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Category Archives: Conferencing

PCD Hires “@PKaudiovisual” As New Engineering Manager

The following press release was originally posted on the PCD blog http://www.pcdinc.net/blog/

SANTA ROSA, CA – PCD, Inc. (http://www.pcdinc.net) is pleased to announce that Paul Konikowski, CTS-D has joined the NorCal firm as the new Design Engineering Manager.  Paul brings a wealth of knowledge of the AV integration industry, as well as real world experience in live event production and information technology.

Paul’s career started in information technology with a co-op position at Critikon, a medical device manufacturing company owned by Johnson & Johnson. Performing a mix of help desk functions and network wide system upgrades, Paul learned the value of good customer experience (CX).  Paul supported about 200 users in everything from Microsoft Windows and Office migrations to printer maintenance to mainframe server data backups.

After graduating from Georgia Tech in 2001 with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering, Paul shelfed his computer skills for few years, and decided to become a “sound guy”.  Starting at the bottom, pushing brooms, driving trucks and stacking speakers, he quickly learned the technical ins and outs of live audio reinforcement from veteran sound engineers at Snow Sound and other live sound companies.

Since 2004, Paul has worked in audiovisual integration and unified communications. At North American Theatrix, he built equipment racks and installed loudspeakers, PTZ cameras, video projectors, flat panel displays, and other AV components for theaters, casinos, hotels, schools, aquariums, and museums.  He obtained his Infocomm CTS certification and went to work for HB Communications as an Associate Engineer, learning AutoCAD and AV system design, and then obtained his Infocomm CTS-D certification.

In 2007, Paul decided to relocate from Connecticut to California and became the Senior Consultant at Rosen Goldberg Der & Lewitz, a smaller consulting firm who specializes in architectural and environmental acoustics in addition to traditional AV design and engineering.  As the local market shifted from consultant-driven construction to design-builds in existing buildings, Paul decided to move from consulting back to integration, joining Snader as a Systems Design Engineer.

In 2011, Paul began freelancing, doing business as PK Audiovisual.  He continued to do AV design and engineering, but also moved into social media, technical marketing, blogging, advertorials, whitepapers for consumer electronics, wireless home theater speakers and mobile devices. By becoming a blogger and online content writer (oftentimes ghostwriting), Paul helped to bridge the gap between audiovisual technology providers, AV consultants, equipment distributors, systems integrators, and end-users.   Over the next 5 years, Paul took on a number of clients including Stichfix.com, Arcata High School, Silicon Image (HDMI, MHL and WiSA), and then worked full time as a Technical Marketing Engineer with Starin, an AV distributor, hosting online trainings and visiting consultants and integrators.  It was during this time that Paul started working a lot of industry trade shows like CES, ISE, NAMM, and CEDIA.  In recent years, Paul has worked full time as a Multimedia Solutions Architect for Strategic Products and Services, and part time for RGD Acoustics, Lattice Semiconductor, Zoom, and Creation Networks.

As the new leader of the PCD engineering department, Paul will work as a “player-manager”, delegating projects, while taking on his own large scale projects. By leveraging his engineering background with his consulting experience, he leads the PCD engineering team, implementing large scale audio-visual systems, initially awarded through the “Design-Bid” and “Design-Assist” processes. PCD is also a full service “Design-Build” integrator; recent projects include performing arts centers, universities, schools, sports stadiums, corporate telepresence, houses of worship and more. Paul’s main goal at PCD is to maximize efficiencies in the engineering department, delivering quality drawings and products, meeting all time commitments, and building long term relationships with audiovisual consultants and other business leaders in the San Francisco Bay area.

Bill Graham, PCD Director of Operations, is working with Paul to build up his team of engineers.  If you or someone you know is looking for work in wine country, please check out the Careers page on the PCD website (http://www.pcdinc.net/about/careers/) for more information about these exciting openings.

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Cybersecurity In Audiovisual Systems

You Should Consider Cybersecurity During All Phases Of An Audiovisual Installation

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Bay Area was graced with the presence of President Barack Obama, who was here to participate in a Cybersecurity Summit at Stanford University.  *Side note*, I am still unsure if it’s spelled as one word or two, cyber security, or with a dash, cyber-security, and the online jury seems to be rather undecided. So for the sake of brevity, I am sticking with the one-word-version, cybersecurity. *End side note*. At the aforementioned summit of cybersecurity experts, students, and information technology managers in Palo Alto, Mr. Obama signed an executive order encouraging the private sector to share cybersecurity threat information with other companies and the U.S. government.

Rising stock prices of cybersecurity software firms like Palo Alto Networks (PANW), FireEye (FEYE), and CyberArk (CYBR) have also reflected this increased level of awareness. Why? Because unlike guns or nuclear warfare, cyber hacking can happen right under our noses, for years and years, without anyone even noticing. Larger firms have realized that they need the best of the best to combat these criminals, and investors have taken notice to the growth potential of these new age software “heroes” who will do battle for a price, much like the Routiers, the early mercenary soldiers of the Middle Ages.

As audiovisual experts we also need to become IT cybersecurity experts, at least to some degree. At minimum, we have to know what risk we are adding to the network before, during, and after the AV installation. Here is a list of ways you can protect your audio, video, and control systems against theft and hackers, in no particular order:

  • Have a frank and honest discussion with the project team about cybersecurity. Find out who is in charge of the network, and who will need access to the systems.
  • Use motorized projection screens that are fitted into the ceilings to discourage theft.
  • Mount projectors using security boxes, or scissor lifts to hide them up inside the ceilings.
  • AV touch panels and camera controllers often have passwords, but are they updated?
  • Portable TVs and poorly mounted speakers are easy targets; don’t “tempt” thieves
  • Ping all projectors and flat-panel television type displays once every minute. If the display does not respond, assume it is being stolen and automatically email security
  • Interactive whiteboards, mice, and keyboards are generally trustworthy, but who is really checking that USB stick that automatically downloads this or that app to the laptops?
  • Don’t assume that the person in charge of your computer network is the best one to test the AV installation for bugs or security breach points. Hire an expert to test it.
  • Backup all files at least once a day to a secure offsite and/or cloud storage facility.
  • Microphones and tableboxes should be periodically checked for James Bond type “bugs” that can listen to private meetings. It’s not always the newest technology that you need to worry about!
  • Videochat and audio conferencing suites should never be left unlocked while not in use
  • Make sure that end users know when a camera is on or when microphones are open.
  • Digital signage and way-finding kiosks are updated via website; use unique passwords.
  • Unfortunately, most AV equipment racks are made by just a few manufacturers, and each uses one or two different key codes in their door locks. Once you have a set of the common AV rack keys, you can open almost any locked AV equipment rack in the U.S.
  • “Security screws” can also limit the amateur thefts, but any real crook will have tools.

These are just a portion of the areas that the AV Design Engineer and Project Manager need to address during a project. The real problems are the bugs and “holes” that are accidentally left in a program, that nobody catches, mainly because, no one is looking for them. That is why it is critical that today’s AV integration firms hire a well-trained, experienced QA (quality assurance) department who will double-check the engineer’s design, the programmer’s code, and the completed installation.

We all make mistakes, its human nature. And even when we don’t make mistakes, we certainly overlook things that others might catch. Having someone else check your AV design, bug test your code, or evaluate your network or website for cybersecurity threats will always uncover more than checking it yourself.  If you are not putting up “constant vigilance” against the hackers, and paying an expert to test your systems, then you are just living in denial, thinking that your systems are working properly and secure. If these hackers can break into insurance companies and Target, you have to assume that they are trying to hack into your systems as well, (or that they already have!)

constant vigilance

Moiré Patterns in Video Conferencing

Watch What You Wear When On Video

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

As I religiously watched Nightly Business Report with Tyler Mathisen and Susie Gharib last Friday, I could not help but notice the dapper suit coat that Tyler was wearing. Unfortunately, the reason I noticed his coat was because of the wavy moiré pattern his coat created in the YouTube video stream, see below. The moiré pattern is instantly recognizable when Tyler comes on about 40 seconds into the program:

I can not say if this pattern was detectable on high-definition or standard-definition television sets, because I recently “cut the cord” of cable television, and now watch NBR online. The YouTube video stream is decent, but not high definition, and it could be the down-sampling that caused the moiré pattern. Here is another YouTube video that illustrates the moiré effect when two similar sets of parallel lines intersect:

What happened in Friday’s NBR video was Tyler’s coat had vertical and horizontal lines that intersected with the horizontal scan lines of the video stream. Video is traditionally recorded as of horizontal lines of pixels, and each pixel is essentially a sample of the actual color or pattern being recorded. So when these sampling lines intersect with Tylers’ coat lines, a moiré pattern emerges in the video.

I was surprised to see this happen on such a long-running business news show on PBS and other stations, but maybe the pattern was not visible on the professional 1080p cameras and broadcast monitors? Maybe they did not notice until it was uploaded to YouTube? My guess is that Tyler only had one coat with him, so there was little they could do about it before they started airing. Hopefully, CNBC and Tyler learned a lesson, and he will try to avoid those patterns in the future, at least when on video.

This video lesson applies to all of us, not just television newscasters. For example, if you are working at or attending an online university, you certainly do not want moiré video patterns that distract from the teaching. Corporate video conference systems like GotoMeeting, Webex, Polycom and Cisco are also prone to moiré patterns, and many people use Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts to video conference with family and friends. So how can you avoid it? First, avoid wearing shirts or ties with small parallel lines. How small depends on the resolution of the camera, the sampling rate, and the distance. Since there are so many variables, just avoid parallel lines, or plaid or checkered outfits (like Tyler Mathisen in the first video).

In addition to avoiding moiré patterns, and watching what you wear, you should always think about two things whenever you video conference: sound and lighting. Is there any background noise from windows, televisions, or other people talking? You should reduce this background noise before you start any conference call by closing windows and doors. You should also close the blinds or shades and turn on all of the lights, as this will help with the room acoustics as well as the lighting. Sunlight is the enemy when it comes to indoor video, because the contrast is too much, so its best practice to use artificial lighting from above, ideally angled towards the faces.

If possible, you should always do a test video call beforehand, and ask the “far end” how you look and sound to them on video. Tell them exactly why you are asking, and ask them to be honest. It’s the video conference equivalent of asking a friend, “do I have anything stuck in my teeth?” after eating a big meal. In the end, everyone wins.

If you have any questions about moiré patterns, video conferencing, lighting, or room acoustics, please don’t hesitate to comment below, or write me directly at pkav.info @ gmail dot com.