MicDrop Disposable Microphone Drops

This is one of the more interesting audio advances in quite a while.  It was posted today in ProSound News.

New York, NY (April 1, 2016)—As we face a cultural epidemic oMicDropf broken microphones tossed aside by everyone from music artists to politicians, a new boutique pro audio company, MicDrop, has been formed with the specific mission of catering to both performers who want the last word and sound engineers who are sick of having to fix broken gear after a show. The first product—the MD DM MicDrop Disposable Microphone—drops today.

According to company president Sam Juan Imadeup, “The ‘Mic Drop’ is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘An instance of deliberately dropping or tossing aside one’s microphone at the end of a performance or speech one considers to have been particularly impressive.’

“While that sounds exciting, in practice, the mic drop has led to endless headaches for live sound pros who have to pick up the pieces—sometimes literally—after a performance. Our new product circumvents that issue completely by blowing up upon contact with the floor.”

Product development for the MD DM was arduous, he said: “Originally we wanted to make a microphone with a grille made out of rubber, which turned out to be the wrong direction to go in. We blew half our R&D budget on sourcing materials—our entire team was down at the supermarket dropping coins into the gum machines, trying to get one of those really big superballs, ‘cause we were gonna hollow it out for the grille. When we finally did it, we found that surprisingly a rubber grille deadened the sound. More importantly, during real-world testing, we discovered the mic would often bounce back up and smack the performer right in the face. We knew that would be really popular with engineers, but beta testers reported that made it harder for them to get paid after the show, so we were back to square one.”

Eventually, after watching Mission: Impossible on late-night cable, the company was inspired to create a microphone that would self-destruct instead: “This configuration means the sound engineer doesn’t have to deal with dented or broken mics after a performance, because there simply isn’t anything left to fix,” said Imadeup. “As a bonus, the explosion adds a nice emphasis to the performer’s final comment. You might not want to be in the first three rows, though.”

The company is currently taking orders for the first batch of MD DMs, but warns that early adopters will have to wait a while for delivery, as the finalized working prototype was knocked off a lab bench by the office cat and is now a smoldering pile of ash.

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I Saw the Light: Evangelizing Digital Signage

digital signage infographic3“I saw the light, I saw the light
No more darkness, no more night

Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light” words/music by Hank Williams

Thirteen years ago I saw the light and was instantly converted. The light did not descend down from heaven accompanied by a chorus of angels. It was a shining light that hung on a wall. A digital display.

When I first read about digital displays being used as signage… I saw dollar signs.  Ohhhh mmmyyyy godddd.  What an opportunity for the audiovisual industry.   

Since my 2003 epiphany digital signage has exploded. Originally thought of as an advertising vehicle, DS usage has grown far beyond that and is found everywhere; restaurant menus, transit stops, college campuses, supermarkets, elevators…   Even my neighborhood teriyaki joint has a display hanging on the wall

According to a report released last month by Markets and Markets, the global digital signage market was valued at $14.63 Billion in 2014 and is expected to reach $23.76 Billion by 2020.  That is 16% of the $92 billion Infocomm says is generated by the Audiovisual industry.

While some integrators see the light, many others are hesitant to pursue DS.

  • If you are an AV integrator and not installing DS systems. Why not?
  • If you are an Av integrator and not providing content management Why not?
  • If you are an AV integrator and not creating content Why not?

The appeal of DS is what every integrator searches for, the Holy Grail of AV, recurring revenue.  The real money is generated not by hanging a bunch of displays but creating and managing the content.  That is exactly what keeps many companies from making the commitment.  Digital Signage requires combining multiple disciplines.  Beyond the design and installation DS usually requires video production, graphic design and IT networking, disciplines foreign to the average AV Dweeb.  Combine that with the natural reluctance of many entrepreneurs to avoid risk.       

So think outside the display. If you lack the talent, hire more staff.  If you lack the capital to hire staff, partner with other companies. 

If you make the commitment, do the research, work hard, work smart, you will be singing the praises of Digital Signage.  If you hesitate, you are likely to end up like four of my former employers that failed to adapt to market change. Out of business.


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The Collaborative Office – Back to the Future

Don’t we all covetdraper office Don Draper’s office; from the Danish Modern furniture to the liquor cabinet, always stocked with Canadian Club? Ahhh… the opulent lifestyle of a Madison Avenue Advertising Executive.   open office copy
If Don was Creative Director at Sterling Cooper today, imagine how decadently lavish his office would be.  Actually it will probably look something like the photo on the left.  No private secretary.  His desk just one of many in a large room.

Today architects design open-space-offices.  Architects sing the mantra that Mellennials want their offices to be as open and easy to operate as mobile devises.  Corporate bosses declare open-space-offices stimulate collaboration and therefore productivity.  The reality is it saves money.  Lease space is not cheap.  Since 1970 space allotted to each employee shrank from 500 square feet 200 square feet.

Audiovisual trade magazines are filled with stories cautioning if an integrator is not providing huddle and collaboration solutions it is destined for extinction. And there may be some truth to that. So AV manufacturersd and integrators are responding to the needs of these modern workspaces

But there are skeptics, mainly human behavior scientists, questioning the validity of the open space. Even some architects are raising eyebrows over claims of enhanced productivity.  Studies show that open-plan offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted. They’re also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, stress, the flu and exhaustion. And people whose work is interrupted make 50 percent more mistakes and take twice as long to finish it.

Architect giant Gensler commissioned extensive research to explore the affect of open spaces on productivity. The Gensler study, Focus on the Workplace,  found productivity is enhanced by four factors; collaboration, focus, learning and socializing. With such a strong emphasis on collaboration, the other factors are being ignored.  The most significant factor in workplace effectiveness is not collaboration, it’s individual focus work; the ability of a worker to focus on the task.  Yet focus is the workplace environment’s least supported activity.   Workplace strategies that sacrifice individual focus in pursuit of collaboration will result in decreased effectiveness for both.   Gensler questions if the move away from individual space has gone too far?

Now some audiovisual pros are questioning  the validity of open offices to spawn productivity.  In the Fall 2015 issue of IT/AV Report, columnist Shonan Noronha asks; Open Spaces: What are your Concerns?” 

Of the seven AV professionals featured, there is only one skeptic.   Designer Joey D’Angelo at Charles M. Salter Associates is very astute.  Joey condemns open space as, “the bane of sanity and productivity.”  I love that line.  Yet he recognizes that open offices, “are still a boon to our industry because they increase the demand for small and medium-sized  presentation rooms.”   Joey goes on to mention a trend I first noticed when my mother-in-law started using Skype.  The days of hardware-based  videoconference codecs are numbered.  If you have Polycom stock… sell it now.

So how does this affect AV?  For smart integrators, this is a great opportunity.  Most people cannot maximize concentration in a noisy environment.  Six people huddled around a display sharing videos and videoconferencing is right next to your desk is noisy. Rather than larger meeting rooms with high functionality, there is a trend for more easy to use smaller rooms.  And there is greater convergence of AV and IT.

Other requirements may be foreign to some integrators; scheduling systems, sound masking, voice commands, cloud-based applications, soft videoconferencing codecs, line array speakers, beam forming microphones, alliances with furniture manufacturers.

It was Picasso, who observed, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” In other words, sometimes you want to be alone, and your workplace should allow for that.

As is always the case, it is basic Darwinism.  The smart AV integrators that can learn and adapt to the changing environment will be the companies that evolve and survive. 

For additional information:

“The Rise of the New Groupthink”  New York Times.  Challenges the current open workplace trend and pointed to the lost benefits of concentration and focus in the workplace because of open plan environments

“Collaborative Workspaces: Not All They’re Cracked Up To Be”    Atlantic Magazine.  Touched on individual workstyles and the need for spaces that meet the needs of the individual worker, whether an introvert, extrovert or somewhere in between.

Best and worst office designs for employees   Washington Post

What’s an Open Office Plan?   Omnirax Furniture

“Monolithic insanity” & other notes on office spaces   The American CEO

Traditional versus Open Office Design: A Longitudinal Field Study    Aoife Brennan, Jasdeep S. Chugh and Theresa Kline     Research in open office design has shown that it is negatively related to workers’ satisfaction with their physical environment and perceived productivity

The Open Office Trap    The New Yorker  An historical look at open offices


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Presto! Instant Video Professional

Digital has changed everything. Cameras and Edit software have become commodities. This inexpensive gear combined with broader distribution via the internet, has changed the very nature of who produces video and how it is distributed.  And this is great.

Or is it?  A friend has years of experience as Producer/Director. Starting off shooting 16mm he now produces high-budget live webcasts. So he’s no Neanderthal. He sarcastically said, “best thing about digital video is anybody can do it  The worst thing about digital video is anybody can do it. 

The same friend asked, “what does it take to be a video producer? Nowadays all you need is a camera, a business card and a website. And you don’t really need the website.” Forget the Communications degree.  Waste of time. Working in the trenches learning your craft?  You can learn watching YouTube.  Paying your dues?  Just do it.  Just buy a camera and Final Cut Pro. Presto! Instant video professional.  

I met a “producer” who told me he never uses lights because, “the cameras are so sensitive you don’t need lights.”  Another asked me why buy multiple microphones?  “The mic on the camera works fine.”  True stories.

This “Dilbert” strip illustrates this phenomenon so perfectly.    


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I’m Back

Like the swallows to Capistrano.  Like Terminator.  But not quite like im_back_terminator Jesus Christ… I’m back.  Following a long term assignment with Tempest Technologies I have blown the dust off Weezer Group. Soon new thoughts will be posted on Weezer Words.

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35 Years of Innovation

tk-76 copyLiveU copyYa gotta love the juxtaposition of these two photos.  Though taken 35 years apart they share a curious similarity. 

Photo on the left is a Videographer with what was the first widely accepted ENG technology.  The camera; a RCA TK-76, was revolutionary.  Along with the Ikegami HL-79, it essentially replaced 16mm film for news gathering.  By today’s standards, it was a horrible camera, but from 1977 to the early 1980’s these were the two cameras every Videographer lusted after.  With a center resolution a mere 650TVL, both cameras had 2/3” plumbicon tubes that delivered a rich, warm look. Cost?  $35,000 PLUS $20,000 for the 20:1 with 2x extender lens. 

Notice the belt. No, this is not an ammunition belt for a Comicon costume.  It’s the camera battery. Good thing this guy is portly. If the Videographer had a waist smaller than 32” it was like wearing “low-rider pants.” Oddly, this was also RCA’s last professional camera. In the 1980’s Sony dominated with the introduction of the Betacam format. 

Sony made its name in professional video by developing the first broadcast quality portable video format, the 3/4″ U-Matic. Slung across his left shoulder and connected with a 26 pin umbilical cord is a Sony BVU-100 portable recorder. This was soon replaced by the BVU-110 which became the de facto ¾” field recorder.

“Now let’s go live.” Paired with a satellite uplink truck costing far above $100k, this gear allowed local news to go live to the latest car wreck.  Ratings for local news spiked.  

Fast Forward 35 years to the photo on the right. This current photo is Videographer with a Panasonic AG-HPX300 paired to a streaming appliance from LiveU.

Some things remain the same, but only in appearance. The camera remains.  And the umbilical cord has returned. Yet just about everything else is different. Replacing the shoulder-held VCR, the backpack carries a portable video over cellular appliance capable of bonding up to 14 cellular (3G/4G – LTE/WiMAX) modems over multiple carriers, as well as multiple LAN and even BGAN satellite connections. The video encoder is a standard H.264 AVC high profile @ 128kbps to 30Mbps.

POOF! Gone is the satellite truck. POOF! Gone is the Audio Recordist and the truck Engineer.

Of course the camera has quality only dreamed of in 1980. The Panasonic AG-HPX600 in photo  uses three CCD chips rather than the tubes. It includes solid state recorder capable of 1080p resolution. And it sells for $20,000 less.

Streaming and cellular technology is changing how video is transmitted just as the TK-76 did 35 years ago. Perhaps the one constant is that news shooters still chase car wrecks. “If it bleeds, it leads.”

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Media Technology Trends 2014

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Just as the consumer and pro market for flat panel HD televisions becomes saturated, a higher resolution technology enters the market; 4k/Ultra-HD.  Technology marches on.  Don’t expect any major announcements for ground shaking technology in 2014.  Instead tools get better, … Continue reading

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Does Your Organization Really Need Online Video?

The answer is yes. Your organization should post an online video.  But that answer raises more questions.

   –  Why?  

   – What should the message be?

   – How much does it cost?

   – Who should produce it? 

   – What department should develop content?

   – Should we consider a live webcast or video on demand (VOD)? 

   – Who is the audience… customers, employees?

   – How do we measure the effectiveness (analytics)?

   – Where should it be distributed… company website, Youtube?

   – Should we invest in equipment and personnel to produce it in-house?

   – Is it more cost-effective to contract it out?

   – What about bandwidth over the IT infrastructure?

   – For that matter how will organization handle security?

   – And many more questions

Perhaps more importantly, do it well or don’t do it at all.  People will not watch a video unless it is compelling.  That means a video that is well planned and executed.   That requires a professional experienced in corporate video.   It also requires a video that technically is of high quality.  A study by comScore found professionally produced video optimized for eCommerce outperforms user-generated video (UGC video) by 30%.   This reinforces research I did in graduate school suggesting poorly produced video reflects poorly in the company.  

Online video is still an infant, or perhaps a toddler.  As such there has been little research on viewing patterns.   That is changing.   In the past few months studies have been released about the who, what, where and when of online viewership.  Some are sponsored by corporations so the results can be sketchy.  Others are academically based and a bit verbose.  Nevertheless, when all this information is placed in a crock pot and simmered, some strong trends can be ascertained.

You can spend hours searching for this data.  But why?  I’ve done the search so you don’t have to.  Below are startling statistics regarding online viewership of video.  Just remember to keep some of this information in perspective.

89 million people in the United States are going to watch 1.2 billion online videos today.     (comscore)

Online video users are expected to double to 1.5 billion in 2016. (Cisco)

Only about 24 percent of national brands are using online video to market to consumers. (Kantar Media)

Online video now accounts for 50 percent of all mobile traffic and up to 69 percent of traffic on certain networks. (Bytemobile Mobile Analytics Report)

Consumers give up on an online video if it doesn’t load in two seconds. (University of Massachusetts Amherst and Akamai Technologies)

Users sharing video on retail and brand sites chose Facebook 46 percent of the time, with email accounting for 40 percent and Twitter capturing 14 percent of shares. (Invodo)

Globally, online video traffic will be 55 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2016. (Cisco)

52 percent of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions. (Invodo)

Mobile and tablet shoppers are three times as likely to view a video as laptop or desktop users. (NPD)

Mobile video ads that include social media buttons drive 36 percent higher engagement. (Rhythm NewMedia).

Online video production will account for more than one-third of all online advertising spending within the next five years. (Borrell Associates)

76 percent of marketers plan to add video to their sites, making it a higher priority than Facebook, Twitter and blog integration. (Social Media Examiner)

92 percent of mobile video viewers share videos with others. (Invodo)

More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month, spending more than 4 billion hours watching videos (YouTube).

2 billion video views per week are monetized on YouTube, and every auto-shared tweet results in six new YouTube browsing sessions (ReelSEO).

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Panasonic Moves Away From Consumer Products

The Newark Star-Ledger reported today Panasonic will abandon consumer electronics to focus on professional products only.  WOW!   Many I spoke to in past few months thought the pro side of the “Big Boys” (Panasonic, Sony,  Sharp, Mitsubishi, etc.) was hurting but consumer was OK.  Just OK, not great.   So this seems a surprise.  Not a surprise was when last month Panasonic announced the phasing out of Plasma displays.  After all it was the last company still supporting plasma technology. 

As a consumer I am disappointed as Panasonic products were always rock solid reliable.  As a professional I welcome this.  Panasonic will be able to shift its considerable financial and technology resources into new pro technology.  Because let’s face it, in past few years Panasonic (and Sony) has been fading.  The question was, would they fade away like Ampex, RCA, EchoLab and soon Grass Valley and Chyron? 

Many factors contributed to this. 

1 – No doubt the recession impacted sales of both consumer and pro gear. 

2 – The big wave of the digital transition has subsided.   Broadcasters and video producers are now completely digital. 

3 – AV Pros are still making the transition and as long as VGA continues to tread water, analog will be with us.

4 – Smaller, more nimble pro manufacturers are gaining market share. 

Consider BlackMagic Designs .  Just a few years ago this small, Australian start-up offered analog to digital converters.  Due to shrewd acquisition BlackMagic is a serious player in the Pro Video world.  In 2009, it acquired Da Vinci Systems, a company which had won Emmy Awards for its film coloring and restoration equipment.  In 2010, Blackmagic Design acquired the remnants of Echolab, a manufacturer of production switchers.   In 2011, Blackmagic Design acquired Teranex, a manufacturer of video processing products. In 2012, Blackmagic Design acquired Cintel, a manufacturer of professional post-production equipment for transcribing film into video or data formats.  Also last year at NAB BlackMagic made a huge splash when it introduced the  Blackmagic Cinema Camera.  BlackMagic may have reinvented the studio recorder with the HyperDeck Studio which records uncompressed and compressed Apple ProRes  and Avid DNxHD  video formats using fast 2.5″ SSDs. Yet is easy to operate with familiar VTR controls.

So it will be interesting how this news will impact the Broadcast, Pro Video and Pro AV markets.  Hey… no predictions from this writer. Time will tell.  

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Gen Y Managers Employ Video

It is well accepted that younger people prefer video over traditional communication tools.   Now a Cisco commissioned study confirms it.  The 2013 Cisco Global Young Executives’ Video Attitudes Survey “revealed that the majority of these next-generation executives intend to depend heavily upon business-class video to connect with their teams, colleagues, suppliers, customers and prospects, as well as to help their businesses deliver new products and services.”    

The survey of 1300 Gen Y ( 18 – 32 years old) management-track employees found that 87% believe video has a positive effect on an organization, enhancing business culture, breaking down language barriers and attracting new talent.

Marriott Hotels knows this. That’s why it is designing rooms with the Gen Y business traveler in mind.  Marriott and other hotel chains are offering more ability for in-room electronics to sync with mobile devises, more collaboration spaces, more apps and, of course, more “cool bars.”  

What is more boring than a hotel ballroom?  Marriott is changing that too.  Opening this month, the Munich Marriott Hotel and Amsterdam Marriott Hotel will be the first hotels in Europe to offer the “people-inspired” meeting spaces.  The spaces will feature wireless connection technology and include video conferencing, smart whiteboards, projection walls, docking stations and touch screen controls. 


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