Lessons in integration

AV Media has recently taken part in the modernisation of two lecture theatres at the Czech Technical University in Prague bringing old and out of date classrooms into the modern era.

The Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Czech Univeristy in Prague educated new experts in the fields of electrical engineering, telecommunications, automation, informatics and computer science. Overhead projection, limited IT facilities and blackboards are not conducive to technology education and, in one of the largest projects of its kind to date in the Czech Republic, something had to be done.

“We first became involved with this complicated project over four years ago,” said AV Media’s Business Consultant, Michel Bures, who was in charge of the project. “It was difficult because it’s a very old building, our AV work took place alongside a complete internal reconstruction of the two lecture rooms. Everything was replaced including lighting, cabling and even the student seating.”

The project involved completely re-outfitting two lecture rooms – a large one seating around 300 people and a smaller on for around 100. The adjoining corridor was also upgraded with equipment. A small AV control centre was constructed to serve both theatres.

The larger of the two lecture theatres is now provided with three front projection screens. The large central screen is a Projecta ELPRO motorised model 365cm x 500cm in size, whilst the two smaller, flanking screens are 300cm x 300cm versions.

The two side screens are the most commonly used for teaching and day to day use. They are served by a pair of Christie Digital Vivid LX45 projectors. Sources such as power point from a laptop or the Wolfvision visualiser presenting information to the students while the lecturer makes notes on the larger central board.

The centre screen is generally kept stowed because behind it is a three-board pylon chalkboard. On the occasions the large display is used it’s served by a Christie Roadrunner LX 66 projector. The main application of which is to show DVD movies or videoconferencing feeds to students.

The lecture theatre is also served by two different sound systems. The first is a standard stereo system. This is used in situations where the University’s videoconferencing link is active. Ceiling hung microphones from Sennheiser and AKG capture student questions for a remote lecturer whilst his answers are relayed over the stereo system. In this situation the large central projection screen would also be used to relay the image from the VC codec.

The second sound system is a full 5.1 surround set up driven by a Rotel RSP 1068 decoder. This is used for DVD playback and made up of a combination of FBT and Martin Audio loud speakers.

Up stairs is the smaller lecture hall. This features only two small projection screens both 300cm x 300cm Projecto Elpro models, and both served again by Christie LX 45 projectors. The sound system is also reduced in scale, offering stereo audio for remote lectures and also the same ceiling suspended microphone arrangement to pick up student questions.

In the corridor outside both rooms are 50” Panasonic TH-50PHD8ES displays with ancillary audio which allow students outside to see what’s happening in the lecture. These displays can be fed with any of the facilities AV sources via the Extron matrix, with the feed being controlled in the technician’s room.

Both classrooms are equipped with a similar custom-built desk for the lecturer. These are motorised to allow height adjustment. The teacher can be comfortable sitting down, or raise the desk for lecturing standing up. The desk is provided with a 5.4” Cue touch screen interface for control of the media sources, lighting, blinds and projection system as well as housing document cameras, and manual controls. A key teaching tool is the Smart Sympodium ID-250 interactive pen display, which allows the lecturer to annotate any of their projection screens.

To secure the desks each section is provided with a lockable cover, which can only be opened by a chip card issued to a lecturer.

The heart of the AV system for both lecture theatres is the control room. From here a technician can monitor and mix the AV sources in both rooms all via the Extron MAV Plus 1616 SV matrix switcher. The fact that all the AV sources pass through this single switcher means that lectures from one theatre can be watched in the other, or the same VC feed can be watched in both theatres. In the future the University plans to equip more of it’s rooms in the same way potentially allowing for students in several lecture theatres to watch a lecture from a partner university on the other side of the world.

Equipment racks house all of the central CUE control system, FBT amplification, Extron distribution amplifiers, Panasonic DVD sources and recording equipment. There is also the facility to record lectures for later streaming or download from the web.

The control room also offers more comprehensive control of the theatre’s equipment compared to that on the lecterns, removing from lecturers the need to become experts at AV management. AV Media did provide the University staff with extensive training, but they also benefited from a number of so called ‘Super Users’ who’ve picked up the technology very fast. Many of the university’s lecturers are less technologically adept and there was a clear need to make the AV interfaces as simple as possible.

Michal Buras summarised the project: “This is one of the largest of its kind so far in the Czech republic, the AV system alone is worth around 10m Czech crowns (€400,000). The University plans to extend this functionality to further lecture theatres in the future. It is always difficult to be involved with a building company at the same time, but we are happy with the results.”

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