On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles finishes his conversation with Matt Odell and Steve Frantz of S2N Technology Group about their AV work on the massive new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Matt and Steve outline the QSC paging system, the Brightsign video displays and coordinating the technical work between many trades. They also note their strategy of selecting top technology gear while leaving the museum room for future expansion.
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This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor with Matt Odell and Steve Frantz of S2N Technology Group. We’ve always got show notes and product links for the podcasts at svconline.com. Just go to Podcasts at the top of the page.
The massive Museum of the Bible recently opened in Washington, D.C. with immersive sound, lighting and video on a scale beyond any other. S2N Technology Group handled the AV design and a great deal more. Matt Odell and Steve Frantz are with us again this week to finish the story on how they got it all done, coming up on the SVC Podcast.
Matt and Steve, we’re glad to have you back this week from S2N Technology Group and I don’t know if we’ve ever covered a more complex and ambitious AV project than the Museum of the Bible in Washington. It opened just last November and S2N was at the center of it right from the initial planning with the AV, IT and security. Five year project but for this place, that was pretty rapid. AV technology was advancing all during that time so how did you leave room for eventual technology updates?
Matt: Well, thanks for having us back again, Bennett. This is Matt Odell, by the way. We worked really closely with the owner and the various technology partners on this throughout. A lot of these museums will take up to 10 years or so to build. We didn’t have that kind of time while we stayed on the front end of the technology piece. And these folks, I will say, at Museum of the Bible, they are on the front end of technology. They absolutely want to do what is the latest and greatest. I will say it did go by pretty darned quick and we stayed on the front of it as much as we can. One of the big pieces of this project, since there was so many different stakeholders involved with several different exhibitors and the museum staff themselves, we needed to standardize as best we could. So we did a lot of bake-offs and looked at a lot of gear early and kind of knew the roadmaps of these gears so we could stay on it as it happened, but we had to standardize as best we could. And now that they’re open it makes it simpler for them to fix anything or keep on with the technology in a similar fashion throughout the house. [Timestamp: 2:26]
Even the planning can be tough on a project this complex but when it comes to the getting your hands dirty part of it, what was involved in running all those thousands of feet of cabling just for the exhibition areas? What type of cable were you running?
Matt: Yeah, I think overall it was probably over 800,000 linear feet of cabling for the entire project. It’s a lot of cables. We used the Superior Essex category 6 and 6A with Ortronics hardware on the end. It had to be all back. The ceilings were open in here. Most areas within the museum don’t have a ceiling. It’s an open space up there, so you see all the conduits and cables and cable tray and they wanted it all black so it kind of blended in. So all of our cables throughout no matter what they were, whether it was copper or fiber – and there’s a lot of all of that throughout – were black. And Superior Essex worked with us on this to make sure we had exactly what we needed to accommodate. [Timestamp: 3:23]
Of course, that’s the drudgery work and the unglamorous part of it but if it’s not done right, the dramatic hi-tech features aren’t going to work. It wasn’t only the AV operation but S2N handled a lot of other supporting technology with IT and security.
Matt: Yes. We are a technology company. We have experts in audiovisual like Steve here, our CTS-D. We have security professionals. We have structured cabling professionals throughout. So what we did is not only the AV, but we also handled their electronic security for them which included all the access control readers and lots of security cameras as you can imagine in a space like this – especially with all the priceless artifacts that they put in there. We even managed the install for the x-ray machines as you’re coming into the building, the wireless access points – over 500 of them – on all the exhibit cases where they have all those priceless Bibles that they’ve put in. [Timestamp: 4:22]
Among many other things I believe S2N also added a QSC paging system.
Steve: Yeah, that’s right. QSC was a key part of the building’s background music and paging system and it was also tied into the emergency notification system for the entire building. The system supported QSC speakers that were done throughout the building and again as Matt had previously talked about we got demos of gear so that the museum staff could get a look at and listen to the QSC equipment and see how it worked in some of their spaces. But also as part of the standardization process we talked about on the project, QSC was the selection for exhibition areas and back of house conference and classroom spaces. So again, we were trying to standardize here and standardize on QSC so that the museum staff would have just one platform to work with when they opened up the building versus having two or three. [Timestamp: 5:14]
So QSC hardware at the ends of some of that cabling you put in and there were also a lot of Brightsign video displays. What was the advantage of the Brightsign video displays?
Steve: Yeah. The owner decided to go with the Brightsign XD-1033’s. It was on the basis of cost and features. They had a mixed bag of high def and 4K content for some of the areas of the museum and they especially liked that the XD-1033 supported both 4K and HD resolutions. 4K was supported natively and HD could be upscaled. It also helped to get in this case where we were able to bring that equipment to the museum staff so they could get their hands on it, play with it before they’d made a decision and then it helped them also choose the Brightsign and be comfortable with it as a solution. [Timestamp: 5:59]
There are so many exceptional exhibits in this building but on the fourth floor there’s one that takes visitors on a tour through Jerusalem.
Matt: Yep. So there’s several theaters. I know we’ve already discussed the World Stage Theater and the great things in there. But there’s several theaters throughout the museum, and depending on which exhibitor was doing the design for that particular space. The 4 floor is part of the history of the Bible. There’s other floors that have the impact of the Bible and the stories of the Bible. The difficult part for us on a lot of this was you had several different exhibit companies who have their own way of doing business. And what we needed to do was get all of those companies together and have a uniform platform for everyone to work from. So what we did was we took all the information from each one of the exhibitors and managed to put it on a similar design that the construction folks could understand, that our IT subcontractors and we could understand so it could all be put in uniform and follow schedule and we could get done in time. [Timestamp: 7:07]
A formidable job and since you handled so many different aspects to this museum, some of which we’ve only touched on, how did you manage to coordinate the wider array of trades on it? Not only different jobs but a variety of different types of workers.
Matt: Well you know, oftentimes we may get brought into a project midstream when someone realizes that they need an integrator to come in and do this work. Luckily for us on this project we were there in the beginning when they’re having design meetings with all these different exhibitors, with the folks on the construction team that were going to create the space for the museum. We were there from the beginning too, so we made relationships based on that with all the exhibitors. We went to visit them at their locations, and we got all the information. Then we had to sort through it and put it all together, as I mentioned earlier. But it was our time with them in the beginning that helped us to set that up. And then our feedback to the owner, we made sure that the owner was in the loop at all times. So we would have weekly progress meetings with them just on the IT side and the technology side. As you can understand, there’s so much technology in here. It was so complicated, we had to stay on top of that the entire time or it would not have gotten done. [Timestamp: 8:22]
Just getting everybody looped in where they’re not standing around waiting on somebody else to get done first you would have to be able to concentrate on details without losing sight of the bigger picture. So what’s in the pipeline now for S2N. How do you top this?
Matt: [Laughs] That’s a good point. It’s going to be tough for sure. And we still have continued support at Museum of the Bible. You know, they change things up from time to time even though they’ve only been open since November. They have some exhibits that will always be here, but they also have space in the museum that’s allowed for some traveling exhibits, exhibits from the Vatican, Israeli antiquities. So those kinds of things will change from time to time to time and we’re helping them out kind of sitting in an O&M role as well onsite still. But healthcare is one of our big verticals and we continue to work extensively with the Innova Health System, which is here in northern Virginia. We’ve also just picked up a nice project with Johns Hopkins Hospital, who we’ve worked with in the past. On the museum front there’s some things I can’t talk about yet, but they’ll be coming up soon. But we have been consulting out in Los Angeles on the Los Angeles County Arts Museum and we’ve also finished up some more work back here on the east coast with the University of Maryland. And on the federal market we’re working on a large project for Fannie Mae. One of the exciting pieces for us with S2N right now is we’re preparing to open a new office in the Los Angeles/San Diego area very soon so that’s kind of a new frontier for us and there’s a lot of good work going on out there that we’re hoping to start picking up on. [Timestamp: 9:58]
Well, it has surely been a treat to hear how all of this works at the brand new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. S2N Technology Group, a part of Clark Construction, the general contractor on the project. Matt Odell and Steve Frantz. Thanks for giving us a closer look at this.
Matt: Well thank you, Bennett. We appreciate it.
Steve: Thanks, Bennett.
Good having Matt Odell and Steve Frantz with us from S2N Technology Group and hearing their story on AV installation for the fantastic new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Be right back with us next week as we take on another AV installation project on the SVC Podcast.