Creating Extreme AV for Red Bull
When ITAV took on a fit out for the New Zealand office of Red Bull, they had to be ready for everything!
Text:/ Derek Powell
For an AV integration company, assignments can be pretty varied. A typical year may bring a nightclub fit-out one day, while the next job may be wiring up an office for distributed background music. Once in a while you may score a swanky boardroom fit-out or a top-end private cinema with all the trimmings. It pays to be versatile and make sure your company has a good dollop of expertise in each of the key AV arenas. As a rule, you don’t expect to have to put all these skills together in the one contract. But then, most people don’t get to work with one of the world’s most out-there companies – Red Bull.
When leading New Zealand integrator ITAV won the AV contract for the new Red Bull office in Auckland, they not only rolled all these diverse elements into one design, but did it with such flair that they scored an AVIAs finalists position in the process.
Media, in all its forms, is crucial to the Red Bull operation. Much of the company’s promotional activities are based around extreme events – from Formula 1 racing to Felix Baumgartner’s free fall from space. Everything is filmed, edited and packaged with an extreme soundtrack, so top quality viewing facilities for the company to showcase their own productions are a must. Since their Sydney operation was already fitted out with AMX-controlled presentation systems, Red Bull had a good idea of the kind of gear they wanted and asked AMX Australia to recommend some companies in NZ who could produce top-flight presentation spaces.
Three New Zealand companies were shortlisted and duly called in for an interview with the Red Bull project team. ITAV’s sales director Steve Wallace recalled the interview day in Auckland. “When we arrived, we ran into three guys from our competition on their way out,” he recalled. “They were immaculately dressed in business suits, while our guys had come straight from site and were still in their work gear. I don’t know whether we fitted better with their more relaxed corporate style, but during the interview our guys’ enthusiasm for the technology and what we could do with it that just seemed to click with the Red Bull ethos – and we ended up being the winning bid.”
The project was a complete refit with an existing building in the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn, stripped back to bare concrete and rebuilt from the inside out. ITAV were appointed just as the last of the demolition was completed and set straight to work on the major elements of the design.
There were a dozen different spaces slated for flexible audio or video replay and with cable space, budget and the construction schedule all quite tight, the ITAV design strategy quickly coalesced around a core AMX Enova DGX digital media switcher and a central rack of ‘global’ sound and vision sources. Using a 16×16 central matrix, any source, including a feed from the in-house recording studio, could be sent to any destination display via DXLink over simple twisted pair cable infrastructure that was inexpensive, quick to install, and made the most of the limited space. As a bonus, the DGX topology also transmitted control signals over the same cable, allowing effective central control and management of all the monitors and projectors scattered throughout the building.
With the ‘global’ sources (comprising a Sky TV decoder, Apple TV and FM tuner) plus all the control and transmission modules stacking up, the central rack was starting to look pretty impressive. Since the comms room was alongside the main open plan office, the architects decided to feature the technology rather than hide it and encased the AV racks behind floor-to-ceiling screen-printed glass doors. Red Bull logos were cut into the metalwork and lit from within by red LED fixtures. The final effect is extraordinary and meshes perfectly with the extreme office décor that features everything from rally car bonnets to bike helmets.
The smaller meeting rooms, breakout space and reception area were all served by Sony LCD panels with integrated speakers. Here, local sources like laptop inputs could be effectively integrated alongside the global sources by connecting them directly to the monitor’s PC terminals and switching inputs as needed. Elegant AMX Metreau panels took care of local input selection, power and volume control in these spaces.
IN THE SHOWCASE
With the backbone planning in place, attention turned to the two ‘showcase’ spaces. The cinema naturally required an HD projector and screen, along with full surround sound. However, this area included a dance floor along with an input for a DJ console to allow for regular party nights. So ITAV took the opportunity to beef up the audio beyond the usual 7.1 expectations. Turbosound speakers and Lab.gruppen amps would supply the punch and excitement expected of high-end club sound and keep things clean, even when the DJ turned it up to 11.
The boardroom required the full corporate treatment. A single HD projector catered for presentations, with DXLink input plates providing analogue and digital laptop inputs at either end of the massive board table. Retracting the 110-inch (2.8m) projection screen reveals twin 60-inch (1.52m) monitors and a PTZ camera for a fully-integrated video conferencing solution using the client’s existing Polycom equipment. Naturally, like the cinema, there’s an up-spec sound system to cater for the high impact Red Bull video soundtracks.
Perhaps the most spectacular achievement is the control system. ITAV produced a graphic design that looks simply stunning on-screen; is truly intuitive to operate; puts control everywhere it is needed; and has done it all without breaking the bank. Here’s how it works:
The showcase cinema and boardroom spaces each have an AMX X-series touchscreen where the graphic design takes full advantage of the new G5 graphics engine. Instead of the usual boring buttons, the control screen looks more like the faceplate of a piece of hifi gear with switches and control which mimic the real thing. Classy animations make each step crystal clear. When a VGA input is selected in the boardroom, an animation sequence encourages the user to connect the correct cable set for video and audio. There are playful touches such as a set of Red Bull cans rolling across the touchscreen while the projector fires up.
Global control is available throughout the building via a specially-configured iPad. When you pick up the iPad, a simple tap on the AMX TPControl app from the home screen drops you straight into the global control screen. A clever 3D graphic shows a map of the office area and a touch on any of the rooms brings up the source and volume controls for that display or sound system. Across the bottom of the map, three icons allow you to bring up the page each of the global sources so you can change channels or stations on the central tuners.
Media, in all its forms, is crucial to the Red Bull operation.
DEVICE CONTROL ON STEROIDS
But the iPad control goes way beyond simple device control. In a clever touch, tapping on the Help button allows you to be routed to ITAV’s website, where you can log a job for assistance right there, on-screen. Selecting Apple TV seamlessly brings up the Apple TV control app and the iTunes button jumps straight into the iTunes music library – ready to rock and roll.
According to the ITAV team, the future of commercial AV lies in integrating the AV and IT user experience so seamlessly that it becomes indistinguishable whether you are controlling hardware or accessing the software or web-based functions. It’s hard to argue with their logic, and the quality of the graphics the team has created both on the AMX touchscreens and on the TPControl app is more than a match for the polish of Apple’s own iPad app experience.
There’s no doubt Red Bull is one very savvy company when it comes to technology. It was well up with the state of play in home theatre and multi-room audio and had clear ideas for how its new spaces – from boardroom to breakout area and from reception to recording studio – ought to operate. But it was blown away by the sophistication of the ITAV system that blended the atmospherics of top-end club sound and lighting with the corporate look and feel of elegant, sophisticated and unobtrusive command systems that put the right level of control within reach of every user in this multi-use, multi-purpose facility.
Steve Wallace summed things up with more than a hint of trans-Tasman pride noting, “When we started the project, the client’s hope was that ITAV could produce something as good (or nearly as good) as head office had in Sydney. Now Sydney wants a system like Auckland’s!”
KEY ITAV PERSONNEL
Project Manager: Cliff Thorogood
AMX Programming: Paul Ivory
AMX Graphics: Justin Beattie
2 x 60-inch Sony KDL-60EX720
4 x 46-inch Sony KDL-46EX720
4 x 40-inch Sony KDL-40EX720
2 (Boardroom and Cinema)
2 x 110-inch Screen Technics 0611 029-L
1 x Sony PS3 with wireless controller
1 x Yamaha BDA1010 Blu-ray player
3 x Sky TV decoder
1 x Apple TV
1 x Computer (for iTunes and Blu-ray)
1 x Polycom HDX 9002 videoconference codec
1 x Polycom VSX 5000 videoconference codec
Polycom Soundstation and extension mics
1 x AMX Enova DGX 16 enclosure
2 x HDMI input boards
1 x DXLink input board
2 x HDMI output cards
2 x DXLink output cards
2 x DXLink multi-format transmitters
7 x DXLink HDMI receiver modules
4 x Extron DTP HDMI 230 (Tx, Rx) twisted pair extenders
2 x Lab.gruppen C10:8 (Boardroom/Cinema)
1 x Lab.gruppen E12:2 (subs)
6 x Turbosound Impact 65T
12 x Turbosound Impact 55T
2 x Turbosound TSB110 (subs)
4 x JBL Control 24CT (Reception)
8 x JBL Control 24CT Micro Plus (Open plan office)
Extron digital matrix processor DMP 128
2 x Extron SSP 7.1 digital surround sound processors
1 x AMX NI-3100 Netlinx controller
1 x AMX AxLink bus strip
7 x AMX Met-6N Metreau button panels
1 x AMX TP control license for iPad
1 x AMX MXT-700 Modero-X 7inch table top touch panel
1 x AMX MXD-700 Modero-X 7inch wall mount touch panel