NOTE: For three days in November Your Humble Content Marketing Manager at CEDIA (NOT pictured above) attended the training session called “Basic Boot Camp” at the association’s HQ in Indianapolis. Here’s a summation of Day One. (Day Two can found here, Day Three here.)
The class is a pretty diverse group: in addition to some gents jumping from construction to low-voltage installations, our number includes a woman who serves as an accountant for an integration firm in LA, a locksmith who’d like more knowledge about smart systems, and a homeowner who’s bringing his 6,000-square-foot home into 2016 (and finding out if working in the CEDIA channel will be his next venture).
The instructor, Ken Erdmann, has been at this game since the ‘70s. He’s got a background in electrical engineering, and after years spent running a firm from behind a desk, he determined that working in the field was where he found the most satisfaction. Erdmann’s a one-man operation now, specializing in retrofits. The new construction game is the “holy grail” for most, says Erdmann, but a retrofit specialist can nearly name his price — it’s more challenging, but for Ken, more profitable.
Out of the gate, we’re talking the real fundamentals: stages of construction and some basic electrical concepts. I’m scribbling notes in my EST101 Participant Guide. 9 a.m.
The course book fixes an average time for pre-wire and rough-in (proper measurement, nailing up boxes, and so on) of one to three days. Erdmann claims that’s optimistic: he’s had one custom build — a 77,000-square-foot home — that took 90 days to pre-wire. 9:30 a.m.
Ken reveals that one of his profs at BYU was Harvey Fletcher, part of the team that built the charts known as the “Fletcher-Munson Curves
.” Fletcher and Munson were the guys who first understood how the human ear perceives sound at different volumes — info that informed everything from the first appearance of that “loudness” button on your old two-channel receiver to Fletcher’s contributions at Bell labs in the development of what we call “stereo” itself. 10 a.m.
Note from Ken: SHEETROCK DUST IS THE ENEMY OF DISPLAYS. That’s why you hang ‘em last. That stuff sticks to the screen forever. 11 a.m.
Erdmann has made a habit of documenting and photographing everything — and he’s at a point where he can charge for archiving. If you’re taking up space in his file cabinets, he’s charging rent! OK, that’s a gross oversimplification — but if a client needs that information later, Ken’s got it. 12 Noon
The discussion over lunch (provided by CEDIA as part of the class — thanks, folks!) includes a chat about subsonic systems and how they can be used in wartime to disorient the enemy. Super-low frequencies at the right volumes can make humans physically ill. Yep, that’s lunchtime small talk at CEDIA.
We’re talking cables. UTP, coaxial, fiber-optic, HDMI, balanced lines with XLR connectors — Erdmann’s got stories, tips, techniques, name it. 1:30 p.m.
Now we’ve moved into the grand overview of what an integrator does: Taking that cable, scheduling the gear and the lines, looking at the plans (whether we’ve designed ‘em or not) and applying all that to the job. (Mind you, these are all new-construction techniques, not the retrofit line-fishing we’ll eventually get to on Day Three.)
Erdmann walks us through a brief overview of control and security systems. (NOTE: Wanna blow your client’s mind? GEOFENCING.
You’re driving away from your home — and your smartphone asks if you intended to leave the kitchen light on as you reach a certain distance from said kitchen. Cool, huh?) 2 p.m.
Home theater overview: Erdmann’s got a great story about some knucklehead who bolted a big-screen TV right to the sheetrock. This was shortly followed by a big crash, a TV on the floor with a cute rectangle of drywall attached to it, and a big ol’ hole in the wall where the set had been hung. Thank the rock roadies for developing weight ratios when it comes to hanging gear: 4:1 (as in, weight rating for mount: actual TV set) for static applications, 8:1 for brackets that move. 3 p.m.
Next up: a quick look at different types of rough-in hardware and height requirements for outlets, switches and displays. (Note: Make sure displays are at eye level or just below — looking up at something causes fatigue, which leads to the client saying “I don’t know, I just don’t like it.”) 4 p.m.
OK, finally time to hit the lab. Erdmann seems apologetic. He’s a hands-on guy, but the background info he’s had to deliver is pretty critical. He’s promising less lecture and more physical experience as we progress through the next two days.
We make our way to the CEDIA lab in teams of two. (My lab partner, Jordan from St. Louis, turns out to be a big fan of classic and prog rock. This will make for loud, satisfying audio testing on Day Three.) There are 12 practice rooms, each maybe four feet by eight feet. Two of the four walls and half the ceiling is covered in sheetrock. We check the cable and equipment schedule, mount the hardware, and create tags for where cable will terminate.
Everyone’s happy to finally be working among the two-by-fours, so a good number linger in the lab as quitting time drifts by. A few are even trying to jump ahead. Erdmann discourages getting too far into things, though: Tomorrow, we pull cable.