Fluid Sound of San Diego installs fiber backbone and NEC displays to modernize and future-proof AV distribution

On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Dennis Pappenfus of San Diego’s Fluid Sound about the large scale expansion of the Barona Resort and Casino in Lakeside, California. Fluid Sound added dozens of video monitors, expanded the existing Peavey MediaMatrix sound system and installed Just Add Power’s Ultra HD over IP video distribution system to facilitate further expansion in the future.

Links of Interest:

· Fluid Sound – Boutique AV design and installation

· Just Add Power’s Ultra HD over IP

· Peavey MediaMatrix audio distribution system

· Klipsch IC-650-T ceiling speaker

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor with Dennis Pappenfus of Fluid Sound. We’ve got all the show notes and product links for the podcasts at svconline.com. Go to Podcasts at the top of the page.

Barona Resort and Casino and Lakeside, California is up and running twenty-four-seven. They needed a huge expansion on their video system it had to get done with no disruption. Fluid Sound came in with Just Add Power’s Ultra HD Over IP system. Dennis Pappenfus of Fluid Sound has the story coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Dennis, we’re so glad to have you here with us on the SVC Podcast from Fluid Sound in San Diego. So how are things going out there?

Good. We actually got a little bit of cold weather and rain recently, which is a bit unusual for us. It’s just about perfect here all the time, so I can’t complain about a few days of rain. [Timestamp: 1:00]

Well, one thing I’m good for is at least getting you out of the rain for a little while and getting you inside.

[Laughs] Yeah, exactly. Bring me inside and have a quick chat about something we do for fun and we do for a living, so happy to be here. [Timestamp: 1:12]

Casino visitors are surrounded by newly expanded video and sound

Casino visitors are surrounded by newly expanded video and sound

And in that regard, a lot of AV contractors like to specialize or concentrate on one type of project. Some do only churches, others specialize in residential so tell us about Fluid Sound and what kinds of projects do you take on and your area of expertise.

Well, it’s not one area in particular. We’re kind of all over the place, but in a very interesting way. I like to refer to ourselves as a boutique integrator. We do everything from emergency operation centers for clients like the Red Cross, to corporate boardrooms for just about all sizes of corporate or enterprise entities, to some hospitality with custom room-combining systems and a lot of specialist training and presentation systems with video and audio distribution off site to other rooms onsite. We’ve even lately been doing pretty well with video walls – some custom video walls – and even a custom projection dome, actually, for the same project at the Barona Casino with a couple of high lumen laser lamp fish-eye projectors that were stitched together to create a brighter image on a curved dome surface using Navitar custom lenses and 7thSense Design backend software. So we’re all over the place, but at Fluid Sound we like to take a holistic look at the client’s use case from the client’s point of view. This ensures we’re really looking at the solution from the client’s needs and from their perspective and not vice versa, because we want to be a partner in the solution and not a box reseller. [Timestamp: 2:31]

Well, you’ve certainly got an ambitious project here and these are high stakes clients who don’t have a lot of down time and you have to get it to work right the first time. How big was the Barona Resort and Casino expansion and what did they need to do to expand their video distribution system along with it?

Well, this is a really interesting project for us. It was initially a consultant-led project and the consultant spec had initially looked at expansion of legacy video matrix switching that was at the head end. And the cost for expansion of legacy systems would have crested a million into the $1.2-$1.3 territory for the project. We proposed an alternate based around Just Add Power’s video over IP solution and we were able to save that project close to $300,000.00 with a more scalable solution – and the benefits to the client were pretty significant. And it allowed us to accomplish a couple of really interesting things that address your point. One, existing systems were left alone in place and operational during the new construction and expansion of the casino. So we built out the new head end, we built out all of the distribution to the IDF closets, all the new screens tied into legacy video sources and brought them over to the new head end. And this is a planned migration to HD over IP for the entire facility. The benefits to that are significant, you know, high resolution content support you can get up to 4K on that solution. We can infinitely grow the matrix and we can support local content sources at the IDF closets for some video distribution that might be closer to specific areas. For example, they’ve got some cluster screens at their entrance that’s close to an IDF. That cluster of screens is a very specific digital signage use case. They don’t need all of the sources that are available at the head end to that group of screens. So it’s a much more flexible solution that ended up being lower cost and provided them with scalability and growth opportunity out into the future that excited everybody. And then nobody walks away from that kind of savings, so that got us to the table as a design-build partner and the original spec was thrown out the window. [Timestamp: 4:37]

OK and how did Just Add Power’s Ultra HD over IP system work to fit in with their present system without causing any problems? For instance you would need to have some easy or automatic way to match scaling in the new displays with the imaging in the existing ones.

Yes. Lots of existing screens are various supported resolutions. You have some legacy 720p HD screens, some 1080, 1080i, 1080p stuff. So a lot of their existing infrastructure is non-standard resolution at the display so scaling is really going to come to bear from the Just Add Power solution to the client when a lot of the migration of existing facility rolls over to this new solution scaling is going to be critically important. On the new side we just set the scaling to standard resolution because all the displays were standardized. And at this point it’s just a 1080p distribution solution with the exception of the distribution to a couple of video wall locations where we are moving some 4K digital signage content. But the entire backbone was built out to support 4K because that’s the way the casino is moving and they have a migration plan to support 4K content property-wide within the next year or two. So we built the backbone out for that purpose. [Timestamp: 5:45]

And there were several IDF closets that you had to run things to. How did you install all of the fiber optics system and components between all of those closets?

This was actually initially a real challenge. We worked very closely with the Just Add Power engineering team to make sure that our design approach was going to work with their solution. And it worked seamlessly, but what we ended up doing is a hybrid. So because this is an existing casino that expanded, at their head end they had 38 sources that needed to be available to principally any display at any time or any combination of routing configurations they could dream up. So we built out a 40-gigabit fiber trunk between the head end fiber core switch and all the IDF closets. And it’s a link-aggregated group, so it’s a true 40-gig trunk, not a bunch of 10-gig links. So it’s a very big pipe we’ve got between the head end and all of the IDF closets that’s going to support all of their 38 sources current, migrating those 38 sources, all of them, to 4K, and we’re also moving our audio, which is CobraNet audio, over that same 40-gig trunk and all of our control information over that 40-gig trunk. So it was a very interesting project using multi-mode fiber and a Cisco fiber head end switch and Cisco switches at each of the IDF closets as well. [Timestamp: 6:59]

Now, does the casino at the Barona Resort ever close or are they running twenty-four hours a day?

24/7. So all of this had to happen with quite a detailed plan that ensured we did not interrupt or have any significant interference with their existing systems. [Timestamp: 7:16]

Yeah, I would think that they might be more than just a little nervous about having a bunch of AV installers running around connecting equipment while they’ve got things going on.

Very much so. We had to present a plan to their AV Manager, Paul Slater, to show him how we were going to tie into their sources, have a plan for rolling sources between active channels to other channels. And with 38 sources there we were able to take just little groups of them down, split them so they could be distributed to the legacy infrastructure and new infrastructure, and the new infrastructure is distributed to the new part of the facility and the legacy infrastructure was left along for the time being. But it is all slated to be pulled out and replaced with this new HD video over IP backbone in the coming year. [Timestamp: 7:57]

They’ve got a lot of different video sources coming in. You don’t necessarily have to get every video source to every set of monitors but what kinds of video sources are you dealing with?

Well, you’re dealing with a lot of broadcast video. This is a casino environment. They’ve got lots of people that are betting on sports games. They’ve got a lot of sports routed to the various gaming – table games areas – and then also ambient displays. So lots of broadcast video from sources like DirecTV and cable boxes, cable receivers. Quite a bit of digital signage and lots of different digital signage form factors. We’ve got landscape and portrait oriented 4K digital signage going to 3x3 video walls and so forth, and then quite a few live camera feeds from their stage and some promotional areas such as the cash grab machine. It blows dollar bills all around. You get inside it and try to grab it, and they’ve got – that gets fed to a bunch of displays throughout the casino when that machine is live and they’re doing the promotions in it. But that’s principally the broadcast digital signage and cameras for the time being. [Timestamp: 8:54]

And so we’re not talking about replacing every display right now but how did you manage to get all of the new displays up and running without causing any disruption or distraction?

Well, so the casino expansion – and if you can imagine the existing facility was expanded onto. So they added probably a third more square footage than they had originally and in that expansion area, that’s all new NEC displays, all knew Just Add Power receivers. And then we’re migrating over to rolling all of the existing displays onto this Just Add Power infrastructure and that’s really straightforward. Now that we’ve got all of the sources onto the new Just Add Power distribution, we just pull a CAT5 to a new display and drop in a Just Add Power receiver, unplug the old receiver, plug the new one in, and we’ve now migrated. And all that work is done in non-peak hours, which is between 2:00 in the morning and 6:00 in the morning. [Timestamp: 9:43]

NEC video monitors were used in the new AV expansion

NEC video monitors were used in the new AV expansion

I think those new ones are primarily NEC displays?

That’s right. All of the new hardware is NEC displays. There’s a combination of manufacturers in the legacy casino spaces, but we really like working with NEC. They’ve got a great channel straight to engineering if you’ve got a problem, a question. And we do quite a bit of monitoring of the displays through the control infrastructure. The displays never turn off, but we’re making sure they’re not overheating and then polling them for some statistics. And working with NEC quite closely and having access to their engineering-level resources has been a real value-add for us. [Timestamp: 10:16]

I noticed on the V552 I think it was, they have an RS232 pass through for daisy chaining control and saving a lot of wiring.

Yeah, we do that. We do a little control pass-through for their video walls. There’s a couple of NEC 3x3 video walls in this location as well. [Timestamp: 10:32]

You added lots more displays and receivers. How did you get power run to all of that gear without having to tear into things, run lots of cable and install connectors?

Yeah, honestly the Just Add Power solution powers the receivers via PoE and we love that for a multitude of reason. The two biggest ones is obviously we don’t have to provide extra power at a location if there’s not already outlets available, and then also if there ends up being any issue with the receiver – it’s not doing what we want it to do – that receiver can be remotely rebooted simply by getting into the control infrastructure and disabling PoE power on that specific port, on that network switch, back at the IDF closet. And all that can be done from our main office and support center. It really minimizes truck rolls when you can reboot devices and having the ability to reboot PoE at the switch level is amazing. [Timestamp: 11:22]

That would be a basic necessity, installing it that way for a place that just has to keep going day and night. You have to use some IT solutions.

Yeah, and as you know the AV IT convergence has been a catchphrase and a buzzword for years. Most, if not all, of our systems are principally IP-based distribution, control and the whole automation nut is all in the IP paradigm. And that allows us to do quite a bit of monitoring and diagnostic that was previously something only the IT professional would touch. And it has really opened the door up to collect more information and do useful things with that information from a support perspective. [Timestamp: 11:59]

Well, it’s been great listening to how you got everything in and in Part 2 we’ll talk about how you actually get in there and control it. That’s a lot of balls to keep in the air all the time. We’ve been talking to Dennis Pappenfus with Fluid Sound in San Diego. The project is the Barona Resort and Casino in Lakeside, California. Always hopping day and night and it’s going to be fun to hear how you switch the signals and operate the whole thing. Great talking to you, Dennis. See you then.

You as well, sir. Thanks for your time today.

So the Barona Resort and Casino has their expansion and they’re ready for a smooth transition to an all-4K video future. Next week Dennis will get into more of the control aspects of the AV distribution system so join us for all that on the next SVC Podcast.

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