AV made to measure

AUTHOR: Inavate

Interactive View have installed a new VC and boardroom suite for Jardine Lloyd Thomson’s America Square office in London.

As a global insurance and reinsurance specialist, Jardine Lloyd Thomson has a need for instant communications between its world wide sites and head office in London.

The company specialises in underwriting business in specific markets, in which it develops expertise and knowledge in order to satisfy the demands of those markets; understanding the ever-changing needs of clients and the global industries in which they operate. Jardine Lloyd Thomson ’s operating areas span the oil and gas industries, construction, aviation and marine transportation, life sciences and mining; all high risk, high value high profile industries where a single error of judgement can have catstrophic consequences to both life and commerce. It is essential then, that its industry specialists have access to continuous communications to interact with world news sources, clients, staff and other businesses throughout the world on a 24-hour a day basis.

The company currently employs over 4000 staff in 30 countries and 80 offices throughout the world. In any given day, staff will communicate from office to office right across the world and will expect their links to be instant, reliable and of the highest quality. Which is something of a headache to the internal IT staff and represents a challenge that needs to be met and overcome with almost transparent operation; the success of the business depends on it.

During a recent office refurbishment of one of its corporate offices, located at America Square in central London, Jardine Lloyd Thomson placed a tender for the supply, installation and maintenance of a full audio-visual presentation and videoconference facility for its seventh floor main boardroom. The brief required the delivery of a large flat display screen, integrated with a multipurpose presentation system and video conference terminal, coupled to a complete wireless remote control panel that could control all equipment as well as the room lighting and environmental system.

Interactive View, a AV installation company based in London, responded to the tender and successfully obtained the contract to provide the system. Already known to Jardine Lloyd Thomson through previous work at another near by office, Interactive View had installed the company’s main atrium and meeting room display screens.

The America Square boardroom is a large space with windows facing south towards the Tower of London, the Thames and over to the capital new City Hall. Fabulous views, but a real problem in terms of ambient light control for Interactive View’s system designers. As the installation would be highly visible to other group members as well as important clients, industry analysts and other corporate professionals, the client stipulated that the installation had to be a prestige one, reflecting their market-leading position in the insurance. All the equipment and wiring was therefore to be hidden from view and the screen concealed behind retractable sliding doors when not in use. Control would also be discrete with a requirement for wireless simplicity.

Interactive View specified a system based around an NEC 61” plasma screen mounted on one end wall in the boardroom. Plasma was chosen over projection as a solution to the high level of ambient light so that it could be viewed without darkening the room. This screen was selected for its quality and input capabilities after comparisons with other large plasma screens had been undertaken.

Manufacture of the cabinetry was entrusted to a German cabinet maker, Becherer, to produce and install finished woodwork to Interactive View’s specification. The end result is a work of art, with a superb finish, closely fitting components and faultless operation; the two large doors concealing the plasma glide out of the way under fingertip control.

The primary use of the boardroom was specified by Jardine Lloyd Thomson as a video conference and meeting room for worldwide discussions with other offices and clients. Polycom’s new VSX 8000 video conferencing unit was selected together with a matching Powercam camera, mounted directly beneath the plasma screen and at head height of people sitting around the table. An array of eight Shure MX202 Ceiling Microphones was used in place of a less controllable desk mounted microphone. The array of ceiling microphones provides an extended pick-up area suited to the long conference table in the centre of the room, and allow all the individual participants to contribute to the discussion without having to concentrate their attention on a specific unit on the boardroom table.

These microphones are fed through a Polycom Vortex EF2280 automatic microphone matrix mixer with echo and noise cancellation. The device provides a sophisticated level of microphone mixing and balancing whilst automatically measuring the amount and level of room echo across the full 22KHz audio spectrum - caused by the loudspeakers in the room, acoustic reflections and the incoming sound from the remote party. The system dynamically measures and accounts for the room gain: the difference in levels between the level sensed by the microphones to that generated by the loudspeakers, in order to meet the specific room requirements for a flat volume profile at the receiving end. During set up, individual controls are adjusted on each microphone channel to tailor their gain, mixing level and amount of sound reinforcement to suit the room layout and characteristics. A task made easier by Polycom’s InstantDesigner software, as Paul Wigley MD of Interactive View explains: “We have often spent several days balancing all the individual elements of a complex audio conferencing setup; matching microphone levels, balancing loudspeaker outputs, configuring matrix crosspoints and managing different setups for different meeting sizes and styles. With InstantDesigner much of this work is automated and simplified, resulting in a far better result in a fraction of the time.” Eight ceiling loudspeakers fed by the Vortex and positioned along the length of the room either side of the table similarly provide a continuous and acoustically level sound space.

The Powercam camera is programmed to cover the whole room, covering all participants and can also be pointed to an individual speaker under control of the conference chairman. The VSX 8000 provides the ability to handle multiple video and data channels so that content, as well as the camera image can be displayed. This includes PC data from an external computer to provide Powerpoint presentations and spreadsheets as well as video, so an incoming second camera or video source can be viewed; even if just a single display is used, as in this installation.

With an IP connection into the VSX 8000 a sustained video connection of up to 2Mbps is possible which provides more than adequate bandwidth for videoconference calls. Coupled with a full screen video processing capability delivering up to 50 or 60 fields per second, which is standard TV refresh rate, the system is capable of delivering extremely high level of quality on a full screen.

To extend the use of the boardroom above a video conferencing facility, Interactive View installed an Audio Visual and PC switching and control system to accommodate off-air TV through a Sky receiver, DVD player and VCR player as well as PC graphics onto the NEC plasma screen. This gives full capability for video and PC-based presentations, courtesy of an Extron-based switching and distribution network during, client and company meetings and board meetings. Sound reproduction is also handled through Extron equipment with a set of nine JBL Control 24 ceiling speakers reproducing audio throughout the boardroom.

In this type of environment simple, intuitive and straightforward control of the complete installation is required so that external distractions are kept to a minimum and the users of the boardroom can concentrate on their own business rather than becoming masters of AV technology, learning how to set up and use the equipment. To achieve, this Interactive View specified the Modero wireless remote control touch panel from AMX. Following consultation with Jardine Lloyd Thomson, Interactive View designed and developed a flexible user interface that allows users of the room to simply control the system, set up their own facilities and use it the way they want without undue effort or knowledge. As Martin Slade, Group Property Manager, facilities manager explains: “We are insurance professionals, not technical specialists and need a system that is intuitive to use and wholly reliable, allowing us to concentrate on our business without having to learn how to use new and unfamiliar equipment, especially when it is not used every day by all staff”.
The Modero panel, linked to an AMX Netlinx receiver and controller provides all the controls over RS232 required to operate individual components in the system. Interactive View developed macro command sequences for the Modero panel that issue sequential commands for the appropriate pieces of equipment so that a single button touch fires up all relevant parts of the installation to ready it for operation. One touch operation is possible for all functions including selection of video conferencing, PC input, satellite and terrestrial TV selection and other multimedia devices connected to the system.

In addition to the AV equipment controlled by the Modero panel, internal lighting can be adjusted as desired. Specific buttons on the panel refer to the light levels in the room and adjust their intensity through Lutron dimmers and lamp controllers.

In this installation the objective was to build a prestige and usable AV and videoconferencing facility that would offer the best audio and video possible. This has been successfully achieved. Rather than simply installing stand alone equipment Interactive View have concentrated on delivering an integrated system where the components match and operate together. The quality of the video display and audio reproduction meets the high expectations of the client. The installation is generally unobtrusive, concealing the fact that it is a high-tech system, and the simplicity of the touch screen user interface offers non-technical users an intuitive and user-friendly method of controlling and operating the equipment.