There has been a lot of attention given to new technology.
We are constantly reminded of how the Internet is changing the way business is conducted, how powerful the latest computers are, and how wireless technology is changing the world. Equally impressive breakthroughs have also been taking place in presentation technology. Projectors, screen materials, lenses and control systems have all advanced significantly in recent years. The days of flip charts and overhead transparencies are long gone, much to the relief of public speakers and their audiences.
Today’s presenters are expected to get their message across using computer graphics, preferably with some engaging multimedia content. Of course, it requires fairly sophisticated equipment to make all those Powerpoint images visible to an audience. A working knowledge of this equipment can go a long way towards ensuring successful presentations.
– Projectors. By far the most widely used projectors today utilize LCD technology. This popularity is due to the low cost, light weight, and ease of use compared to other projection technologies, such as CRT systems. LCD projectors separate the red, green and blue information to three LCD panels. The appropriate colored light is passed through each panel, then combined to exit through the lens as one image.
There are a couple of key characteristics that determine a projector’s image quality:
Resolution determines how sharp an image appears on the screen: The higher the resolution, the sharper the image. Of course, the projector must be capable of displaying an image at the same resolution as the source. Keep in mind that higher resolutions are required to display fine details, such as spreadsheets, but lower resolutions are fine for things like large text, bar graphs and the like.
Brightness is usually listed in ANSI lumens, which is a standard measure of light output. It varies from about 100 to over 12,000 ANSI lumens. Not surprisingly, brighter is generally better. The advantage of brighter images is that you can have a higher level of ambient light while still maintaining an acceptable image. Brightness, along with resolution, are the two most important specifications to consider when purchasing a projector.
Most projectors have multiple inputs for connecting computers, VCRs, etc. The user can select from among these inputs using on-screen menus or a button on the remote, usually labeled select, input or mode. This is the first thing to check if everything is plugged in and turned on, but there’s no image on the screen.
Menus provide a means to adjust things like brightness, contrast and color balance. Navigation is usually done from the remote, using arrow buttons to highlight functions and an Enter button to select them. The arrow buttons are then used to adjust values. Other common buttons on remotes include focus, zoom and lens shift, which moves the image up and down. It’s a good idea to get familiar with the remote and menus prior to a presentation.
– Rear-screen projection systems. Rear projection systems place the projector in a light-tight space behind a screen designed for this type of display. This has several advantages over front-projection systems.
First, ambient light has relatively little effect on rear-screen systems, so you can leave the room lights on. Second, the projector isn’t located in the middle of the room or on the ceiling, so fan noise is greatly reduced. You also don’t need to keep the center of the room clear to maintain a light path. You can even walk in front of the screen without casting shadows on the image and getting a face full of light. Some screens can also be written on with dry-erase markers.
The one drawback with rear-projection systems is that they are more expensive, but many consider the advantages to more than justify the cost.
– Other Equipment. There are often a lot of other components in a well-designed presentation facility. They generally serve to add functionality and enhance image quality. In most cases, presenters won’t need to work directly with these devices, but it can’t hurt to have a basic understanding of what they do.
– Devices Available
Switchers are used to select between multiple video and audio sources.
Computer Interfaces process a computer’s video and audio output to achieve a higher degree of projected image quality.
Distribution amplifiers are used to duplicate one signal so it may be sent to several places, such as a computer’s display to multiple screens.
Touch-panels provide a simplified interface for the presenter to control complex systems. They can be programmed to control switchers, projectors, VCRs, computers, even drapes and room lighting.
Obviously, there are a lot of options when it comes to equipment. In the case of projectors, you need to consider the trade-offs between brightness, portability, resolution and cost. It’s always best to consider the application prior to any purchase: Will the projector be permanently installed? How many computer and video sources are there? What about sound reinforcement? Asking the right questions can help make the right decisions.
This introduction has only scratched the surface of a very complex topic. There are many other resources available to learn more about presentation technology.
Manufacturer’s Web sites are a great place to start. If you really want to explore the possibilities, talk to a reputable multimedia systems integrator. These professionals are a great source of information on the latest equipment, and are invaluable when it comes time to build or upgrade a facility.
Presentations have always been important in business. While public speaking skills and subject-matter expertise are still the main criteria for success, truly exceptional presenters also understand how to put the technology to work for them.
Rose, project manager at Oceanside-based Spectrum Video, Inc., oversees the design of presentation facilities for the Southern California region. Spectrum’s Web site is (www.spectrumvideo.com).