Audiovisual Systems:
Key Communication Tool

August 13, 2007
| By Pete Daly |
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WYOMING — "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

That classic line from "The Wizard of Oz" is probably something Kirk Grimshaw and Peter Larson can relate to. They and their employees at Intaglio strive to be Professor Marvel, the technical genius behind the scenes who made the Wizard's spectacular audiovisual presentations possible.

Intaglio, based in Wyoming off Gezon Parkway, is an audiovisual facilities design company with clients around the country. The firm designs and builds presentation facilities and knows how to integrate the latest audiovisual technology with new or existing architecture.

An intaglio (pronounced "in-tolly-oh") is an artistic figure or design carved or engraved below the surface.

"We chose that name because everything we do is in support of others. We are the art beneath the surface," said Grimshaw.

Grimshaw and Larson started Intaglio in January 2006. This spring they were invited to make a presentation at the NeoCon office furniture show in Chicago. Intaglio is known to many office furniture manufacturers, and has worked on joint projects with a number of them, including Herman Miller Inc., Haworth Inc., Nucraft and Gunlocke. The firm has done showroom audiovisual systems in Chicago for Herman Miller and Haworth.

If there's a presentation facility to be built — in any kind of business, or any kind of organization, for that matter — Intaglio wants to be involved.

"I define ‘presentation facility’ as any place where a presentation is executed," said Grimshaw. "It could be a conference room, a classroom, a board room, or a theater or an auditorium."

Or it could be an operatory. Intaglio offers its InForum Dental System to colleges where students are trained to be dental hygienists. An operatory is the dental hygiene school version of a medical school operating theater, where medical staff or students gather to observe an actual procedure in progress.

In this case, however, instead of an audience watching a student cleaning someone's teeth, it's the reverse — just one person, an instructor, is watching a number of students clean teeth, with the help of pen-size video cameras that each student can insert in the patient's mouth periodically to show the instructor what they have done. Audiovisual systems for operatories are a good example of how far audiovisual technology has come in the last few years.

Using wireless headsets that link them to the instructor with voice communication, the students can also request that an instructor view the operatory in which they are working to provide individual instruction and response to specific questions. A reporting system allows students to indicate completion of specific tasks within a procedure, and to notify instructors for verification or approval. A footswitch provides the student with hands-free access to PC-based applications such as charting software, and the procedures may be recorded for later review and archiving.

Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Lansing Community College both have audiovisual systems from Intaglio in the dozens of operatories they each use to train dental hygienists.

Grimshaw said that it used to cost up to a quarter million dollars to equip a corporate board room for live teleconferences.

"Today it's about $50,000 or $60,000, with greater capability," he said.

The price has dropped because "technology has become a commodity," said Grimshaw.

Grimshaw added that audiovisual technology today can also provide "much more capability in a smaller box. What used to take 70-inch-high equipment racks, today we can put into a lectern or into a credenza."

The technology is so sophisticated — with options and capabilities so far beyond 10 or 15 years ago — that it behooves top management to consult with an expert before key decisions are made regarding new facilities or major renovations.

"Our primary customer is the executive staff, because what we are interested in doing is helping them communicate," said Grimshaw.

He emphasizes to clients that today's audiovisual technology "should be there to support you. It should never bring attention to itself — or require an apology" to the audience.

"Technology is out of control," said Grimshaw, but what he really means is that A/V capabilities today are beyond the control of the amateur.

"Technology is readily available, but understanding how to use it, when to apply it — that's our specialty. Many people don’t understand when technology should be applied to support a presentation."

And the technology is still evolving. Video conferencing, for example, "is still not as easy as dialing a phone, which it needs to be. But it's getting there," said Grimshaw.

Another big change in the audiovisual world: the Internet.

"In the past, video conferencing was a challenge because people had to own special equipment and have access to special networks. Now it's something we can do on the Internet," he said. The benefit of using the Internet for transmission of a video conference is simple: "Everyone has access to it."

There is an occasional downside to Internet transmission of video conferencing. "The Internet can be fast or slow, at times. When it's slow, the (video) image is slowed a little," he said.

When business was starting to go global 10 or 15 years ago, video conferencing was viewed as an alternative to travel. It was an option then, noted Grimshaw, "but now it's a requirement for many global businesses. They conduct their business that way; they really couldn't do it any other way."

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