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AVoIP Case Study: Barona Casino trades hard iron for IP

Barona Resort and Casino in Lakeside, California, is a gaming entertainment destination. With more than 2,500 slot and video poker machines, over 100 table games, a 400-room hotel, a luxury spa, restaurants, and even a golf course, it’s positioned as a gamers’ paradise and luxurious retreat.

The 300,000-square-foot gaming facility was originally built in 2002 when the hard iron video matrix ruled video distribution. Most recently, Barona expanded the casino by 30,000 square feet. The expansion called for a robust video presence with 70 displays that would tap into Barona’s full house of video sources, including a custom digital signage feed, multiple satellite streams, and cable receivers. 

Casino officials selected AV integration specialist Fluid Sound as its systems integrator. Fluid Sound would not only be responsible for installing the casinos new fleet of displays in the expansion, but for designing a system that could reliably distribute the more than 30 video sources across the entire facility. All the sources are located in a headend in the original part of the casino. An existing video matrix serves as the central input hub with specialty low-skew cabling distributing the sources to the screens. To distribute the sources from the headend to the new part of the casino, the plan was to expand the legacy video matrix. 

“Pushing those signals from the headend to the other side of the facility would exceed the distribution footage limitations of the cabling and would be a costly endeavor to try to leverage the same cabling and video matrix topology. The question was how to get from this headend to the other side of the facility now, when we’re dealing with such great distances,” said Dennis Pappenfus, partner, at Fluid Sound.

In addition, every source needed to be available at every screen and in any combination. One of the many ways that Barona keeps things fresh and exciting for its customers is by changing up screen sources and moving gambling machines around every few months. Besides long cable runs, the existing topology would lock Barona into an expensive matrix that wouldn’t allow them to add additional sources or scale to new formats in the future.

As an alternative, Fluid Sound began looking at various video over IP solutions. Just Add Power’s (J+P’s) Ultra HD Over IP system came up as a proven distribution system with installations in arenas, universities, and media outlets. 

“With Just Add Power, Barona Casino would save $250,000 in lieu of expanding their legacy video distribution matrix. The expansion didn’t require specialty low skew cabling. Instead, any Cat cabling would do the job,” said Pappenfus.

Secondary to costs, J+P’s distribution topology was another selling point, allowing Fluid Sound to put all of Barona’s sources onto the LAN and then install distribution closets at various points. Running fiber from the headend location to IDF distribution closets, Fluid Sound was able to create a fiber trunk for the J+P Ultra HD Over IP platform, Crestron control system, and the Peavey Media Matrix audio distribution to ride on. This eliminated expensive cable runs from each screen across the facility to the head-end.

With J+P Ultra HD Over IP products, Fluid Sound was able to create a custom size HDMI video matrix that scales up to 4K simply using a 1Gb network and Cat-5e/6 cabling. For Barona’s case, Fluid Sound built out their infrastructure to support the migration of all their HD sources over to 4K sources by creating a link aggregated 40Gb fiber optic trunk comprised of four 10Gb fiber connections that run between the Cisco switches located in the different IDF closets. That trunk has the capability to support up to 40 4K sources at 1Gb per source.

The Ultra HD Over IP solution offers any combination of inputs and outputs, and the system can be easily expanded to accommodate additional sources and screens in the future. Integrators just add another receiver for every additional screen and another transmitter for every additional source, making the system an economical and versatile alternative to large, fixed-format HDBaseT matrices. 

 “By leveraging the network, you get a matrix that’s not tied to a single physical location and that’s infinitely scalable,” said Pappenfus. “You can split it up and put it in different locations by trunking the network switches together. And if you need more outputs or inputs at a certain location, you simply add another network switch to the network. You don’t have to go and buy another 16×16 or 32×32 matrix switcher at your head-end. Just Add Power is scalable in a way that your typical matrix switching environment is not.”

The platform’s built-in video scaling was another benefit, as it would enable the casino to support both new displays and their legacy lower resolution displays connected to the system. This capability will become especially important as Barona moves on to their plans to expand their new IP infrastructure to incorporate the legacy casino area and slowly tie in all the displays to the new platform over the course of the next two years. 

“It was an important design consideration for us because the ability to scale all sources to the display’s native resolution meant that we weren’t going to have compatibility issues with source resolution to destination — we didn’t have to choose support over resolution. Built-in scaling isn’t just beneficial, it’s critical in this era,” said Pappenfus.

To control the new platform, Fluid Sound created a custom user interface designed around the user experience the casino was looking for. With an several iPads running the interface, the operations team is untethered from the headend main panel and can move around the facility, quickly and easily changing video content for any screen on the network.

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