Just Add Power Brings Reliability and Sophistication to Massive Video Distribution System at Bottled Blonde Dallas

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Bottled Blonde Dallas pizzeria and beer garden is one of many clubs, bars, restaurants, and event spaces conceived of, owned, and operated by Les and Diane Corieri’s Evening Entertainment Group (EEG). Modeled after the company’s original Bottled Blonde location in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Dallas location sits in the heart of the art district of Deep Ellum. All of the AV installations are done in-house by Jason Jones from LTJ Systems (LTJ) which does sound, video, intelligent lighting and anything new with tech — such as cold fire spark machines, cryo fx blast systems, and 5000lb hydraulic lifts for booths so a party can be lifted 5 feet into the air when ordering bottle service. Established in 2017, it consists of 10,000 square feet of indoor restaurant and bar space, more than 2,500 square feet of outdoor dining and lounge space known as the Rooftop and The Backyard, and another 10,000 square feet of multi-use space next door to the restaurant. All in all, besides the dining areas, there are two bars and dynamic event spaces for private dining and corporate events.

Bottled Blonde Dallas is outfitted with a huge distributed video system that handles a large variety of inputs and outputs. Inside are 50 HDTVs and two 20-foot projection screens. The Rooftop has 12 TVs, and The Backyard has 41 TVs and two 6-by-8-foot LED video walls with a 120-inch screen on each wall There are also two 90-inch TVs with one of being dedicated for a video gaming area.

Feeding all those screens are 15 DirecTV boxes, four computer media inputs, six DJ booth inputs for (among other things) music videos, input at the gaming 90-inch display and background themes, and two video tilers in the rack that allow up to four different inputs on one screen in different configurations.

The Challenge

In the beginning, LTJ had used simple matrix systems connected to a single DirecTV box behind a TV at most of its locations. That system would only allow the operator (usually a bartender or a manager) to switch between one input and one output. If patrons wanted to watch video from a second source, the bartender would just switch over to HDMI2 on the TV. Later, LTJ began using a single splitter that would allow one input to go to any number of outputs (screens). The problem with that HDMI splitter system, besides limiting the combinations of inputs and outputs, was that it would frequently fail.

Over the years, as EEG properties got larger and more sophisticated, and patrons demanded a greater variety of content on multiple screens, LTJ began upgrading to a slightly larger matrix — a 4-by-X selector box. Through research and experimentation, LTJ refined the system at each new property, but the failure problem continued.

When it was time to build Bottled Blonde Dallas, (LTJ) knew they’d need a video distribution system that would allow them to split the feeds coming from Bottled Blonde’s DirecTV boxes instead of having to put a DirecTV box on each TV. They would also need a system that would handle more complexity than a simple matrix or HDMI2 splitter could do. For example, the system would need to accommodate HDMI2 inputs from a computer or other media to allow for background feeds, such as displaying multiple logos alongside video content during a corporate party. LTJ wanted a system that would allow for redundancy, so that if one DirecTV box failed, it wouldn’t take the entire system down with it. And most important, the system had to be reliable —. prior to this installation LTJ wasn’t using matrix systems because of the dependability issue.

The Solution

LTJ chose Just Add Power’s (J+P’s) 3G PoE series of transmitters and receivers along with DTVGameControl’s simple control solution in the Dallas location after having great success with both at a similar installation at Bottled Blonde Chicago. While there are many less expensive matrix systems on the market, Jones found J+P systems to be not only more reliable, but capable of handling many more functions than those other systems. The reliability alone was well worth the investment.

The J+P 3G VBS-HDIP-518AVP receives, scales, and transmits signals to and from all sources to the selected screens, all while ensuring there is no video interruption.

LTJ installed the Just Add Power boxes in a rack along with other equipment necessary to run the entire video distribution operation, including all the DirecTV boxes; DTVGameControl’s iPad, floor plan-based application is ideal for controlling and managing DirecTV Receivers, Video Tiling, Video-Walls even Audio in Sports Bars and Restaurants. Setup time for this control suction is under thirty minutes. While It easily controls which source is being played on which display, the GameDay tabs and guide features really set them apart from the rest; and a Luxul XMS-7048P, 52-port stackable gigabit PoE+ L2/L3 managed switch (that manages the wireless network. Rather than external power, the Just Add Power receivers and transmitters run on Power over Ethernet through the switches, which means there are no extra cables involved.

Especially useful is the J+P VBS-HDIP-718AVP transmitter’sCEC command feature, which gives managers and bartenders the option to turn all TVs — or TVs in different zones — on and off from DTVGameControl application instead of having to control them with a remote one by one. It works by sending a signal from the iPad to the J+P transmitter through the HDMI cord, meaning the TVs turn on and off remotely from the iPad through the existing equipment and the same cord that delivers the video. Again, there are no extra cables to contend with. And it saves managers the time and headache of controlling and finding games on more than 50 TVs individually.

Another feature that comes in handy are the USB ports on the J+P boxes, which make it possible to plug in a mouse and keyboard or some other USB device and communicate remotely with the computer in the control room. For instance, the DJ booth is equipped with a video monitor, but no keyboard and mouse. DJs use a small controller to adjust the club lights, but they can’t record or change the programmed settings. If major adjustments need to be made to the lighting, LTJ can simply plug in a keyboard and mouse through USB ports in a Just Add Power receiver box in the booth and tap into the computer that controls the lighting, which is connected to a Just Add Power transmitter box in the control room. In this case, the Just Add Power box acts not as part of the matrix system, but as a video extender, which only adds to its value and versatility.

By design, there’s nothing fancy about the system. LTJ worked with DTVGameControl to design it to be fast and simple for the front-of-house managers who are running it, even though the J+P matrix controls sophisticated signal distribution on the back end. When managers have patrons demanding to see certain things, such as a football game, on certain screens, the managers need an easy-to-use tool that will make it happen now — no complicated, error-prone multiscreen apps; no lag time; and no dropped video.

In a typical workflow, managers use a floor-plan-based iPad app that depicts an area’s layout, location of the TVs, sources, and more all on one iPad screen. Users simply select a DirecTV box, choose a channel, send the feed to any screen or screens, choose their configuration, and that’s all there is to it. Thanks to Just Add Power’s tiler system on the back end, they can decide on up to four images in a picture-in-picture configuration if they choose. And in a rare feature for source-switching apps, a live preview window lets them confirm the selection before making it official.

Results – Easy Setup, Easy Use, Maximum Reliability

When construction wrapped on Bottled Blonde Dallas, Jones and his team had mere weeks to install and commission the entire video distribution system. Jones was able to prewire and preconfigure the J+P system ahead of time so that when the time came, his team could simply add the Just Add Power box to the rack, plug in a Cat5 and an HDMI cable, and installation was complete. From there they used the J+P configuration tool to configure the rest of the system, which took about 30 minutes. And it was done! The plug-and-play aspect of the J+P system not only saved days of installation time, but it meant Jones also didn’t have to worry about DirecTV boxes, extra cables, or a background splitter system.

“I could get the place done within three weeks, with 100 plus TVs, because of the simplicity of J+P system together with Luxul and DTVGameControl,” Jones said. “There's a lot of programming involved, but at least as far as installation, I just had my guys in the field plug everything in and be done. That's how easy it was.”

One of Jones’ concerns when implementing the Just Add Power 3G+4+ Tiling Transmitter was that it wouldn’t interact well with the video wall processor, which allows the video wall to receive a signal and scale as necessary. However, Jones simply plugged in the J +P Tiler, acquired an image immediately, and was able to split signals without having to do any programming.

“The J+P equipment works with pretty much anything. It just receives a signal and lets it through. It will automatically split the signal just like a one-by-X splitter, so I can do any number of outputs I want,” Jones said. “Normally you must use a component cable to get any signal to go through, but not with J+P. The company might just as well be called ‘Just Works.’ I’ve been using the J+P system since we built Bottled Blonde Chicago in 2014 and in the flagship Bottled Blonde Scottsdale, and I haven't had a failure since. In fact, I’ve installed six more systems since the Dallas, because they are so dependable. ”

J+P drives a video distribution system that gives Bottled Blonde Dallas the ultimate in reliability, function, and ease of use.

As LTJ himself summarized, “The bottom line is it’s fast, it’s easy, and it works every time.”

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