A Study in Communications
Resolution AV Consulting has provided a hi-tech fitout to the School of Communication Studies at the Auckland University of Technology where the watchword is ‘connection’.
Text:/ Derek Powell
As he opened the new NZ$97m Sir Paul Reeves building, New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key stood directly beneath his own image on a massive 16-monitor videowall that symbolises the hi-tech fitout of a very modern university building. The architecturally complex 12-level building sits at the heart of the campus and forges important new links between the surrounding buildings via bridges at several levels. Though the PM didn’t mention it, this idea of linking also serves as an apt metaphor for the design of its audiovisual installation which is making connections between rooms, between students and between ideas.
Resolution AV Consulting was the project’s integrator, which was a worthy finalist in the crowded ‘Best Application of AV over $500k’ category of the 2013 AVIAs. The massive project took four months to install and included three major lecture theatres ranging in size from 97 to 386 seats; a suite of linkable Flexible Blended Learning Spaces across three floors; a trio of videowalls; a raft of meeting and seminar rooms; and around a hundred LCD screens that do double duty as student collaboration stations or digital signage displays.
FLOORED BY WALL
The focus of the building is undoubtedly the vast atrium so this might be a good place to start our exploration. Even from the outside, it’s impossible to miss the three videowalls that separately (or in concert) bring a lively stream of images to the glass-roofed foyer. The walls function alternately as presentation screens for functions and events within the space; as an information centre; or as massive digital art installations which showcase student’s work across a number of media.
The Forum is a 16-screen array of Samsung UE55A monitors which can display a single image across all screens or four separate images over four screens each. Around the corner is a separate nine-screen wall comprised of Samsung 400UX-3 monitors that can output a single image or three, three-screen segments. A portable lectern can be deployed at a number of locations connected via floor or wallboxes to allow for a variety of different events – such as the prime-ministerial opening. A pair of Turbosound TCX-8B speakers provides front-of-house program sound to the left and right of the main screen but that’s only the start of the audio system. Because the giant image can be viewed from three floors, Turbosound Impact 55T’s are deployed as ceiling speakers on Level 3 and 4 so viewers on the balconies can be fully involved in events taking place on the floor below.
A third, nine-screen wall known as the ‘Mini Forum’ has its own fixed lectern and sound system, and operates either as a single-picture display or carries six different images across segments of the wall. While the system is astonishingly flexible, the routing which feeds the interconnected walls is surprisingly simple. Resolution AV’s managing director David Rees explained there is no traditional videowall processor and no huge matrix switcher. Instead, the Forum’s 16- and nine-screen walls are fed by a two Crestron MD8X8 matrix switchers and a MD6X6 with the outputs distributed by seven HDMI DAs to feed the seven segments of the walls. The splitting of the images is performed within the Samsung monitors, with the control system telling each panel whether at that moment it is a one-sixteenth part of a big image or a quarter of a smaller segment. It’s a very clever and cost effective design that provides maximum impact by taking full advantage of the processing power built into the Samsung panels.
Inputs to the Crestron matrix come from Cisco videowall players or from the School of Communication Studies’ own central routing system – a 32×32 HD-SDI matrix which can provide live camera feeds, off-air television and other sources to any or all of the walls. To top it off there is a fourth video wall providing a variety of news sources to budding journalists at the aptly named Newsfeed Café.
There’s much more to see in the lecture theatres and teaching spaces, but before we leave the public areas of the building we should take note of the numerous ad hoc student collaboration areas, group study rooms and cafe-booth style meeting places scattered throughout. At many of the digital signage stations students can plug in their own devices to the Samsung MD32 or MD40 displays which will auto-switch from their regular display of the AUTV student broadcasting program. “The building was designed to be student-centric and it is great to see that from early morning to late in the evening, the whole building is just abuzz with small groups of students working together,” noted Bruce Colloff, teaching and learning manager with ICT Client Services at AUT University.
Using Fusion, the service desk staff can get a real feel for what is going on in the room … they can not only view the touchpanel controls but also ‘drill down’ to get extra information
LECTURE THEATRE NOTES
There are three major lecture theatres in the building and all are equipped with full surround sound audio systems to complement the projection. “We’ve been able to put the ‘theatre’ back into lecture theatre,” David commented. Each room has the capability for a single, central image (which can be used to play a Blu-ray) or two, side-by-side images for general teaching.
In the 386-seat theatre, stacked projection is used to achieve the required brightness levels, with a total of six NEC projectors in the space. Bruce Colloff pointed out that dual projection provides a great deal of redundancy – very useful in a space that is so heavily booked. The lectern can operate from any three floor boxes, allowing a variety of configurations for the theatre. A Denon DN-500AV takes care of Dolby 7.1 decoding while the speaker line-up includes Turbosound TCX-10Bs across the front and JBL 8340As on surround duties. Four Quest M210s boxes provide the appropriate subwoofer capacity. Plenty of spare capacity is provided within the Crestron DM-MD16X16 router and the BSS BLU-100 audio DSP to allow for future expansion through videoconferencing and connection back to the School of Communication’s production systems.
As you would expect from a new University teaching building, plenty of space has been devoted to Flexible Blended Learning Spaces. On three of the teaching floors, there are three joinable spaces for 35 students. Following on from the building theme of ‘linking’, these can be configured ‘two-up’ or ‘three-up’ to create classrooms of 70 or 105 using moveable dividers. Each set of rooms is controlled by a single Crestron DM-MD8X8 matrix which feeds three individual NEC PA-500U full HD projectors, allowing for separate images or a single source when the spaces are joined.
COMMS, NO DRAMA
Overseeing all this and adding to the ‘connected’ theme is an extensive implementation of Crestron’s Fusion management system. David Rees explained its importance: “Using Fusion, the service desk staff can get a real feel for what is going on in the room. If a call comes through, they can not only view the touchpanel controls but also ‘drill down’ to get extra information from the advanced and technical levels to see information on the resolution that is connected and so on.”
The last word on the success of the system belongs to Bruce as AUT’s teaching and learning manager: “We’ve just come through the first semester with no dramas at all!” he noted. For any new building packed to the rafters with the latest digital technology, that’s got to be the best possible start.
KEY ITAV PERSONNEL
Onsite project lead: Robert Wills
Lead programmer: Twelve Li
Engineering: David Rees, Steve Smith and Martin Ellis
Resolution AV Consulting: www.resolution-av.co.nz
Samsung: 1300 362 603 or www.samsunglfd.com
Hills SVL (Turbosound): (02) 9647 1411 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jands (BSS): (02) 9582 0909 or email@example.com
NEC: 131 632 or www.nec.com.au
Forum Video Wall: 16 x Samsung UE 55A
Bridge Video Wall: 9 x Samsung 400UX-3
Mini Forum Wall: 9 x Samsung 400UX-3
Digital Signage: 10 x Samsung MD32B, 64 x Samsung MD40B, 6 x Samsung MD 55B
Media Centre: 8 x Samsung ME40B
Seminar Room: 4 x Samsung MD46B
Teaching Spaces: 34 x NEC PA 500U, 11 x NEC PA 550WG
DIGITAL MEDIA MATRIX SWITCHERS
3 x Crestron DM-MD16X16
1 x Crestron DM-MD6X6
13 x Crestron DM-MD8X8
1 x Crestron DMPS-300-C