Home-Office System Commissioning

Home Office

If you went through the AV9000 commissioning checklist, you could find several very helpful items that would improve the operation of your home office—both for you and for your far ends.

AV9000 Checklist Item Under Test: 6.6.3: The system under test satisfies all of the system requirements as laid out by the client-approved narrative/signed proposal.

Reasoning: I often get push back from the team about applying AV9000 testing to all systems—even the simple ones. Many techs have the misconception that simple systems don’t require the same level of testing that big systems require. However, they absolutely do! Someone is going to have to use the system, and, if we care about that user, we have to make sure the system is ready to do business. I believe I’ve convinced the skeptics that a significant amount of time, money and reputational savings can be generated from testing simple huddle spaces. My next battle will be pushing people to commission their home offices. Homeoffice systems are important, and they’ve become even more important in recent times. They’re definitely worth some tender, loving care.

The Story: I hope this edition of “The Commish” finds everyone safe and healthy. We are in strange times, my friends. Many of us are working from home and trying to be as productive as possible. We are used to exceptional AV experiences at the office—one would hope, at least—but what about our experience at home? We’ve all heard the horror stories of online-based collaborative meetings: kids/spouses walking around in the background in various states of undress and wakefulness; participants not using the mute button properly (or at all) when they yell at someone in the house in various states of (in)civility; users rummaging through the nest of cables behind their computer as they try to reset power to particular devices in various states of accessibility. Has anyone commissioned these systems?!

I’ll bet that, if you went through the AV9000 commissioning checklist, you could find several very helpful items that would improve the operation of your home office—both for you and for your far ends. Let’s talk about a few of them.

Cable labeling: This is everyone’s least-favorite checklist item, but it’s so important. Think about how helpful it would be to know which USB or power cable belongs to which device. It’s the difference between troubleshooting taking seconds or taking hours.

Signal separation: Have you ever sat down at your desk, played footsie with a few cables and, all of a sudden, heard a very loud buzz in your desktop loudspeaker system? Power or network signals might be inducing noise into your consumer, unbalanced sound system. It might be good to separate signals differing by more than 20dB in amplitude by four inches or more.

Audio distortion: Luckily, many of us have access to a decent headset, which can greatly improve home-office conferencing performance. But have you tested what you sound like? Is your mic too far away from your mouth? Is it too close, yielding distortion? It’s worthwhile to do some testing to find out; then, you can determine optimal mic placement.

Camera shot: If your camera is mounted too close, users might be treated to a super close-up of your face every morning. That might be the virtual equivalent of a Seinfeldian “close talker.” (Yikes!) Most people prefer to see at least a little shoulder in their shots. You can verify shot suitability by calculating your camera shot based on the field-of-view angle of the camera and how far away it will be mounted.

Lighting: With videoconferencing having become a necessity, everyone wants to look his or her best on camera. Having bright, diffuse lighting in the conferencing space can go a long way to meeting

that goal. Luckily, with the popularity of “online influencers,” it’s fairly inexpensive and easy to get a nice LED vlog lighting setup that clamps onto the desk and provides adjustable, even lighting across your face. It actually makes a huge difference! In fact, not only will it help with shadows, but it also, because some cameras can’t focus that well in low light, might get rid of some fuzziness in the shot!

Network bandwidth: I remember the days, back when the kids were at school, of having tons and tons of bandwidth during the day at the home office. No one was online except me. But, now, everyone is home—every… single…day…. You might have one person streaming Netflix, one person in an online classroom, one person uploading huge movie files to YouTube and poor little ol’ me trying to have a business conference. The pipe fills up quickly. So, make sure you have enough bandwidth for videoconferencing (and to keep everyone in the house sane)!

User training: Many web-conferencing tools claim to be so easy to use that operating manuals aren’t required. That might be true to get a conference going, but, to understand all the intricate nuances of your videoconferencing platform, it’s very helpful to receive training on how best to use it. It can mean the difference between hosting a meeting being a joy and hosting a meeting being a virtual nightmare. And, many of our favorite platforms are rapidly changing due to increased number of users and/or security concerns. The platform’s default settings might change daily, disrupting your normal flow. Having a firm understanding of the solution’s admin settings can be extremely helpful.

Contrary to the idea that your home office is “only a computer,” it most likely includes multiple monitors, multiple audio players, multiple microphone options, various cameras, several controllers, several applications, etc. It becomes complicated quickly. It’s true what they say: the cobbler’s children often go shoeless, but the AV professional’s home office can no longer be thrown together haphazardly. [Editor’s Note: Very likely, no one has ever said that.] Even the most sophisticated virtual background can’t hide the hurt that is our messy office. We must spend time to make sure every audiovisual system we use, including our home-office system, is ready for business. Every…single…one….

Stay safe out there, my friends. Wash your hands. Keep your fingers out of your nose. And, for the sake of Pete, stop biting cable insulation off of wire; that’s what strippers are for!

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