AV Police Squad

Beyond The Essentials: Let’s get testy

Last week, I described what I typically take with me on a service call (or testing call). “The kit” fits in one flyable, waterproof case on wheels, and solves about 90% of anything I run into. But that other 10% can be a doozy if you don’t have the proper gear to figure out what’s going on.

Some notable testers that all integrators should have, but didn’t make the cut in “the kit” (because they simply didn’t fit into the case) are:

  1. Oscilloscope – An O-Scope is very important for older analog systems, but we don’t see too many of those any more. However, making sure an analog display has the proper voltages before power it on is critical. If the signals arrive after a long run, feed multiple displays in the room or when using Cat5 extenders, an oscilloscope will save tons of time. You want to see exactly 0.7V on the color channels, and make sure that less than a pixel width of time passes on the rise time sync waveforms.
  2. Fiber Tester – The category cable (copper) tester is used more often, but this is becoming more and more important. People don’t respect fiber the way they should, in terms of keeping the glass clean.  This tester will confirm you have a valid path, and someone properly cleaned all the patch points.
  3. HDMI Analyzer – We can’t “see” what’s going on in digital video signals without this guy. You can guess at issues with the generator, and maybe the switcher system has some diagnostic tools, but this can save a ton of time and energy. It used to be, “Well, if you can see an image, you’re good.” This device will help you figure out what happens when there is no image from EDID problems, HPD issues, cable hiccups, etc.
  4. Spectrum Analyzer – Unless the wireless equipment used in the systems has one built in (which, in our case, thankfully, many do), there is no other way to “see” what’s going on in the RF spectrum. TV stations pop up at different times of the day, and may interfere with wireless microphones sporadically. This analyzer lets us be smart about what channels (and bands) we select.

So, these four devices are very important, but we’d need a trampoline to get the case shut if we tried to fit everything in the same box. We’d also need several helium balloons to carry it all. And walking down city streets with a case, trampoline and a bunch of helium balloons would just look silly.

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