by William Bremer
San Ysidro, CA (November 28, 2006)--As audio and video technology has grown more sophisticated and complex, and the related demands of the physical infrastructure has likewise increased, the audio/video industry has turned an increasing challenge--greater and greater amounts of cables snaking their way throughout the network--into a benefit by imprinting company names and logos on the simple cable strap as a branding tool that distinguishes a company's products or services.
Through all the technological advances of the last decade or so, a key element in the audio/video industry is, of course, cabling management. In the past, each technological component usually needed only a connection to a power source, as well as a connection to a speaker or projector. These days, each component also needs to be connected to the network of computers and other peripherals that run the overall operation.
Besides meeting the challenge of any particular design or installation, the physical infrastructure must also be easily constructed and broken down, as well as organized clearly enough to facilitate quick and accurate troubleshooting and repair efforts. The result is that cabling management has become a massive challenge of late and, in the process, has therefore taken on a great deal more importance.
Whether in permanent or temporary installations, a more prominent role for cable means that cabling management has also come to represent facilities, equipment manufacturers and installers like a business card. No wonder, then, that cable management must look as good as it performs.
It's also no wonder that facility owners, equipment manufacturers and installers look to capitalize on their success by ensuring that everyone who sees their working installation will also see their name and logo on an integral piece of equipment found within it.
Toleeto Fasteners International (TFI), a major manufacturer of cabling management straps, was the first company to offer the imprinting of names and logos onto its signature Cord-lox strapping products.
"We supply straps printed with company names and logos to a wide range of customers," said TFI founder and president, Dave Deavenport. "Facility owners and even touring rock bands use our straps because their installations or touring operations represent them; equipment manufacturers use our strapping so that the company's name is visible to anyone who sees the equipment; and installers and operators use it because they know that their work is their best advertisement.
"Many of our customers even pass out our straps like business cards at trade shows," added Deavenport.
The stage effects-laden EFX show at the MGM Grand Hotel Theater in Las Vegas is a prime example of both the growing importance of cable management and the opportunity afforded by that growth. Budgeted at $40 million, the stage technology that controls its many high-tech effects is run by a staff sitting at a bank of no less than six computers, housed far beneath the large, multi-level stage of the hotel, with more than 500 pieces of sound equipment involved in the show, and more than 3,800 pieces of lighting equipment. In addition, the hundreds of lighting and sound effects share network cabling with a wide range of other stage effects, controlling everything from fire-breathing dragons to morphing scenery set pieces to hovering platforms that seem to float among clouds midair over the audience.
The sheer size of a production like EFX necessarily poses new challenges. If a problem develops during the pre-show technical run-through, or at any time during an actual performance, the crew must be able to locate the source of the trouble and repair it very quickly, or bypass it with another effect. Network organization on the cable infrastructure is therefore critical to the success of the show.
The production size also brings about promotional opportunities. Within the first six months of its run, almost everyone involved in the city's show production industry asked for and received a behind-the-scenes tour of the elaborate stage technology, from the top producers and designers to mid-level audio and video professionals. The more than six miles of cabling meant that each visitor--a targeted market indeed--received literally thousands of visual impressions from the tens of thousands of cable straps in place.
Though not as large or as technologically imposing as the EFX show, large touring shows and music acts must nevertheless be just as well organized in order to enable the crew to put up and break down a stage in time to stick to a fast-paced tour schedule.
"No doubt about it," said Scott Simons of the Custom Cable Sales and Assembly department of Performance Audio of Salt Lake City, UT. "Cable management is an important aspect of our entire audio and visual business. We work on a wide variety of permanent installations, from recording studios, broadcast facilities and schools to government agencies, health clubs and home theater installations, involving local, national and even international customers. And our rental department uses Toleeto Cord-lox on the systems that they send out with local, regional, national and international acts.
"We've been using Toleeto straps for years," continued Simons. "Having our name, logo and telephone number printed on the strapping is an effortless way to support our name-recognition efforts. I know that it has generated some sales leads in the past, and it continues to make good sense."
Voice & Video Rentals of San Diego provides audiovisual equipment, video projectors, plasma screens and other video equipment to events throughout the southern California region. According to Braden McDonald, warehouse manager of Voice & Video Rentals, "Every time we provide services for an event, the branded strapping is an opportunity for us to get our name out there. It's not unusual for us to be one of several contractors on a show, so it helps us raise our profile within the tech community of the region."
"Since we're a rental business, it also provides another benefit," he added. "When the show is over and it's time to strike the cables, we no longer get into arguments with other contractors over who owns what. We've got a cable strap on every cable, so the ownership of that strap is pretty clear. That in and of itself saves us both time and a lot of headaches. And saving time helps us keep our prices competitive."
As long as the audio and video industry is called on to make ever more sophisticated sound and light magic--whether to wow Broadway audiences or spruce up the most mundane corporate presentation--cable and cable management will likely stay center stage. And as long as cable management remains central to the success of any production incorporating the latest stage technology, savvy companies will continue to reap the added value provided by custom-imprinted cable straps.
William Bremer is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA.
by William Bremer