On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Andrew Adams and Eric Ramay of AV design and installation firm Mood:Texas. They have the story on the installation and testing of the new EVO Entertainment Multiplex in Schertz, Texas. At the 73,000 square foot facility, visitors are immersed in video and sound from a wide array of sources in meeting rooms, a bowling alley, artistic video wall and a huge gaming arcade.
FOR MORE: GO TO PART 2
- Just Add Power 3G Ultra HD Over IP system
- Luxul XMS-7048P 52-port stackable Gigabit PoE+ L2/L3 managed switches
- RTI XP-8v control processor
- NEC E556 55-inch LED backlit commercial display
The new EVO Entertainment Multiplex in Schertz, Texas was designed to immerse visitors in a wrap-around video environment with an incredible array of sources. They hired Mood:Texas to come in an make it all happen. Andrew Adams and Eric Ramay are here to tell us how they got it all up and running, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.
Andrew and Eric, welcome to the SVC Podcast, coming to us from Austin and Mood: Texas so how are you guys doing?
Eric: Doing really good. Thanks for the invite.
Andrew: Doing good, Bennett.
Alright and we’ve got a huge project to talk about here and before we get into the meat of that let’s hear some about Mood: Texas. You’ve been around for a while and you get into some pretty hefty projects. So give us the low down on Mood: Texas.
Eric: Sure. So we’re a family-owned company. We’re on our third generation now. Our president is the third generation. Started in 1954. Of course things were a little different back then as far as the AV field. We actually had reel-to-reel tapes transmitting music on towers and stuff like that, so the field has definitely changed since then. So we are not a huge company. We have about 55 employees at any given moment. We basically cover the southern half of Texas. We also have a satellite office over in El Paso that covers a little bit into New Mexico. [Timestamp: 1:30]
OK well Andrew, how about describing the EVO Entertainment Multiplex for us in Schertz? This was a gigantic project I think this place is something like 73,000 square feet?
Andrew: Yeah. It was a massive space and it’s basically a wonderland of fun as well as AV. They’ve got movies, arcade, bowling, a restaurant with a full bar. It’s one of those places you can bring the whole family to enjoy themselves, possibly drain their wallets. [Laughs] They have several private event rooms that are used quite often for parties. As far as AV goes there’s almost nowhere in the space that’s not filled with screens and speakers. We’ve got about 100 displays throughout the space not counting the movie theaters, two large video walls, one stretch video wall, an artistic video wall. And one of the coolest bar video setups I’ve ever seen and got to work with; this giant video wall above the bar that can turn into several video walls or one combined. So it was a dream project for sure.
Eric: Yeah. We got to not only design for the entertainment value with show and displays with TV, but the displays have a lot of branding on them as well. So a lot of whatever they’re selling at the time, a lot of digital signage and items like that. So we were able to come at it two-fold. [Timestamp: 2:43]
Yeah, not only movie theaters, they’ve got a huge bowling alley in there. They’ve got meeting and event spaces that can be combined.
Eric: Yep. Yep.
And that’s an incredible space. You’re surrounded by video and sound everywhere you go in there. I would just go crazy in there with some kind of attention disorder.
Eric: They want to keep them in there as long as they can. So as long as they’re in there spending money that’s good for the owner, good for us, good for everybody.
Andrew: And it’s a great way for us to show off Mood: Texas. We’re all about creating unique experiences and as an affiliate of Mood Media we’re best known for our music service, our digital signage, our scent marketing. So this AV wonderland allowed us to really show off those sensory solutions, especially with the digital signage on all of these displays and all of these massive video walls. So it was just an amazing show of our work as a whole. They even have a custom scent at EVO. [Timestamp: 3:36]
The real heart of this place as far as the technical part is the Just Add Power 3G Ultra HD over IP system.
You picked all of this out and installed the system. They do have competition so why did you go with that particular one? Was it previous experience with Just Add Power?
Eric: A few different items why we went with that one. Previous experience. We’ve had really good experience with the quality of product and basically the ease of use. The other things that really ticked a lot of boxes was we had to stay competitive in the pricing so with not only the decent price point of that system but also it runs off standard category cable, so we have CAT-6 running and transmitting signal. We didn’t have to go to CAT-6a shielded or anything like that. So the cost of the actual cabling infrastructure was way down compared to, let’s say, an HD-Base-T system with a higher grade cable. And it would be able to deliver instantaneous switching, which is very important to the video wall application, which we may talk about a little bit later. But Just Add Power has instant switching and then, of course, the expand abilities. So right now we’re adding to the system. Even as we speak we have a work order out and it’s the simple fact of just putting some more receivers on the network switch, the POE-powered, and integrating them into the control. But instead of having to reinvent the wheel we’re just going right into a standard switch. So that’s just an awesome feature. [Timestamp: 4:56]
And I would think that one of the more time consuming parts of the installation might have been running a lot of cable.
Eric: Yeah. So what we did – and that was a decision I made during the design process. They already had a contractor doing all their network cabling. We did some cabling but we actually had them take care of, through contracting work – a fully-designed system, labels and everything were provided by us, but they actually ran all the cable because they were already running their wireless interface. All the networking was done by them so it just made sense to pull in the same exact cable for us; why are we going to be tripping over each other? So once again, it made us a lot more efficient and it made our price point look really well because we were combining the labor that they already had. [Timestamp: 5:40]
Well let’s talk about that big video wall. I believe it’s in the bar area. How did you set that up? I know there are a number of different configurations that are easily selectable.
So there’s a whole lot you can do with it. Tell us how you did that.
Andrew: There’s actually two huge video walls. One of them is at the entrance. That’s a 3×6 with eighteen 55-inch screens. That one is just basically a welcome screen. It’s got full screen 4K graphics on it all the time. So we were able to utilize the internal processing of the NEC displays to have a single media player feeding into a single HDMI input and that the screens themselves create the wall. So it’s a very, very simple but dramatic experience as you walk in. Now the other video wall is above the bar. That’s a 2×9 and that one is configured completely differently using Just Add Power receivers at each display. It allows us to combine screens in any format we like. EVO really likes to do four 2×2’s all right next to each other. It allows them to do the single display showing a single source. And then Eric programmed commands that at one push of a button the entire 2×9 becomes one graphic just showing cool EVO stuff. And that can be set on a timer or on a command. So it’s a really impressive visual experience as you walk up to that bar. That’s one of my favorite parts of this project.
Eric: And just to add to the bar video wall, so how we did that, we used a Just Add Power and integrated into those receivers the ability to create video walls and pick out different quadrants of a certain image. So on the programming side, on the RTI side, it took a lot of pain and suffering but we were able to get it to where it’s as simple as hitting a picture of the video wall layout you want. And the background, I was able to write macros where it looks at what the current sources are and it takes those sources and it picks the correct quadrants. And it will just simply switch and it’s able to completely reconfigure that video wall. Just once again you’re hitting a picture, that’s how it happens. It’s that simple from the user interface. But once again, there’s a list of commands that are firing off longer than my arm whenever that happens. [Timestamp: 7:52]
There’s obviously a lot involved in setting that up but aside from hanging displays and running cable, putting up mounts and projectors, that would be one of the more fun parts of it. Just getting into the creative part of how this is going to work and how people are going to operate it.
Eric: No, that was – it was a lot of fun. Like I said it took a little bit of bashing but once we got the final product and were able to see that everything was dancing in one concert with a simple-to-use interface and all these different mechanics. Like I said, projectors, screens, on-and-off, all those kinds of things, audio levels, all that was just simple to use, right there. It all made sense. And all levels were easy to recall and save. Every time I walk in there I’m just proud of our whole team of how we’re able to get that all to work. And once again I’m so happy that Mitch and the EVO team, they continue to work with us just because they had a great experience too. So it’s not just us that had a great experience, of course it’s our customer which is really important to us. [Timestamp: 8:47]
And was the building construction still going on while you were in there or was all that done and the place open for the AV stuff to go in?
Eric: Well it was pretty much done, but just like anything they were finalizing stuff and we were just part of the multiple different crews that were doing the final tack-ons. We had the networking team in there that they were moving in the games for the game area. So by the time we were finishing up we were right there with everybody else putting the final coats of paint, the final walkthrough by the general contractor, all that kind of stuff. So all the way from pre-wire to that point, so we were right there walking out when everybody else did.
Andrew: As far as timing, we got in really early. Mitch showed me renderings of the project before they had even broke ground so we had almost a full year to think carefully about every piece of this project, how it was going to work together, and kind of bring the visions of the owner as well as our expertise together into something that’s going to be magical and impressive and something like no one’s ever seen in a space like this. So it was really great that we were able to get in really early on the design phase because once we got to installation it was go, go, go. They were on time. I think it was a three-month installation window they gave us. And they were racing a competitor who was opening right down the street to finish. EVO won the race and all the vendors, including us, were racing at that point. So we were really glad that we had ever single detail figured out before we even got to running the first cable.
Eric: And you mentioned the fun of the experience. Part of that, once again, was dealing with the owner, Mitch, and sitting down with him and going through what his vision was and then coming up with a way to exceed his vision and make sure it all worked the way he saw things. And that was also a fun part of the process is at the very beginning it’s going through all the items that we think – we would all brainstorm what would make this space a great experience and then we would be able to come up with a solution. [Timestamp: 10:41]
And so this system is very complex but it’s got to be easy to operate so how did you set up control for the whole building?
Eric: So we have two different screens that are mirror images of each other. They’re 1-inch displays. They’re made by RTI. They’re PoE so they just run back to our PoE switch and then they’re able to have commands over the entire system including video routing, audio controls, audio presets, room combining, separating all from six different pages. So we try and condense it down so you didn’t have to go through a novel of different commands in order to make sure that it was very straightforward. Along with that was their most-used control and that’s one thing the RTI platform, we love to use it, is the iPad. So we have a mobile iPad on a magnetic charger they can pull off the wall and walk around the entire space instead of being static and trying to hope that everything is happening or anything like that. They can walk around the space and basically control the whole system right at their fingertips from an iPad. [Timestamp: 11:36]
Oh, that’s got to be great especially for the various sound environments.
Eric: Yeah. Instead of just hoping that volume is good you can walk over there, you can see the people’s reaction. If they start grabbing their ears you went a little too high. If they start – if it’s a really great song you can play it any way. You can make a lot of decisions with that mobile iPad and they do. It’s a great feature. [Timestamp: 11:54]
So where is the sort of man-behind-the-curtain on this? Where is all the support gear located? Was there a whole floor dedicated for that?
Eric: Well, not a whole floor. So on the second floor of the theater is where all the projectors and there’s a multiple racks up there that take care of the internal theater sound systems, which we didn’t do. We did everything on the customer side on the main areas. So they have multiple racks up there. We simply had two Middle Atlantic racks – and once again, that’s another thing great about this is using standard network switches with Just Add Power. We didn’t have to have a huge system. So we have two racks up there that are highly organized and they have all of our cabling ran in there. I think by the end of it, it was over, I want to say, 300 cables that were interspaced throughout the whole place, neatly organized onto that rack. So that’s where we are. We’re up there with everybody else. There’s networking racks, there’s security racks, there’s theater racks basically, and then of course the projectors that are actually shining through the glass on the displays. So it’s all up there. We’re just part of the whole scape up there. [Timestamp: 12:55]
So how is that whole system automated?
Eric: The system is automated by once again using the RTI processors. So after discussions with management we are able to not only automate volumes throughout the day but we also make it to where they can change what those automated volumes are at a whim. So let’s say we have it go to a certain dB in the morning, they can actually say that’s not loud enough. They can re-save that. Different things like when a fire alarm goes off all the screens go down. There’s a lot of different things that happen when the fire alarm goes off and then has to restart immediately if it’s just a false alarm or if it’s a test. Then day and night on and off, all the projectors, all the screens, everything comes on at a certain time. Nobody even has to hit anything. The screen actually tells them it’s down and everything else comes on, the speakers and the outside TVs. It just simply happens. [Timestamp: 13:42]
Well, this EVO Multiplex is a fantastic project. It’s just massive. You had to get in there and do things in a lot of different environments. Been fun hearing about how you pulled off this whole thing. We’ve been talking with Andrew Adams and Eric Ramay of Mood: Texas on the setup they did at the EVO Entertainment Multiplex in Schertz, Texas. In Part 2 we’ll hear about the bowling alley, the patio,
the event rooms. In the meantime, it was nice of you to get with us and tell us about it.
Eric: Well thank you for inviting us, Bennett.
An incredible project by Mood:Texas all done now with interactive ticketing displays, video and multipoint control. Next week Andrew and Eric will be back to tell us about the projectors, the event rooms and what they set up out on the patio. Get back with us for that on the SVC Podcast.