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Conference Center Connects with QSC Q-Sys Integrated System Platform, Part 1

A huge conference center and hotel, the Sheraton Fairplex in Pamona, Calif., called in CSI Multimedia to connect every sound source to every destination in the place.

Conference Center Connects with QSC Q-Sys Integrated System Platform, Part 1

Jan 9, 2013 12:38 PM,
With Bennett Liles

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Part 1


Part 2

Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

The new 85,000-square-foot Sheraton Fairplex Conference Center

A huge conference center and hotel, the Sheraton Fairplex in Pamona, Calif., called in CSI Multimedia to connect every sound source to every destination in the place. Rick Shaw is here to give us the story on how this huge job got done using the QSC Q-Sys Integrated System Platform, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Rick, thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast from Woodland Hills, Calif., and CSI Multimedia. It’s great to have you here. Before we get into the huge installation project at the Sheraton Fairplex Conference Center, tell me about CSI Multimedia. What’s been going on there?

Rick Shaw: Well, a California corporation founded in 1986, we started as acoustical and audio consultants and then got into integration and finally became dealers. And then as we grew, I had a lot of background in lighting design, so we added lighting, specialty lighting, and that gave us a broader base and then projection as that became critical. And with all of that together, infrastructure became absolutely mandatory, so were sort of a one-stop shop in that respect and we tend to focus on large venues that are looking for very high-quality production values. So we do mostly commercial video equipment and audio equipment. Our infrastructure, we’re very particular about what wires we use and connectors and so that’s who we are. [Timestamp: 1:57]

And you certainly had a very big and far ranging installation project here. They’ve made an 85,000-square-foot addition to the conference center and called CSI Multimedia to fit it out for AV. Tell me a little about the Sheraton Fairplex Conference Center. What did they need there when they called you in?

Fairplex is twice the size of Disneyland. It’s the location of the Los Angeles County Fair and they have a hotel on the premises, a Sheraton. They have ballrooms and they were looking to meld the facilities of the park with banquet and conference. Next to the 35,000-square-foot building they built this trade and conference center, and it was designed by HOK, the world famous architectural firm. It’s really a very pretty building, but their specs were a nightmare. They wanted everything to go everywhere. Any input signal had to be able to go to any input and all output signals and it also had to be able to travel around the park. So linking to building 8 was our first and linking to Sheraton the hotel itself is second and now we’re going to start linking the buildings together through the Q-Sys system. [Timestamp: 3:14]

Well, of course, since they can have just about anything going on there it’s a good way to go to route any signal source in the place to any destination and a lot of signals and destinations. [As a] new installation, did you get in there during the construction or was it finished and you outfitted it with the system then?

No, we’ve been sort of the inhouse AV designers and integrators for Fairplex since 2004 and so we were in from the ground floor. HOK was informed that Fairplex had their own design team and so we integrated with their engineers to make our design feasible. They had never seen anything like it. I don’t think many people have seen anything like it; it’s one of the miracles is that we have five wire broadcast HD video traveling through its own switching system and Q-Sys handling the audio through its own system and yet when you play a CD and you see it on a screen 500ft. away, there’s perfect lip sync. [Timestamp: 4:15]

Since there’s no shortage of products and systems that can send any audio and video source to any place in a big facility, why did you choose the QSC Q-Sys integrated System Platform for this one?

Well, it’s a very robust platform. It runs on Linux. It’s using Xeon server processors; there are four of them, so it’s extremely high quality sound but capable of jumping over existing IP and that was critical for Fairplex because the underground wires and tunnels were stuffed in the 30’s and there’s no room to pull new wire. We’re lucky to get any fiber pulled around there let alone hard wire, so being able to tap into the existing IP system is just fantastic. [Timestamp: 5:02]

And with all you had to do, pulling so much cable and having so many wiring points, was there any particular part of it that stood out as the biggest challenge to get done?

Well infrastructure was the biggest challenge and we had the electrical contractor come to us and say that his 9V people had no idea how to do this and would we subcontract back to him to do the terminations on all of the wiring. So we ended up being a primary designer, primary contractor, and a subcontractor on the job. We have 240 speaker connections and we have no transformers; everything is live back to the amps—two speakers to four speakers. So it’s a very powerful system, several hundred thousand watts worth of power capabilities. [Timestamp: 5:50]

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Conference Center Connects with QSC Q-Sys Integrated System Platform, Part 1

Jan 9, 2013 12:38 PM,
With Bennett Liles

The QSC PL340 amplifiers installed by CSI for the ballrooms

You’ve got the core and the amps; it seems pretty close together. What’s the cable run like between those?

The core itself connects to its I/O frames. We have 15 of those. That connection is digital, so where the I/O frames are located, the longest analog run we have to an amplifier is 10ft., everything is digital to that point, so the inputs from the microphones and the outputs to amplifiers happen remotely to the core itself. [Timestamp: 6:19]

OK, so your long cable runs are then from the amps to the speakers?

The real nightmare cable runs. We’ve got almost 200ft. of five wire. Now we’re using a really, really big cable about the size of your cable antenna cable and five of those, but even at that, trying to run a high-definition analog signal that far is a nightmare and its going through a switch first. In every room there is an upscaler for the video, which upscales the video to HD and analog and then sends it through out to the switchers, which then send it back to the same room. So if you’re watching a video in the farthest conference room, you have the signals of both audio and video traveling 150ft. to 200ft. one way and 150ft. to 200ft. back. [Timestamp: 7:05]

OK so as far as the users are concerned, when they’re in the conference rooms out there, what do they see as far as what they’ve got for AV facilities in the rooms?

Well, every room has a minimum of this upscaler and a mono audio line, a line level inputs, VGA computer inputs. For our outputs, we’ve got five wire RGBHV video, bi-directional Cat-6 analog phone, fiber interconnects between the two data rooms with 24GB throughput. We had to split up our system into two systems, so there are two data rooms and two different video switches. The thing about the Q-Sys is it can handle all of this without all of this machination. You just stick the core in there and you run Cat-6 to your I/O frame; the I/O frame has GP I/O outputs. It’s analog and digital outputs, and you configure that frame with four cards; each card having basically two channels or four channels and two amplifiers. So all of your input and output happens there locally. Basically what it becomes is to the user is it’s a sealed system. He sees none of this. [Timestamp: 8:16]

I read that you’ve got some Earthworks microphones in the ballrooms for monitoring the acoustical situation in there.

Yeah, one of the other things that Q-Sys can do, which not many other systems have ever been able to do, is it has the ability to analyze an incoming signal, compare it to its outgoing signal, and make adjustments. So they wrote a special program for us to do EQ as well, so we have 16 listening microphones throughout the building and if the promoter wants it to be automatic, we can EQ the room empty, set the volume levels with the room empty, and then as people come in with coats and mass and noise [and] the sound floor goes up [and] the absorption goes up, the EQ balances itself and so does the volume level. [Timestamp: 9:00]

That’s great to be able to adapt it that well, sort of on the fly because they have so many different things going in there you can never be sure what sort of acoustic environment you’re going to be dealing with.

Right or technical requirements, I mean we had in the first week we had a doctor’s convention and they had to be able to not only communicate while they were there, [but also] a couple of them performed robotic surgery from the conference using our lines and equipment. [Timestamp: 9:27]


It’s just amazing.

I also saw that the system automatically combines the rooms when the air walls are opened. Do you have sensors triggering that or is that part of a manual control sequence?

We have an infrared sensor and it tells the lighting system and the audio system when the combining walls are open or closed. When they’re open all inputs in the room become that room’s inputs. The speakers they’re all matched. The videos all matched and then when the room closes they divide and the systems divide. [Timestamp: 10:01]

That’s really something. I’d really like to see how that works. That’s almost like it’s got a mind of its own.

Between that and the ability to control it completely remotely it makes it absolutely hands off for the staff and one of the big things about hospitality staff is they may know how to count chairs, but they don’t really know much about audio/video and so most of the time you have to hire another company to come in and run the show. Well, you don’t have to with this trade and conference center. It’s smart enough that it will do it by itself. [Timestamp: 10:33]

Well, it’s a fantastic system and in part two we’re going to get more into that. Thanks for being here Rick and for taking time to explain how the whole system works at the Sheraton Fairplex Conference Center. In part two we’ll get more into the Core 4000 and how you use the amps and integrate those with the emergency system in the facility and some other things but thanks for being here for this one.

Well, thank you very much for your time. I enjoyed it.

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