Managing projectors and other displays through a facility network is one of the new trends in video and data projection. ‘Networked’ projectors have real benefits within a church environment such as having the ability to control, poll, schedule, receive email event prompts, and deliver content to one or many projectors.
Examples of the use of networked control are pretty obvious – imagine you are responsible for your church’s AV and IT gear on a volunteer basis and you are working your day job across town. Vacation Bible school is taking place at your church and a school volunteer is trying to use the projector you just had installed. He or she cannot get a video up on the screen and you are called. What do you do?
1. Drive across town only to find the projector is not switched to the proper input.
2. Sitting at you desk, you turn to your computer, activate your web browser, click on your bookmark ‘Church Sanctuary Projector,’ see what the status of the projector is, switch to the video input, and confirm with your volunteer school director that all is ‘ok.’
Using a networked projector gives the church many benefits of a full multimedia control system without the cost of equipment and programming. Most churches have many potential users (like that volunteer Vacation Bible
school supervisor) of audio video equipment, and few people who really know and understand the gear.
In addition, the distance between where the projector is mounted and the computer or video source is often beyond the range of the typical IR remote control. Few Ministers or other presenters enjoy waving an IR Remote around from the pulpit trying to get that projector way up in the air to turn on or switch from hymn lyrics to sermon notes. With a networked projector, any computer on the network – including the one sending hymn lyrics or PowerPoint presentations, can control the projector— even turn it on or off or switch input sources. This eliminates the need for IR repeaters, special wired remote control devices, or waving arms at the front of the sanctuary.
Determining when a projector needs maintenance has always been an issue in the church environment. Since projectors are frequently mounted high off the ceiling, it is not easy to pull a filter or determine how many hours are on the projector lamp (getting volunteers to climb up that ladder can also be an issue). With a network enabled projector using a simple interface – typically a web browser – an operator can ‘get inside’ the projector from any computer tied to the network. ‘Getting inside’ the projector means you can poll the display for operating temperatures, filter status, lamp hours, and ‘event’occurances (such as overheating). Monitoring operating temperatures is the surest way to determine when someone really needs to climb up a ladder and clean the filter. If the operating temperatures have risen 7 to 10 degrees over normal, either your air conditioner shut down or it’s time to get the ladder out. Monitoring lamp hours ensures your projector won’t shut down just before the big event where everyone is counting on the projector to be at its best. Projector prices have fallen each year, but operating costs can still be a budget buster as lamp prices have stayed the same for years. Proper maintenance will maximize projector lamp life and keep your costs low.
The networked projector helps determine when and how often you need to clean filters and change the lamps.
Most networked projectors allow email addresses to be set up and then the projector will send emails on specific events. Examples include:
1. If the projector overheats
2. If the signal fails
3. If the power fails
4. If the lamp has reached a set number of hours
5. If the filter needs cleaning
Messages can be sent to a church member responsible for facilities, an AV Contractor who does maintenance for the facility, or both. If the church’s firewall allows access to individual IP addresses, the operator can communicate with the projector anywhere he or she can find internet access.
Some networked projectors can be scheduled to turn themselves on and off by time of day and day of week. You can program the unit to turn on 15 minutes before Sunday services start and shut down at the scheduled close of service. You can schedule multiple on/off times during a day. It is a common problem in churches where a volunteer uses the projector during the week. They may shut down a computer or video player sending content to the projector, but will leave the projector on overnight. Obviously this uses up lamp life. If the church has a ‘hard close’ time, the projector can be programmed to shut down at a specific time each night through the network interface.
Depending on the make and model, some of today’s projectors can also deliver content through network cabling or through wireless networking. Many projectors do a good job with wired or wireless still frame (PowerPoint or hymn lyrics) content delivery through a LAN. Delivering motion video through wired or wireless networks is still in the early stages and it may be well into 2007 before high quality full-frame motion video transmission is a networked projector feature. The time will come when the church can save significant installation costs, as content and control will become wireless and the only wiring necessary will be to get power to the projector.
Almost every projector manufacturer offers some level of network capability in their lineups. Networking may be built in or may be optional with the addition of a card or network ‘box.’ At this point in time each projector manufacturer handles networking differently – some require software drivers and/or licenses. It is a good idea to ask for a demonstration of the network interface and feature package. As with most new technology simplicity is desired. If the vendor or dealer can demonstrate it and show how to configure and use it without a team of engineers present, and the appropriate church group is comfortable with the demonstration, little else is required. It is a good idea to have the vendor or dealer load any needed control software on the computer that will most frequently be used for control, to make sure it works with the projector being demonstrated.
The church needs to have an existing data network that the projector can be wired into, or a ‘peer to peer’ crossover cable can be installed between the projector and the computer that will deliver most of the media to the projector. That computer essentially can become a ‘wired remote control’ for the projector and perform any of the functions listed previously in this article. Most networkable projectors can have a fixed IP address assigned right from the projector itself through the projector user interface.
Once a projector is configured to the church network, the system is very reliable from a management feature standpoint.
In summary, many of today’s projectors have network interfaces and the features can really benefit the typical church application. While ‘networking technology’ may seem a little complex it really isn’t. Take a look at how you use multimedia in your facility and ask your contractor or dealer to show you how networked projection can help your church.