Overhauling Florida State Senate’s Sound System, Part 2

In a legislative body with so many people speaking from their seats, the sound system configuration can be very complex. 2/26/2013 5:23 AM Eastern

Overhauling Florida State Senate’s Sound System, Part 2

Feb 26, 2013 10:23 AM, With Bennett Liles

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In a legislative body with so many people speaking from their seats, the sound system configuration can be very complex. Les Stephenson of Music Masters in Tallahassee is here to tell us how they set up a new sound and video system for the Florida State Senate. That’s coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Les, it’s great to have you back on the SVC Podcast from Music Masters in Tallahassee. We talked last time about the sound system you installed in the Florida State Senate Chamber. And that was a formidable job, but there was a video system they needed in there too. What did they need in there for the video?

The video requirement was equally intense. The video system requirement was to provide a solution that was basically able to take care of anything that was thrown at them, make it easy to use, and be able to have multiple sources of video content or audio content cued up and ready to play. Be able to communicate with the president’s rostrum, be able to keep track of all the bill software simultaneously while they work on other content that may need to be presented at any minute, and on and on and on. That’s a lot of stuff. I mean, when we first sat down and talked to them, they’re like, “This is what we do and this is how we’ve been doing it,” so to see how they’d been doing it and see what they needed to do, we had a lot of ground to cover. [Timestamp: 1:45]

Okay, and they have projection and flatscreen monitoring, so what are they using for those now?

The main projector is 4:3 aspect, 1024x768. It’s a standard projector. It didn’t get changed out. It was fairly new and they felt like it was adequate. So we went in and added to that the 32in. display, which we embedded into the president’s rostrum. Then for controlling everything, there’s a 24in. Crestron V panel at the production desk down on the lower dais. And then for taking care of controlling the audio, there’s a couple of Crestron 12in. panels, one which is intended to be used down on the lower dais/rostrum area, and then the other one lives in the little control room up on the second level. [Timestamp: 2:28]

So you refitted the president’s rostrum with a 32in. LED, something a little bigger than what they had?

Yes. When we got there and first looked at the project, what they had was three little Sony TVs, which were embedded in the president’s rostrum and then a standard, like 19in. kind of old 3x4 aspect ratio computer monitor that he used to track the bill software. So it was pretty old school, and they wanted to be able to get more desk space for him to be able to use. And so that was where the redesign sort of was driven from. We knew what the president needed to be able to see while he was presiding over the meeting, and that was why we went with the 32in. display with a DVPHD-Pro line. That provides us the flexibility to do really anything we need to do. [Timestamp: 3:19]

And you mentioned, I think it was a 24in. control panel at the production desk.

We had a lot of stuff to manage there, so a 24in. Crestron V panel is what’s located there at the production desk. [Timestamp: 3:30]

And what do the two Crestron DVPHD video processors do? How are they configured?

I’ll start with the president’s rostrum. We wanted the flexibility to make it whatever it needed to be. We felt like once we got everything installed and going, there would be the ‘can we make it do this’ phase. So we wanted to be able to morph it into whatever they wanted it to be. The DVPHD-Pro is being fed by the Crestron DM 16x16. We can make it do pretty much anything. It’s already morphed a few times. I anticipate that it may continue to morph as needs arise. Currently, the president has the bill software on a large portion of the display. Three additional windows are provided. One window shows the floor of the House of Representatives, which is located at the other end of the building, enabling the Senate president to keep track of bills passing through while he’s presiding over the Senate. One of the windows shows the projection screen content so the president can see what’s currently on the projection screen, and the third window shows the Senate channel being broadcast or other source material depending on what the need is. The production desk can send information to the president about distinguished guests to be recognized or other information he may need to know on the fly. It’s quite an effective tool to facilitate the president in keeping track of a lot of things simultaneously. The pace is incredibly fast, so being able to communicate quickly and effectively was paramount. The second DVPHD is on the Crestron 24in. V panel which is down on the production desk at the lower rostrum. This is where everything is run. There are four PCs available to the production desk. This allows multiple AV presentations to be loaded and cued up, bill software to be run, PowerPoint to be created on the fly and projected, the Senate logo to be projected, whatever they need to do. The four PCs are connected to the DM 16x16, and they can go anywhere they need to go. But the DM 16x16 provides USB routing, which connects the production desk keyboard and mouse to the PC they want to be able to work on. The 24in. touchpanel provides a large work window space to the left and several smaller ones to the right representing each of the four PCs, the DVD player, and the president’s rostrum. And then additionally, from the production desk, if they need to make changes on anything to do with the president’s rostrum DVPHD, they can press the rostrum window on their V panel and instantly connect to what’s going on on the president’s rostrum. They can change the configuration of how his windows are laid out, they can change what channel the TV tuners are looking at, they can send him information that he needs to know, special people that in the Chamber that need to be recognized, special groups, whatever he needs to know on the fly. So they can communicate to him through one of those windows, or if he needs to have his bill software advanced as they’re moving through the meeting, because he’s keeping track of a lot of stuff, then they can take control of his PC and they can advance it and then just turn it back over to him without anybody every knowing there was an issue. So there’s a lot of flexibility built in for them to be able to communicate on the fly, in realtime, as the need presents itself. [Timestamp: 6:42]

Overhauling Florida State Senate’s Sound System, Part 2

Feb 26, 2013 10:23 AM, With Bennett Liles

So there’s a lot of activity going on on this touchscreen.

Absolutely, to say the least.

Okay, and you’ve got four PCs. Where are they located?

Good question. Well, one of the PCs is down there right next to the production desk, and this actually acts the portal where they can take presentations that people bring in and they can actually load those into a shared drive. Then the other three PCs are up in the second floor where the sound room is. And so through the shared drive they can then send those to any of the other three PCs that they want to be able to use. So after the content is loaded, it can be opened up on any of the PCs, basically a PC jukebox, so AV presentations can be preloaded, cued up, and ready to go. When it’s time to play something, all you’ve got to do is open up that computer to the work screen, hit play, and it’s ready to go. [Timestamp: 7:30]

Obviously, once you’ve got it all up working, the next big job is showing people how to operate everything. Did Music Masters provide training for all the onsite tech people?

Yes. As soon as we had the installation up and running, we did our first training session with the team that would be running the system. And we took them through the paces and showed them everything it could do, and then at that point they began working with the system. So they were then giving us feedback on different ways they might like windows to lay out or different various aspects, and then we were making changes during the post-install phase of the programming, which is taking the additional feedback once we showed them what we thought they needed, and they were able to say, “Yeah, that’s awesome and can we do this and can we do that?” And then we continued to add changes at that point. So yeah, we’ve got them trained up. We’ll be supporting them up through this first year as they go, and I really don’t think they’re going to need much at this point. They’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the system and it’s really exciting to see it all come online. [Timestamp: 8:33]

Was ambient lighting in the Chamber any sort of problem with the display monitors?

No, the lighting is good. It was really not an issue. All the displays are so bright and clear; they really cut through. [Timestamp: 8:44]

And as I said before, this was a real big job. What was the timeframe on that whole project?

The installation phase of the project was about three weeks. Post-programming phase, the post-installation programming phase, and final tweaking lasted a few weeks after that. There were still some details to resolve, like how to make the main speaker look like it was not going to be a speaker, but for the most part the system was installed in three weeks. All the pre-install programming was going on at our shop while the installation team was onsite building the wiring harness, installing the hardware, speakers and amps, and everything involved with that. The last week of the install was delivery of the Crestron system, already programmed, so all we had to do was connect that to all the hardware, which we’d already installed and begin testing that part of the system. That went pretty much as planned; certainly not without challenge. It was a very demanding install, but our team was outstanding in every regard and we were able to complete the project on time. I was really proud of everyone’s effort. It was great. [Timestamp: 9:45]

Is the system capable of feeding AV sources to an outside destination, say hall monitors or a video control room?

Yes. The Florida Channel broadcasts all the meetings as part of the Florida Sunshine Law for Transparency. There’s an audio feed that goes to the Florida Channel as well as a DVI feet from the Crestron DM system, giving them a direct connection to the content that’s being sent to the screen. There’s a building-wide video distribution system that’s provided by the Florida Channel. There’s also building feeds going into hallways and surrounding rooms and meeting rooms throughout the Senate office building. All the external zones can be controlled through the Crestron system. [Timestamp: 10:25]

Well, it sounds like you not only improved getting the word out to the citizens of Florida on their state legislature, but you also made getting the actual business done work better as well. Les Stephenson from Music Masters in Tallahassee, Fla. Les, thanks for being here.

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