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Audio Visual Centres in the 21st century
10 Future Proofing.
10.1 This has to be a critical design point in any theatre being built or refurbished. The only certain way this can be done is to install trunking only, as no one can be certain of future requirements. It would be foolish to invest in cable systems that may be redundant by the time the are needed. They may also be damaged by other works in future which are unrelated to AV services. In addition copper cables can degrade with time due to moisture ingress. It is not unknown for mice to damage cables.
The cost of fault finding and making repairs would outweigh the cost of installing new cables in an established carrier system when needed. Apart from this, what can we do to cut future costs and generally make cable installation more efficient and of course cost effective. I believe the only sensible way forward is to only install carrier systems so that it is simple and cheap to upgrade when required. Since the greatest cost is installing the carrier system this must be a priority not the cables within.
10.2 All carriers should either be three part trunking or large cross section individual conduits which would enable the AV and data cables to be separated from any power sources. Metal carriers are better than plastic as it acts as an additional screen.
10.3 It is essential to have your own pre- prepared specifications to present to the Architects otherwise a less than ideal system will be the result, but there will always be a compromise at the design stage which may have to be tolerated.
10.4 As an example of best practice, draw wires must be left in the trunking by the contractor. Any subsequent work carried out must specify that draw wires are always left in place for future use. It saves considerable time and money at a later date. It is surprising how often this small but key point is overlooked. AV staff should be made responsible for checking any such installation as it in their interests to make fault finding easier at a later date.
10.5 Always install carrier systems that are far larger than required to allow for additional cable bundles at a later date. Where possible three inch cross section per channel is installed but is not always practical and the limitations imposed by building works have to be considered. In any case installing the largest possible seems to be the key for protecting your investment.
10.6 Any carrier design should enable AV staff to install cables with minimal effort and is especially important when re cabling or rigging for special events. This reduces reliance on expensive contractors.
10.7 Essentially all runs need to be as straight as possible. Access points to be provided at junctions or any point where there is a change of direction.
10.8 Stage / floor boxes must be deep enough to take all types of plugs / cables and the lid to remain closed whilst being used. We have suffered from contractors installing shallow boxes that will not close when plugs are in place.
10.9 Technical staff who are responsible for AV must be consulted as they are aware of the difficulties that are faced on a day to day basis. Often they can highlight problems that may otherwise be missed and highlight impractical proposals by others. It is cheaper than trying to rectify problems later, and has proved invaluable at QMW. The spin off in terms of higher staff morale and promoting team working is also invaluable.
10.10 Multiway fibre can be installed and here there is a cost advantage, always provide extra dark fibres in addition to those immediate needs as the extra cost for additional fibres within the cable is minimal compared to the overall labour costs for additional work at a later date. This is particularly important with building links.
10.11 Other ways of future proofing are limited as technology is moving so rapidly. One idea that was developed in response to our demand for future proofing and to make future installations as easy and cheap as possible was to make all decorative wall panels removable. New cables and trunking can be installed very quickly; simply lift off the panel install the cables and slip it back into place.
10.12 With new technology, it is essential that AV kit is controlled effectively. To that end we have found AMX to be the best system for the task. It can accommodate new AV kit simply by reprogramming. It is easily repaired by swapping boards and another good reason to standardise, as boards from another theatre can be used in an emergency. It effectively hides the presentation technology from the user and presents a user friendly interface which is easily understood. This criteria applies equally to PA systems and other AV equipment that can be swapped entirely or cannibalised in emergency situations.
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