw these at NAB, but I haven’t written them up until now. Absen has introduced a new series of wall-mounted video walls known as the N series. There is an N2, N3, N4 and N5. These new walls are lightweight, easy to install and have some really cool features such as wireless monitoring for faults and problems. How would you like to get an email before a power module goes out? We really like these. Like all video walls, the number designation doesn’t exactly equal the dot pitch, but these are closer than most. The N2 is 2.4mm, N3 is 3.2mm, the N4 is actually a spot-on 4mm, and the N5 comes in at 5.14mm. This is much closer than some of the other walls called 3 mil that are 3.9. Most of us would call a 3.9mm dot pitch 4, but marketing people gotta market. The N-series also has an impressive 160° viewing angle, and it’s actually true. We stood right next to it and had no trouble reading the text. The cost is also quite aggressive. Walls have been coming down lately, and we’re now telling people that if you’re looking for a screen over 14’ or so wide or a projector above about 14K lumens, you should at least look at a video wall.

Elite Core

Leaders Need to be Consistent

As a technical leader, you have many responsibilities. In addition to making sure all the technical aspects of the service are in order, you are also responsible for leading your team. And chances are, there is someone responsible for leading you. In all of that leadership, there is something that is often overlooked, but very critical—consistency. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I have worked for leaders who are fair and consistent, and it was a very enjoyable experience. I’ve also worked with leaders who are all over the map, and that’s a whole lot less fun. 

Some time ago, I pulled a quote from a book written by Lazlo Bock a Sr. VP at Google.  The book is Work Rules!. This quote has stuck with me, and it seems fitting to reprint it here:

“It’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.”

The Perils of Inconsistency

Many churches have volunteers who serve once a month. As they are not there every week, it’s very important for them that the system and expectations are consistent. One of the most frustrating things for a volunteer is to have a different target to hit every time they serve. One week moving lights around is great! The next time, don’t move the lights! Loud is good! No it’s not! 

You can imagine how difficult it would be to try to volunteer under those circumstances. In fact, it may be one reason why some churches have a problem keeping volunteers for the long run. Now, it’s unlikely that anyone would ever tell you that it’s due to a tremendous lack of consistency in leadership that they are leaving the tech team, but think about it? Could that really be a reason?

The Box of Freedom

We had such a problem at my former church a while back. I’ve written about this before, but it fits here nicely. Our lighting guys were frustrated because it seemed like every week they were being told something was wrong. And it could be that something that they didn’t hear anything about last week was a problem this week. This was coming from people above me, so I took radical action. 

I got my boss and our whole lighting team in the room and we talked about lighting. We talked about the goals, desires and purposes for lighting during worship. We collectively created what we called the Box of Freedom. As in the Bock quote above, we gave them a set of parameters to operate within. As long as they stayed in the box, they could do whatever they wanted. This took away a ton of stress from our lighting guys and from me. 

Protect the Box

I will say I occasionally had to step in and protect the box. Sometimes, the guys would do something that was out near the edge of the box, and I’d hear some pushback from people above me. I had to remind them that we were still inside the box, and it was OK. If they didn’t like that, we need to change the box. But if we’re not going to change the box, the look stays. Every time, the leader backed down. 

We need to be consistent with our teams. They may not tell you they need it, but they do. They are not in the mix of all the conversations and discussions and debates that happen on a church staff all week long. They don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes—though they are behind the scenes. We as technical leaders have to everything in our power to create a consistent world for them. If you do, I can almost promise you your volunteer retention will go up.

Elite Core