February 08, 2022 2022: Key trends and recommendations for continued success with James Chen

2021 was yet another unusual year.  

We’ve spent more time at home, which has become a sanctuary, and we’ve upgraded and expanded our personal AV experiences within our four walls. Whether you love listening to music or prefer watching films, chances are you’ve consumed more of it over the past 12 months than you have in the past few years. In short, home entertainment has taken up renewed importance. 

And with this new importance of AV, there’s little room for sub-par AV experiences in our lives. As a result, I expect some exciting developments in the world of AV that present new opportunities and challenges for AV integrators. There are some emerging trends to look out for in 2022 if you want to stay ahead of the game. 

8K On Track to be Adopted in 2022 

8K resolution is set to become the new standard for TVs and monitors, but is it really worth the extra money?  

There are considerations like technology, content, requirements and so on to assess before investing in 8K, especially as we’re only just beginning to see 4K video widely accessible through our favourite content providers.  

In 2022, we’re realising 8K is not just about 8K, it’s about better quality video processing, better quality video mapping. 8K brings higher brightness through improved backlighting technologies or newer technologies such as QD-OLED (Quantum Dot Organic Light Emitting Diode – Samsung Display), and Alienware releasing the first computer gaming monitor with this technology. The result is higher contrast and a wider gamut of colours. We are getting closer to full reproduction of REC2020 colour space, which is elusive, but I believe achievable. We are also experiencing a shift in colour depth that gives content creators more control and accuracy in reproduction.  

However, as 8K rolls out, I doubt we’ll ever see the end of the ‘Format Wars’, especially as larger production companies like Netflix have their own standard for creating content – some content created originally in 16:9, not widescreen or cinemascope.  

Video Quality Opportunities

The year 2022 presents huge possibilities for AV Pros to educate themselves on the nearest trends, allowing their customers to upgrade. 4K is only now gaining full traction, yet 8K is a viable option for people that love to be at the cutting edge with their technology purchases. Of course, there are those who will value and buy into the accompanying benefits, such as better quality video processing, video mapping and higher brightness through improved backlighting technologies. As an AV professional, it’s time to start thinking about planning ahead when installing video infrastructure. 

Delivering Immersive Gaming Experience 

With gaming, you’ve got to break it up. What are you gaming? Are you running scared and shooting in a dark place, or are you a driver? Do you like flight simulation? These genres all demand quick response times. 

Gaming AV performance requires absolute reliability of signal, image and refresh rates, especially when streaming.

Quick response times means that gamers demand high frame rates to give them the edge. Right now, we can deliver high frame rate video, just not high resolution at the same time. The average gamer is currently running 1080p and looking to move to 4K; that’s four times the amount of information. It will take beyond 48 gigs and well in excess of 200 gigs of information per second to accommodate high frame rates, we’re just not there yet. If we add the challenges of delivering spatial audio into the mix there’s a lot of work and learning to do. Not all gaming setups use immersive speaker arrays, often audio is down mixed for binaural use in headphones, and of course, all of this uses computer processing power which makes high frame rate 8K gaming a pipe dream right now. 

Gaming Opportunities 

The data requirements, spatial audio and focus on refresh rates will continue to push gaming in a separate direction from the conventional home cinema experience. 

For gaming-specific environments, accurate sensor and head tracking placement must be accurate to match the performance of the system (Xbox or PlayStation or PC) as, unfortunately, there is no real standard. As experiential games such as VR become the norm in many homes, safety becomes an important consideration of a room’s layout. Running around and banging your knee into the side of a coffee table? Not fun and potentially very dangerous.  

Whilst absolute video resolution for gaming lags behind the 4K and 8K trends, the requirement of high frame rates means that we need to install infrastructure that has sufficient bandwidth to deliver seamless gaming experiences. 

As rooms are often open plan, it is important to use good acoustic treatment and design. Otherwise, a lower-spec audio system may be used and therefore hidden. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) should be considered for comfort as gaming sessions can stack up the hours. 

Home Cinema

Cinema remains a significant – and frankly, fun – part of our industry. The good news is that in 2022 opportunities are still found in this area. It’s not so much revolutionary as evolutionary and we can keep improving what we offer to clients.

Home Cinema Opportunities 

  • Too many customers cut their budget short and focus mostly on the picture. Educate your clients to take the budget and divide it into three equal parts for screen, sound and room. Sure, an explosion looks great, but it sounds even better and feels better when watched on a comfy seat. 
  • Spatial audio will be a focus in the near future, starting yesterday. Therefore, speaker placement – and therefore wiring locations – need to be accurate to match standards. Speaker choice is important for both aesthetic and design reasons, as well as for performance. The right balance needs to be determined. 
  • Seating choice and location is often predetermined by the number of people, sight lines, comfort level, seat type, room acoustics, screen resolution and power requirements of seats. Nevertheless, remember a good private cinema replicates what the director and the sound engineer of a film intended
  • Projection systems are becoming cost-effective and viable for the average consumer. While this is currently the normal choice for a dedicated room and it is usually determined by screen size and budget, there is room to offer projectors as a solution to those who can facilitate a theatre.  
  • Normally, smart remotes are programmed in a sensible way, like turning on the lights at 30% when the pause button is pressed (so people can get refreshments or use the restroom). The next stage in this could be movement-based. Instead of having to press a button, a motion sensor can detect viewers leaving their seats to cause the pause function and lighting action. Especially if you don’t have the remote in the dark, and have to ask them to pause it (if they can hear you!). This tailored understanding of the use paired with offering sensible innovation will win you the AV project more often than not. 

Media Room: The Bigger In-Between Opportunity

The media room is where friends watch sports, families watch movies, and when guests come over it’s party central. ‘Media room’ has become a generic term applied to a multipurpose space furnished with a large flat-screen TV, surround sound, comfortable seating and other furnishings. More money will be spent here for the next few years as people discover the benefits of this room through existing here more and more. More technology in one space that needs to harmoniously co-exist. While it’s often seen as a compromise, it’s a no brainer for the AV Pro to continue to make the most of this category. Particularly as there’s a growing need for careful, purposeful design. 

A media room is a delicate compromise, the AV Installer’s role is to elevate every experience the room has to offer by delivering flexibility at the intersection of gaming, theatre and social interaction. The home has become a refuge; we are spending more time inside since the beginning of the pandemic, and the advent of the media room is only growing. So, expect to see more media rooms in demand in 2022 from parents of families that appreciate the downtime.  

Screen choice is important. Smooth motion, high brightness, and deep colours are desired in movies and TV watching. We need high refresh rates and fast gameplay in games. A fast reaction time may not be possible with high brightness as it takes time for the light to ramp up and down. Having both may be possible, but it is very expensive. So be sure to consider the priorities.  

Media Room Opportunities

By selecting the right combination of components, Pro AV Installers can deliver systems that address the needs of kids, sports fans and movie lovers, all in the same family space. As these are social spaces that people entertain in, there’s the potential for growing business by word of mouth after guests have experienced the difference of a job done well. 

It is important to remember that as a professional that has done this many times before, you are most likely the expert here. Providing customers with a critiqued and tested set of choices is not a bad thing for reliability’s sake. Then, translate this selection process to the client so that the proper considerations and compromises can be made. Don’t claim to offer the best of both worlds. Give them a level of control and power over the process through selection of options, then work together for the best available outcome. Get the balance right and they’ll be a client for life.  

My recommendations for continuing Pro AV Success in 2022 

  • Prewiring needs to be carefully thought out. And if you think you need it, put it in with consideration to redundancy and the inevitable odd nail-through-that-cable you put in.  You don’t want to drill holes and pull down walls when it could have been accounted for beforehand.
  • AV consumer sophistication is increasing and it is important to weigh up their priorities and find a solution that will work. Customers will have different requirements, so it is important to take time to consult properly and to meet their objectives. Avoid designing a system for yourself; create clear objectives with clients from the outset, so the right choices and compromises are made. 
  • Get educated. Get certified. There is no better time to knuckle down and become an expert. With a bevy of educational resources and legitimacy around certification, firstly, it can mean the difference between how you’re perceived by potential clients and whether or not you get the job. And CEDIA has great resources and offers many courses in designing cinema and media rooms. Secondly, it encourages you to get specific about the products you’re offering. Know them inside and out. 
  • Gaming standards are yet to be clearly defined. Most AV Pros know audio and video reproduction standards well enough to bridge the gap and apply this knowledge to gaming setups. HGiG – HDR Gaming interest Group – formed by Microsoft, Sony, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Activision (now acquired by Microsoft), EA, Rockstar and Ubisoft, is worth following closely. With the growing importance of gaming AV, these emerging guidelines may form standards for us to create dedicated spaces.  

In Closing 

Greater adoption of high-resolution devices, expansion of AI capabilities, locational audio and the diverging needs of specific rooms will create many opportunities for AV Pros in 2022. The ceiling of bandwidth is increasing, as is the potential for 8K adoption, and with it expands the true use of its deeper benefits beyond screen resolution.  

With this greater bandwidth comes the need for higher levels of security, latency and reliability to build robust systems. For example, when it comes to network devices, there’s no doubting the convenience of wireless technologies, and the mainstream consumer market readily pushes the benefits of its ease. But that convenience comes at the price of security, latency and reliability. The provision of a wired infrastructure for critical applications instantly makes security much easier to implement. Hand in hand with the inherent security that wired networks offer comes improved latency and reliability.  

The cable has always been able to carry more information with fewer protocols and less handshaking than wireless technologies. While wireless remains ‘convenient’ in education and implementation, it also suffers from more interference from other wired or wireless devices adding to the communication woes. Add to this security threats; because wireless devices are not wired in, their wireless signals can be hacked. Once this occurs, other devices – even wired ones – can be seen by the hacker and broken into temporarily or permanently if software such as a trojan has been planted. 

The surface level convenience of a wireless connection can potentially create inconvenient issues in the long term, not only in regards to signal stability and interference. For security, stability and predictable reliability, it has to be a cable. ‘Predictable reliability’ should be the corner stone of every installation, this protects profits and ensures customer satisfaction. 

For more information on cables and how Kordz is shaping the future of cable connectivity, read my article ‘Cables Are Here to Stay’ here. 

– James Chen