I have been doing a little bit of Consulting and design for a few churches and the theme in my mind has been simple, “This has to last a minimum of 10 years.” It seams simple enough but in reality it has been very difficult. Setting up for 10 years is a challenge; there is a lot to consider especially when I am supposed to recommend how a church spends their money.
You may also recall a post I did a few months back about cost vs. reward. Finding the line between cost vs. reward and adding the task of making sure whatever I recommend will last 10 years has been difficult.
Think back 10 years, the iPod was on it’s first generation, now we have had More iPod generations than I have been able to keep track of, 5 different iPhones, and 3 iPads. HD TV was still new and only a few people had Big screens. Most TV stations were still doing tape to tape linear editing.
Technology has changed FAST! But it is important to realize that the professional market doesn’t change as fast as the consumer market, although it has picked up a lot of speed and new consumer demands are driving the industry, the core elements have not changed, they have only updated.
Studio systems are still fundamentally the same. You have a switcher, cameras, Video playback, CG, terminal gear, routing, and record. Then to make everything work together, you still need to sync everything up using a reference source. These are the same components used to do production 30+ years ago, only things have gotten more compact, better quality, easier to use, and have more options.
When I look 10 years out, I still see us doing production with the same basic components. People have talked about 3D, 2K, 4K ect. But realize that HD is still new. There are TV stations still converting from SD to HD. A few years back 3G (1080p) was the big buzz word, but that is still a ways out from being mainstream. 3D, as cool as it may be, in my opinion is a novelty. I think it will be around but I don’t think it will ever be the standard. And 3D in the live production/ (IMAG) field isn’t realistic, at least not in it’s current state.
So again, Buying gear right now for the next 10 years is doable, but what to choose, how to choose? Obviously the best thing first is to choose gear that will last. Quality broadcast gear should last, consumer and prosumer may last for awhile, but won’t make the distance and I have countless stories to back that up. Be careful when picking gear, Demo, play, and touch. Talk to other people using the products and seek advice from others in the industry and possibly even in different markets.
The other big thing to keep in mind is what are you currently doing at your facility, what do you want to do in you facility, and what is the vision of your facility. There is nothing worse than having to buy all new gear 2 years later because things changed. Add enough flexibility to increase what you are doing and prepare for the future but not too much where you over spend. The idea here is that if you buy gear now, and 2 years later you need to re-work your system, you should only be adding gear, not replacing gear. Switchers, cameras, Terminal gear, Routers should last the distance.
So what should you budget for, what won’t last? You never know for sure, however, if technology has taught us anything, anything that is ran from a computer has a shelf life of around 5 years. Hard drives, may need to be replaced, and monitors when used a lot tend to go out. Small converters can also easily go out and I would keep a few extra on hand just in case.
No matter what you choose, take care of it. Blow it out with air often, keep computers clean and limited to a specific purpose (only update software if it is needed) and try to keep them to a single purpose. Use power conditioners, and redundant power supplies. Keep your control rooms at a controlled temperature (This is a gear killer!) and know how each piece of gear allows for air flow to stay cool and place in racks accordingly.
I have been to enough facilities lately to see dated gear still working great. Smart Engineers and professionals alike have found ways to keep the gear they invested in up and running for 10 – 20 years. This needs to be our Goal! People have been doing this in the past and we can continue to do this in the future. Invest well and plan for long term.