One thing that I love about my job is getting to go to tons of different control rooms around the country. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the Ugly! I have also heard money and time complaints from everyone no matter if they have good, bad or ugly systems. It is always the same story with the same ingredients. Not enough money, not enough time, and nobody can get the higher-ups to understand.
Most of the time I can usually tell if I am dealing with a high level engineer / a facility that has chosen to work with a quality integrator or the DYI installer. The biggest tell is the level of infrastructure put in place. Good engineers/ integrators know when and how much infrastructure a facility needs, most DYI’s don’t put much, if any infrastructure in at all.
So first, let’s define Infrastructure. Infrastructure is all the stuff you can’t see in a video system (from the audience’s stand point). It’s the behind the scenes gear that makes your system run smooth. It ranges from the cable in the conduits to routers, patch-bays, and terminal gear. It is the gear that is less tangible than stuff like cameras, switchers, and projectors because when you add infrastructure people don’t tend to notice like they would with the added flexibility of a new switcher, the quality of a new camera or the brightness of a new projector. Infrastructure is the un-sung hero of your system, and it is the get out of jail free card with the higher ups because it adds flexibility to your system and allows you to go from “No we Can’t do that” to “Here are our options.”
Whenever you are investing in a new system or even gear in general, always invest in infrastructure too. The best tool for investing in infrastructure is get with a good integrator that really understands how to design a quality system and talk through these 4 topics when designing your system in order to build a good infrastructure.
Flexibility is being able to handle the changing demands of the request coming in, like adding in sources or destinations around a facility or being able to reconfigure a system because of creative elements. You can never really know exactly what request will come up next, all you can do is try and make your system flexible to hopefully be able to say “Yes we can” over “No we can’t.”
There is also flexibility based on operation. Being able to do more with more operators and less with fewer operators. Can you run with 1 person or do you always need 5, and could you expand to 8 if needed? You will never be able to do everything with 1 person that you can do with 5 but there should be some level of production that can be achieved if you need to pull off different size events with different sized crews.
You may only need 1 level of flexibility, or both, or none. Either ways flexibility needs to be a topic when designing your system.
Never design a system solely on “Today” because nobody can anticipate tomorrow’s needs. Hopefully your ministry will grow and the demands will change. Building a system down to a box will only mean it will need to be redone sooner then later. An expandable system will add longevity and decrees the cost of adding things later on. It’s not that things may change, it is that they will.
How important is your facility’s video system? What happens when it fails? (notice I said when). To have true redundancy would mean to have back ups in place when gear fails and or operators fail. Some redundancies involve having secondary devices for back up, some are just procedural, and others are designing and adding gear in a system that keep things going when things go down.
Quality control is not something to take lightly but should be considered based on the end products. Where does quality need to be at: in the auditorium, through the building, sent to other campuses, online, or on TV. What tools need to be in place to monitor/ adjust these things in order to achieve a high quality level? Is it just video, or is it audio and timecode too?
Infrastructure should never be an after thought, in fact it is really where you need to start when building a video system. Good infrastructure shows the big picture of the system and makes sure things are well thought out. Don’t take on the task of building up an infrastructure on your own. Sit down with a trusted integrator and discuss your options on each of these topics to make sure you are building a system that is right for your facility.