McCann Systems Outfits Express Scripts Headquarters

Show 133 Part 1
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In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Ken Newbury, Senior Vice President for Operations and Sales Executive with McCann Systems about the installation of conferencing and training facilities in the new Express Scripts headquarters in St. Louis. Ken describes the Executive Conference Room where flat screens are mixed with a large rear screen projection display.

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From Sound & Video Contractor Magazine, this is the SVC Podcast with Ken Newbury of McCann Systems. Show notes for the podcast are available on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com.

Express Scripts built a huge new headquarters in St. Louis and they called in McCann Systems to outfit it with the latest in training and conferencing facilities. Vice President of Operations and Sales Executive Ken Newbury is here to give us a detailed look at how they pulled it off. That’s coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Ken, thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast from McCann Systems where you’re the Senior Vice President of Operations and Sales Executive. That sounds like you’re a busy guy.

Yeah, I’ve got a couple of hats on the rack over here.

Okay.  Well tell me a little about McCann Systems. What sort of projects do you take on? I know you’ve got offices in a variety of major cities.

Yeah, so we’ve got five branch offices. I oversee everything that we do out here in St. Louis. McCann Systems, I guess by definition, is a design/build systems integrator. We kind of dabble in a few different arenas, but our forte is anything that allows us to think outside the box and create custom solutions to a problem we didn’t know we had yet. Here in St. Louis we do a little bit of that as well. We’ve got a lot of corporate standard type work. We’ve got some government contracts. We’ve got some experiential tour centers that allow us to really change what we’re going from day to day and a little bit of everything in between. [Timestamp 1:45]

Alright. You were called in by Express Scripts and that’s no small outfit. They’ve got a huge headquarters in St. Louis. So what AV facilities did they have in their headquarters or was this an all new installation?

This has been an ongoing thing. Right now in St. Louis where their headquarters is, they’ve actually as of today there are six buildings that make up the Express Scripts campus. Over the course of the last couple of years we have built three of those from the ground up and also have been going through ongoing refreshes and renovations in a couple of the older buildings. So before we came in there was some AV, a lot of real standard utilitarian meeting spaces, some of it based upon antiquated technology based on the age of the building. And then of course for the ground up construction that we were doing we were able to design in from day one the proper things for what they needed. So we really got a vast array of conference spaces from small to large to fit the needs of the growing workforce that they have here in St. Louis. [Timestamp: 2:47]

Okay. Well, let’s just go room by room here. How about the Executive Conference Room first? What’s interesting there is that you mix projection and LCD flat screens. So how did you feed the video to all of those displays?

Yeah, so this boardroom was a great project. We worked with a couple of local architects and custom furniture fabricators to build the entire picture. But from a video standpoint everything we do now is digital so although we might still leave a couple of legacy analog connections at the conference room tables, everything gets converted to digital before it hits our main video system. In the case of this job specifically, this is all based upon a Crestron DM with a Creston DVP video processing backbone to allow us to get digital signal to the 3 Chip DLP projector as well as the two 1080p flat screens.  Each display has a dedicated window processing device allowing us to do fade-ins as well as picture-in-picture and custom background graphics. [Timestamp: 3:48]

Are you capable of putting different sources into all of those or do they all take the same source?

It’s a full matrix routing so each of the three displays in this system here can have any combination of up to four sources at a time so that includes a couple of different dedicated room PC’s, digital signage players, cable boxes, four different laptop connections about the custom table, Cisco video conferencing from SX80 and a AirMedia for some wireless presentation capabilities. [Timestamp: 4:20]

And I think that’s a rear screen projection system for the largest display. How much room behind the wall did you need to accommodate the rear screen projection?

In this room particularly I think we’ve got just less than eight feet of total depth, and we’ve got a 123-inch rear projection screen. To achieve this we’ve worked with our custom fabricators to make a rig with a mirror bounce. One of the neat things that we did here was used a new-at-the-time, kind of one of the first pieces of glass that is being developed as an ultra-polished first surface glass. The intention is to remove all the potential for striations that you used to see in some of the older first surface glass mirrors. Now that projectors have gotten so much brighter and such deeper resolution it began to show the artifacts in the mirrors on your projected image. Although we had to pay for it on this one, it was a great result. The image on that projection screen is just as bright and sharp as the flanking LCD’s. [Timestamp: 5:21]

When they’re doing videoconferencing in there, where have you got the cameras located?

So in this room we went with a single camera just to keep it easy. This one is dead center of the room. Based on the horseshoe-based table it gives us a good, clean line of sight to all participants. We like to keep our cameras down at about 45 inches AFS to the lens. That seems to give us the best perception of eye contact with seated participants. [Timestamp: 5:44]

And what is that, an HDMI signal coming out of that camera?

That’s right, yeah. It’s one of the Cisco HD cameras, the P60, and we have that running into the Codec. [Timestamp: 5:56]

Obviously, there has to be a rack somewhere for all the support gear not necessarily in the user’s hands, but somewhere close by. Do you use a central rack room for everything or did you use separate equipment spaces for each room?

It kind of changes throughout the areas in the buildings. For this boardroom specifically, since we already were building out a rear projection room to facilitate that large screen in the middle we were able to have plenty of real estate for the two equipment racks that we needed to build this out.  The other thing that that rear projection room did for us, which is kind of cool, those two flat panels that we have flanking the projection screen are actually standing on custom floor stands in the rear projection room and we simply cut out openings in that angled glass wall that makes up the front of the boardroom and just pushed them up against so they’re not actually installed in anything as far as the building is concerned. It’s a free-standing assembly that we’ve built and pushed up against an opening that was cut in that glass wall. [Timestamp: 6:52]

It’s always interesting to see rear screen projection being used. That keeps most of the machinery safely out of site and out of reach. Sometimes the ambient light level can be a problem but you used a pretty powerful projector in there.

Yeah, that’s right. This is a 3 Chip DLP 10,000 ANSI lumen projector. So we’re pushing the sun through this thing. [Timestamp: 7:13]

No problem with room lighting there. When you turn that thing on it’s going to get everybody’s attention.

Yeah. We’ve had really good feedback and based on the size of the room it gives the perfect-sized image for the presentations that they have. [Timestamp: 7:23]

And it seems that on a lot of these projects a lot of the time is taken up with cabling runs. So did you run into any surprises when you started cutting through things and getting under the floor?

The infrastructure pulled on this one was actually pretty easy just because we had it. It was laid out and the conduits were installed properly during the construction phase. I’d say from a wire management standpoint the most difficult piece was the table. This was a one-off custom-designed table that was built locally by a fabricator here in St. Louis and with all of the aspects of the table that made it what it was sometimes it was a little difficult to integrate the technology. So just getting microphones where we needed them and routing cabling within the furniture so that it worked as it needed to but wasn’t something that anyone realized was there, kind of became the biggest wiring challenge of this room in particularly. [Timestamp: 8:13]

So how long did it take you to get all the cabling down and get everything installed in that room and get it from zero to test ready?

Well, we had about three days in cabling. I’d say it was maybe five days or so on the physical install, and then the commissioning almost sometimes takes us as long as the install does. So we probably had our applications engineers and senior tech sit in that room for a good week after all of the devices were installed and the signals were physically verified just to make sure that we can get everything balanced, every single line, dial in the audio DSP system, make sure there were no hidden bugs in any of the Crestron controls, and just make sure then the president of Express Scripts sits down at the table there that the touch panel works the way it’s supposed to and the room operates as easily as possible.

Right. User friendly and all the real tech stuff behind the scenes. I would think that the sound could actually be a bigger challenge than the video stuff.

Yeah, it ends up being true most of the time. Video – as long as the components that you’re using are working you can usually get a good, clean picture on the screen and your day is done. With the audio balancing from a conferencing standpoint, that’s the biggest challenge or the thing that takes the longest to dial in in any room from a big boardroom down to a smaller video conference room. This room worked in our favor. We had a good design so we had good acoustical treatments. We’ve got good sound absorbing shades that drop down when we need them. We were able to get the microphones cut right into the table so we’re not dealing with ceiling microphones. The HVAC system was balanced well and quiet and it had a nice real thick plush carpet in the room. So the microphone balancing here was one of the easier ones, but that doesn’t say that the rooms down the hall and across the street don’t give us the biggest challenges, especially when we’re looking at ceiling microphones being a requirement. [Timestamp: 10:02]

Right and in Part 2 we’re going to get into some of those other rooms and talk about some of the things you did in there. A very interesting project because it’s obviously a very high profile client, most likely fairly demanding on what they wanted and you probably didn’t have a whole lot of time to get it right and get it all done. It was great hearing about how this room was done. It’s Ken Newbury, Senior Vice President of Operations and Sales Executive for McCann Systems and in Part 2 we’ll get into some of those other rooms, Ken.

Sounds great.

Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with Ken Newbury of McCann Systems. Show notes are available on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. In Part 2 Ken is going to tell us about the other rooms and the special lab at Express Scripts, next time on the SVC Podcast.

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