Technology flies the flag
The Canadian government has built a completely new embassy in Berlin. InAVate investigates the AV technologies behind such a prestigious project.
A nation’s embassy in a foreign capital is a hugely significant building; embodying its character, ambitions and public face. Small wonder then that when Canada opened its new embassy in Berlin, Germany last year, the final building was designed by Canadian architects, incorporated major works of art by Canadian artists and includes native Canadian materials in its construction. Canadian technology also plays a part in the form of SMART Technologies touch screens.
The new building acts as a place where the German public can come to find out more about Canada.
The man responsible for both pre-planning in conjunction with the interior architect, HOK/Urbana, and then hired by the embassy itself to oversee the tender process and manage the project was Thomas Hülsmann of Thomnet Media Engineering.
“Way back in 2002 I got a call from the interior architects who said they needed someone familiar with media technology, could I come and help? This was very early there was nothing at this point, just an idea. We had a lot of meetings and discussion of ideas, and then I made technical presentations to the embassy.”
Thomas was invited by the embassy to put forward a list of integrators to be invited to tender. Following a selection process undertaken by a panel from the embassy technical team Pro Video, a Berlin based installer was awarded the contract to supply the system.
“The process went a bit like this,” continued Hülsmann. “The designers came up with a concept, and then I did the technical design, the specification and schematics, which were presented to the embassy.”
One of the most important features of the new building is its AV infrastructure, as Thomas explained: “The audio system for the entire building is controlled by the AudiaFLEX. The entrance, Marshall McLuhan Salon, upstairs foyer, Canada room, Auditorium and Timber hall all have their own zones.
“Also in every room are many floor boxes. These contain access points for the Fibre network, RF System, IP network as well as power connectors. You can also plug in a Crestron touch panel to any of these ports to control the media system.”
The implementation of the Crestron media control system is one of the key things, which contributes to the usability of the embassy by different parties. The system has two different user interfaces. The configuration programme run from the technician’s laptops is used for the choice and control of the second possibility. The second programme, called user.exe, is the one used by visiting groups who wish to use the media system. Via the configuration.exe programme a technician can precisely define which controls appear on the user’s touch-panel, for which rooms and for which equipment. The choice includes the playback and recording devices, as well as the wireless microphone system and room functions such as projector screens.
The building is also served by the Beyerdynamic OPUS 800 wireless microphone system. Each room contains two antennae, which means that a tour guide can simply use the media control system to activate the receivers in the room he’s in and then speak to a group via a wireless microphone.
Visitors who choose to take the so-called “North-West Passage” and enter the complex from Ebertstrasse find themselves in the foot of a copper clad tower.
Along this corridor are three 42” NEC plasma displays, showing information on events featuring Canadian artists in Germany and presenting short films by award winning, young, Canadian film makers. It runs a client-server software package called EdiIT/PlayIT. This schedules content for playback according to a playlist. Audio here comes from six WHD 14/2 ceiling speakers.
On the ground floor of the tower one finds the Marshall McLuhan Salon. This is an information and learning centre for visitors to the embassy, named after Canadian media philosopher Herbert Marshall McLuhan. The Salon presents Canada using state-of-the-art technical equipment. Hülsmann described the room:
“The centrepiece of the room is a round sofa-like listening post. Six audio listening posts consisting of Crestron CT1000 4” touch screens allow visitors to select from a number of titles and languages on a central audio server, an Imerge M2000-12. We selected this system in the end as it was offered as a complete package by Crestron, with the push button interfaces and the server and software.
“Integrated into the walls of the Salon are four NEC 42” 42VP5 plasma displays fitted with touch screen technology from SMART Technologies showing the customised, flash-based user interface offering information about Canada in various formats e.g. video. If that happens you can go back, sit on the sofa, put on the headphones and select the required audio from the Crestron touch panel. There is also an interactive game with a map of Canada on one side of the screen, and on the other side there is an outline of the different provinces of the country. The system records the number of attempts you make to place them all correctly on the map.
Five custom-made info terminals and one special info terminal for handicapped people are also located in the Marshall McLuhan Salon running the same customized user interface as the 42” plasma displays.
Upon entering the building via the Leipziger Platz, visitors find themselves in the main entrance. Seven WHD 14/2 ceiling speakers provide audio coverage for public announcements, controlled via the building’s Biamp AudiaFLEX system.
Thomas continues his walk through up on the first floor.
“There are three rooms of interest on the first floor, all connected by a single foyer area.
“The first is the Auditorium. It has a 5.1 surround sound system made up of Kling & Freitag loudspeakers. Three CA106’s line each wall, with a further two of these at the rears. At the front of the room, four CA1001’s are hung. Three in LCR configuration with the fourth being used for voice reinforcement. Beneath the left and right speakers are hung two SW115E subwoofers. It was originally planned that these would be the 118E model but we found they wouldn’t fit during installation!”
Power comes in the form of a selection of QSC amplifiers - personal favourites of Hulsmann. The CA1001’s are driven by QSC CX254s, the eight CA106s by CX168 eight channel amplifiers in bridge mode, whilst the subwoofers are powered by CX1102’s.
The room is also equipped with a Beyerdynamic SIS 121 interpretation system, the MCWD 200 conferencing solution.
Three booths at the rear of the auditorium house the interpretation system and one of these also acts as a small control room. It is equipped with Genelec near field speakers, a Yamaha Audium mixer and various bits of dedicated equipment.
In the ceiling is mounted a Panasonic PT-D 5500 DLP projector on a CMS lift. This is matched up with an Atrium powered projection screen. Both of these are controllable via the media control system and Crestron panel. Thomas again: “We actually selected the Panasonic projector after a shoot out. I found a cinema to rent in Berlin, and we brought in five of the major brands to compare their products for the panel from the Embassy. At the time the Panasonic was the best choice.”
The second of the first floor rooms is the so-called Canada room. This multipurpose room can cope with large public functions or act as a banqueting hall seating up to 200 people. It can also be divided into two smaller rooms of varying size by the Skyfold partition, another Canadian innovation in the building.
The room is equipped with two 7 x 4 m projection screens, and two Panasonic PT-D5500 DLP Projectors, one for each partition. The audio system is set up, via the AudiaFLEX system, to allow each to function as a separate zone.
The room again features a 5.1 surround sound system. Thomas had originally intended to use K&F’s E90 column speakers down the long sides of the room. However, after some dispute with the interior designer, it was necessary to scratch this idea and instead mount CA106s above the room’s false ceiling. Six of these are arranged down each side and are angled slightly towards the centre of the room through grilles. A pair of SW118E subwoofers, and two CA1201 loudspeakers, for voice reinforcement are also mounted in the ceiling.
The spiritual heart of the embassy is the Timber Hall. Located on the first floor of the round tower, above the Marshall McLuhan Salon, this unusually shaped room is approximately 10m high and shaped like a top hat. Its twenty facets are made of traditional Canadian Douglas fir, and the ceiling, and floor are adorned with an original artwork “North” by Adrian Gollner. The room itself functions as an important meeting room with the 21 floor boxes corresponding to seating for 21 people.
Beyerdynamic’s MCWD 200 wireless congress system keeps the room free of cables, and flexible in arrangement. Thomas Hülsmann explains how the audio equipment is set up:
“I have mounted ten speakers in a circle around the walls, at about 2.5 metres heigh. These are controlled by the Biamp DSP system and connected to the Beyerdynamic congress system. The surround sound set up ‘turns’ depending on who is speaking, and the volume of the loudspeakers behind whoever is talking is increased.”
The speakers themselves are more K&F CA106s, and are actually hidden behind grilles in the timber walls. As with much of the rest of the building, the AV equipment intrudes very little on the design of the interior.
The timber hall is also equipped with a portable NEC 265 DLP projector and movable projection screen that can be used as required, although this is not particularly common.
Just from looking at the photographs it’s clear that in its new facility in Berlin, the Canadians have building fitting to represent their country. But, do the AV facilities live up to the look of the building? Jan Bracka is responsible for the operation of the media systems in the new embassy building and said:
“Thomnet Media Engineering and ProVideo did an exceptional job planning and installing our multimedia network. I particularly appreciate the flexibility the multimedia network provides. You can basically route any signal through-out the whole building which enables us to provide the event organizers with the best technical solutions for their events. The visitors and event organizers tend to be very impressed with the technical facilities of the public area and they look forward to coming back.”
Installed by Pro Video
Designed by Thomnet
Beyerdynamic MCWD 200 congress system
Beyerdynamic OPUS 800 wireless microphone system
Beyerdynamic SIS 121 interpretation system
Imerge M2000-12 Audio server
K&F CA106 Loudspeakers
K&F CA1001 Loudspeakers
K&F CA1201 Loudspeakers
K&F SW115E Subwoofers
K&F SW118 Subwoofers
QSC CX254 Amplifiers
QSC CX168 Amplifiers
QSC CX1102 Amplifiers
WHD 14-2 Ceiling speakers
Atrium projection screens
CMS ceiling projector lift
Crestron TP2 12G-QM 12” touch panels
Crestron CT1000 4” touch panels
Custom built information terminals
NEC 206 projector
NEC 42” 42VP5 Plasma displays
Panasonic PT-D 5500 DLP projectors
Smart Technologies touch screen overlays