Networks of learning

AUTHOR: Inavate

A new teaching block has been completed at the University of Potsdam, making use of both digital audio and video distribution systems. The installation was carried out by Pro Video Berlin. Chris Fitzsimmons reports.

The University of Potsdam has arrived at the end of a 3 year project to deliver a new teaching block equipped with five new lecture halls and 14 smaller seminar rooms. The new building houses the faculties of economic and social sciences, the law school and a language centre.

The AV planning for the project was conducted by consultants Zibell-Willner & Partner. The company’s Sebastian Schneider was responsible for the project: “Our design responsibilities included the whole of the technology within the building, including media technology, a wireless networking system and building services. Our planning for the auditoriums was a fairly classic audio and projection system, with stage direction and media management for the 500 and 400 seaters as well as conferencing equipment. We additionally made provision for a digital signage style information system for the refectory, including two 18” displays there and a 42” one in the foyer.”

Pro Video’s solution to the digital signage requirement was a stand alone PC running Macnetix PlayIT/EditIT software, which allows the refectory to display information about the day’s menu or special deals.

“Due to limitations imposed by cable lengths and signal strength we decided to specify a modern, Cat-5 based approach. The control room of 400-1 acts as the main technical room, but each other control room can be used independently. Video distribution between rooms is over twisted pair, and the audio links between 400-1/2 and 500 are via Cobranet, but with analogue backups,” continued Schneider.

The installation of the media systems for the lecture spaces was carried out by integrators Pro Video Berlin. Oliver Nobiling, the company’s sales support and planning manager for conference systems described the project.

“The smallest rooms are for around 40 people, and the largest ranges up to 800 people. The main lecture hall has a capacity of 800, in two parts of 400 called 400-1 and 400-2. It is a divisible room with a mechanical partition wall.”

“The contact closures are monitored by the media control system and it automatically detects when the division is open or closed. There is a Biamp Audia Flex rack for each half of the hall, and also for each of the other lecture theatres. We installed a whole new CobraNet network for the new building linking the rooms.”

The sound system in the main hall is designed to operate in two halves or as a whole. At the front of each half are two KME QS 200s, active loudspeakers, which provide the left and right channels for the stereo system. To provide some delays there are three QS 1082 on each side. These are running in 100v mode powered by 4-channel RCF amplifiers. The QS 200s are fitted with the Cobranet receiver module to allow them to be controlled by the Biamp units.

The large lecture theatre is also equipped with a Beyerdynamic conference and simultaneous interpretation systems. Each half has its own independent interpretation booth, capable of distributing three channels, one German and two translations, to fifty receiver units for use by students. The conference system is the MCS50. Twenty units were supplied for use in round table discussions in the hall.

The main equipment rack is located in the technical room behind the large lecture hall. It serves the 800 seater, as well as the 500, 150 and 100 seat theatres, housing Biamp’s Audia Flex DSP units (one each for 400-1, 400-2, 500-1), AV routing and switching equipment and a selection of DVD and hard disk media sources. Extron MAV series units are used along with Elpro’s TZM units to provide audio and video switching for each room. The audio here is from the AV sources as opposed to the voice reinforcement.

The 500-seat lecture theatre is similarly outfitted to its large brother. A pair of QS 200s provide left and right channels with a further four QS 1082s as delays. These are all driven from the central technical room. The 100 and 150 rooms are set up with simpler solutions as they need no delay, each is simply equipped with left-right channels from KME QS 200s Micing for lecturers comes in the shape of Beyerdynamic Opus NE500 Ds, and a selection of other models. Wireless receivers in each of the large theatres are all on the network, and are set up in such a way that one can move between halls with a microphone or headset and seamlessly use the same unit.

Explaining the selection of the loudspeakers, Nobiling said: “The speech reproduction and sound attained by the systems is optimal for the application in lecture halls and seminar rooms. They offer precise dispersion and high power, but most importantly they offer good feedback resistance when using microphones.”

The Sanyo PLC EF31 LCD projector is used as standard throughout the larger spaces, with two being used in the divisible room. When it operates as a single lecture hall the projectors can either show the same content on both sides, or separate material.

In addition to the five lecture theatres, there are 18 seminar rooms. These are equipped much more simply with a floor box. This gives access to the QuickMedia network and also simple audio inputs.

Building wide media control is provided by Crestron’s QuickMedia solution. Each of the lecture spaces is provided with a TPS-12 QM touch panel, with both of the 400 seat partitions in the larger hall having one of its own. When the room is combined it can be controlled by one or both of these tablets. The system also includes a QM MD 8x8 matrix switcher several QM receiver and transmitter modules.

Media sources are a choice of the DVD players located in the main equipment room or locally inserted PC feeds using floor tanks, with the content available over the QuickMedia network.

The audio network also means that audio from any of the lecture theatres can be distributed to the others, so if a particular event is too large for a single room, students can listen in other rooms. Nobiling explained:

“All the audio signals are connected to their amplifiers respective loudspeaker systems by DSP units. There are three modular processing units located in two control rooms, which are connected via CobraNet via Hub-technique to a single virtual DSP so that each single audio signal can be processed and reproduced irrespective of which room it originates in. The interface for the routing and switching was designed to be as simple as possible with a number of pre-programmed scenarios available. In addition to the automatic or semi-automatic processing from the DSP, it is also possible to do it manually via a Behringer 24-channel analogue mixer.”

This is also reflected in the video distribution solution. Based on ZWPs requirement for a media control system, Pro Video opted for Crestron Quickmedia, distributing video and PC signals using Cat-5 cables to other lecture halls.

In a separate lot, ZWP specified a voice alarm solution. This was based around the Dynacord DPM 4000 series matrixing solution and was installed by Nacom.

This has been a long running project for both Pro Video Berlin and ZWP. Pro Video began its installation work in May 2006 and finally completed in September 2007, beginning with concrete pouring and ending with loudspeaker hanging. “We are the last in the chain,” said Nobiling, “each project is the same, working with civil engineers, this one was no more difficult than normal in that respect. They just expect us to arrive at the end and put it all in!”