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Episode 7 – The Lost Art of AV – How Bright Are You?

This episode is a bit different from others in that we will focus on someone else’s educational content. Guest Chris Neto and his Starin colleague Clay Stahlka have built a series of short-form AV educational videos (much like SDVoE Academy) called “The Lost Art of AV” and we will feature one called “Display Brightness.” You’ll learn some simple techniques for understanding brightness and choosing the right display for your spaces, but then we’ll dig into the bigger topic of education in pro AV and examine how AV pros can stay up to date and relevant in a fast-changing world.

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Chris Neto

Episode guest

Chris Neto
CTS, Market Development Manager, Starin, a Midwich Company

Chris, along with Clay Stahlka, is the team behind Starin Marketing’s educational series “The Lost Art of AV”. Chris is also the mind behind #AVinTheAM Sunday conversations on Twitter and #AVHappyHour. In 2020, he edged out our own Justin Kennington for #9 on the Pro AV Power 20 list. Has Justin forgiven him? Tune in to find out.

Episode transcript

Justin Kennington (00:09):

Hello. Hello everybody, and welcome to SDVoE LIVE!. I’m your host, Justin Kennington, and this is TV for pro AV. We have a very special show for you today, another great guest, an old friend of mine, the kind of buddy that I would get to hang out with at every tradeshow that we would go to. But I haven’t been to a tradeshow in over a year now so Chris Neto and I have not had a chance to hang out until today. I’d been watching the social media, the Twitter sphere, the LinkedIn verse, and noticed that something Chris and his colleague Craig had been working on called “The Lost Art of AV” was all about short-form videos explaining very specific concepts of pro AV education. I thought, “Hmm, that’s exactly what we do here in the SDVoE Academy. There’s got to be some common interest here, something we can do together.”

So I invited Chris to come on the show today and our topic for today, “How Bright Are You”, is a double entendre without any dirty component to it. It means we’re going to talk a little bit about display brightness and how you choose a display for your particular ambient light conditions. We’re also going to talk about how bright are you, how smart are you. How do you keep up your education and training in this world where we don’t have tradeshows, where in-person, live, professional development is not at all common, if it’s available at all? What do you do to stay up-to-date, to stay smart on all the latest trends, technologies and products in pro AV? SDVoE LIVE is here to help with that.

What Chris is doing with “The Lost Art of AV” is as well so we thought we’d get together and talk about that. Don’t forget, after the half-hour program, we have an aftershow where you will be invited to ask questions to me, to my co-host Matt Dodd, to Chris himself. We’ll all be here. Get your questions in the chat if you’re logged into the SDVoE Academy, or get us at hashtag #sdvoelive on Twitter, if that’s how you’re consuming this stream today. By the way, we are broadcasting live on Twitter for the very first time today, so those of you watching us there, be sure and tweet us at hashtag #sdvoelive to let us know you’re out there.

So without further ado, let’s get into today’s content. I’m going to toss it over to Matt, who’s going to come to you after a short quiz question and introduce today’s educational segment.

Matt Dodd (02:45):

Hi everybody. It’s me again, Matt Dodd, your favorite English guy. Just going to echo what Justin just said. Looking forward to meeting Chris. We work in similar fields with education and that’s really the field of the show today. I’m really, really looking forward to having a good old chinwag with Chris, just to find out from his perspective how education is going for him, and how these great little soundbites that he’s putting across a plethora of social media channels are being received. Because naturally with the COVID and the lockdown across the board, it’s really important that we get this information out to you in the most engaging way we can. So to tick things off here, rather than show one of our own academy videos, we’re going to show one of Chris’s videos from Starin. So enjoy, and we’ll catch you very shortly.

Clay Stahlka (04:00):

Every project that utilizes a display or projection system requires some basic design considerations to guarantee a good customer experience. This is true in huddle spaces or small conference rooms, as well as large venues like a lecture hall or auditorium. Now it cannot be overstated how important it is to understand the lighting conditions in the space. Are there windows that allow sunlight to stream in the room? Is there bright, overhead lighting? What is the overall brightness in the space? From there, it can be determined whether these lighting conditions are present at the location of the display’s viewing surface.


Now once you know this information, it’s easy to determine the ideal technology to recommend for the space. Now, I’ll show you how. Ambient light is the enemy of any display, because it dramatically reduces the perceived contrast between lights and darks. This makes it harder to see details of any kind.

As the ambient lighting grows brighter, the brightness of the display must be increased accordingly. Now I’ll show you how easy it is to determine the required brightness of any display product that you might select. You can use an app on your smartphone to measure the ambient light at the display screen location. This should give you a value in lux. You multiply the lux value by the number of square meters in the screen. Just multiply the screen width by the height and divide by 10.764, then multiply by the lux reading. Multiply this number by three. This is the lowest lumens value that would be acceptable for a projector on a screen with a gain of one. Assuming of course, no ambient light will be striking the projection screen. So let’s look at an example.

Now I’ve measured the light at the screen location at 300 lux. My 110-inch screen is four and a half feet by eight feet. So I multiply the width by the height to get 36, and divide by 10.764 to get the screen area in square meters, which comes out to 3.34. Now, I multiply that area by the lux reading of 300 and get 1002. I then multiply 1002 by three to get the projector that I need, which roughly is a 3000 lumens projector. Now, if direct light from the windows or the fixtures are going to hit the screen, cross projection off of your list. Next, we’ll calculate the required value for an LCD or an LED display. Now you take the lux value from your light meter app and divide by pi, which is 3.1416, to get the value in nits. This is the lowest acceptable brightness output from an LCD or LED display that you might select for this space.

To check your calculations to see how well they work in a given space, here’s an easy way to measure how a viewer will perceive the display. Now make sure that all the lighting is on and the window shades are open, just as the worst case scenario might be for the room. Then, place a blank sheet of bright white paper on the table at the center of the viewing area. Now, using your smartphone app, measure the ambient light reading that’s reflecting off of that paper. Divide the number by pi and multiply the results by three. Now, this is the brightness value that your recommended display should provide. Now let’s do an exercise to show you how this is done for an LCD display. I’ve placed my bright white cardstock on the table. My reflected light measurement is 400 lux. So I’ll divide 400 by pi or 3.1416, which gives me 127 nits. Then I multiply this number by three to get 381 nits. Now what this tells me is that I need a display that is around 381 nits. So this should help you better understand how to determine the proper display brightness for any space.

Matt Dodd (08:34):


Justin Kennington (08:34):

Wow, Matt. How have you been? Are you well?

Matt Dodd (09:33):

Hey, let’s press on with the news.

So news item number one, a very interesting piece of news about an Ohio school. What’s your take on this?

Justin Kennington (10:00):

I thought, “It’s great to see the things that are happening now as we hybridize everything.” As I saw some of the pictures in this article and some of the other hybrid education case studies, I was looking at the way that we’re using AV technology to give the instructor the right experience. So that they see, of course, the students who are in the classroom, but also can see and directly interact with the students that are outside of the classroom as though they were there. It’s much more than just the experience we’ve all had this year with a Zoom screen on our desk, but large format screens against the wall, to give the appearance of those students being there. It was interesting to think about, because I frankly hadn’t before. I thought a lot about how the students are affected by hybrid learning, but to think about the perspective given to the instructor with the AV technology, it made for some interesting reading.

Matt Dodd (10:57):

Yeah, sure. I follow on from that, obviously, living and breathing the education world, and I’m online now. I’m very, very interested to hear stories like this. There’s been tech in schools for quite some time for the kids to embrace, and kids naturally putting out their laptop or their iPad on their desks when they go to school. Back in my day, which wasn’t that long ago, people, if you did that, you’d be sent to headmaster’s office for not paying attention. But the new tech coming in, and obviously the sort of tech that we work with here at the studios, it’s great to see it being embraced and being utilized. And this is something that will continue long after COVID. This is the future. This is what happens and I think this is a really interesting move forward to meet the demands for flexibility on sending children to school.

Let’s move on to the next news topic, which is how to expand your network in AV. This is something that, for me, smacked all of the skills. Having a background as I have in residential AV, one minute you’re a lighting guy and a lighting design guy, then you’re a lighting engineer. And then you’re a control systems guy. Then you’re a building management systems guy. Then you have to know about RF. Then you have to know about networking. More importantly, you have to have the confidence and capacity to be able to pull all that together and make it sound like a system that’s dead easy to use. That’s a hard thing to do, let alone try and get into. What was your take from it?

Justin Kennington (13:17):

Yeah, there’s a segue here to solve the gap that you’re talking about. How does someone become a jack-of-all-trades that’s necessary in so many AV roles? Maybe a better way to do that is to not be an expert in everything, but have friends who are. The ways to learn about who those people are and what they’re up to, are described in this article. It’s following AV industry blogs, it’s participating in social media and that’s an interesting topic we’ll chat about with Chris, who’s very deep into that, sharing information and contacts through social media.

We hope that programs like this are a way for people to connect with each other in the chat and connect with us, with what’s going on as the forefront of technology moves. But also just, and here it is, today’s topic, the broader world of staying educated and staying trained and staying up-to-date, whether that is in person or whether that is online. That’s a place not only to take in the direct knowledge of what the instructor is teaching you, but also to meet that instructor, to meet the other students in the class, to learn who your friends can be and what they can do, so that we can all help each other. I think education brings people together for that kind of networking.

Matt Dodd (14:39):

When we used to go to tradeshows, you remember those, we’ll get back to tradeshows, but you had rooms full of people who are there and hungry to learn, but a lot of that learning takes place, not just within the room, but takes place afterwards. When there’s networking happening, there are people who are getting together and just learning. You might be talking to a guy who spent the last 25 years getting it wrong, to make sure we get it right. You can learn so many things from somebody who’s learned how not to do stuff, as well as how to do stuff.

So we’ve got our guest coming up. This is Chris Neto.

Justin Kennington (15:38):

Welcome aboard.

Chris Neto (15:40):

Thank you for having me.

Justin Kennington (15:41):

Good, good. Well, thank you once again for being here.

Justin Kennington (16:46):

Let’s dive into it, Chris. “The Lost Art of AV” – how did you get there? Why is it lost, or is it lost yet? What inspired you and Craig to start this video series?

Chris Neto (17:03):

Well, it’s not that the art of AV is lost. It’s just that we’re moving into an IP world and into an IT world, and every day, there’s a discussion online about AV versus IT.  There are still purists in the world who believe in acoustics, who believe in lighting, who believe in signal path that is not around ones and zeros, people that love the analog vibe, and will still go towards a vinyl record over a CD or an MP3. But AV has progressed as it moved towards the IT industry, and become more enveloped within the IT world. I didn’t want to lose the sense of what we bring as AV people to a specific job.

Not many IT people can tell you the right size monitor for your desk. Not many people can tell you the right size display for a conference room. I think that’s an art and I think it’s an art that AV does. We do well with sound, we don’t just throw out-of-the-box solutions, typically, at things. We look, we analyze, there’s a science to AV. It’s not just an art form. And I think that’s part of what inspired “The Lost Art of AV” – getting back to its roots and working with Clay, who is a former sound guy in the movies. He really has a passion for audio. So we went down an audio path and discovered that there was a need for these little bits of, if you want to call it romanticizing, what we do in the AV world.

Matt Dodd (18:45):

That’s brilliant. We saw a short piece of a video that you made and what I liked about it was the fact that we’ve got lots of science quite quickly. In the space of five minutes, you’ve got these two little exercises, which help somebody walk away and think, “Wow, okay. It’s been simplified for me, how I can quickly check the brightness requirement of a projector, or a screen for a display, or a wall display.” I can imagine you’ve had quite a lot of take-up on this, Chris.

Chris Neto (19:22):

Yeah. The inspiration behind a lot of these videos and the rules behind them are very simple. When we created these videos and started the genesis of it, they needed to be short. They needed to be sweet. We live in a YouTube world. I don’t want to drag on principles for that. You can go to a class to do that. And then what we find is that a lot of classes are very technical, very science-y. Everybody wants to prove that one’s smarter than the next. So we wanted to just break it down to a real world experience. And between myself and Clay, we’ve both been out there. We’ve both been estimators, we’ve both been engineers. He has a CTSD, I have my CTS, but more importantly, we work at Starin with a lot of qualified people that have their CTS and CTSD and one person in particular, a friend of mine who I’m very close with, is Malissa Dillman.

Malissa Dillman is a former Educator of the Year from AVIXA and a former Woman of the Year from AVIXA as well. She was one of the best instructors I ever had, in terms of somebody who can take the most complicated subject and dumb it down so that I can even understand that. And it doesn’t mean that I am not as smart as the next person, but sometimes you just got to take those very difficult, big words that people love to throw around, and break it down into something that’s easily digestible. So taking what she did and made her successful as a trainer, we worked that into our video style in that we want it to give real-world experience and these quick exercises and practical exercises. Show the phone, show the lux, show the calculations and show how easy it can be without over-complicating it.

Matt Dodd (21:06):

I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said, as somebody who’s been in the world of education for 25 years. I qualified in education, so I qualified in how the brain learns and how we process new information. What you’re saying is absolutely ringing true. Short pieces of information through the stimuli of audio, video. And for tactile learners, giving somebody a 30-minute piece online with a lot of technical content, you’re just going to lose them within the first 10-15 minutes. Every course we have up on SDVoE Academy is 10 to 15 minutes maximum, with lots of time for that consolidation, lots of time for that refresh. It’s great to hear that two people who have never met, that were in the same sort of field, we were singing off the same hymn sheet.

Justin Kennington (21:54):

I’m curious to know, Matt, you guys have both talked about the value of short, of specific, of practical education here. Is there a fundamental advantage in that way to what you guys are doing, to what we’re doing here in the SDVoE Academy, as opposed to in-person training where I expect to be in a room for three hours or six hours? Of course, they both have their value, but I’m asking, is there something fundamental about the short online form that’s just different and has its own benefits that aren’t available in a classroom?

Matt Dodd (22:33):

So I’ll take that very quickly and I’ll hand it to you, Chris. For me, the one thing that you’re absolutely missing with online learning is the ability to interact. And as a seasoned trainer, the first thing you want to do is be able to interact. You’re dealing with a bunch of people, eight to 10 people with different skill sets. It’s not like a classroom full of children where they still have different skillsets but there’s a much finer difference between them all with adults. You could have a professor of electronics and somebody who’s just decided he’s not going to lay bricks anymore. He’s going to do this. So you can interact with people and you’re prepared for that so you can take longer with certain people. You can go and put lots more exercises in there and you can do a lot more practical hands-on, which is often quite difficult to do with online. So the interactive piece is difficult to get over. We win that audience a little bit more with animation. Chris, what’s your thought on that?

Chris Neto (23:25):

Well, you are seasoned trainers, he’s an educator. So it’s a little different, right? The toughest thing that I’ve learned watching teachers teach, including my own children’s teachers, is that the teachers are looking for the reaction. You feed off of that, right? You state a fact and you wait to see a nod and when every kid in the classroom is cameras off, you’re not getting that. You’re not feeding off, you’re not seeing if it’s reading. I remember being in classes in college and in high school and all, and if the teacher looked at us and we had that deer in the headlights look, they would repeat again.

Chris Neto (24:02):

Here it is again. Here’s the French revolution, one more time for you that don’t understand it. You’re reading that off of the students. What we were trying to do with our videos is not necessarily be the educators. That is always going to be there, but what we wanted was really the supplemental. So you learned about lux today in class, but you don’t have the hundred percent, go to this. 90% of what we do now on Starin’s videos are feedback that I get back from CTS study groups that are out there learning and people that are studying these classes. And some people just make general information, right? There’s nothing on the CTS about IPX rating, right? Which is waterproofing. And we did a subject on it. It wasn’t super, super… the most needed thing, and it may not appear on a CTS exam, but people want a clarification about IP rating versus IPX rating and how that applies to AV.

That’s a little example of how we basically are working, engaging. That is where we’re using the social networks and dropping into the LinkedIn networks, and putting this out there as “AV one-on-one” and “AV basics” kind of thing. The response that I’ve been getting from seasoned professionals is it’s great that we’re actually touching on some of the foundational things that are absolutely necessary. The fact that we’re getting responses back from people, whether that’s through our YouTube channel or through Twitter, or through DMs, across all the different channels, we’re building a library and ad-ons for people that are out there moving or transitioning in their career right now. From a project manager to engineer, or maybe from a junior level technician to senior technician, that’s what we’re trying to target.

Matt Dodd (25:51):

We’re going to talk a bit more after the aftershow, so stick around for that.

Justin Kennington (27:41):

Tune in two weeks from now for episode nine. H. O. W. “How Special is That?”

Justin Kennington (27:45):

We’ll be talking with Matt Scott about design for houses of worship. Tune in for that, and meet us on Twitter at hashtag #sdvoelive in the meantime.


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