Centre of knowledge
When the President Library opened in St Petersburg last year a new-age multimedia room was incorporated into the ancient Sinod building. The facility was designed to allow electronic access to archives and is the beginning of a wider network of knowledge across Russia.
After many years working with the President’s Administrative Department, installing conference and interpretation systems, Smart Buro was approached to install audiovisual equipment throughout multimedia halls in the President Library in St Petersburg. The library is named after the late Russian President, Boris Yeltsin and was designed from the outset as an electronic library. The modern facility is housed within the historic Sinod building, which used to house the public archive.
Saturn Company developed TV and multimedia systems and Smart Buro and Viking handled the multifunctional convertible multimedia centre at the heart of the library.
It is a convertible space designed by the chief architect of the project, E. Merkuryev. When the room is completely open it has space for 96 people to work. Mobile partitions are used to divide the space into two equal rooms housing 48 workplaces each, or into four minor rooms of 24 workplaces.
Dmitry Mendelevich, CEO of Smart Buro, explained that the hall had to be suitable for a wide variety of users. “Starting with school children and right through to academics, everyone had to be catered for,” Mendelevich explained. “This made us think first about all of the architectural points such as the seats. How can you make the seats so everyone can be comfortable during a film projection or during a discussion or some kind of symposium, where you not only listen to somebody but you also work with the materials that are in the library from your seat?
“We had to integrate several systems together; conference, interpretation and access to internet or library archives via a touchscreen,” Mendelevich continued. “There were also CCTV video cameras for use in videoconferencing or to record meetings. And when we came to put all this together we started from the design of the working seats.” Smart Buro sourced chairs all the way from Italy but then had the task of equipping each place with the necessary technology. Furthermore, with school groups in mind, Mendelevich’s team had to make sure all the equipment was completely vandal proof.
“So the conference system, including microphones and Tandberg video conferencing system, was mechanically hidden between the seats. The glass cover, which is put on the mechanical lift, covers all the control systems so the only thing that can be damaged is the touchscreen. The digital cameras are also hidden behind glass. We turned to Element One for the touchscreens. The company was very responsive to our ideas, which required us to adapt the equipment. We had to take their monitor, which was designed for installation in a flat horizontal plane and put it upside down and install it in a vertical plane. Therefore, they had to review their construction a little bit. They were very surprised when I showed them the first drawings but understood the concept very quickly.” All the working seats were designed by Smart Buro and constructed in Russia.
Each unit provides control for its individual conference system via touchscreen, which is attached to a personal computer, which is in turn connected to the integrated network. Mendelevich proudly explained: “I think we are the first to make such a system for a Bosch conference unit. As far as I am aware this is the first installation where you control an individual unit from a personal computer. When we presented the idea to Bosch they were impressed with the console and I think that in the summer they will present their system with this idea.”
All software was designed by Smart Buro and another challenge was the control of individual cameras. “We used a standard Bosch CCTV system but the room is transformable and can be divided into two or four parts. We use a standard matrix controlled from one computer. When it is divided in two, the same matrix and the same cameras should be controlled by independent computers. And, when divided in four, by four independent computers. So, we had to re-write the software for the control of the matrix.”
The project's general contractor handled the sound reinforcement, turning to Tannoy distributor, Overton. Coverage was achieved with Tannoy Reveal 5A and 8D active models as well as CMS601DCBMs, V300s and Arena Centre satellite units. Speakers were powered by a Lab.gruppen C10:4X amplifier.
Smart Buro worked with Viking for the installation of projection equipment throughout the multi-media space. “Here, the point was to make something really unique,” Mendelevich said. The room’s equipment includes 18 Christie HD10K-M projectors, two Christie Mirage S+8K projectors and six Vista Spyder controllers.
“Viking implemented the idea very successfully. So, for each quarter of the hall we use three Christie projectors to create each picture, therefore in total we use 12 projectors. Instead of normal screens we actually project on to the partition wall. When the hall is divided in two, six other projectors work together on either side of the partition, making a total of 18 projectors. Furthermore, they installed 3D projectors mounted on special lift that can be retracted into the roof when not in use.” This means the 3D projector does not interfere with the general panoramic sight. Visitors watching 3D graphics are provided with XpanD stereo glasses.
Pavel Tereshenko, deputy director of the Library interjects: “Today, when the number of scanned archive documents in the President Library is rapidly growing, working with stereo images in 3D mode is especially important. It gives researches the chance to examine all the details of unique documents regarding them in the process of work as museum pieces. Now they can look at folio models in 3D mode, to study marginal notes in pencil on manuscripts. When historians know who was the author of marginal notes they may make new discoveries.”
Mikhail Eidemiller, project department director at Viking, takes up the story: “This multimedia room has some specific properties we took into account to develop our solutions. [Such as] the decision to create the panoramic multi-screen image was due to architectural peculiarities of the premises: the room has [a] rather low ceiling. A single background image helps to create a special atmosphere. Thus, for commissioning of the site we chose the panoramic view of St Petersburg at night to provoke a specific attitude
“The embedded Christie Twist module provides for smooth image stitching on a 12 x 2m screen, while Vista Spyder controller gives a director the opportunity to present up to five windows simultaneously and to switch between 20 image sources. [Therefore] you can show some presentation on one part of the screen, the speaker in the other window, some remote participant of the discussion and his/her presentation in the third one, and a video conference in the fourth”. A Christie HD10K-M system including three professional projectors was selected for image projection.
Mendelevich added: “The general problem we faced, together with Viking, was to work with the architects, which had created a beautiful ceiling with an uneven surface. So, to properly install the projectors, so they could be adjusted and serviced, was a really tough job but Viking successfully managed it using a system of mirrors.
“This installation was a chance to put together all our knowledge, all our inventive ideas, all our software expertise, engineering knowledge, technical knowledge, architectural knowledge, everything. It’s a really interesting job and it’s a rare occasion when you have a chance like this,” Mendelevich proudly concluded.
Bosch conferencing units
Tannoy Reveal 5A, 8D, CMS601DCBMs,
V300s and Arena Centre satellite unites
Lab.gruppen C10:4X amplifier
Christie HD10K-M projectors, Mirage S+8K
projectors, Vista Spyder controllers, Twist
module and software
Element One touchscreens
Extron MAV matrix switcher
Tandberg videoconferencing system