Back to basics

AUTHOR: Inavate

InAVate returns to the scene of our first issue’s main case study to see how phase two of Virgin Atlantic Airways’ project to centralise all of it’s European training services under one roof. Andy Mawdsley, Bugle’s Technical Director gave us the grand tour.

Back in October 2005 we covered the story of phase one of Virgin’s ambitious project in which local integration firm Bugle AV installed a-v facilities into the first tranche of rooms. That project, successfully completed, formed the blueprint for what was always intended to be a much larger scheme. At the time, Bugle was hopeful of being awarded the contract for phase two but were still required to re-bid, which they did successfully, for the project.

Phase two’s scope went further than the initial 16 rooms. It included 29 new classrooms, a PA system for the whole building, digital signage in key parts of the site, and a 200-seat auditorium with full AV capabilities.

The now finished Base facility is a hive of activity, with room use approaching 100% already. After entering the unassuming, former pharmaceutical factory, it really does feel like you’re in a community. The central “Town Square” area is brightly lit, and provides a communal meeting space, with adjoining canteen. Visible through a glass wall is one of Virgin’s more striking training aids, a cut away section of an aircraft fuselage and cockpit. Elsewhere corridors lead off to the total of 53 training rooms now in operation.

The Town Square, along with the rest of the shared spaces, is served by a four-zone PA system. As Mawdsley explained: “We’re running a cloud MX4 matrix. There are four zones in the building and we're running four Australian Monitor AMIS 120 series 100v amplifiers to drive the general PA.

“We’ve also used a mixture of ceiling speakers throughout the building. This was because we ran into architectural issues with the space available in the roof. The majority of them are TOA F-232C ceiling speakers. For the areas where space is a little tighter we used a smaller ceiling speaker from Sonance, the 522QR.

“Most of the time we had about 600mm of ceiling depth to play with, which is ample, but when we were dropping down off bulkheads there was only perhaps 125mm. That’s not a whole lot of room. In the Town Square there’s a really high ceiling, and we even considered using suspended globe-style speakers there to match the open services. This would have brought things closer to the floor meaning we didn’t have to drive the speakers so hard. However this solution was eventually rejected by the architect.”

Also installed in the Town Square was a Sanyo XF60 projector. This is a 6000 Lumens model, the high brightness being required to overcome the high levels of ambient light and the bright strip lighting. The projector is “off air” but can take feeds from a TV tuner or DVD / VHS Sources.

Of the 29 new classrooms outfitted, 20 are equipped with networked AV equipment from Crestron, whilst the remaining 9 are manually controlled.

The 20 networked classrooms themselves are equipped with a varying degree of AV equipment. The ten most advanced suites are reserved for technical or more complex subjects such as flight training and first aid. They are equipped with WT1600 78” Walk and Talk interactive whiteboards from Polyvision. Mawdsley remarked: “I think that Virgin took the view that this wasn’t necessary in every room. In the remaining ten rooms there is simple projection with standard projection screens.” The standard projection solution throughout The Base’s teaching rooms is Hitachi’s CPX260 projector. The choice here was explained by Mawdsley again: “The CPX260 is only a 2500 Lumens model but these are only small spaces. A more important priority for Virgin was the lamp life, in this case about 1500 hours.” The projectors are mounted on bracketry supplied Unicol throughout the site.

The rest of the AV equipment is standardised across the 20 rooms. Kramer VP200 distribution amplifiers handle video inputs, and overall AV control of the room comes in the form of Crestron’s MP2E media controller. Each room is also supplied with a Crestron TP4L touch panel for source selection, volume control and basic power on/off functionality.

All 29 rooms, along with their Hitachi projection, are equipped with Procon floor plates for AV inputs, TOA F232C ceiling speakers and wall mounted BS1030 loudspeakers also from TOA. Sound reproduction here is only for the sources, there is no voice amplification in the building except the auditorium. In order to get a smooth distribution of sound in the rooms the wall-mounted loudspeakers are fitted on the front and the ceiling speakers towards the back.

The 20 rooms that are on the network, along with the auditorium, can all be monitored using Crestron’s RoomView asset management software. If any problems are encountered there is also the option to run a diagnostic on any room, checking for instance if the system is responding, that the projector lamp is working or if something simply needs turning on. RoomView also provides backup to the training staff. Each classroom touch panel features the ever-useful “Help” button, as installed in the first phase. Pressing this alerts technical support that a particular classroom is in need of assistance. They can either talk through the problem with the trainer or as a last resort send someone out to help solve the problem.

The centrepiece of The Base is the 200-seat auditorium. The AV set up here is a little more elaborate than in the smaller classrooms, and is governed by Crestron’s QuickMedia solution. The 4.5 x 3.4m electric screen from Screens International is served by a Sanyo XP57 5000 Lumens projector. This along with basic volume control and source selection can all be controlled from the lectern mounted Crestron TP4L touch panel. Also mounted in the lectern is a Polyvision IP15 tablet adding interactivity to the projection system.

At the back of the auditorium is located a small control room for a technician. This houses the main AV rack including the Crestron processor, and lighting control and a Soundcraft M12 mixing desk. The sound reinforcement system is built around QSC’s Acoustic Design series, the AD52. The podium is equipped with an Audio-Technica ES-935ML microphone, and additional Sennheiser 300 series lapel and handheld wireless microphones are provided for audience participation or additional speakers.
The auditorium is used for regular training sessions, presentations and the all important passing out ceremony for each group of graduates from The Base.

Whilst the main AV interest is in the training rooms there is plenty more to The Base. There’s the uniform fitting suite, equipped with 16” Panasonic LCDs. Elsewhere there’s health and beauty care in the shape of Virgin’s Touch Salon, which also makes up one of the four audio zones.

Given its location in the middle of an industrial estate and unprepossessing exterior, entering The Base is a real experience. It’s a desirable place to come with a relaxed atmosphere and it’s definitely added to by the AV installation, from the digital signage in the reception areas, to the ceiling hung LED strips with positive messages and the giant wall projection showing sports.