By Randal Murphey

(Editor’s note: Randy Murphey, Manager of Multimedia Services at California Baptist University, covered the Almo E4 Experience on April 5th in Southern California for Convergent AV Media. It was suggested that he write a story about his own experience at the show).

It’s Friday. My day starts at 5:00 AM, not because my kids have again woken me up, but because I have a 7:30 AM session at the Almo E4 Experience regarding some of the newest trends in AV. In this case, it’s AV-over-IP, and who in our industry wouldn’t want to attend this class? I work in Higher Ed at Cal Baptist University, and this session is the future orientation of design for all classrooms, conference rooms, and meeting spaces. This is a session I must attend.

As I arrive at the hotel where the E4 Experience is taking place and find a parking spot, I realize attending this session was even more desired than I guessed and quickly rushed all around the building to find registration, get checked in, grab my swag, and find the class. Thank God, right outside the session door there was a coffee station for free coffee – the best kind. The session is already moderately filled but I find my seat and wait for the presentation to begin.

The topic of the class is SDVoE – Software Defined Video over Ethernet. It is an Alliance of members that is looking for the best ways to send video over ethernet by using the driving force of an API-based solution.

The session is actually a certification process, I’m not quite sure I passed the test at the end, however in the case I don’t hear back from them, they have a training website in which case I can retest. I still got the CTS RUs for attending the class. It’s a win-win in my book. In the very least, there is a lot of new technology coming out to not only move video over an ethernet cable but over switches and networks and staying up on my game in both worlds is necessary for future growth. I’m sure this will soon be the only way our industry will be working in a few short years.

As the session ends, I hand in my test. More coffee.

My very next event is Gary Kayye’s Keynote for the day. What’s he speaking on? The very thing I had just come from, and am most eager to learn, AV-over-IP. Gary gives a historical overview of the industry and then dives deeper in AV-over-IP – he highlights products, but mostly he talks about where the industry is in AV-over-IP and where it is shortly to be going. He also predicts that AV-over-IP will be big in a few years. As this essentially can replace equipment at a fraction of the cost, it makes sense.

After some time, I head to the show floor. Like other Almo E4’s, the show floor is not as impressive in its size as much as in what products it contains. Just pacing around I see new displays from Samsung and LG that stand out among the crowd. Lots of projectors all around, but nothing too unique there. There are some switches, and AV-over-IP devices out on the floor, and a large booth dedicated to Ecler, full of their sound equipment.

As I walk through, I only briefly glance at things because I have a tour scheduled in the afternoon to see the highlighted items but note there is a lot of cool stuff I do want to come back and look at.

It’s now about 11:30 AM and lunch is out. Not only is this event free, the coffee is free, and the lunch is free. The Almo E4 Experience just keeps getting better. I lunch with Joe Way from the Higher Ed AV podcast, and a couple of other employees from CBU all attending this event. Chuck Espinosa from AVIXA also joins our table and lunch soon turns into a meeting of minds about the direction of AV, solutions to problems, and industry-wide growth and changes.

Networking at this event is critical as there are people here with connections in the industry. One connection can lead to so many potential outcomes later so it is important to meet folks and talk shop. But, like a noob, I forgot the one aspect critical to networking – business cards. Also, many giveaways are based on dropping off your business cards. Don’t be like me, don’t forget business cards at these events.

After Lunch and the tour, I now know which products I really want to see. Some personal and some are for business. During the tour, we used Listen Technologies’ TALK devices which turned out to be really awesome. So, I hit them up as one of my first show floor stops. I learn that their devices work on the 1.9GHZ spectrum so there is little to no interference on their devices, and they also have quite a bit of range. Each device is a transmitter and receiver. They are like jacked walkie talkies, and each device can be the group leader by simply placing a tab on the device. It is about as easy to use as such devices come. They also have a Wifi enabled device that allows users to connect via their mobile phone and to stream any source. They can even choose from multiple sources coming from a video wall, and they can hear the audio they want via an app. Listen Technologies’ devices are incredibly innovative solutions to many problems, especially when considering the ADA requirements.

As displays go there are two that stand out and I mentioned them earlier, Samsung and LG. Samsung brought their 8K display that comes in various sizes, and they played a demo reel of video shot in 8K. The image looked like it was 3D. It looked like real life on the screen. I’m pretty sure if I kept staring at the screen that the tiger they displayed would have popped out at me. You could see every detail of each hair on that tiger. Luckily someone asked about the features of the screen and the rep changed the screen to show its features. They come with the standard Samsung features, and a mode called ambient that by taking pictures and uploading them to the screen, will display the visual background behind the screen which can be overlaid with other standard Samsung Features. I can see applications in which this can be used.

LG has a see-through glass display. It looked cool in that in some moments you could not see through at all, but when black appeared on the screen you could see a watch visible on the other side. If this could be used in various sizes, there could be some cool uses for these as windows.

By 2:00 PM I’m beginning to drop. More coffee. Another session starts for me on the history, issues, and future of USB. Much of the session goes into what is USB-C. Well, it is the connector tip type, but that type has USB 3.0, 3.1 (gen 1), and 3.1 (gen2) the latest and greatest. Confused? Even after the session, I am still confused, but better informed to further confuse others. What I did learn is how USB-C connectors work, their pin structure, and that they are fully backward compatible, which is really neat. Overall, seeing what they can do, I’m curious if they will become the new standard for our industry. 

Last session, 3:00 PM. My brain is buzzing from the information of the day and perhaps the overindulgence of caffeine. As I go back for who knows which number cup of coffee I find it gone. But that’s okay, because the next session is Gary Kayye’s Krystal Ball, wherein he predicts the future course of AV. He has a pretty good track record only getting two out of ten predictions wrong last year. Some of the more interesting things as discussed earlier were the prominence of the upcoming AV-over-IP. Also, that laser projectors will rule the projector world. Alexa, despite difficulties, will gain traction in classrooms. We’ll also start to see classrooms with gesture control.

Overall, the day at Almo has been a success. I’ve learned of the upcoming trends of AV, as well as gained an increased knowledge of AV products and practices. I’ve seen the newest technologies in the field – and most of all, I’ve made new connections to people in the industry and manufacturers. That is what this event is about. It has been a full day, a refreshing day away from the humdrum of the office. A day of revitalizing my inner AV soul, stimulating my professional creativity, and boosting my confidence to strive forward.

(Note: All Twitter photos taken by Randy Murphey).

Randal Murphey is the Manager of Multimedia Services at California Baptist University, and is a guest writer for Convergent AV Media.