NOTE: For three days in March, Your Humble Content Marketing Manager at CEDIA® attended the training session called “Home Theater Boot Camp” at the association’s HQ in Indianapolis. Below is a summation of Day One. (You can find Day Two here
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The group settles in, and it’s geographically diverse: a woman from Texas, a gent from Georgia, two co-workers from California, and a tech from Florida.
After setting the table as far as agendas and safety, instructor Ken Erdmann notes that calibration of these video-and-audio systems is often done within the homeowner’s earshot. This calls for a monitoring of language during troubleshooting that’s likely more stringent than in the building phase. “If you get frustrated and call something a ‘P.O.S.,’ the client’s going to wonder why you’re installing it in the first place.”
Erdmann tells the group that proper calibration of even an inexpensive TV will set an integrator apart from his competitors, especially the “hangers and bangers.” Most displays are set up at the factory to look good in a big-box stores under screaming fluorescent lights. 8:30 a.m.
We’re deep into audio signals, learning about balanced vs. unbalanced lines. A big reason consumer-grade receivers don’t have inputs capable of handling XLR connectors like you’d find on a microphone cable? Real estate — those things chew up space. 9 a.m.
Understanding digital versus analog is key. We’re digging into sampling rates, and the concepts here are deceptively simple. More samples per second means a signal that comes ever closer to mimicking the curve of a sound wave. According to the man who founded Wisdom Audio, says Erdmann, “The ultimate digital signal is analog” — a sampling rate so quick the human ear can’t tell a waveform’s been digitized. 9:30 a.m.
Erdmann shares the story of his first 3D-audio installation into his own home: His wife saw the new receiver and freshly cut holes in the ceiling and asked, “Now what?” We’re into a bit of personal preference, here: Erdmann is diagramming preferred speaker placement for immersive audio: two overhead speakers just behind, two in front of the seating. As far as subwoofers, Erdmann keeps them out of the corners and notes he likes smaller subs in larger quantities than some integrators. 10 a.m.
We’re talking about the challenges of installing new systems that need hookups with “legacy equipment” — and some of that “legacy equipment” is actually new. “I must’ve had 15 or 16 jobs that included turntables last year — haven’t seen that many in a decade,” says Ken.
Know those pins on that HDMI cabling: Remember, two key pins are shorter, and sometimes troubleshooting is as simple as a wiggle.
Amplifier power: it’s not as simple as the stats on the box. Good amps tell you about their RMS power per channel as opposed to one “big” number that powers everything. 10:30 a.m.
Day Three, we’re told, will include a visit from Jeff Gardner, Executive Director of ESPA and a past CEDIA trainer, to talk specifically about loudspeakers. In the meantime, Erdmann notes he saw KISS in 1975 — and the 117 dB level they hit rendered him deaf for about two days.
“Video signals can be divided into two categories:
Analog/NTSC — National Television Standards Committee
Digital/ATSC — Advanced Television Standards Committee
And NTSC also stands for ‘Never Twice the Same Color.’”
Learning the ins-and-outs of all the alphabet soup now: HDMI, HDCP, and how a firmware update managed to screw up HDBaseT connections. (HDBaseT, for the uninitiated, is a great way to extend an HDMI signal.) 12:45 p.m.
Know those pins on that HDMI cabling: Remember, two key pins are shorter, and sometimes troubleshooting is as simple as a wiggle. 1:00 p.m.
Now we’ve moved to projectors: How does one get a Cinemascope image with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 onto a piece of 35 mm film that has a natural ratio of 1:33.1? Easy: compress the image while you’re shooting it, then expand it when it’s run through a projector with a nifty device called an anamorphic lens.
The rack-building portion of our day is now in full swing. We’re given the coolest tape measure I’ve seen in a while, one that denotes spaces for gear in a rack. I’m paired up with Jeremy, a newly-minted integrator who hails from a small town in Georgia. We’re mapping where the dummy gear, blanks, and cabling will go. 2:00 p.m.
Our fan is at the top, the heavy stuff is locked in at the bottom, and the DVD and Blu-ray players are in a place that’s sure to be comfortable for the user — but somehow we’ve mistaken a pop-out lighting deck for a secondary power distribution unit. No biggie — the light still winds up above the disc players. 4:00 p.m.
Our cables look decent — power on one side, signals on the other, bundled with Velcro straps (plastic ties can crush those cables) — but the guys from California? Their rack looks ready for entry in the CEDIA Awards.
Tomorrow we’ll hang both a flat-panel 4K OLED TV — and a projector worth roughly $10 grand. Nervous? Me?
Stay tuned for Days Two and Three. Interested in CEDIA's Boot Camps? Here's info.