Today our partner, Anton Julin, heading “Albus Pro” installation company, speaks about his experience of using iRidium in his work and highlights the most interesting moments of integrating Crestron and AV equipment.
«Лицом к лицу, лица не увидать, большое видится на расстоянии». Говоря проще, пока еще рано говорить о каких-либо серьезных успехах. Но, скорее – да, чем нет.«When face to face we cannot see the face. We should step back for better observation». In short, it’s too early to speak about serious success. Rather yes, than no. The tasks are in fact rather numerous, as iRidium works directly with drivers. There is nothing else to say.
EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) –«VESA» standard of data format, that contains basic information about the monitor and its features (including information about the manufacturer, maximum image size, color characteristics, manufacturer’s preset timing, frequency range).
HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) – technology to protect media contents, developed by «Intel», preventing illegal copying of high-quality signal.
Let’s imagine that there are 16 (!) different monitors (TV-sets) in your house. A smaller one in the kitchen, a bigger one in the guest room. When HDMI-splitter is connected, the source and the monitor exchange security protocols and supported tables. In case there are many monitors (TV-sets), this procedure takes a lot of time and it may annoy a user. And even after all turned-on monitors and the source have exchanged data, if one of the monitors is turned off (a wife turned off or on the TV in the kitchen), data exchange begins again. It means that the other monitors “freeze” again. And one more thing. If one of the monitors does not support a certain resolution at a certain frequency, a sort of collapse can happen.
Crestron equipment allows to avoid such nuances and its DM-switch sends data to a monitor, as if it were the only source and the monitor – the only monitor in the system. In other words, if there are 16 monitors in the house and they work with only one source, thanks to the correctly organized work of DM equipment by Crestron, each monitor thinks that it works with its own source. Besides, DM switch allows to set a table of supported resolutions (EDID) to avoid formats that are not supported by all monitors in the house.
It’s difficult to say anything definite. I believe every integrator comes across certain difficulties. In my opinion the most difficult part is “Graphics”, as the control interface is, in fact, the only link that joins the complicated home automation equipment and a user. In general, the main difficulty is location of graphical items, controlling equipment. Thus, from project to project an integrator struggles to find answers to the seemingly simple questions:
- how many graphical items to place on a definite page;
- what proportions to keep for the interface to look good and for the customer to easily touch the required buttons;
- symmetry or asymmetry? In both cases a unanimous numeric style of graphical items has to be kept. It means that no matter, how many graphical items there are in a definite zone, a certain number limit of them has to be kept in each zone, otherwise the interface tends to be chaotic. There must be a kind of order it helps a customer to handle the control interface easily. .
The following nuances have to be taken into consideration.
Comprehensive symbols. Let’s speak about lighting control as an example. A lot of integrators prefer to use a lamp image on a button that turns on a certain group of lighting, and this image looks dark when the light is turned off, and it looks lit when the light is tuned on. It’s one of the most wide-spread mistakes. If you speak to different users, you’ll easily learn that there are serious difficulties with using such an interface. In some cases it takes users years to remember which button is responsible for which lighting group, as all buttons look the same. To avoid it, each type of lights or a group of lights must have a different graphical image or a name, but names do not always look aesthetic. For this reason, it’s better to avoid button names. Though names seem to be the most comprehensive way to define a graphical item, they are not good enough, as, firstly, customers do not read button names, secondly, the right brain is not receptive to names but to graphical images. There is one more aspect – it’s difficult to place names in graphical items, as word length varies, and it’s a certain limitation.
Another thing is the interface concept. This term includes a lot. Initially simple things have to be thought about. How will a person understand where he is and what he can control? It’s very important to think how a user will “read” the interface. It’s evident that only a few users understand how to handle an interface themselves the first time they see it. But in general the integrator’s aim is an interface that users can easily understand on their own.
Navigation. What requires detailed thinking is how a user will move between interface pages and how easy it will be for him. This problem is not easy to solve, as an integrator’s engineer thinking is accompanied by the customer’s wishes, who, to tell the truth, may not understand what he really wants to see and what he will use or not use in the long run. We have to look into the future here.
Graphics as an art. It’s not the same to be a good engineer, a good programmer and a good artist. What is required here is a sense of style and knowledge of programs that are not easy to master, as they have certain peculiarities. Even if you have mastered a tool, it does not mean that you will master the technique easily. Anybody can learn to put paint on the canvas, but only a few selected ones can paint anything worthwhile (and in our case a person must have a gift for technical design). It’s possible to ask a designer to make graphics, but many nuances appear here too. Firstly, you must write a very precise technical specification with regard to everything written above, secondly, you can’t be 100% sure that a hired designed can make right decisions on conceptual questions. Let’s imagine that as a result of your joint efforts you have a general concept, but this concept does not have such features as skeuomorphism or flat minimalism, color, texture, pattern. To put it shortly, the customer and his surroundings must like the interface. What if they do not like? Designer’s work has to be paid for. .
One more thing a beginning integrator may come across, is growing difficulty in the programming part in case complicated graphics is chosen (standard tools of iRidium Studio allow to make a lot, but they are not enough for serious projects). That’s why «JS» has to be used for more serious projects. I am only a beginner here and can’t give you serious advice. All I can share with you is that a trivial syntax mistake can easily make you work very difficult. So, I recommend using such apps as WebStorm», «Sublime» or «DreamWeaver». Pay more attention to syntax and general rules. In my time I made a lot of mistakes and could not understand why a script did not work. The reason was really simple – use of unallowed symbol in the function or variable name, for example. The apps I gave as an example drew my attention to these mistakes.
In conclusion, what has to be paid special attention to is mistakes made in the whole project. There can be a lot of them. The most popular of them are – a ”hiding” blank space, “C” symbol that looks identical in English and Russian, but if such mistakes are made somewhere in the script, it may take hours and even days to find them. It’s even difficult to imagine how many people suffered from such trivial mistakes. One has to be extremely attentive and check the work the work carefully and thoroughly. I prefer to do everything by small parts (projects) and then put them carefully together in a single project.
I’d like to draw attention to the importance of saving different project versions periodically. In case anything goes wrong, and the project file becomes impossible to use, it’ll be much easier to start with a previous version and not from the very beginning.
The most acute for me at the moment is a capability to copy a whole tree with folders and subfolders from one project to another, and a capability to rename a required part of item names, folders, etc., the way it is done in Crestron. In «Crestron» you can click with the right mouse button on the whole logics tree and change in the name of tree items the word “kitchen” for “Bedroom”, and after it the whole huge tree of folders, logical items, joins is renamed in a second. Besides, you can choose where exactly to rename, that is, in the names of joins, logical items, folders or everywhere. This function can save a lot of integrator’s time. And time is money. Personally I, being used to working with Crestron equipment always give very precise names to joins, logical items and folders. As a result at any time of day and night I can understand what this logics is responsible for by having one look at it. Of course it takes a lot of time to give correct names to all items, but having created a tree once, you can simply copy it and rename items in a bundle. In iRidium Studio it is done manually, it takes a lot of time and leads to mistakes. .
I’d also like a capability to used packed video with alfa-channel as an item. I’ve already spoken about it.
And one more important thing – release of 64-bit editor of iRidium Studio. Because problems with operation memory made me freeze some of my interesting projects. Here I’d also like to mentions a capability to chose whether to pack into zip or not, when saving an object, not to spend time of archiving hundreds of project versions, as, I repeat myself, time is the most valuable thing in integrator’s work.And the painful “Slider” question, make them like in «Crestron».