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AV Technology Enhances Corporate Collaboration, Part 2

Mobile phone service provider Cricket Communications set up a new San Diego headquarters with videoconferencing, staff collaboration areas, and distance learning. For the sound and video solution the 12/23/2010 7:26 AM Eastern

AV Technology Enhances Corporate Collaboration, Part 2

Dec 23, 2010 12:26 PM, With Bennett Liles




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Mobile phone service provider Cricket Communications set up a new San Diego headquarters with videoconferencing, staff collaboration areas, and distance learning. For the sound and video solution they called in CompView Audio Visual and we're talking today with Travis Ellis and Tom Yerkes on how they came up with innovative solutions to some rather tricky problems. That's coming right up on the SVC podcast.

Travis and Tom, thanks for being back with me for Part 2 on the Cricket Communications headquarters in San Diego and we were talking earlier about the conference room in there and the concept of the court yards they have in the work areas for people to collaborate on things. Does the court yard concept appear to be a larger trend that you're seeing in AV installations now?

Definitely seeing them in the technology sector where we're seeing people wanting to have instantaneous group meetings, be able to collaborate and talk about their particular design, circuit board design, or new software application instead of trying to do a formal way for conference room. Schedule the conference room, get everybody there. It's just "Hey, Travis—I would like to be over here," plug in and show the latest software I'm working on, "Is this the right approach? Is this the right steps?" And then break, go back to your rooms, and start to continue working. So it's a great place to bring a small number of people together, collaborate, stop, go back to your room, start … keep continuing working versus trying to wait for the next conference room to become available. [Timestamp: 1:47]

Yeah, that really seems to be a general theme they had in the whole project in trying to make collaboration easier to do informally and on short notice. I know that when they reach further out on the videoconferencing they have a Tandberg system. Was that a new system or did they bring that with them from the previous location?

They had the existing Tandberg videoconferencing system that was repurposed from their old facility, then we repurposed it in their boardroom. They did have another videoconferencing unit as well on a cart that we basically disassembled in their old facility and made it a fixed installation conference room. So they have two separate rooms that were built for videoconferencing. One was the boardroom and one was the room that they're calling the videoconference room and these … both of these units are repurposed from their previous facility. [Timestamp: 2:02]


AV Technology Enhances Corporate Collaboration, Part 2

Dec 23, 2010 12:26 PM, With Bennett Liles




OK, and in videoconferencing, one of the elements that can easily get to be a rather obnoxious problem is when the sound doesn't work right. So how are the participants miked for sound on this?

In the boardroom, they're using small AKG button mics through … that are installed within the table, as well as the ceiling speakers are made for the playback. In the videoconferencing room they're actually using a Polycom HDX microarray in the ceiling. So it's a ball microphone with three elements that picks up the entire room … it's a smaller video conference room so there's no microphones on the table in that particular room. [Timestamp: 3:01]

So that probably works better for acoustics. I would think that the acoustics in that room might be a challenge anyway because of the … all of the glass exterior walls. Did that have an effect on the way things sounded in there?

It did. Especially in the boardroom where there's two walls of floor-to-ceiling glass that we accommodated in two ways. One was with the room darkening shades that actually helps reduce the echo or reverberation in the room as well as we installed a Polycom sound structure processor which we can set levels and filters in within that unit to compensate for the bad room acoustics. So overall, when we're done, it actually sounds really, really well in the room when we're talking on videoconference or on audio conference. It sounds like you're on the telephone. [Timestamp: 3:55]

And that's the Polycom sound structure … what is it, C-series models?

Yeah, the C-series. I'm sorry, yeah, the C-series. [Timestamp: 4:02]

OK, and I think those come in either 8x8 up to 16x16 ins and outs.

Yes, this one, it was the 16x16. The larger … larger one. [Timestamp: 4:12]

OK.

And it has also the table … I'm sorry, the telephone interface card where you can plug a telephone line into it and use it for a audio conferencing system as well. [Timestamp: 4:22]

And the shades, what are those--Mecho motorized shades?

Yeah, they're motorized shades. I'm not sure what the brand is, but the lighting system and the shade systems tie together and that's a Lutron system. [Timestamp: 4:33]

OK and that's what, just contact closures?

The shades are contacts closures, and then we're talking to the graphic guy through an RS-232 interface, the Lutron graphic guy, to dim the lights or turn the lights on different scenes within the room. [Timestamp: 4:47]


AV Technology Enhances Corporate Collaboration, Part 2

Dec 23, 2010 12:26 PM, With Bennett Liles




OK, I would think though that one big advantage you have in this environment is that you're having a fairly small group of the same people operating the system on a regular basis.

It is. We also had to build the system where the CEO can walk in and operate the room that he spends most of his time in. So what we did is we had several meetings where we went through with him and also his staff on how he would like to see the touchpanel laid out. So it was easy to use. He could walk in and set up a meeting relatively easy and be functional. So we worked with our programmer as well as the CEO and his staff, and the IT department for that matter, to go through what their touchpanel was to look like so there was no surprises at the end. So we ended up doing a graphical representation of the table on the touchpanel so one could come up and literally select table box 3 and it would be labeled on the table and you would have a visual representation of which one was table box 3 and you touch that and then that's what would show on the screens. [Timestamp: 5:48]

Yeah, that's a whole thing in itself, the challenge of being able to design a control system where all the fantastic technology is going on behind the scenes and you just push a button or two and something that starts an automated sequence from the touchpanel so that even a CEO can do it.

That's right.

So the participants come in and they connect their laptops. What all can they do in there during a presentation?

The goal was, and this was part of the needs assessment that we did with Cricket, was they wanted to have a video laptop connection for any person that's sitting at the table all at the same time. So for example, there are 11 table boxes in the table, but there's actually 22 connections, so in theory, 22 people could all have their laptops connected to the video system and then at a push of the touchpanel you could select any one of those 22 at any given time on any given screen. [Timestamp: 6:41]

All right and you were using, what was it, Extron's Window Wall?

Yeah, the Extron MGP 464 window processor, that's so you can do the four images simultaneously on one screen. [Timestamp: 6:52]

You did all the AMX controller programming in house, right?

That's correct, yes.

And I guess that one of the big considerations on this is always going to be one of the users' expertise level, and that's something you probably, I guess, have to assess during the earlier meetings with the client about who's going to be running this?

Absolutely, and then the thought was we were building the design for San Diego's corporate facility as well as building the design for the Denver corporate facility. So the thought was that we would use the copy exactly methodology where I could fly from Denver to San Diego, walk into a conference room, walk up to a touchpanel or a button panel that's in the room and it's going to look exactly like the one does in Denver so I don't have that learning curve to go over. So the thought was that we would make it as simple as possible and as common as possible because the folks travel between the two sites and then they can just walk into a room and they wouldn't need any training. They could just work on their presentation or operate the room without any training. [Timestamp: 7:53]

Wow, uniformity. What a concept.

Yes.

So when they're doing the videoconferencing, what are they seeing on the two big monitors? Does it work like a free-standing unit where they see what they're sending out on one of the monitors and the remote site on the other or is it the same on both?

Yeah, typically the way that they would use it would be they could see the other people on one monitor, and then on the other monitor they would show anyone of those 22 laptop connections to the other side so you can share a PowerPoint or a spreadsheet to the distant end. [Timestamp: 8:23]


AV Technology Enhances Corporate Collaboration, Part 2

Dec 23, 2010 12:26 PM, With Bennett Liles




OK, and you didn't only do a conference room, they had a training facility in there too?

They do. They have a combinable training room that can be used simultaneously or separated. One of the key features of the training room was that they do a lot of distance learning, so they wanted to have the ability to have someone conducting training from San Diego and streaming that video to the folks in the training room in Denver and vice versa. So what we considered in this room was streaming media technology where I could be presenting from the lectern position, and there's a high-definition camera at the back of the room that is pointed towards the lectern and microphones in the ceiling and also a lectern microphone is to where I could be giving a training right here in San Diego and then the folks in Denver are seeing me at the same time. So you can do distance learning with that device as well as archive the training for somebody to look at that in the future. So while the camera and the audio is being recorded, it's being archived in an electronic format so somebody could go pick up that training off of a server and view it at another time. [Timestamp: 9:33]

Oh yeah, that's really a good thing particularly if you've got some really complex material to go over and being able to go back and look at it again without taking up more class time with it. So I would imagine that after using the facility two or three times the people doing it get pretty much to become experts and things smooth out. Tell me something about those other rooms. I think they call those cocoon rooms?

On every floor there are two rooms, and they're called cocoon rooms, and they're a collaborative meeting space where … the rooms are round and they're covered in whiteboard material all the way around this round room and then there's flexible tables and seating that are within the room. So the concept of a cocoon is … there's a lot of people that are using the whiteboards or writing down notes, they're thinking about ideas as well as they want to be able to plug in their laptop and show maybe some data that they had thought of or they can collaborate on. So what we did is in each one of these cocoons we put a 55in. LED LCD display on either side of the cocoon so there's two in each one, and each one of these displays is on a swing-arm mount so you can turn it to whatever area of the room that you are viewing from or you can turn it towards a small audience on one side of the room and then a small audience on the other, or you can use them both simultaneously to show whatever data you want to show. But the other thing that we did in these rooms is we put four separate plug-in locations in the floor so from any number of these four locations you can route your video from your laptop to go to either display. So it's a nice meeting space for them to be creative and think about new ideas while … taking notes on the whiteboard and then being able to show their visual presentations from their laptops. [Timestamp: 11:26]

And how do they schedule all these facilities? Was there something for that?

On every instance … I wanna say there were 50+ room schedulers from PolyVision, they're called the PolyVision RoomWizards. This was a small LCD touch device that's outside of each room that interfaces with their Outlook Exchange server, so the thought was that folks could be at their desk and they could go into Outlook and schedule room 26 right from Outlook and reserve that, and what it does is it shows that room being booked by Tom Yerkes, room 26, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on March 22 and what you would do is you could walk up to this room scheduler and you would see that Tom had the room booked from 8 to noon, but right there on the fly you could actually touch the screen from 1 to 3 and book your meeting right there at the actual PolyVision RoomWizard touchpanel. [Timestamp: 12:03]

Alright, an even easier way to do it. So what was the reaction after the first few times that they used it? Did you come back in and make any tweaks to the system?

Well, if it works as well as it looks in the pictures, that's a great install you've done for Cricket Communications. Travis Ellis and Tom Yerkes of CompView Audio Visual, thanks for being here to give us the details on it.

Thank you.

Thank you for the invite.

I hope you enjoyed the SVC podcast with Travis Ellis and Tom Yerkes of CompView Audio Visual. Show notes for the podcast can be found on the website of Sound and Video Contractor magazine at SVConline.com. Join us next time for the SVC podcast.


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