San Diego’s Fluid Sound uses Crestron Control with an iPhone interface to run expanded AV system

On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles wraps up his discussion with Dennis Pappenfus of San Diego’s Fluid Sound about the AV distribution expansion project for the Barona Resort and Casino in Lakeside, California. Dennis details the Crestron control system and he explains the operation of the iPhone control interface. He also outlines the installation of additional Klipsch IC-650-T ceiling speakers.

Links of Interest:

· Crestron CP3 control system

· NEC V652 65-inch video monitor

· Crown DCI 8|300 amplifier

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.

The Barona Resort and Casino had a big expansion that needed dozens of new video monitors, speakers and an IT-based AV distribution system to take them into the future. It all had to be done while the 24/7 operation kept going. Dennis Pappenfus is back this week to finish the story on how San Diego’s Fluid Sound make it all work. Coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

Dennis, good to have you back with us on the SVC Podcast from Fluid Sound in San Diego. We’ve been talking about the Barona Resort and Casino expansion project with the addition of dozens of new video monitors and the sound system expansion. We talked about how you got it all connected but I wanted to get into the control aspect of it. How does the Crestron system work? I believe you used Crestron control with this.

That’s correct.

Yeah, CP3.

CP3, yeah. At the head end there’s a Crestron CP3 control processor. And with the sheer number of IP-controlled devices we like the Crestron platform, and that particular processor is a great price point with a lot of feature sets so it’s really relevant in an IP-controlled environment. [Timestamp: 1:29]

Some installers consider Crestron to be very complicated but if you know what you’re doing it’s also incredibly versatile and you can control some complex systems and make it very simple at the user end of things.

You know, and I’m glad you said that. That’s really one of our core tenets here at Fluid Sound. I mean, complex infrastructure can be a real pain for a client if you’re not real careful about the design environment and the design paradigm. Really, it’s our goal to make sure we’re giving them a user experience that allows them to use the tool because this is a business tool. People are buying this infrastructure to provide entertainment to their guests, to conduct audio/video conferences, and that control environment needs to be operated by typically non-technically proficient people. And the Crestron platform, in general, allows us to provide very streamlined and intuitive user interfaces and that’s something that I think we do quite well. [Timestamp: 2:20]

The new system controls many sound & video environments

The new system controls many sound & video environments

With a system as spread out as this one you can’t just run off into a closet somewhere and push the buttons. You’ve got to be out there where you can see what’s going on over a fairly large area and I believe there’s an iPhone control interface with this system.

Yeah, that’s right. You’ve got iPhone, iPad apps running on their wireless network and then a fixed and wired touchscreen at the head end. And that allows for lots of points of redundancy, but back to what I was mentioning earlier it allows for a very tailored operator experience. The pit boss in one of the table games areas doesn’t need the entire facility on his control interface. He’s only concerned about clients that are at his table games looking at the screens, making requests for content, adjusting volume, and taking care of source routing and control for his specific area. And as a function of custom user interface design, on the wireless iPads and on some of the pit boss company issued phones we’re able to accomplish that customization that really drills down and addresses the specific use case. We selected Crestron as the platform to support that. [Timestamp: 3:20]

Yeah, so if somebody does push the wrong button it’s typically going to be affecting something they can see right in their own small area rather than someplace on the other side of the casino where they don’t know they’ve fouled up something.

That’s is exactly.

Yeah. And well, let’s talk about the sound end of this operation, where the amps are located and how the wiring to the ceiling speakers was run. You had pre-cut tiles and that’s going to be probably a 70-volt system.

Yeah, that’s right. Last week we talked a little bit about the size of the fiber optic trunk that runs from the head end closet to all of the different IDF closets. Previously, all amplification lived at the head end and as a function of the fiber backbone that was implemented to support the Just Add Power HD video over IP distribution system, we were able to drop audio over CobraNet leveraging existing Peavey MediaMatrix DSP’s that supported CobraNet, dropping that onto that fiber optic backbone and dropping more Peavey MediaMatrix DSP and amplifiers in each IDF closet such that we could minimize the amount of copper that needed to be pulled throughout the facility. So the copper is pulled to the local IDF. Each little speaker is onto the local IDF and not clear across the facility back to the head end anymore. And that was a real benefit, leveraging that fiber optic backbone. [Timestamp: 4:33]

Casino visitors are surrounded by AV activity

Casino visitors are surrounded by AV activity

And those ceiling speakers, I think you used the Klipsch IC-650T model.

Yeah, that’s right. And that was because Klipsch had speakers that had been used throughout the legacy casino and they wanted a uniform sound and no distinguishable differences between sound as you walked from the new expansion into the legacy part of the casino. So we used a similar make and model from the same manufacturer and equalization curves to match acoustical sound throughout the space. [Timestamp: 5:01]

And how did you go about setting up the sound control? Was that through the existing Peavey MediaMatrix?

That’s right. Peavey MediaMatrix was existing in the facility that we expanded on that Peavey MediaMatrix NION head end and did expansion between head end and IDF closets, again over fiber leveraging the CobraNet interface and those Peavey MediaMatrix NION N3 processors. [Timestamp: 5:21]

Yeah, I would think that that saved a whole lot of time and trouble and expense, too.

Yeah, time, trouble and expense and it really, for a facility like this, it’s about not limiting future expansion. Their marketing people come up with very creative ideas and they’re moving table games around and slot machines around and reconfiguring the casino quite regularly. I was actually surprised to learn how often that happened. And because of that fluidity, all pun intended, to the facility, we had to design something that allowed for change – future change – and do that quite easily without ripping out a lot of infrastructure. So a lot of audio can be rezoned quite easily. We can add and remove audio zones and move audio content around the facility quite easily with this backbone. [Timestamp: 6:01]

Well, that could get interesting when they’re moving things around on their own and reconfiguring the layout but people still have to be able to operate the system after the room layout has been changed. How would you train the staff for this and how well did they take to it?

We have an interesting approach to training. Obviously we provide it, but during the design/development process specifically for our user interfaces we do a lot of due diligence on the front side so that the training experience is minimized. Not because we’re lazy, but because a well-designed user interface should be intuitive enough for a brand new operator, right? Somebody they hired, that they happened to hire after we conducted training on the system, to grab that user interface, stare at it for a second or two, and then just intuitively understand how to accomplish their goals. What do they want to do? They look at the user interface. If it’s designed right, laid out well, they can accomplish that with next to no training. And that’s a major goal for us when we do our user interface design development. [Timestamp: 6:55]

And since we were on the subject of sound, that’s a lot of different sound sources spread over a fairly wide area. How did you manage to isolate those sound sources enough to avoid just having a big cacophony going on?

That is a significant concern if they start to put on different audio sources that are close to each other. But we talked a little bit before about the casino rearranging their footprint and each cluster of speakers up in the ceiling, each group of between six to eight of those Klipsch speakers had a dedicated home run drop. So those home runs could be adjusted, even if need be, to different amplifier channels and the wiring could be changed. It’s all dropped onto screwed-on terminal blocks and labeled very clearly. So if they needed to move a cluster of speakers from one amplifier channel to another or reconfigure the zoning from a hardwire perspective, they can accomplish that in each of the IDF closets and we can make those changes for them. In addition, the speakers are fairly focused so the audio is focused coverage to the area right below the ceiling speaker. It’s a fairly controlled pattern, and you don’t have a ton of bleed, to an extent. And we are talking about sound, it does bounce around a little bit, but you don’t have a ton of bleed between the different areas because of the way we lay out the speakers, paying close attention to the coverage pattern of the speaker’s distribution horn. [Timestamp: 8:09]

It probably would sound completely different if the place was ever empty but since you have so many people in there you’ve got natural sound absorbers walking around everywhere.

They definitely don’t want that casino quiet and there’s a lot of activity. It’s a lively environment even at 4:00 in the morning. [Timestamp: 8:24]

So with this done, what are their plans for expanding and modernizing the AV system from here? Just adding more monitors and spreading the footprint out even more?

Yeah. It’s migration of what’s left of legacy infrastructure over to the new Just Add Power HD over IP backbone. And we’re really excited about how straightforward that is, because we just, again, pull wire to the legacy display, drop in the Just Add Power receiver and then the swap the HDMI cable from old to new. And by the time we’re done migrating everything over to this new backbone, out goes that old legacy matrix switcher and they’re completely migrated. There’s also going to be a huge push on the casino’s part with 4K content, specifically the large format displays. They’ve got several 3x3 video walls and a couple of large projectors and getting 4K signage content to those displays was a huge point of this migration. Eventually the whole facility is going to migrate that way in the next few years. [Timestamp: 9:19]

The Barona Casino and Resort is active around the clock

The Barona Casino and Resort is active around the clock

Well, since this has happened and it all went successfully they won’t be quite as antsy the next time about having AV guys running around while they’re in operation.

No. It was quite successful. A bit of a challenge on the project management and the planning side, but we’re up for those challenges. They’re fun.

And you have this one done for now so what’s up as far as Fluid Sound? What have you got coming up?

Well, we are looking at another casino as a result of this project and the success we had with this video distribution backbone. People talk and they’ve contacted us for another casino project. We’re also doing a lot of specialty video distribution and training facilities. We’re doing high-end feeders right now where the feeders have a lower seat count but you can go and rent that feeder out for your company presentation or your meeting and if you exceed the seat count of that one auditorium you could overflow into the next one. So while we’re not taking care of the cinema stuff inside the theater, we’re doing all the presentation and video distribution and then control development such that the operator can find a second use for these feeders in times where the ticket sales are low. And it’s quite an interesting market for us. [Timestamp: 10:21]

Sounds like the wave of the future coming on. I talk with a lot of outfits that are renovating existing theaters to provide a more immersive sound and video environment.

More immersive and then mixed use. I mean, the mixed use facility has been a lot of growth for us, and working in mixed use facilities that might perform four or five different functions throughout the course of a day. And really, that presents design challenges, user interface challenges, but then infrastructure challenges. Making sure you’ve got a system designed around that client’s very specific set of needs and that you’re tackling them all as best as you can, given the constraints. But we really love those challenges. [Timestamp: 10:57]

Well, this has been good to hear how you did the Barona Resort and Casino, a twenty-four-seven operation, and got in there and did such an extensive job of modernizing, expanding and futureproofing their AV distribution. We’ve been talking to Dennis Pappenfus with Fluid Sound in San Diego. Super project and I’m sure they’ll be calling again to take the next step. Thanks for telling us about it.

Well this has been a lot of fun. Thanks for your time today.

Fluid Sound and Just Add Power teamed up to “futurize” AV distribution at the Barona Resort and Casino. Next week we’ll get into the story of another new AV installation project on the SVC Podcast, so get with us then.

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