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Specialists in Boat AV Take Their Expertise to Land

Challenge: Within a tight budget, create a multimedia experience for a French cultural center that doesn't have AV experts on staff. 11/05/2008 10:05 PM Eastern

Specialists in Boat AV Take Their Expertise to Land

Challenge: Within a tight budget, create a multimedia experience for a French cultural center that doesn't have AV experts on staff.

CHALLENGE: Within a tight budget, create a multimedia experience for a French cultural center that doesn't have AV experts on staff.

SOLUTION: Utilize management skills learned working on ships and hand the user a complete control system.

Spanish language and Cuban culture dominate the sidewalks along the world-famous Calle Ocho in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. But tucked away on the avenue's east end is a place Francophiles call their own: The Alliance Francaise de Miami, an old printing warehouse transformed into a French cultural center by architectural firm HOK and Coral Gables, Fla. based general contractor Mc Gowan Builders.

The Alliance Francaise offers language and cooking classes, art exhibits, film festivals, and a host of other activities. "The backbone of our activity is the teaching of French," says Philippe Timon, executive director at Alliance Francaise. "We wanted to be able to play the tapes and the DVDs we use for the French classes." Simple enough, but he also wanted students to have a high quality AV system, access to French television channels, and more. However, the Alliance had little money to put toward a new AV system–a mere $120,000 total–and it was having difficulties finding one company that could do the AV, IT, and telephone work.

Credit: Courtesy Wilk Marketing Communications

The French Connection

A chance meeting at a trade show between Serge Papiernik, president of the Alliance Francaise, and Thierry Sparfel, president of TechnoSystems, solved the AV problems. "Thierry is French as well, so they started talking," says Amir Stamper, TechnoSystems' director of marketing. Papiernik told Sparfel about the project, and TechnoSystems was up to the task, plus it provided a change of scenery from the Hileah, Fla. based company's usual installation work on cruise ships.

The project's time line was also a welcome change. At times, TechnoSystems installs major seaworthy AV systems in a matter of days. With ships, Stamper explains, every day spent in dry-dock for maintenance and repairs is money lost, so the company has learned to do a lot in a little time. But in the case of Alliance Francaise, according to Stamper, the company had a few months to complete the AV installation in 11 classrooms, a lobby, and a multipurpose room.

TechnoSystems' cruise-ship installation experience proved an asset in the planning process. "We spend more time on the design and logistics parts of the project to make sure our technicians are in the best position possible to install a winning system quickly and efficiently," Stamper says. And fortunately, the company was brought in early enough on the Alliance Francaise job to make small revisions to the construction plan–such as wall holes for subwoofers and specific locations for light fixtures–and to pull cable so it would be discretely hidden behind the walls, reinforcing the clean, modern look of the architecture. "[The building] was gutted down to the very shell," says Aidan McConville, vice president of Mc Gowan Builders. "Even some of the concrete was ripped out, so it was pretty much new build. That left us in great shape to be able to accommodate all the new mechanical services that the building required."

For example, two Bose Panaray MB4 subwoofers were to be installed in the building's multipurpose room, but the room's walls turned out to be firewalls. "We told [the general contractor] to draw the dimensions of the subwoofers, give them an extra cushion, and told them how to build a fire-stomping box behind the subwoofers," explains Stamper.

Acoustic Melange

The heaviest concentration of AV equipment is in the 200-seat multipurpose room. Here, the Alliance holds everything–French cooking classes, art exhibits, and grand galas. "We wanted to have very high quality sound system with not only the ability to play music and movies, but also for lectures and presentations of all kinds," says Timon. "It's a little bit of a parlay on a project we did for a cruise ship, where we created a multipurpose room whose primary purpose was a culinary theater, but it's also used as a movie theater, a chapel, and for port lecturing," Stamper explains.

TechnoSystems took advantage of the fact this project was on land to work closely with manufacturers Bose and Crestron. "On land, you get a lot more time to buy things, to get them, to prepare, to test. And because we got involved early, we worked with some of the manufacturers to help with the design," he says. "Most [dry-dock] facilities are not in the U.S. there is no Radio Shack to bail us out if we forget a connector. We're used to being self contained."

Because the Alliance does not have an AV technician, it wanted an easy-to-operate system, Timon says. The Crestron TPS-1700 touch panel–part of the MP2E-PAK-TPS-1700 AV control package–fit the bill. Two Audio-Technica ATW-2110 wireless receiver and transmitter sets and two Audio-Technica ATW-2120 wireless receiver and handheld microphone sets are available for live presentations.

Three Bose Panaray 402II loudspeakers provide audio for the front center, right, and left channels of the multipurpose room, while three Bose FreeSpace DS100SEs cover the rear right and left channels. Bose technicians used the company's Modeler software to accurately place the loudspeakers and refine the sound without acoustic treatments or echo-cancelling, despite the room's tall cement ceiling. An Extron MMX 32 VGA A matrix switcher, QSC ISA500i amplifiers, and a Soundcraft Spirit Folio FX16 sound board support the system. Other audio sources include an ID-AL SP603 rack-mounted 80GB HDD MP3 player and a Teac PD-D2610 CD changer.



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Specialists in Boat AV Take Their Expertise to Land

Challenge: Within a tight budget, create a multimedia experience for a French cultural center that doesn't have AV experts on staff.

Video Montage

In each classroom, teachers can show French TV programming from the Dish Network receiver on the classrooms' LG 26LC7DC 20-inch plasma flat-panel displays or play DVDs via the RCA DRC247N DVD players. A Sherwood RX-4105 receiver in each room helps manage the AV signals.

The lobby includes an LG 42PM1M 42-inch plasma flat-panel display with a Denon Professional DN-V755 network AV player, which the Alliance Francaise uses to push basic PC-driven digital signage content. "They're slideshows, but I think [Alliance Francaise] does more video than digital signage," says Stamper. "When they have a wine festival, they show wine. When they have a film festival, they show some promos; but when they show classroom schedules, they use PowerPoint." Four Bose FreeSpace Model 16 inch-ceiling loudspeakers in the lobby provide background music.

"We wanted to be able to show movies, have lectures produce and present plays; a wide range of activity," says Timon. TechnoSystems chose a Sanyo PLV-WF10 projector for presentations and a Samsung DVD V5600 DVD player for films. "Our system can play all sorts of DVDs, from Area 1, which is the States and Canada, but it also plays European DVDs in Area 2, and DVDs from Japan, from all over South America, and so on," boasts Timon.

He also enjoys the ease of setting up. "Basically, you press on the digital key [on the touch panel] that indicates movie, the electrical screen is coming down, the video projector is on, the DVD player is on, the sound system is ready, and you just need to insert the DVD and it plays."

Unfortunately for TechnoSystems, installing the Draper Premier series 184-inch screen didn't run as smoothly. "One thing that all of us didn't realize: There was an air-conditioning duct that was planned to come up right behind the screen," explains Stamper.

According to McConville, TechnoSystems "had to construct aluminum brackets to hold the screen out from the wall a little so that the airflow could get behind the screen." Otherwise, not only would airflow move the screen while in use, the mechanical engineer was concerned about the state of air pressure created if the air couldn't escape the room. "We drew the screen in; [no one]–not the architect, not us, not the GC–noticed that the A/C was coming up through the screen," continues Stamper. "Not even the A/C guy."

Al Fresco Affairs

The entertainment isn't limited to the multipurpose room–or even inside the building. Outside, five Bose FreeSpace DS16SE loudspeakers are mounted to the side of the building, where digital gray reflective acrylic paint from Goo Systems forms a screen for the Alliance's existing Sharp portable DLP projector. "We wanted a very good sound system that we could use on our terrace, which would be an extension of the multipurpose room," explains Timon. "We do social events, like the Music Day, Bastille Day, and every time we have over 1,000 people. Half of them are inside, but half of them are outside, so we wanted to be able to play, for instance, the sound inside and outside from bands."

TechnoSystems customized a weatherproof box with multiple inputs and a Crestron C2N-DB12 wall-mounted 12-button touch screen and mounted it on the outside wall of the multipurpose room. "The lines we used were the stuff we use on the ships–marine lines–they're weatherproof," says Stamper. "Being here, you get rain and you get hurricanes, but on ships you get salt, so we're used to dealing with the worse of it."

The Goo Systems paint is specifically made to act as a screen for digital projectors, allowing Alliance Francaise to also show films outdoors. "Miami is a great city to do things outside," says Timon. "And people love it because we [moved] the cafe outside as well. We have a small garden so people can eat and drink wine while watching a movie with excellent quality."

Par Excellence

In November 2007, the Alliance Francaise celebrated its opening with a gala that included the French ambassador. According to Stamper, the organization solved budget concerns by financing the project through a leasing company, while TechnoSystems helped by sticking with reputable but inexpensive brands and making sure not to specify beyond what was needed. TechnoSystems continues to work with the Alliance on the control system's ease of use, providing technical support and making various requested adjustments, but both praise its flexibility. "That one-touch screen runs it all," says Stamper. "It's very simple to run and almost anybody can do it."

"We can really do everything, which is great," agrees Timon. "And the sound quality and the picture quality are really top of the range. People are very amazed, so this is very good."

A Soundcraft Spirit Folio FX16 sound board helps control the sound system for concerts, plays, and social gatherings. The Alliance Francaise shows French films in its outdoor cafe. Goo Systems, digital gray reflective paint forms the screen.

A Soundcraft Spirit Folio FX16 sound board helps control the sound system for concerts, plays, and social gatherings. The Alliance Francaise shows French films in its outdoor cafe. Goo Systems, digital gray reflective paint forms the screen.

Credit: Left Photo: Courtesy Technosystems; Right Photo: Courtesy Wilk Marketing Communications

 


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