Durham Artist Goes Mobile with KONTEK

Artist Heather Gordon (top) and assistants begin installation of art project on Kontek Van

Artist Heather Gordon (top) and assistants begin installation of art project on Kontek Van

The debut of a brand new rolling public art installation by Durham artist Heather Gordon (http://heathergordon.transition-project.com/) will be revealed on Friday April 15th at the Duke Tech Expo hosted by the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club. Durham based audio/video systems integrator KONTEK Systems has commissioned the work as the inauguration of a series of pieces to be exhibited on the company vehicles. 

Gordon’s work is drawn from her interest in forms of communication - in particular the method that information is recorded and transmitted, stored and shared, interpreted, encoded, and mapped. 

This new work is an interpretation of the KONTEK slogan “Nur tote Fische schwimmen mit dem Strom (only dead fish swim with the stream)” realized as an origami folding pattern. Detailed information and more photographs are available on Kontek's website.

The installation will be making its debut in the parking lot of the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club on Friday April 15th from 8am through 5pm and by appointment after that date by contacting info@kontek.com.

Heather is also featured in this month’s issue of Our State magazine as an innovative and prolific artist currently working in Durham’s Golden Belt. See the article at https://www.ourstate.com/studio-tour-with-heather-gordon/

Where's My Minority Report User Interface?

John Underkoffler at TED - Courtesy Steve Jurvetson

John Underkoffler at TED - Courtesy Steve Jurvetson

We hear this question more than you might think. It all started in 2002 with a not-so-great Tom Cruise movie where we got a peek at what the future of interaction between humans and computers could look like: cool. If you saw the movie you know exactly what I'm talking about - if you missed this one (and you can live a rewarding life having done so) then you've surely seen what I'm talking about in subsequent science fiction works such as Avatar, Iron Man, The Avengers, The Hunger Games, OblivionEnder's Game, et. al. The future looks like us Kung fu-gesticulating in thin air at flashing screens to collate, correlate, codify, combine, and otherwise compose information and resources to achieve more cogent communication with our peers.

Kontek's Erik Benson puts the Microsoft Surface Hub to the test

Kontek's Erik Benson puts the Microsoft Surface Hub to the test

Beyond looking cool, however, an interface that makes use of natural gestures speaks to our humanity by letting us manipulate data the way we would manipulate something in the physical world such as a hand saw, a socket wrench, or a spatula. But the psychology of why this kind of user interface has merit is really beyond the scope of this post. I'm more interested in letting you know that, as author William Gibson said, "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed."

...that we help make you look like you’re from the future while doing it? Well that’s just icing on the cake.

At KONTEK we work with equipment manufacturers such as Extron, Crestron, and other AV industry fixtures to suggest new features, apply pressure when necessary, and affect change - and it's working. We test equipment and try to push the limits so that we can help your organization collaborate better... that we help make you look like you're from the future while doing it? Well that's just icing on the cake.

Pondering the Future of UI - John Underkoffler

Pondering the Future of UI - John Underkoffler

Take a few minutes and and let this brief TED talk from 2010 wash over you. Imagine how an interface like this can work in your organization and actually enhance productivity. This talk is by John Underkoffler and it's about the state of cutting edge user interface research. It's very good at getting the creative juices flowing and imagining what the future of interactive collaboration can look like.

At a recent trade show I got to interact with some cutting edge collaboration technologies that were all influenced in some way by that forward-thinking movie and the work of Underkoffler.

Products are shipping today from Microsoft's no-nonsense Surface Hub to the "Whoa... am I on a spaceship?" iWall by MultiTaction. There's the incredibly accessible Bluescape platform which is simultaneously intuitive and useful. T1 Visions has a strong offering with unique features too. The closest you'll get to channeling your inner Tom Cruise, however, is Underkoffler's own company: Oblong and their Mezzanine product.

Jonathan is a senior software developer at Kontek. He has been creating buttons for audio/video customers to squish on touch screens since shortly after the 1998 debut of the Philips Pronto, a 3.8 inch monochrome resistive LCD affair done up in heinous green plastic. He spends a great deal of his time staring blankly at ATMs, self check-out terminals, and other user interfaces in an effort to understand the psychology behind their design. Jonathan has been with Kontek since 2005.

Treasures from Warehouse Cleanup Day

Last week, KONTEK had an in-service day at the warehouse location. We've been so busy taking care of our dear friends that things had gotten a little bit crazy. Most of what we did is likely uninteresting: sweeping, cleaning the break room, washing the vans, etc. but in the process of recycling old equipment, breaking down cardboard boxes, and the like, we uncovered these really cool pieces of test equipment.

First, I give you this power supply thingamabob for which my personal interaction with resulted in a shin bruise the size, shape, and consistency of an avocado. This monstrosity required both Warren AND Julian to lift.

And here is a groovy vacuum tube tester and battery tester. This should come in handy with Sammy's HAM radio equipment and my own headphone amplifier. 

Time was that we had to lug this kind of equipment out to the field. It was difficult and expensive keeping the mule train fed and watered to do so but that's the commitment we make to you, our valued customer. Now our technicians have test equipment that mostly plugs into their iPhones or is otherwise the size of a deck of cards like the infinitely versatile Raspberry Pi. Please do reach out to us if you need your vacuum tubes tested. We know a guy.



-Jonathan Danforth

Jonathan is one of Kontek's control system programmers. He has been with Kontek since 2005.

Kontek Announces New VCR Repair Program

KONTEK is proud to announce a new VCR repair program borne out of our Q1-2015 initiative to leverage unrealized income vectors. Our successful execution and, thus, your successful VCR Repair experience depends on how KONTEK prioritizes problem-solving potential (whereas relationships transfer an agreed-upon potential). Risk appetite and enablement influence the resource, while the Chief Business Planning Officer, #FormerInternSam, proactively improves unique and growing enhanced data captures. To whit:

Frank Konhaus Signature VCR Repair Service

$7499.98 (PN: OMK-SS)

$7499.98 (PN: OMK-SS)

Premium Cabling

KONTEK cables make use of quad filament processing to realize previously unseen levels of color and vibrance.

Our unique braiding algorithm developed by Monica Ellis ensures a minimization of crosstalk and hologram-inspired visions of a quantum present.

Non-conductive insulation on KONTEK cabling is inspired by the teachings of traditional Reiki. The insulation gently channels healing energy into the conductors for maximum efficacy.

Conductors are extruded from mono-crystaline oxygen-free copper and then plated, under vacuum, with 100 Microns of .9999% pure silver. It is well known that the highest frequencies of the NTSC color spectrum perform best when transmitted via silver while the lower frequencies perform best over copper.

The Frank Konhaus Signature Service is the pinnacle of KONTEK's dedication to the success of our Repair Partners. This service is named for our founder who assisted with the invention of the VCR and insisted on only the finest and highest performance technologies and industry-leading techniques such as helical springs, and cross-reverse double magnetism. As consumer demand for the technology increased, quality suffered.

Restore your VCR to the original vision of the technology with our Frank Konhaus Signature Service.

  • Rejuvenated ferrite replacement in flying heads
  • Replacement of stock motor with high performance direct-drive outboard motor assembly hand-tuned to 29.97Hz (NTSC Only - PAL extra)
  • Replacement of all belts with hand-pulled elastopolymers sourced from our factory in Turin, Italy.
  • Complete electron reionization (submit compass-heading of VCR location with order)
  • Pinch-roller replacement and calibration (accurate to 3mN)
  • Greasing of cam gear, impedance roller shaft, roller guide track (Certified Vegan)
  • Replacement of main brake spring, main brake arms (left and right) (CNC carved from Koa wood for best audio quality; Spruce also available)
  • Replacement of all wires with premium oxygen-free signal cabling (see "Premium Cabling" sidebar)
  • Case replacement (waterjet-cut titanium chassis designed by award-winning KONTEK designer Michael Martin)


NOTE: PAL, multi-region, BetaMax, 8mm, Quadplex, and DATA rejuvenation also available for additional cost. Contact Kim Durack, V.P. of VCR Repair for details.

What a KONTEK Support Agreement Can Do For You


As anyone who has been around technology in the past 20 years knows, sometimes, things just break.  Whether your laptop gets the horrid “blue screen of death”, or you drop your iPhone on the sidewalk, life happens, and technology will need to be worked on and repaired.  The same is especially true with AV equipment.  

Since its beginning, the principal way KONTEK supported our clients was by doing hourly a-la-carte style service calls.  We realized over time, though, that this wasn’t what many of our clients actually wanted or needed the most.  As AV integration became more comprehensive, as well as factoring in so many other third-party and online facets, it was expertise that our clients needed, as much as fixing things that were broken.  So, we began to implement different types of support agreements for people to consider.  These agreements offer a flat cost to the client, and covered anything from simple annual scheduled maintenance to FULL comprehensive system coverage of hardware, software, and round-the-clock support services.  

One of the most difficult things to do is correctly plan for the costs of equipment failure.  One month, everything is going well with no additional costs, and then BAM!, the touch panel fails and the repair is in the thousands of dollars.  With a support agreement, the idea is that your costs are flat, predictable, and can be a budgeted as part of a room’s use and age cycle.  Instead of paying the high cost to repair things as they fail, now, the support expense can be budgeted and everything that a client needs – in one or twenty rooms - is covered by a predictable monthly payment.

We know that the AV equipment in your conference room, classroom, or medical lab is an expensive and important part of your business.  So, it is even more crucial for it to remain fully functional with minimal downtime.  A support agreement with KONTEK can ensure this by offering our excellent knowledge base, priority onsite scheduling, the capability for remote/online support, and temporary equipment for any failures, so your systems keep on doing what you purchased them to do.   From a question about how to help users in the room understand how to make their presentations look the best, to unraveling a control room’s complexity for a user support group, to on-the-fly replacement of failed equipment, we can do it all for you.

A support agreement with KONTEK Systems can do a multitude of things, but most importantly, all of our agreements provide peace of mind - for our clients knowing that if anything does happen, you don’t need to worry, because KONTEK has you covered.

-Pete Rehm

Pete Rehm is the Support Team Manager for KONTEK Systems.  He has been with KONTEK since 2008 after graduating with a bachelors degree in Communication Studies and Media Production from the University of Chapel Hill.

A proud AV nerd from an early age Pete has been involved with electronics, speakers, instruments, lighting, staged theater and live music all of which led him on his path to arrive at KONTEK.

"Meeting Technology" Yep, There's a Meeting About That Too

With all the things that normally fill everyone’s inbox here at KONTEK, one might ask why I’ll be heading into the wide world tomorrow to make a presentation that goes something like this:

“This half-hour presentation by Erik Benson of KONTEK Systems, Inc. will address many of the important questions that presenters face in technology-enabled meeting rooms, including:

  • What content do I want to present to my meeting?
  • What format should I put my content in to use in a particular room?
  • What do I need to know about the system I’ll be connecting to for my presentation?
  • How do I get my content to look great on the big (or small) screen for my meeting?

  He will also provide a look at the technologies used to present computer and online content to meeting attendees.  These topics include……”

 (well, the stuff that Kontek does every day is what goes down here)

So, again – why?  Why isn’t the type of technology our first thing, since that’s arguably our thing?  And what about the other part, where I’m sure to get in some stuff about the whiz-bangy new bell and whistle that was on the Internet the other day?  Or the bit where I say “You know, Kontek says do it this way, and we can sell you that!”

There’s nothing worse than a great presentation that can’t be 100% because a presenter wasn’t able to get it to work.

The main reason that I am venturing outside to talk with our clients about this sort of thing is…..it’s what they need someone to talk with about.  Everyone reading this post on their laptop (or phone, or tablet) would agree that none of us are surrounded by a lack of technology.  The harder part becomes what one should do with the surfeit of technology that’s there – especially if you’re trying to get a point across to an audience. There’s nothing worse than a great presentation that can’t be 100% because a presenter wasn’t able to get it to work. Or worse, there was something extra that they wanted to do with their content – a video clip, streaming their presentation, recording what they said – that they just couldn’t get their head around to make it happen.

But I guess the curious thing is, if a presenter has that experience in one of our rooms? We think it’s OUR fault. Either the room wasn’t intuitive enough, or we asked too much of the presenter to make their content right, or there was some other gap that didn’t get filled.

So - attention, KONTEK faithful:  If you don’t succeed presenting to your audience, then we don’t succeed either.  And if you don’t succeed, you should call me – because there’s nothing better than knowing how some whiz-bangy technology you have in a meeting room can help you succeed with your audience.  And that goes for whether it came from KONTEK, or not.

See you at my next presentation!

-Erik Benson

Attend Erik's Presentation on Wednesday, Feb. 11 at the WakeMed Andrews Center in Raleigh.

Visit the North Carolina Society of Government Meeting Professionals website for details.


Erik Benson, Client Outreach Specialist for Durham-based KONTEK Systems, inc., has been with KONTEK since 2006.  As well as working with installed AV systems and the technologies they support, he also has a background in technical theater and live entertainment production, having worked in New York on Broadway and in Boston for many years.  Despite having lived other places, Erik is a North Carolina native: born in Durham, grew up in Boone, and attended Duke University.  In his spare time, he enjoys playing in a band, helping with his kids’ sports teams, and sleeping through New England Patriots football games on Sundays.

Brought To You By the Letter K

Kontek is the Original K

Kontek is the Original K

You've probably heard the term "4K".  Maybe, in a colossal fit of boredom, you've wondered what it means. Rest assured, dear reader, I will explain and tell you why you should care.

The HDTV you have at home is made up of a two-dimensional grid of pixels that together show you the basketball game in crisp high definition. That HDTV has 1920 pixels across and 1080 pixels down for a total of 2,073,600 dots of awesome also known as "1080P". Your old TV, the one that's now in the garage collecting dust had, at most, approximately 640 pixels across by 480 pixels down - a hilarious and measly 307,200 dots. How did we manage?

Compare the above to today's 4K displays: 4096 by 2160 equals 8,601,600 dots! The "4K" moniker comes from the approximately 4000 pixels that make up the horizontal resolution of the image. Now wait, put down the slide rule for a second. You're right: these aspect ratios are all different. So far we've talked about 16:9, 4:3, and 19:10 ratios.

Unless you're making or watching a Major Motion Picture(TM) you won't see true 4K and its weird 19:10 aspect ratio. You are going to see (and want) something else called Ultra High Definition (UHD) at 3840 by 2160 which has a ratio of (slide rule ready?) 16:9 - just like today's HDTVs.

Why do more pixels matter? Consider the humble letter S and its curves projected on a classroom screen. As you project a 1080p image ever larger on screens in classrooms, lecture halls, and the like the pixels that make up the smooth shape get equally large resulting in a grainy image. Rather quickly you've degraded the smooth curves into a smear of pixels.

You may have noticed that a 1080p computer desktop viewed on a large screen from ten or more feet away makes for some rather small letters. To combat this Kontek frequently recommends that you set your computer's resolution to the smaller 1280 by 720 resolution (720p) and let our scalers make the image larger. This, essentially, lets the projector or flat screen display use more pixels to draw the same image. More pixels means sharper text.

I suggested earlier that you will prefer the Ultra HD resolution of 3840 by 2160 in part because it's easy to scale up and, thus, improve a 1080p image to Ultra HD. You simply double the 1080p signal in each dimension. Where once you would see a single pixel you now have four and the result is a much sharper final product.

UHD Color (large triangle) Vs. HDTV (small triangle)

UHD Color (large triangle) Vs. HDTV (small triangle)

But it isn't all about the dots... While 1080p HDTV can hardly be accused of being lackluster in the color department, UHDTV has even more fruity flavors on offer. A 4K signal can deliver a 12-bit color depth compared to 8 bits for most 1080p content. Have I lost you? Hold on tight.

Eight bit color means that you have 256 shades each of red, green, and blue or 16,777,216 possible colors. Twelve bit color depth (4096 shades each) means a total of more than 68 billion colors! Crayola has some catching up to do. If you don't believe that the color changes are important try asking a cardiologist if she thinks that subtle differences in red make a difference in her work.

For more information on the color advantages (Nerd Alert!) see this excellent article at shutterangle.com.

One of the lines we hear a great deal is "But there isn't any content for 4K!" - False. Many modern computers can output Ultra HD via DisplayPort or HDMI. You may not want to do this quite yet because of the small-font problem but scale up a 1080p resolution and prepare to be amazed.

-Jonathan Danforth

Jonathan is one of Kontek's control system programmers. He has been with Kontek since 2005.

Let's Chat About Fashion & TVs

As the International CES wraps up we Kontekians find it necessary to wipe up the puddle of drool on our desks and critically evaluate new products so that we can faithfully recommend their installation in your projects. Although technically speaking "CES" is not an acronym, the world's largest technology exposition has long been focused on consumer technology - the products that wind up in homes versus the products that wind up in the boardrooms, classrooms, and medical facilities that are the typical realm of KONTEK.

What's increasingly clear is that the border between home and work technology is blurring. The so-called "BYOD" (Bring Your Own Device) movement referring to employees and students bringing in their own tablets, phones, etc., for example, is a term that causes various fits of wild-eyed excitement and panic depending on whom in the organization you talk to... and that's just one example. With this blurred distinction between home and office technology comes the disruption of fashion into our designs - and we welcome it with open arms.

Fashion is always changing and frequently pushes boundaries but that's nothing new to our industry - the only differences are that we pixel-pushers have always used the term innovation instead and that there's usually a bonus analytical improvement that comes in the box: a spec bump to make us nerds happy.

One fashion that we began to see in 2014 and will be particularly prevalent in 2015 is the curved-screen display. Almost every manufacturer is producing convex displays now and we think they're gorgeous. Some, like the new 21:9 ultra-wide S9W by Samsung are practically works of art. But the real question is where do they fit in at your company or school? The answer is that almost certainly, they don't - unless you need to make a statement to the public about your high-tech style by using the latest fashion.

Commercial Advantages of Curved Displays

  • Eye-catcing for digital signage / branding in high-visibility areas
  • Reflection rejection for conditions with bright direct lighting
  • Very fashionable

Commercial Disadvantages of Curved Displays

  • More expensive than same-sized flat screens
  • Small reduction in viewing angles (although, weirdly, off-axis color rendition is better than flat screens)
  • They look very awkward when mounted to the wall
  • Geometric distortions - terrible for critical viewing but pleasing for some video


-Jonathan Danforth

Jonathan is one of Kontek's control system programmers. He has been with Kontek since 2005.

New lectern!

Serial number 001, on display at Duke Law

We've always been amazed that mobile lecterns available from AV manufacturers are so, well, ugly. Why is it so hard to find one that's simple, elegant, and has good tech features? The final straw was Bretford's recent decision to discontinue their Presentation Environments lectern, which had been our go-to product for years. It wasn't perfect - it required a little modification to accommodate even a gooseneck microphone, and a LOT of modification for more serious technology like a recessed Smart Podium annotation display. But it was well built, visually inoffensive, and we installed many of them in our projects.

Necessity is the mother of invention, though, and the disappearance of the Bretford unit made us scratch our heads and ask what we'd really like a mobile lectern to be. At about the same time we met Elijah Leed, a young artist and furniture maker in Durham who crafts beautiful things from wood and metal. After months of design collaboration with Elijah and our Kontek team, and several rounds of prototyping, voila: Kontek's very own lectern design. It's made right here in Durham, hand-crafted from your choice of hardwood and powder coated steel,  and has a clever internal wire management system for laptop connectivity.  We had fun with this, and hope you like it. - Wes Newman