ProAVmag

Casino Rebuilds With Robust AV

Deftly staying afloat amid the aftermath of Katrina, a New Orleans systems integrator works quickly to build a sprawling surveillance system for a rebuilding casino. 12/25/2006 7:33 AM Eastern

Casino Rebuilds With Robust AV

Deftly staying afloat amid the aftermath of Katrina, a New Orleans systems integrator works quickly to build a sprawling surveillance system for a rebuilding casino.

CHALLENGE: Build robust camera surveillance and command & control systems on a short timeline.

SOLUTION: Pre-assemble and wire major componentsin-house to help coordinate among parts and vendors more quickly and efficiently.

AS CHALLENGES GO, just keeping its business operational was tough enough for New Orleans-based Interstate Electronic Systems (IES) last year.

But keeping its head above water during the devastation of Hurricane Katrina paid off nicely in the end for the systems integration company, which specializes in building camera surveillance systems for large facilities such as college campuses and airports.

In fact, with business doubling for the firm amid the rebuilding of the Gulf Region, the firm has seen doors open to new markets that were previously unavailable to it.

For example, the company was recently brought in to handle a $2 million camera surveillance and command & control project for the newly rebuilt Boomtown Casino in Biloxi, MS, one of several floating gambling meccas that were destroyed when Katrina's wrath reached up into the Mississippi Gulf region.

It was a unique business opportunity for IES because casinos like Boomtown typically contract out such surveillance work to integration firms that specialize in closed-circuit camera systems specific to gaming centers. (And most of these companies are based in California and Nevada.)

In the Biloxi, Miss.-based Boomtown Casino's command and control center, surveillance staffers can view up to 45 images simultaneously from the 476 cameras scattered around the facility on a videowall consisting of three 60-inch Mitsubishi VS-60XT20U-AG XGA-resolution DLP cubes and a Jupiter 980 display wall processor.

“It's kind of been a double-edged sword,” says Lloyd Francioni, managing partner for IES. “Because of the hurricane, some of our work is gone. But other work has certainly picked up.”

Like lights on a Christmas tree

Like all casinos in the Mississippi Gulf region at the time, the Boomtown was mandated by state law to be on the water, floating on a barge. (Since Katrina, the Mississippi legislature has relaxed those laws a bit — casinos can now be built on the shoreline.)

The hurricane triggered massive swells that broke the Boomtown's barge loose from its moorings and sent it floating out into the bay. Strangely, the casino and the barge remained tethered to the Boomtown's adjacent coastline administrative offices — the head-end for the surveillance system is located there — by the single cable that linked all of its old security cameras, an effect similar to pulling the lights off a Christmas tree.



1 2 3 4 5 Next

Casino Rebuilds With Robust AV

Deftly staying afloat amid the aftermath of Katrina, a New Orleans systems integrator works quickly to build a sprawling surveillance system for a rebuilding casino.

In the end, the barge survived. But the casino didn't. And when Boomtown parent company Penn National Gaming decided to rebuild its Biloxi gambling joint on that very same barge, it turned to IES — which had recently opened up a branch office in nearby Jackson — to design and build new security camera and head-end monitoring systems.

“IES was available, they had the financial structure and insurance needed to get the job done, and they had the knowledge,” says Eric Rayborn, formerly the director of surveillance for the Boomtown Casino who hired IES for the project. “I didn't want to deal with a company in California or Nevada for a project this large. I wanted someone who could come and see me in an hour.”

For its part, the only specialty skill IES lacked was the ability to aim the 476 surveillance cameras spread around the Boomtown to catch all of the ne'er-do-wells who typically plague such a gaming facility — such as card counters, “rail robbers” (those who sneak away with an adjacent player's chips) and “slips and falls” (sore losers who try to recoup their gambling losses by feigning an accident).

But not just any systems integrator knows how to do this — one must know the gaming security business to know exactly where to point those cameras. “It's my job to make sure the cameras are pointed so they cover what they need to cover,” Rayborn says. “That's not why I hired IES.”

Besides location, what IES had that no casino-surveillance specialty outfit did was superior AV skills, Rayborn adds.

This is noticeable in the surveillance head-end room, which is housed in the two-story administrative building, located on the shoreline and tethered to the floating casino by 200 feet of umbilical wire — a design intended to reserve virtually all of the barge's limited square footage for gaming.

Here, IES highlighted its work with a one-by-three display wall made up of three 60-inch Mitsubishi VS-60XT20U-AG XGA-resolution DLP cubes and a Jupiter 980 display wall processor — a novel approach for casino surveillance control room environments that typically employ huge arrays of CRT or LCD monitors (see sidebar).

“Very few casinos utilize vide-owalls,” Francioni says. “The typical casino security contractor doesn't have good understanding of the display piece. Our AV background allowed us to put in a sophisticated display.”

Boomtown security staffers have the choice of observing the surveillance system using this display wall, or at one of three individual workstations, each equipped with three 19-inch Dell 1907FPT LCD monitors.

From these vantage points, security personnel can view images from 476 cameras spread around the Boomtown's interior and exterior —an array that includes 354 Pelco ICS090-CRV39A fixed dome cameras and 88 ceiling-mounted Pelco SD53C22-F0 Spectra 3 ceiling-mounted cameras with pan-tilt and 23X zoom capability.



Casino Rebuilds With Robust AV

Deftly staying afloat amid the aftermath of Katrina, a New Orleans systems integrator works quickly to build a sprawling surveillance system for a rebuilding casino.

All analog video images captured by the cameras are routed by a Pelco 9780 matrix switcher to the Jupiter display wall processor, as well as a Pelco Endura IP recording solution, which converts the analog video signals into digital and copies it to a Pelco RAID 5 storage farm. This server system —which was furnished by IT distributor CDW — features more than 400 hard drives capable of storing up to 170 Terabytes of data.

The entire surveillance system is controlled with a custom-designed user interface, created in Version 4 of 360 Surveillance's Cameleon software, which ties individual software management for components such as the cameras and the videowall into one graphical user interface (GUI).

“That interface is the glue that holds everything together and really minimizes the complexity of operating this system,” Francioni notes. “From an operator's perspective, you're only dealing with one system.”

All told, the addition of a videowall drove the cost of integrating the head-end room up about 15 percent higher than it would have been with a standard casino command & control install. “But it was a value thing rather than a cheapest price thing,” Francioni notes.

Not only did the videowall provide a solution that eliminated the clutter of having dozens of individual monitors scattered about, it provided casino surveillance staffers with a more aesthetically pleasing solution that enabled them to more precisely control their display environment.

Building this head-end system was also the toughest challenge for IES, given the project's short execution timeline. With Penn National officials anxious to get the Boomtown back online, the integrator had to be in and out in 90 days, its work complete by the end of June.

“We pre-assembled the majority of the rack-mounted systems in New Orleans,” Francioni says. “We then broke it down, shrink-wrapped it, had everything delivered to the site, then re-assembled it. There's so much confusion at a site like that — there are far less distractions by doing it here at our own facility.”

The day after

Fortunately for IES, its Big Easy headquarters survived the ravages of Katrina with only a broken window. However, with the city flooded and largely evacuated — and a number of employees' homes destroyed — the company's biggest challenge was staying open and available for the coming influx of new business.

“My partners and I all evacuated to Houston,” Francioni explains. “And for the first few days after the storm, we literally operated the business from the dining room table at my brother-in-law's house. My partners lost their homes, and a number of employees lost theirs, too. We told everyone to take care of their personal business first, and if you can come to work, come to work. Nobody missed a paycheck.”

Once Francioni and his team had a chance to regroup, one of the first orders of business was to consolidate headquarters into the company's Baton Rouge, LA, satellite office, which was only shuttered for a day amid the calamity. The power at that facility remained out for some time, but IES purchased a generator to sustain operations. “We took 8,700 square feet of employees (in the headquarters office) and put them in 2,500 square feet in Baton Rouge,” Francioni says, noting that the company's server system was also migrated over to the building.



Casino Rebuilds With Robust AV

Deftly staying afloat amid the aftermath of Katrina, a New Orleans systems integrator works quickly to build a sprawling surveillance system for a rebuilding casino.

The Baton Rouge office served as IES' headquarters until November of last year, when the New Orleans headquarters once again became inhabitable. But facilities were only one challenge for the firm; communications provided another tough hurdle.

Since the flood wreaked havoc on both land-line and wireless telephone service, Francioni purchased Nextel two-way radio phones for his key staffers.

“We also went to Comp USA and bought a bunch of notebooks so everyone would have a computer,” he adds.

In all, Francioni estimates that IES incurred about half a million dollars in extra business expenses just to stay up and running in the aftermath of Katrina. However, enduring tribulation allowed the company to seize opportunities like the Boomtown.

SPACE-SAVING IDEAS

Casino surveillance systems require head-end viewing environments capable of displaying many images at once. And usually, these rooms are crowded with CRT or LCD monitors.

“Most security guys just don't get the display part,” says Lloyd Francioni, managing partner at New Orleans-based AV systems integrator Interstate Electronic Systems (IES). “They're so used to building racks that look like they were designed in 1975. The only thing they've done lately is update the bulky CRT monitors with LCD panels, but these still take up a lot of geography. We raised the bar by putting in a videowall.”

At the newly rebuilt Boomtown Casino in Biloxi, MS, IES designed a head-end monitoring environment around a one-by-three display wall featuring three Mitsubishi 60-inch rear projection XGA-resolution display cubes and a Jupiter 980 display wall processor.

IES integrated Jupiter's ControlPoint software inside a custom GUI created in Version 4 of 360 Surveillance's Cameleon. Using that interface, Boomtown security staffers can put up to 45 camera images on the screen simultaneously in a variety of configurations. Each image can be freely moved about the wall and sized according to preference.

The huge XGA display lets Boomtown operators get more cameras on the screen simultaneously, Francioni says.

“To put it in perspective, the screen size of each of the 60-inch monitors is roughly equivalent to more than 45 10-inch monitors,” he says. “But very rarely does the casino distribute all of the video to the same size window. For example, they may choose to set most of the images to be approximately that of a 20-inch display and then enlarge a specific camera image of particular interest. Besides being eye candy, the videowall provides a much more functional display for the operation.”



Casino Rebuilds With Robust AV

Deftly staying afloat amid the aftermath of Katrina, a New Orleans systems integrator works quickly to build a sprawling surveillance system for a rebuilding casino.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

360 Surveillancewww.360surveillance.com

Dellwww.dell.com

Jupiter Systemswww.jupiter.com

Mitsubishiwww.mitsubishi-tv.com

Pelcowww.pelco.com

Daniel Frankel is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at daniel.frankel@variety.com.



Previous 1 2 3 4 5
Want to read more stories like this?
Get our Free Newsletter Here!
Past Issues
June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014