Playing Politics - Sound & Video Contractor

Playing Politics

The Gallup Organization, most prominently known for its Gallup Polls, with international headquar ters located in Lincoln, Nebraska, has just completed
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Playing Politics

Nov 1, 1997 12:00 PM, Lonnie Theer

The Gallup Organization, most prominently known for its Gallup Polls, withinternational headquar ters located in Lincoln, Nebraska, has justcompleted a new 60,000 ft squared (18,000 meter squared), $5,700,000facility. This new facility is an example of how integrated, advancedtechnology can create an effective environment for communication.

The new facility, known as the GIRECenter (Gallup International Research &Education Center), consists in part of a reception lobby, a 75-seattraining auditorium, three 100-seat international seminar rooms that cancombine to form a 300-seat banquet facility, a system control center and anaudio-video edit suite. As the name implies, the facility hosts seminarsand round-tables, often hosted by Gallup experts from its 13 United Statesoffices and more than 30 locations worldwide. Supported by a new $500,000state-of-the-art audio-video system, the GIRECenter's primary focus is onmaking the meeting an enjoyable experience for both the presenter and theaudience.

Consider this scenario. A presenter who has never been to the GIRECenterbefore can walk into the Training Auditorium, plug in a laptop computer,run the desired program, and put it up on any one or all three of the rearprojection screens. The presenter can also include images from a JVC VisualPresenter, display ad-hoc notes from a SoftBoard electronic write-on whiteboard, or roll a videotape. Although an AMX touch panel is available in thepodium, the presenter will most likely run the meeting with full operatorassistance from the system control center. Three robotic controlled colorcameras and an advanced Peavey MediaMatrix audio system faithfully recordthe meeting as it progresses. When the seminar is over, the presenter canleave the building with a high-quality videotape in hand.

The entire audio-video system - all 55 microphone inputs, 32 equipmentsource inputs, seven video projectors, 12 preset pan/tilt video cameras, 22preset lighting channels, multichannel audio/video distribution andprocessing system, and loudspeaker support - is controlled by only twooperators.

This was the heart of the design challenge facing the technology consultingfirm of Theer & Associates, based in Omaha, NE. Gallup's audio-videosystems and production manager, Tom Fletcher, wanted a facility that set ahigh standard for audio-video communication technology expressed in apeople-friendly environment. Commissioned by the project architect firm ofBahr Vermeer & Haecker Architects, Theer & Associates' principal LonnieTheer was responsible for all room acoustics and audio-video system design.An associate, James Svoboda, took charge of the AMX control system and AMXlight-dimming system design. Svoboda was also responsible for writing thecomplete AMX software control program.

Designing for integrationThe solution for people-friendly operation rests in intelligent systemdesign, using systems integration and automation. Although the lobby,auditorium and seminar rooms act as independent facilities, they are reallypart of a single, unified system managed by the system control center. Thetwo operators run the meetings and seminars from a custom designed 12-foot(363 cm) command center console. An overhead bay houses fourteen 20-inch(50.4 cm) video monitors, allowing the staff to preview video sources andmonitor the images showing on each of the seven Epson LCD video projectorsin the rooms. The operators manage all the systems activity from two pairsof 17 inch computer monitors. One pair of monitors supports the TrainingAuditorium, using one monitor with AMX-PCTouch graphic software forintegrated point-and-click control and the other for the Peavey MediaMatrixgraphic screens for audio management. The other pair of computer monitorsrun the international seminar rooms and the lobby presentation system.

This style of graphic, computer-guided management is made possible by thePeavey MediaMatrix system and the AMX integration control system that linksall the technology together, distilling all the switching and controloptions into easily understood icons on color PCTouch control pages.

At the start of the project, Gallup put together a rather comprehensiveprogram that established the essential features and requirements for eachof the five systems. Over the course of the design and development phase,Theer & Associates held several meetings with Gallup to review its exactaudio and video operating requirements for each of the five systems, plusthe audio-video edit suite. Early on in the project, it was determined thatthe audio requirements as outlined by Fletcher were very extensive andwould require periodic equipment changes and additions to the five systems.

In order to handle the changing requirements of the audio system, Theerdetermined that the Peavey MediaMatrix was the system of choice to bespecified for this project. The Peavey MediaMatrix system is sophisticatedin both its hardware and software, and yet it provided a simple means ofoperation for the Gallup audio-video production team.

Designing for presentationAs the rooms are used for presentation and recording, and withvideoconferencing being added in the near future, the GIRECenter places astrong emphasis on quality projection, audio and acoustic design. As statedearlier, the project consisted of seven rooms the GIRECenter lobbypresentation area, the GIRECenter 75-seat training auditorium, three100-seat international seminar rooms, which when combined form one large300-seat banquet facility, the audio-video edit suite and the mastercontrol center.

Lobby presentation systemThe GIRECenter lobby is a unique area. The lobby serves as a multipurposespace for the new facility. It contains the main lobby for greetingvisitors and business associates, and the space also serves as the lunchdining area for Gallup associates. The requirements of the lobbypresentation system were to present current world affairs, video clips ofGallup activities, and even an element of entertainment to Gallup visitorsand associates.

The lobby presentation system consist of a 450 x 600 (113 cm x 151 cm) rearprojection screen by Draper, an Epson LCD video projector and stereo soundprovided by two RCF model "monitor-8" loudspeakers.

Background music program source to the lobby is provided by a Marantz modelPMD850 AM/FM tuner/CD player and a model PMD500 cassette tape deck. Videoprogram source is provided by a Panasonic model AG1980 videotape deck,which can be used to select any of the cable news stations, videotape, orselect the audio and video feed from any of the three video cameras locatedin the GIRECenter training auditorium.

All audio functions for the lobby presentation system are controlled by oneof the two Peavey MediaMatrix systems. Such functions as system functioncontrol, input switching and system power are provided by an AMX controlsystem.

Training auditoriumThe GIRECenter is a semi-circular training auditorium that seats 75 people,with each seating position equipped with PC, network and phone connections.Located at the front of the auditorium are three 69 x 89 (181 cm x 242 cm)rear projection screens by Draper. Projection of the computer image and theS-video signal is provided by three Epson LCD video projectors.

The GIRECenter training auditorium, primarily designed as an educationcenter, had to be capable of accepting a wide variety of signal inputs andtransmitting those signals to any of the three rear projection screens, anaudio-video recording system or the edit suite.

Input sources for the training auditorium include computer with stereoaudio, JVC visual presenter, SoftBoard's model 201 electronic white board,video source from two Panasonic model AG1980 videotape decks, threerobotic-controlled color video cameras, music source from a Marantz modelPMD820 AM/FM tuner/CD player, and a model PMD510 cassette tape deck.

Microphone inputs consist of eight Shure UHF hand-held and body packwireless microphone systems, one Audio Technica AT915QMRx/H microphonemounted on the specially designed podium, and floor boxes with eightadditional microphone inputs. For the presenter who refuses to use thepodium microphone or one of the wireless microphones, two Audio Technicamodel AT847R condenser boundary surface microphones were mounted in theceiling directly above the presentation area to provide voice lift forreinforcement and recording.

For recording of the audience responses, eight Audio Technica modelAT845R/RW condenser boundary surface microphones were located in thetraining auditorium's ceiling. Because of the superb acoustics within thetraining auditorium, the 10 ceiling mounted microphones have proved to bevery effective in providing clean, clear audio to the recording system.

Audio-follow-video switching is handled by an Extron model 60-194LV, a12-input, eight output matrix switcher. All functions of the matrixswitcher are controlled from an RS-232 card in the AMX control system.Outputs 1, 2, and 3 of the matrix switcher go to the respective left,center, right LCD video projectors. Outputs 4 through 7 are routed to theVideonics model MX-1, a four-input digital video effects switcher. Output 8provides audio-video feed to the GIRECenter lobby presentation system.Reinforcement of the presenter's voice is provided by 36 ceiling mountedfour inch loudspeakers. The stereo program source material is provided bytwo Renkus-Heinz model TRC61 loudspeakers.

International seminar roomsEach of the three seminar rooms, known as the international rooms (Europeanroom, Asian room and Latin American room) are equipped exactly alike. Eachroom has a 69 x 89 (181 cm x 242 cm) front projection screen by Draper andan Epson LCD video projector. Source inputs for each of the three roomsinclude a computer with stereo audio, S-Video input for the JVC visualpresenter, and an input for SoftBoard's model 203 portable electronic whiteboard. Video source to the seminar room is provided by a Panasonic modelAG1980 videotape deck. Background music source is provided by a Marantzmodel PMD820 AM/FM tuner/CD player, and a model PMD510 cassette tape deck.

Three robotic-controlled color video cameras provide live action video tothe large video screen and to the audio-video recording system and editsuite. Microphone inputs consist of four Shure UHF hand-held and body packwireless microphone systems and one Audio Technica AT915QMRx/H microphonemounted on the specially designed podium.

For recording of the audience responses, eight Audio Technica modelAT845R/RW condenser boundary surface microphones were located in thelift-out ceiling tile of each seminar room.

Audio-follow-video switching is handled by an Extron model 60-194CY,eight-input, four-output matrix switcher. All functions of the matrixswitchers are controlled from RS-232 cards in the AMX control system.

Presenters can use the wireless AMX TXC16 remote control transmitters formost control functions and for light-dimming control of each seminar room.Converting to combined-room operation is easy - clicking on a singlePCTouch and Peavey MediaMatrix icon combines all lighting, audio, and videoprojection to form a 300-seat seminar room or banquet facility.

System control centerThe system control center, or "command center" as Fletcher prefers to callit, is a room 149 x 249 (4.2 m x 7.2 m) in size. The system control centerhouses all of the equipment for each of the five systems. Equipment foraudio-video editing is all located in the audio-video edit suite. Thecontrol center consists of seven Middle Atlantic Products equipment rackswith a specially designed 12 foot (3.6 m) center section console. The upperportion of the center section console contains fourteen 20 inch (50.4 cm)video monitors. The monitors are set up to view all video program sourcesand inputs from the color video cameras. The monitors also show the imagebeing sent to each of the LCD video projectors. The lower portion of thecenter section console holds the four computer video monitors, which showthe control screens for the two Peavey MediaMatrix systems and the AMXcontrol system. All of the light-dimming functions are controlled by an AMXRadia 22-channel dimming system. The 22 dimming channels may be controlledin their respective room or from the System Control Center by AMX PCTouchsoftware.

Getting the job doneOne of the stipulations as outlined by Fletcher was the selection of asystems contractor that could provide the highest quality installationpossible. Fletcher indicated that once the system was up and fullyoperational, system down time was something that could not be tolerated.

The audio-video systems contractor selected for the project was MidlandsCommunications, Inc., located in Omaha, Nebraska. Midlands Communicationshas worked with Theer & Associates on many smaller projects through theyears; however, this was to be the third high-profile, high-technologyproject that Midlands Communications has done for Theer & Associates.Midlands Communications and Theer & Associates have worked together on twoother high-technology projects for the University of Nebraska in Lincoln,the Volley Ball Coliseum, and the high-tech multimedia classroom projects.

Theer said, "In this installation, the wiring of the seven equipment racksand console section is an absolute work of art. This is one of the bestinstallations that I have seen in years."

The Gallup Organization GIRECenter has been one of the most challengingdesign projects for Theer & Associates. In addition to the high standardsfor acoustics, audio, video and projection, Theer & Associates needed toprovide an integrated solution for people-friendly operation. That taskwould not have been possible without the use of the Peavey MediaMatrix andthe AMX control system. The system design took place in the context of afast-growing corporate environment, demanding constant adaptation to theexpanding system requirements throughout the design process.