The DDMC hosted Sennheiser’s Steve Wingo who spoke about two very interesting technologies that might serve our community.

Team Connect 2

The TeamConnect Ceiling 2, with its patented automatic dynamic beamforming technology, was already a leader in conference room audio technology. Now, with the addition of TruVoicelift and advanced zone control, TeamConnect Ceiling 2 combines the advantages of a boundary microphone and a microphone array. Therefore, it is the best solution for both (video) conferencing and in-room audio, for example in classrooms, lecture halls and boardrooms. TeamConnect Ceiling 2 now offers our customers unparalleled levels of control with the addition of a priority zone (allowing a single area in the room to be highlighted), 5 advanced exclusion zones (for pinpoint targeting and removal of unwanted noise sources) and more. All of these new features are activatable and configurable via the latest firmware update for the TeamConnect Ceiling 2 and via the latest version of Sennheiser Control Cockpit. Easy to install and, due to a flexible microphone ceiling mount system, easy to integrate. Let us help you understand the difference TeamConnect Ceiling 2 can make for you and your business.


MobileConnect consists of three main components: The MobileConnect Station is the “audio-to-network bridge” that picks up the audio signal in the room and streams it to any preferred streaming network. Using the pre-existing WiFi access points, the signal is provided to up to 100 smartphones per Station, using the MobileConnect App as a receiver. When using multiple Stations, the MobileConnect Manager can be used as the single point of administration for all MobileConnect Stations. If not needed, MobileConnect can also be operated in the so-called Standalone Mode, where single MobileConnect Stations can be run and administered using a local web interface.


Take a look at our Zoom Call for more information:


The DDMC hosted a new comer just 2 years old to the Zoom/Teams appliance world of approved products called neat.

” Neat designs simple and elegant pioneering video devices for Microsoft and Zoom, helping make the meeting space experience the best it can be.

Continuously pushing boundaries, Neat devices are incredibly easy to install, set up and use and have unique features to support a safer, more enhanced and engaging hybrid working and learning environment going forward.

Advanced smart room sensor technology enables you to monitor air quality and people counting for healthier, lower-cost rooms. At the same time, crystal clear audio and video mean you can always precisely see and hear everyone, no matter where or how they position themselves in the room.

Bringing you the future of video today, Neat bridges the gap between in-room and remote participants like never before by individually auto framing each person in the room and presenting them equally up close on remote participants screens. This capability gives you, your colleagues or students the truest sense yet of being physically all together in the same room.”

One of the stand out features is what they call double-talk.

“All Neat devices have an excellent echo canceller that suppresses echo and not someone’s speech. As for the other echo cancellers out there, even though many do a great job of suppressing echo, they unintentionally squash speech too, which typically happens if people talk over each other – a phenomenon known as ‘double-talk.’

When ‘double-talk’ performance is poor, people may not always hear what you’re saying. Or worse, they probably won’t even realize you’re saying anything at all. It means that you can’t just quickly jump into a conversation without most devices dampening out your voice. Neat devices enable you to share in lively debates without that worry.”



Bryan Center Studios – February 2022 Update

I made a visit to the construction site that is or will be the Bryan Center Studios – here’s a quick update:

We had a few changes and ended up with a conference room that we’ll try to fashion into a small screening room. Studio 4 (the podcasting studio) got a bit squarer and still have room for the reservable editorial suite.

We’re hoping to finish up construction by the end of March, but given the difficulties getting any electronic equipment, Studio 3 and 4 and the conference/screening room may not be open until the Summer. Studio One will re-open as soon as it’s safe and will shut down for a short time after opening for relighting (installing more eco-friendly and more easily controllable LED lights).

As follow up to the ZOOM meeting from January, 28th. We just finished a product preview of the new POLY X70. That can leverage the ZOOM ability to share multiple screens simultaneously and be that “all-in-one” videoconference solution. The X70 combines (2) 4k video cameras with a stereo sound sound bar promising a conference room solution at a reasonable price.


Poly X70 Cut Sheet:

Along with the similarly featured (1) camera X50 all in one conference solution that brings small to medium conference rooms into reach as far as ease and simplicity is concerned.

Poly X50 Cut Sheet:

Some interesting audio features that may help with noisy environments are the Acoustic Fence and NOISEBLOCKAI features which allow user to set up an “audio exclusion zone” and reduce unwanted room noise.

Take a look at our ZOOM meeting for yourself!





Zoom Room Update – January 28th, 2022

We met with Zoom today and reviewed some of the options in Zoom Room software and hardware and talked about some new features:

  1. Smart Gallery – Using a digital camera (not PTZ camera), Zoom Room software can take a wide shot of conference table and using AI, break it up so that there are multiple close ups of each individual participant. This helps avoid the “security camera” view of a conference room table.  This is limited to certain Zoom appliances today but will be coming shortly to Mac/Windows Zoom rooms. For more information:
    1. Smart Gallery also supports the simultaneous use of two cameras – For example, simultaneous front and rear facing cameras or instructor camera and document camera.
  2. Focus Mode – Another feature in Zoom Room software allows the instructor to turn off all participants cameras (so they only see participant’s names) and only broadcast their camera. They can still see all the participants cameras to make sure they can keep an eye on things.
  3. Companion Whiteboard – Although requiring a second license, this allows you to deploy a touch device to an existing zoom room to use it as a dedicated white board:

We also briefly discussed hardware options alternatives to Logitech including solutions from Poly (formerly Polycom – merged with Plantronics) and Neat. We’ll be planning a DDMC meeting in the next week or so with Poly to discuss some of their solution. One feature that caught my attention was Poly’s inclusion of a USB-C plug that allows you to connect the system to your computer and use their camera, speaker and microphone on your laptop – if you needed to connect to Skype, Go To Meeting, etc… Poly’s seems pretty cool as well – especially in our new media lab with the loud air exchanges.


Neat Pad

The good folks over at Neat were nice enough to send us a Neat Pad evaluation unit to test in Duke’s Zoom Room environment. Neat says that their Neat Pad is “a simple and elegant touch screen you can configure as a controller inside your Zoom Room, or use as a scheduling display outside any meeting room,” and it delivers! But, is it for everyone?

First, why would a University want a Neat Pad when options like an iPad or various other 3rd party controllers (Crestron TSW-770 for example) are available as Zoom Room controllers?

An iPad works wonderfully as a Zoom Room controller and is usually updated first when Zoom pushes out an update to the Zoom Room platform. But, at the end of the day, it’s still an iPad with all the little quarks surrounding such a universal device. Specifically, an iPad has a less than ideal charging system for conference rooms. The iPad also requires mounting/security hardware, etc. etc. Finally, if the iPad isn’t using ZDM, the iPad is basically another enterprise computer to manage, both the iPadOS and Zoom Room application need to be maintained. Plus, iPads have a tendency to “grow legs” as they are recognizable mobile devices. Having a wireless option is nice, but not so much when you need to send a technician to a conference room to “plug in the iPad” after a faculty/staff/student has forgotten to reconnect the iPad to a charger (or when the charging cable goes missing).

Many 3rd party controllers have nice features including Power over Ethernet (PoE) to provide clean wired network connectivity and power over a single cable, but they too require a good bit of management, occasionally requiring a specific skillset unique to AV technicians. While these devices usually have the advantage of being used for other applications outside of the Zoom Room environment… updating the firmware (specifically “Firmware Friday“) sometimes isn’t for the faint of heart.

The Neat Pad, in contrast, eliminates many of the challenges mentioned above. Unlike an iPad, the Neat Pad is tethered via a network connection for Internet access and power so while less “mobile” than an iPad, it is less likely to walk away. Also, because it’s not an iPad, people are usually less inclined to attempt to disconnect or “borrow” the device. Setup, unlike an iPad and other 3rd party controllers, takes <3 minutes and can be fully managed from the Zoom environment (aka, once connected, all management of the device is implemented by Zoom’s native web interface – no fumbling around with a hardware manufacturer’s specific software or cryptic embedded web pages for firmware updates. It’s all Zoom). As for price, the Neat Pad has an MSRP of $500. While that’s more expensive vs. an iPad, once you add in the additional hardware to make an iPad function in a conference room, you are quickly approaching that price point (not to mention the time involved with configuring the iPad). The Neat Pad is also less expensive than comparable 3rd party controllers. The only “cons” (and I hate to use that label – perhaps “consideration”) to the device would be that it will only run the Zoom Room environment – either as a controller or room scheduler (both worked wonderfully). It’s never going to run Microsoft Teams, O365 calendaring, Appspace, EMS, Robin, etc. etc. It runs Zoom Rooms and it does that well. One other consideration is that the Neat Pad usually trails a few weeks, perhaps a month, behind the official version of Zoom Rooms in terms of the app update (other 3rd party manufacturers do as well ). Finally, if I had a “Gee, I wish Neat would…” item, it would be that I wish they had a 10″ and 12″ version. The 7″ Neat Pad is great, but there are some locations where having a little more real estate would be ideal.

Level It Out

I was recently contacted by a staffer that had wildly differentiating audio levels for participants in a Zoom recording:

They had tried using “Normalize” but unfortunately the difference between the two was too much for that plug in to handle. This looks like a job for the “Hard Limiter”! Hard Limiter is a standard plug in available in the “Audio Effects” panel of Adobe Premiere. Most NLE’s will have a similar plugin.

If you measure the max level (in db) for your lowest audio, you can set your hard limiter to that level and it won’t allow any of the other audio above that level. This won’t help if one of your audio participants are over modulated or distorted.

In today’s world of remote interviews where we have no control over the participants audio, the hard limiter will be of great value.

Building A Better Border

One of the challenges with Final Cut Pro’s “Simple Border” effect is that it will not work if you crop the image. There are work arounds for this but I found a better solution. BretFX’s Better Border is a free plugin for Final Cut that allows you to crop and put on a border with one tool. I had a pretty complex border project (personal) and wouldn’t have been able to do it without this tool.

Check out the site as there are other reasonably priced plugins such as their Splitz effect that might make compositing multiple speakers much quicker.


Middle Atlantic RLNK-215

Technically, this isn’t an “AV specific” piece of hardware, but the Middle Atlantic RLNK-215 makes its way to AV racks regularly and for good reason. The two-outlet “intelligent power” control device provides basic metal oxide varistor (MOV) surge protection to your AV system, network device, or server. What makes this device unique is that when you connect the RLNK-215 to your network, it offers an easy to use web interface that enables you to independently turn the outlets on and off. While this may not sound like such a modern marvel, consider a scenario where you need to perform a quick hard reboot to your fancy new AV system after a failed firmware update. One quick power cycle should do the trick. Oh, did I forget to mention that the AV system is 100 miles away, on an island, and it’s a Saturday afternoon? Having the ability to remotely hard reboot a system can come in handy in several situations and this device allows you to easily and securely perform that task. The RLNK-215 is also capable of fully integrating into your AV system of choice (Extron, Crestron, etc.) to power devices on or off (amps, lights, fans, etc.).

[Above: Screenshot of the various ways to password protect the Middle Atlantic RLNK-215 for users, admins, and control systems.]

I know what you are thinking, “But didn’t I see something like this for $29.95 online?” Perhaps, but there are reasons you buy such a device. First, it’s not an Internet of Things device, pinging home to a centralized server. This device is fully self-contained and does not require access to the greater Internet. Also, the device is well constructed with a metal outer shell and locking power cable to prevent accidental power disconnects. The device is RoHS and UL listed (60950-1) which is important in many installations. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the device is backed by a three-year warranty and a group of people that stand behind the device should you experience issues.

Bottom Line: While these devices may sound like a luxury at times, it allows you to more centrally manage AV systems, especially when you have limited staffing resources or a large AV footprint across a sprawling campus.

Webcam/Tripod Review

I recently moved into a new home and my previous method of mounting my webcam wouldn’t work in my new home office. I thought I would try one of the low cost webcams offered on Amazon since it came with a tripod mount and said it featured a wide angle lens. I’m very impressed with the performance for a $30 webcam. The tripod was a perfect fit. Even though I’m not using the included gooseneck, for $18 this seemed like a great deal. Using the tripod set behind the laptop allows me to position my screen at an angle for easier viewing without having the built in camera looking “up my nose”

For those that don’t know me, I’m the guy that looks like he’s sitting in Guitar Center. 🙂