Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Design Led Sound Solutions from CGA Integration

Holistic visual design
Have you ever been frustrated that your interior design is being compromised by the functional requirements of services? Do you have an eyesore of a white grill on a coloured ceiling, black boxes on white walls or maybe too many controls on the walls, with staff unable to get the consistency you planned and designed for?

If this sounds like an experience you are all too familiar with, CGA Integration can help you to address these aesthetic issues, whilst still enabling you to deliver the functional design that your client’s venue demands.

CGA can deliver speakers and grills resprayed to any RAL colour to ensure the integrity demands of your design, even after the services have been installed. With this available from CGA for all services, not just for sound equipment, we can help you to deliver a truly holistic visual design.

In addition, the control systems that CGA deploy not only deliver great sound but can also control; lighting, video, blinds, air conditioning and a whole range of other services. This enables you, the designer, to deliver a control platform for the whole environment, rather than creating a wall full of buttons to control varying parts of it!

So rather than planning how to layout a wall of switches, let us help you to change the conversation to talk about integration in the plant rooms and colours and fonts for the iPad control screens.

Addressing the soundscape
Taking things one step further, designs that encompass all the senses create a truly holistic guest experience. Although the visual design creates a wonderful first impression, hearing is one of our primary fight and flight senses; get the sound wrong in a venue and guests may never be comfortable in the space, no matter how wonderful it looks!

To generate the best sound, you need to ensure that the correct speakers and reproductive equipment are installed for the space. Not every sound system will deliver the right sound. How you hear sound in a space changes considerably with decorative finishes and also once it is occupied. CGA can help by creating the best sound system for your space, choosing and fitting the right equipment to deliver what your client needs it to do, throughout the day, every day.

Designed for the future 
Once you know that your design will both look and sound how you envisaged, how do you ensure that it stays that way, whilst still allowing flexibility and future proofing for your client?

Here at CGA we always plan for the future. With every sound system we create, we ensure spare cable runs to allow for changes to systems without the need for rewiring and we install digital control platforms which allow equipment to be monitored and tested by us remotely, (in real time), to ensure that all hardware is at it’s best at all times. These same digital control systems also allow systems to be reconfigured and reprogrammed easily with no hardware changes to repurpose or refresh a space for added peace of mind.

Why not talk to us about getting the sound system right for the space you are designing for. This might just add that final edge to your design; keeping your client’s guest’s spending and your client coming back to you for more great designs.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Why do I need PPL and PRS and what do they do?

PPL and PRS for Music are the UK's two music licensing societies.

PPL represents performers and record companies. PRS for Music is
a society of songwriters, composers and music publishers. Both
organisations ensure that the creators and performers of music are
paid when their music is used in public.

PPL PRS Ltd is a new joint venture between PPL and PRS for Music.
They have recently joined forces to make it easier for their customers
to obtain a music licence for the playing or performance of music in public.  

The purpose of PPL PRS Ltd is to ensure that writers and performers are
fairly rewarded for their talent, but also to support those who use music
on a daily basis.

What is TheMusicLicence?

TheMusicLicence allows you to legally play and perform music in your
business, whether through the radio, TV, other devices and or through
live performances.

If you play or perform music in your business or organisation in the UK,
you will usually need TheMusicLicence. It will cover you, with one licence
and one invoice, for the use of virtually all commercially released music
available; millions of songs and recordings, including the most popular
and well-loved music not just from the UK but also from around the world.

Can I play Spotify or Apple Music in my Business?

The simple answer is no. In business terms, music streaming services
come in two forms; B2C (Business to Consumer) and B2B (Business to
Business). The core music streaming services offered by companies like
Spotify and Apple Music are B2C built for consumers, not businesses.
This means they are licensed for private, non-commercial use (perfect
to use at home with your friends & family). You need to purchase
TheMusicLicence to play music in public places, including to your
customers and employees.

But I have purchased iTunes Music so surely I can play this?

It is common in our digital age to be confused as to whether we own our
digital content. When you pay to download music or even movies for
that matter, you are essentially purchasing a license; you are leasing the contentFurthermore, you may only play this music in a non-commercial setting. You can listen to the songs yourself as much as you like, but it is illegal to play them in public. iTunes music on your iPod, iPad, iPhone, CDs, MP3s or digital files can not be used for background music in a commercial environment. Playing the downloaded music in your business violates copyright law because the act is now considered a public performance.
Public performances require TheMusicLicence.

What are Professional Creative Music Agencies?

Professional Creative Music Agencies create playlists of tracks to create
unique atmospheres and distinct brand identities for their clients.  All
music chosen by these agencies is covered by TheMusicLicence.
CGA Integration always recommends using this service, as you have
the peace of mind that when you purchase TheMusicLicence, all of your playlist will be covered. You also have the added benefit that the perfect playlist has been created specifically for your business.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Meeting Room Technology

Technology is by its very nature a fast-moving industry.  As it constantly
evolves, so does how we interact with it, both at home and at work.  As
such the requirements for meeting rooms are changing quickly, with a
growing focus on much more visual and video content being demanded
across a wide spectrum of events & devices.


During meetings, delegates need to connect and collaborate on screen,
in real time and at the highest quality.  They need to be able to move
seamlessly across a range of AV and connectivity solutions, which in
turn need to be available in each, and sometimes multiple, meeting room
areas.


In addition to a main room, delegates need quality break out areas to
develop ideas from the main meeting.  These also need to be spaces
where they can relax and process new information or network and bond
with team members & their clients whilst still being supported by the AV
they need.


These meeting room requirements can be delivered by addressing six
main technological areas; HDMI, BYOD (bring your own device),
Connectivity, Video & Voice Conferencing, Speakers and Digital Control.


HDMI Connectivity
As we start seeing 4k TV’s at home, the minimum quality expected in
meeting rooms is now HD (1080p) resolution.  Most new laptops and
video devices are based on the HDMI connector that delivers digital
quality in high resolution.  Upgrading the connectivity in all meeting
rooms to HDMI is essential, although unfortunately VGA connectivity
is still required for legacy equipment.


BYOD
Delegates no longer just have a laptop which they wish to present from.
BYOD facilitates presentation on screen of content from iPads, iPhones,
Android devices, Chrome devices, Macbooks and laptops, all wirelessly,
from anywhere in the room.


With delegates regularly working in the Cloud and not actually having a
device that stores all their information, this does mean that the need for
a good or preferably impressive internet connection into meeting rooms
becomes essential.  


Delegates can then connect and present quickly and easily using
Chromecast and Airplay as they might at home, or through a useful app
quickly downloaded to their device.  BYOD also facilitates wirelessly
delivered screen sharing; enabling two or more users to present their
content on screen for comparison and review.


Connectivity; touch screens
We are all too familiar with the touch screen functionality of our portable
devices, phones and tablets.  Once delegates have their presentation or
image on screen in a meeting room, they want to be able to touch it and
move, explore, explode or manipulate what they are presenting.  All of
this is possible with a simple USB connection to the screen. Once this is
applied, suddenly the screen can be an extension of their Windows or
IOS operating experience, allowing full interaction on the screen.


Video & Voice Conferencing
Historically dedicated equipment was needed to launch a video
conference (VC) call, this needed to be used by all parties involved
and the telecoms provider needed to provide a solid connection or
bandwidth between all the locations.  But now VC has become ‘the
norm’, and Skype, webex and a range of other video and voice
conferencing facilities are now available in the Cloud.


This means that if a key delegate is unable to travel but wants to
attend a meeting and actively participate in discussions, it is possible
to use such services to bring remote delegates up onto the screen
and hear them clearly through speakers.  In addition, they can share
their desktop computer on the meeting room screen, as described in
BYOD above, enabling them to make a presentation and discuss this
with the other meeting delegates as if they were in the same room.
In a more advanced or larger conference suite it is also possible to
bring remote delegates up on a separate screen to the data, so that
you can see more of the individual, including their body language and
hand gestures.


The move to the Cloud makes it much easier for venues to offer VC
connectivity. A simple USB & video connection to the delegates
Windows laptop or Mac, connects the in-room speakers, microphone,
camera and screen to the delegates call on their VC software.  This
ensures that the delegates has the company IT security that they need,
with the ability to share the call with all in the meeting room. The same
can also be done with a voice call from a mobile phone and all delegates
can be heard, and hear, through the installed ceiling microphone and
speakers.


Installed Quality Speakers
With video content and conferencing, you need both the correct image,
and quality sound which can be heard throughout the room. Speakers
on a television or a sound bar underneath it, are often only enough for
a small room.  If content is to be heard throughout a room, there is a
requirement for quality ceiling mounted speakers throughout. If rooms
are also to be used as private dining spaces, quality speakers are
essential to deliver ambient sound at a quality that reflects the food &
service of the venue to all diners.


Digital Control
As mentioned above, we are all now familiar with touchscreen control.
Centralising the control of the meeting room functionality; screen,
source, lights, AC, VC, etc, can all be pulled back onto one control
platform.  This gives venues and their delegates a tailored, branded
controlled experience, which does not rely on ‘finding the remote
control’ or physically finding a button to press.


Most of the modern display technology and certainly the screen
sharing products all offer the ability to personalise the display of the
system.  This allows venues to add their own Branding and personalise
any login instructions for delegates, making their systems clear and
easy to use. When delegates enter a room the screen can show any
message, logo, room name and instructions on how the delegates
can connect their device to work in the space.

A digital control platform does require some IT backbone, but not
only does it offer the client a better experience, but enables the
venue’s AV integrator to connect and diagnose any problems in real
time and enables the system to proactively send out warnings and
alerts before any hardware fails.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Fly your way to more events business

CGA met with an Events Manager at a London hotel recently and a worrying statistic
emerged; 30% of potential customers for large-scale functions declined to book their
venue after viewing the ballroom, as there were no flying points.

The actual number of ‘lost clients’ is probably even higher, as many events
companies having previously visited would already know that flying points were
not available, so would not even consider the venue as a potential option in the first
place.

So if you have a good size function space, one which can cater for over 200 guests,
with a good height ceiling and no flying points, then maybe you too are missing out
on a large portion of the available business.

So what is a flying point?
Flying points are in principal big hooks or fixing points fitted to the structure of your
roof or ceiling. They allow events companies to hang equipment without having to
build up from the ground with stands or scaffolding, therefore leaving your events
space looking more like a purpose-built function space. 
A flying point also has the added safety benefit of being rated and tested with a
loading which specifies the weight of equipment that events company can hang or
fly from it.

So why do I need flying points in my events space?
There is a growing trend that companies booking hospitality spaces to host large
scale events are either events companies themselves, or the company making the
booking will be employing an events company to manage the occasion.

The events company will want to bring in speakers, lighting, video screens and
lots of other technology to make the occasion special or even spectacular!  All
of this equipment needs to be mounted, often at a high level, to allow visibility
and sound dispersion throughout the function room to create the desired effects.

Is there anything else I should consider?
If you are considering adding flying points to your events space, you must work
with a structural engineer to ensure that your building is capable of taking the
weight required to be hung.  If this is confirmed, engage a reputable rigging
company to ensure that they correctly install flying equipment in the right place,
with the correct weight loading capability required.

To ensure minimal visual impact, you may also choose to work with an interior
designer to enable that these flying points ‘disappear’ when they are not in use.
Although please remember it is paramount to let the structural engineer & rigging
company agree the location of these points NOT the designer, to ensure the
safety and functionality of the points.

Plan to maintain flying points in your annual budgeting.  As they are essentially
lifting gear, they need to be regularly tested to ensure that they are safe and
compliant with industry standards.

If you are investing in flying points to enable events companies to fly lots of
technology, you equally need to consider power and cable management. Think
about how best to supply a suitable amount of power to the points, some in the
roof space, as well as how the power will be routed from the floor of the venue
up to these flying points without having unsightly bundles of cables swinging around.

If you would like to find out more about installing flying points then please give us
a call on 0845 058 4652, email or maybe take a look at refurbishing your events
space on the CGA website and we can advise you how to start the process to
maximise the effectiveness of your critical events space.

CGA … making hospitality sound Great!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Audio Myths and Legends... busted!

Over the years that I’ve worked in the Hospitality sector there are some statements that I hear time and time again, ‘myths and legends’ of AV that are passed on and often never questioned.  So I’ve decided to address a few of them, the ones that I hear most often, and hope that after you’ve read this you might look at your AV in a whole new light!

More speakers just =  louder sound
In the hospitality sector, our aim is to deliver a consistent guest experience, one which reflects your Brand and encourages repeat visits to your venue, or other venues within your group.  All your diners receive the same quality food & service, so all guests should receive the same quality audio. However, this is so often not the case.

If only a few speakers are fitted, this will lead to audio ‘hot and cold’ spots within a venue.  Taking the dining analogy, proximity to speakers will either make your guests dining experiences ‘loud’, if seated near to a speaker, or quiet for those seated further away.  You wouldn’t have areas of your dining room lit and areas in darkness, so why should this be the case for sound?  

If you install numerous speakers running at a low level, this can create an even and all encompassing sound.  It’s not that more speakers just mean a louder sound, it means that they can create a more consistent sound.  By installing a sound system in this way it will surround your guests, acting as an extension to your lighting and decor, to complement the food and service you offer.

Speakers are black and ugly
Speakers now come in a variety of sizes, colours and finishes.  Some speakers are even invisible and for those that are not, they can be sprayed in any RAL colour to exactly match your decor.  CGA like to get involved as early as possible in the design process to ensure that, where possible, speakers are integrated and hidden.  We can offer plaster in “invisible speakers” and have even installed these behind a gold leaf to deliver both a five star sound and aesthetic!

If the sound system requires visible speakers, these can be colour coordinated with your design scheme.  CGA can finish most speakers to any RAL colour.  If the grill or even the speaker cabinet is visible, this can be the same colour as your ceiling or wall, or if desired they can be finished in a coordinated colour to match other design elements, to give a fully coordinated appearance.  So although speakers are also available in black, if this isn’t the colour of choice it’s really not an issue!

But the speakers in the restaurant next door are tiny!
The tiny domestic ‘design led’ speakers that you see dotted around in certain bars and restaurants are often favoured by designers, as they have minimum impact aesthetically, but these are actually only the visible part of a much bigger system. Their size might be attractive if you are trying to minimise any visual impact, but when you install small speakers such as these, they only reproduce mid and high-frequency sound.  To get a full range sound you will always need to add a complimentary larger cabinet, (or bass bin), to fill in the warm full bass and lower sound frequencies which these tiny speakers cannot reproduce.

These ‘bass bins’ as they are referred to are much harder to place in your venue, as they invariably create a bass ‘hot spot’. A salesman might state that “bass is Omni directional, you can put a bass bin anywhere.”  This is an accurate statement, bass sound does spread in all directions, but it spreads from the bass bin and similar to the example given above when we looked at speaker numbers, if you have a table next to the bass bin guests there will hear the bass much more than those at a table placed further away, resulting in each guest having a very different audio experience. There are ways to work with bass bins to try to mitigate this effect, but if you fitted slightly larger full range speakers instead, this will ensure that all of your guests receive the same audio experience and consistency of sound as they move through your venue.  As we have mentioned above, speakers now come in many different colours and finishes so their size really shouldn’t affect the aesthetics of your interior design!

Why have a music player, I can use my iPod or Spotify in the Bar
Whilst there are many legal pitfalls in this statement, even if you can address these, a portable music player or streamed music source will just offer inferior quality sound.

Many digital sound formats are very heavily compressed to allow sound files to be sent over the internet as fast and as easily as possible. Unfortunately, once compressed, much of the ‘dynamics’ and ‘excitement’ is lost from the music for ever, so even if you have the greatest sound system in the world, it will still sound flat and lifeless due to the poor quality of the source material.  Amplifiers do what their name suggests, they just amplify sound, what you put in is exactly what you get out, only louder! So if you use a poor quality music source, you just get loud, poor quality music.

In addition to this, if you do have a sound system which uses an iPod as a music source, there is always the concern over control.  You run the risk of staff using their iPods and playing music that they like to listen to, as opposed to playing the carefully selected music playlist that is right for your customers in your venue.

When choosing a music content provider, always talk to them about the file size and compression rates they use.  Ask them to explain and demonstrate the difference between the same track on a CD and on their music player to ensure that the music quality is right for you and your venue.  

There are some exciting new technologies now available such as the revolutionary new British technology MQA.  It is still a compressed music format, but MQA offers better time alignment which considerably improves the quality of the music output from compressed files.  Once it has passed through the MQA decoder in the sound system, the track is reproduced in the same quality as the sound recorded by the artist in the recording studio!  In a quality hospitality venue why would you settle for anything less?

I hope that I have succeeded in breaking down some long standing AV ‘myths and legends’.  Obviously, each venue and every room is different and each desires to create a unique experience for their clients. Here at CGA Integration we pride ourselves on understanding customer needs and striving to apply the best AV solution every time. Why not contact us to see how we can make your AV work better for you in your venue?

Monday, 12 June 2017

Come in, relax and make yourself at home …

Sound; the missing link in the sensory jigsaw:
Come in, relax and make yourself at home … how would you like your guests to feel when they think about visiting your venue?

In the Hospitality Industry we are all searching to make people feel as welcome and relaxed as possible.  Venues invest in exquisite decor, beautifully designed lighting schemes and specially selected staff, carefully trained to deliver outstanding customer service, but do you still find that not everyone can truly relax?  Some guests can remain on edge throughout their stay and fail to immerse themselves in the wonderful environment created around them.

Maybe sound is the missing link in the sensory jigsaw, the subconscious trigger in helping all your guests to truly relax.

Our hearing is so often the sense we take for granted.  Sound tends to just happen around us.  Familiar noises such as aeroplanes flying overhead, phones ringing, vacuum cleaners whirring, birds singing, children playing or people walking by, just become background noise.  It's often not until you stop and really listen that you can pick out each of these individual sounds.

Our bodies are in a neutral state around sounds that we are use to hearing, but if we are placed in an unfamiliar environment or situation with noises that we are not use to, our sense of hearing becomes heightened and our body becomes generally more alert.  This biological reaction links back to our inbuilt “Fight or Flight” response, which is designed to keep us safe.  As cavemen, our ancestors faced the regular question “should we stay and ward off this prehistoric predator or run as fast as we can to get away from it?”  Thankfully, we no longer generally face this kind of dilemma on a daily basis, but the inbuilt “Fight or Flight” response remains hard wired into our psyche.

Silence and sudden loud noises can often affect us in a similar way.  If we consider the natural world for a moment, predators are often met with an ‘alarm’ call to warn others in their group of impending danger and potentially scare off the intruder, in much the same way as the modern equivalent of a smoke detector, house or car alarm.  Conversely, potential prey can often remain still and silent to conceal their presence from a predator, which in turn heightens their other senses and prepares their bodies for ‘flight’.  These inbuilt behaviours remain part of us even today, so getting sound right for your guests is a crucial part in helping them to truly relax, even though they might not be able to tell you why!

Getting it right:
So how do you get it right?  This is not just about sound for sound’s sake, but about using sound in the right way to help change your guest’s opinions, from liking your venue into really loving it.

By eliminating unwanted noises, choosing a soundtrack to complement your Brand and delivering this through a well designed, expertly installed, flexible sound system, you can address the missing link in the sensory jigsaw.  This removes areas of silence, helps to reduce the inbuilt “Fight or Flight” response in us all and joins together all the other sensory messages experienced by your guests enabling them to truly relax.

Eliminating unwanted noises and reduce noise reflection:
Before you start adding sound to a space you need to consider noises which already exist or which can be heard from within that space, which might have a detrimental effect on your guests, for example noise from; traffic, open kitchens, doors slamming or phones ringing.  Ideally all these noises need to be diminished.

Stand and clap your hands in the space, think about how every noise will or will not be reflected throughout that area, if necessary add some sound absorbing surfaces to deaden these reflections so that you have as blank an acoustic canvas as possible to start painting your soundscape on.  To help, you can engage an acoustic environment consultant to measure the existing noise within the space.  They will then advise you on how to minimise noise and ‘audio bleed’ from other areas.

Choosing a soundtrack to complement your Brand:
Work with a music provider to ensure that the music you are playing complements and enhances your Brand.  Who are your guests? Does your offer change throughout the day? Indeed does your customer demographic change throughout the day? Your music content choice needs to reflect all of these variables.

A well designed, expertly installed, flexible sound system:
To generate the best sound, you need to ensure that the correct speakers and reproductive equipment are installed for your space.  Not every sound system will deliver the right sound. How you hear sound in a space changes considerably with decorative finishes and also once it is occupied.  A specialist sound system designer and installer will create the best sound system for your space, choosing and fitting the right equipment to deliver what you need it to do throughout the day, every day.

Once you have worked through the issue of unwanted noise & sound reflection and chosen the right music content, you may well find that the amount of music you have to add to a space is vastly reduced, as you are no longer competing with or trying to mask other sounds.

To find out if sound really is the missing link in your venue’s sensory jigsaw why not contact CGA Integration today and arrange a full AV review.  Help your guests to immerse themselves in your hospitality experience and truly relax.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Making BYOD happen effectively in your venue

What is BYOD?
It is becoming essential that hospitality conferencing venues and meeting rooms are compatible with the growing trend of BYOD (bring your own device).  At CGA Integration we are being approached by more and more venues to ensure that their meeting,conference and huddle rooms are able to operate in a flexible way; allowing delegates to connect and collaborate seamlessly wirelessly from any device as part of an event, without the need for dedicated hardware or a lengthy setup process.  This added functionality and ease of use of equipment will make your meeting rooms more attractive generating more bookings and more repeat bookings from delegates.

The ability to collaborate & present
As we all become more dependent on our mobile devices, tablets and phones, the dynamic and requirements placed on meeting and presentation rooms is changing quickly.  

Firstly, with delegates regularly working in the cloud and not actually having a device that stores all their information, the need for a good or preferably impressive internet connection is essential.  

Secondly it is now normal to touch a screen.  Even at a very young age, children are already familiar with the pinching and finger movements required to zoom into and resize images on a screen.  The next step is to deliver this into your meeting rooms.  It will be intuitive for your clients to move from their touch screen device to a touch screen wall display with the same functionality; allowing them to show all the delegates in a room what is on their device. This is now possible with wall mounted screens and even with projected systems.

Thirdly, we are all working more disparately; in different locations and on our own devices, but often we all still need to show our take or interpretation on the same problem, challenge, or data in question. The next generation of presentation devices allows you to connect and display multiple devices on screen at one time.  This gives you for example, the ability to show the actual sales figures from the salesperson’s device next to the accounts department forecasts, without the need for individuals to meet first to share all the information and collate it onto one PowerPoint slide.

Remote Participants
Modern technology also allows people to participate actively in meetings whilst being in another venue or even country.  If a key delegate is unable to travel but wants to attend a meeting and actively participate in discussions, it is possible to use services such as Skype to bring remote delegates up onto the screen and hear them clearly through speakers.  In addition, they can share their desktop computer on the meeting room screen enabling them to make a presentation and discuss this with the other meeting delegates as if they were in the same room. In a more advanced or larger conference suite it is possible to bring remote delegates up on a separate screen to the data, so that you can see more of the individual, including their body language and hand gestures.

Branding
Most of the modern display technology and certainly the screen sharing products all offer the ability to personalise the display of the system.  This allows you to add your own Branding and personalise any login instructions for your delegates, making your systems clear and easy to use.  When delegates enter a room the screen can show your message, logo, room name and how the delegates can connect their device to work in this space.

How does it work?
BYOD connectivity works just like logging in to get internet access in a public space.  To ensure secure connection, your delegates will need to use the correct SSID (wireless access point) in the wi fi settings of their device, login and then enter a password to connect securely to the display in the room.

Support and keeping up with device changes
All the quality systems are now network ready. Devices sit on your hotel LAN and can be easily addressed and updated by your AV or IT team over the network, thus enabling you to be ready for the next IOS version or security patch. Some devices even have a management software suite which makes monitoring and support even easier.

How can I make this happen in my hotel?
For more information on how to make your meeting and conference rooms BYOD compatible please contact CGA Integration to discuss your specific requirements in more detail.  We look forward to working with you soon.