Cline Library Assembly Hall Upgrade, Part 2
May 28, 2013 10:29 AM,
With Bennett Liles
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The university campus is the most challenging venue for AV systems with a huge range of operators and maximum up time. Intent Digital in Phoenix was called in to update the system in Cline Library Assembly Hall at Northern Arizona University. Bob Ginger is back to tell us about how the system testing went, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.
SVC: Bob, thanks for being back with us on the SVC Podcast from Intent Digital in Phoenix and this project you had at Northern Arizona University. Now you fellows were not newcomers to the Cline Library Assembly Hall. You had done the original AV system in there and came back to modernize and upgrade it. When you got the Lectrosonics processors and the Energize control system connected it was time to configure and test it, so what did you do to calibrate this whole thing?
Bob Ginger: Well, Bennett, one of those things we were lucky about is that so much of the amplifier part of it and the imaging were set up years ago when we did the system back in 2001, I think it was. So most of our calibration had to do with the mixers themselves; getting our cross-point alignments, our cross-point setups, and our source setups and some of those levels. One of the things that we like to do on Lectrosonics is to set our base operating level of our microphones within the input amplifiers in the mixer—the input stage—and then back it off another, oh, minus 90B to give us plenty of headroom, which Lectrosonics really likes. They said they wish everybody did that. But we get a good operating level and plenty of room. If somebody’s talking low we can change what they call the rear panel gain to give more gain without actually affecting the mix algorithm, and that works out really well. [Timestamp: 2:08]
You never know what you’re going to have there. They have people coming in from off campus who have never seen any of this gear before, and they have students, faculty, and staff operating the AV system in there. So how did the testing go on it? Were there any tweaks or changes made?
Testing went pretty well because we had a really good design that we had put together originally, so we knew exactly what we had to set up before we actually turned the system on. The thing that took place at the time is that we were dealing with a matrix size that large is that some of the cross points are going to be auto mix and some are direct depending on if it’s a microphone-aligned source or whatever. And so we had to watch carefully on those and we, you know, it’s one of those things you have to go back and fix. You can miss one or two of those out of the thousand-plus cross points that have to be checked. So that was the only real issue that came back as far as any tweaks, per se. Oh yeah, and then there were a couple of their existing microphone frequencies that for some reason or another, you know, they’d been online for a couple of years, so we had to change some frequencies due to some interference that popped up somewhere on campus. [Timestamp: 3:12]
Well, working with wireless mics is second only to alchemy sometimes. You can have it all done right and next week something can come along and pop up on one of your channels. We were talking in part one about the Aspen processors that you used on this. You had a fairly large matrix set up. I would think that most of the things they do in there are pretty simple, but you might have a big event once in a while that has surround sound and all that.
Mm-hmm, that’s true, and so that’s part of what the control system does to switch in and out some of the functionality and will use individual control of I/O lines on the mixer in combination with some of the macros. So we built a couple of macros to deal with some of the different setups that people might be using and then those are just buried into Energize events that execute automatically. [Timestamp: 3:59]
And that was the Lectrosonics SPN1624, a 16 by 24 matrix which should cover everything. What all do you have there for sources? You have DVDs, Blu-ray, computers, and other things?
Yeah, let’s see, there’s four computer inputs, which are stereo. There’s a Blu-ray, DVDs are on both of those with surround sound. There’s a couple of auxiliary inputs plugged in. There’s some router feeds. There’s still a couple of VCRs for legacy material. What else do we have? Oh, and all kinds of microphones. There’s, let’s see, four wireless mics, there are at least eight stage mics plus a couple of other podium mics, so it adds up pretty quick. [Timestamp: 4:38]
Multiple video sources to the projector at the same time.
So figuring worst case scenario which is always useful, what happens when the power zaps out? How long does it take for the whole system to be back up and right again?
Once power comes back up, everything is designed to automatically start up again and the way we put it together was, of course the video will switch to the last good source automatically on the switcher itself. The mixers will revert to a preset—startup preset that we configured in the mixer, and so that’s the worst case. Now then the control system will also start up and it will go back to the last good setting that was saved so that it keeps updating itself as people are operating it. So if you’ve change the levels and switched to inputs that are totally different in the audio mixer, the control system will put everything back to where it was before the power went out, which is kind of cool. [Timestamp: 5:37]
Well, that’s probably back into the mode where it was while the operator is still sort of in mid-freakout. Obviously, you don’t just come up with a system like this and just throw it at everybody, so did you train certain people on campus to operate this or train local gurus to train others? How did you go about that?
Well, the whole goal of our Energize system is to be simple, for simple operation and simple configuration, so we trained folks on both operating it and the configuration of the system. And since we were training both the university and students, we had different levels of expertise. Some of the students really got into it. They wanted to find out what was under the hood, so that was kind of fun to teach them what they could do. So when we were going through the system shake out and the fraying and people would say, “Well, gee, could we make that operate differently?” We would just okay, let the students actually reconfigure the control system so that they could take care of it right then and there. So we didn’t have to go back and write new code or change it and come back and recompile. We’re doing this as we’re doing the training, making changes to the system, so that worked out nice. [Timestamp: 6:40]
Cline Library Assembly Hall Upgrade, Part 2
May 28, 2013 10:29 AM,
With Bennett Liles
Yeah, you were just what, passing through there and you got a call and stopped by and made a change right then.
Yeah, several weeks after it was up and running, right before the semester started, my wife and I were driving in I-40 west actually from Lectrosonics of all places, back home to Phoenix, and we got a call that they had a question or something that needed to be changed. We said, “We’ll be in the neighborhood in about an hour.” So we stopped by and Gail trained them on some things on the front panel. I made a change on the main panel, and I think we were in and out of there in less than 15 minutes or so. [Timestamp: 7:11]
Yeah, not bad. It’s always nice when you can come right in and do something like that and the client will remember things like that.
Yeah. They were surprised we were able to show up and surprised that we were in and out in such a quick period of time.
Well, we were talking before about the challenge of AV in the academic environment, so what’s usually the biggest challenge in setting up a system to be operated by so many different people and so much up time?
One of the biggest challenges is really understanding what folks want to accomplish, and what makes it challenging is that quite often they don’t necessarily know themselves. You can start out with an idea and a concept, but how that actually becomes implemented, it can often be something completely different. So it’s trying to think ahead of the client and to anticipate their needs, anticipate how the system might be used so that when they say, “Gee, I wish it could do…” we can come back and say, “Yep, it already does.” [Timestamp: 8:02]
Yeah, they try to tell you about what they do, but sometimes a translation has to be made. They might not know some of the key terminology, but that’s your job to decipher what they really need.
Right, and then taking that and making it easy to operate in an easy-to-understand workflow, and then keep track if you have special things that go on or even documenting the system. We’ve found that documentation is extremely important because documentation can be a lifesaver when you’re far away and you’re talking people through and, you know, having them reading drawings and such. So it has to be something that they can understand, and then, of course, giving them the flexibility to do the control that they need to do. [Timestamp: 8:42]
Is there any sort of automatic scheduling on this system where it does its own thing?
We actually talked about that, but the room is used in such a variety of functions that we all decided that scheduling didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Often the system is staffed by a student worker, and so there’s still somebody there at all times so the scheduling didn’t become a priority. [Timestamp: 9:04]
And of course one of the things that installers love to hate is the HDCP issues with HDMI sources to multiple displays sometimes. Did you have any issues with multiple monitors or videoconferencing in there?
Well, with Blu-ray and the HDCP we really didn’t have any trouble at all since our end video destinations were primarily the projector and the preview monitors, so we were fine there. The only real video problems we had were more with the audio de-embedders. We had some strange things going on where we ended up having to send them back for repair and replace a couple, and that was when we were going from audio into a scaler and going into Cat-6 and then those being coded back to HDMI at the receive end and then run to the audio de-embedder. There were a few places in that chain where the links could get a little squirrely. It took some time to figure what was going on with those audio de-embedders. [Timestamp: 9:54]
That can always lead to some fun in tracing down digital funny business. So you evaluated several video transport ideas and I think you looked at the Crestron DM at one point.
We considered it. We were looking at the number of sources that could potentially come from the podium and have to be sent back up to the projection booth, because at a minimum it was two projectors and the pad camera. And they also wanted to be able to send all kinds of other plug-in sources as well. So when we were totaling it out, we figured a minimum of six potential sources at some point, so the question was with the limited amount of pipe and cable that we have available to get back up to the projection booth, what are our options? We looked at some of the HDBaseT kind of systems, including the DM, and just looked at also the fact that we had to have seamless switching throughout the plant. And we felt that the cost of some of those systems and the fact that they weren’t really clean switched, that we decided to go with putting in some of the TVOne switching scalers right at the podium to take and combine—or to switch the signals locally there and send them up on three of the Magenta Cat-6 extenders up to the main switcher. And that proved to be very cost effective and we have all the clean switching requirements we need. [Timestamp: 11:08]
Okay, so what does the user interface actually look like? I guess you designed it with school colors and all that.
We usually try and do something that coordinates it with the client’s graphical layout, and so we actually went on the university website and found out they actually had published color schemes with all the numbers—all the RGB numbers and such—that we were able, when we created all our graphics and buttons, we just plugged those numbers in and relayed all the school colors on the touch panels. [Timestamp: 11:35]
Yeah and that’s great when they can walk up and see that.
And that was the real creative part of it and that’s how do we make this easy and have them not get intimidated when they first see it. You’ve got that one done just fine. You’ve got that one done so what’s coming up next for Intent Digital?
Actually we’re lining up a good-sized project with the Arizona legislature where we replaced all the audio systems in all the nine hearing rooms. They had two big Lectrosonics matrices, 120 by 60 and 72 by 36, all controlled by the Energize system, so that’s been a fun one. We’re off to Tennessee in a couple of days to upgrade one of our Voltlinks meeting management systems, and then we’re actually about to start a really cool dental education project that’s going to use some video imaging that we’ll be using a TVOne CORIOmaster for. [Timestamp: 12:21]
Alright, never a dull moment.
Yeah, lots going on.
Enough to keep you busy for sure. Bob, thanks for taking the time to tell us about this one. Bob Ginger and Intent Digital in Phoenix and the Cline Library Assembly Hall at Northern Arizona University. Keep in touch and good luck on the jobs coming up.
Okay. Sounds great, Bennett.