A place for everyone

Beit Avi Chai represents the outcome of one man’s dream for a place where Jews from all branches of the faith can learn from each other and study their shared culture. Israeli integrator Barkai was awarded the contract for the AV systems, as Chris Fitzsimmons reports.

Avi Chai is a private foundation established in 194 by the late Zalman Chaim Berstein. The foundation operates in Israel, North America, and the former Soviet Union. It’s two main objectives are, firstly encouraging and fostering mutual understanding and sensitivity among Jews of different religious backgrounds and commitments. Secondly, fostering a connection to Jewish tradition among all segments of the Jewish people, by encouraging their understanding and appreciation of the Jewish Heritage – Jewish culture, laws and customs.

To further these aims, Beit Avi Chai was conceived as a centre in Jerusalem to provide a programme of Israeli, Jewish culture encompassing study and hands-on experience. Designed by architect Ada Karmi-Melamede, the building is built of the stone cut from its own foundations and stands at the midpoint of several communities within the Israeli capital.

The man charged with fronting the project for Avi Chai, and overseeing the delivery of AV systems is Administrative and Finance Director Noam Novick, who worked alongside the Barkai team, under the leadership of project manager Gil Yakir, and the architect.

Following a successful bid to deliver Beit Avi Chai’s AV and media management systems, Barkai equipped 4 seminar rooms, 3 class rooms, 4 conference rooms and a 280 seat auditorium with presentation, sound reinforcement and media control solutions as well as room-to-room and external distribution systems.

The foundation stone upon which the AV systems are built is Crestron’s Quick Media technology, as Barkai’s Shy Kadmon explained. “With Quick Media we are able to very easily distribute all manner of AV signals around the building. We can send any of the many video sources to and from any classroom over Beit Avi Chai’s extensive network infrastructure. Also, our design and build time is significantly reduced, by using it in conjunction with Crestron matrixes. It makes programming a whole lot simpler.
The system acts as the master for all the other technologies, including the Biamp / Cobranet distribution combination and the video conferencing equipment.”

Full audio distribution is also included throughout the building. Biamp’s AudiaFlex system is the DSP platform and the distribution of audio signals is currently carried out over a physically separate CobraNet network, as opposed to the video and control covered by Quick Media, which currently sits on a VLAN on the centre’s main IT network.

But why the need to share content so extensively? Noam Novick explained: “One thing that is really important to us is that as many people as possible can benefit from the programmes we put on here. We never want to have to turn people away. Whilst that isn’t always possible, we wanted every effort made to allow people to participate. For this reason, for instance if the main theatre is full, we can relay the event to any of our classrooms, seminar rooms and even the small conference rooms. Theoretically we could show a single event to perhaps 800 people in the building, and then as many as we could fit in the outside courtyard as well.”

The top floors of Beit Avi Chei are populated by a selection of meeting and teaching spaces.

There are four similar sized seminar rooms, three of which are separated with a removable partition wall, enabling them to be connected to form a much larger space. The furniture can be removed completely producing a much more relaxed environment.

The equipment in all four is identical. The AV rack contains the QuickMedia matrix switcher. This processes audio and video from external sources including the VCR / DVD and auxiliary VGA inputs from the QuickMedia connection units – commonly laptops. This is output to the main AV network and the ceiling mounted Sanyo PLC-XU100 projector. Audio is output to the local Biamp AudiaFLEX and central media-switching matrix.

The sound reproduction comes in the shape of a pair of Tannoy iw6 DS in-wall loudspeakers, powered by Phonic MAX500 amplifiers, and Tannoy CMS601 ceiling speakers driven by a TOA P-1812 amplifier. Further direct inputs to the Biamp DSP are the Beyerdynamic wireless receivers and microphones, as well as table microphones.

In order to keep the room as “clean” as possible the architect insisted on disguising these microphones and as much of the other equipment as possible. Therefore simple flip-top covered XLR connectors are built into the table, to which gooseneck microphones can be connected when required. The flip-tops are Clock Audio c25Es.

The rooms are all monitored by Vaddio IP-cameras, and in several cases these are pop-out models which can be concealed in the wall – in keeping with the emphasis on aesthetics. These serve two purposes – first for video conferencing, and secondly for the aforementioned local distribution of events.

Rather than equipping every single room with a VC codec, Barkai elected to install single, powerful Tandberg MXP3000 in the building’s central AV rack. The video feeds from the Vaddio cameras are all linked directly to the main video matrix, and then either to the VC codec or to another room as required. Vaddio Quick Connect camera controllers are used and are connected to an Altinex HMR1616-V1AO 16x16 video matrix.

The one exception to this shared codec solution is the dedicated videoconferencing and board room, which seats 10 around the table. This is equipped with its own MXP3000 unit and a number of other unique features. However, even here a VGA output from the codec enters the main matrix via a QM-WMC interface box.

A completely custom-built, motorised projection screen is built into the ceiling to completely hide it when not in use. Attached to this, and mounted behind the perforated screen is a pair of Tannoy iw6 loudspeakers. These disappear into the ceiling with the screen.

Another unique feature is the Vaddio CeilingVIEW document camera, which is actually built into the ceiling above the table. This elegant solution allows materials to be shared at very high resolution without cluttering the table with a conventional visualiser.

Aside from these smaller meeting and seminar spaces, there are three large classrooms. Each seats approximately 80-100 people, and is equipped in a largely similar manner to the other spaces. However, here the projectors are hidden in the ceilings using draper lifts when not in use. A second innovation is clever use of the QuickMedia interface panels in combination with Barkai’s own floor tanks. The lecturers’ desks are mobile, and rather than tailing a large number of cables from them into floor fitted QuickMedia panels, the panel is fitted into the desk, and a single Cat5 tail allows them to be quickly repositioned to any of the ruggedised network connections in the floor.

Supplementing the standard projection systems in these rooms are a pair of LG LG-PM1 42” flat panels which can be selected as duplicate or independent outputs for the video matrix system.

The largest room inside Beit Avi Chei is the 280 seat auditorium. It is used for a range of music recitals, readings, discussions and films. For film showings or presentations, the room is equipped with a powerful Barco RLM 6+ This is located in a projection room at the rear. The video signal can be from a local source – DVD player in the rack, laptop plugged into the quick media system – or routed from the building’s main video matrix. Audio support for this top of the line projector is not lacking. Stereo sound is provided by twin arrays of six of Meyer Sound’s MD1 self powered mini line-array. These are mounted above the stage and concealed by a black mesh to satisfy the architect’s Aesthetic sensitivities. In the bass department they are reinforced by a single 600HP sub woofer also from Meyer Sound, and mounted between the two arrays. This system is topped off by portable front fill speakers placed on the front of the stage however there is a plan to mount a permanent front fill solution under the stage itself. The mini line arrays and subwoofer are controlled by a Meyer Sound LD3 loudspeaker controller, which is hooked up to the DSP system. The FoH desk is a Soundcraft LXII mixing console, wired into the Biamp AudiaFLEX DSP unit and CobraNet audio distribution.

Performers and speakers on the stage have access to wireless or wired microphones and the room is covered by a pair of Vaddio cameras. One of these is positioned underneath the balcony at the back of the theatre, whilst as second is mounted above the entrance, and is aimed carefully at a position on the side stairs. This allows a member of the audience, who is perhaps asking a question, to be recorded. This position also has a single XLR connector allowing a microphone to be plugged in.

The final room has no roof - outside the foyer is a large courtyard, which again is provided with access to the centre’s AV distribution network. From this, a portable AV rack and loudspeaker system can relay popular events in the auditorium to an even bigger audience.

Mastering all of these systems is the central AV rack. This holds the central QuickMedia matrix switcher– the Crestron QM-MD8X8, a Crestron MC2E control unit and the shared Tandberg VC codec. It also contains the Vaddio camera controllers, further amplification for the monitoring system and a Crestron TPS-12 touch panel for accessing any of the rooms over CresNET.

Wireless touchpanels are ubiquitous throughout the building, giving room users complete control over the AV and lighting systems, as well as the routing capabilities of the network. Crestron TPMC-10s and accompanying docking stations being used to operate almost every device over the CresNET control network.

Noam Novick, speaking for Beit Avi Chai, remarked: “We are really grateful for the work that Barkai have put into this project. There have been some very exacting requirements from the foundation and the system that Gil and his team delivered has entirely met our expectations.”

Barkai’s enthusiastic adoption of Cat5 distribution over traditional AV transports has served them well. Combining QuickMedia with the building’s network infrastructure has not only made the job of tying the various systems together much easier, it’s also given Beit Avi Chai a system as flexible and future proof as is possible.

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