Complex conferencing at the Hungarian Parliament

Complex system design was required to give the Hungarian Parliament a congress system that perfectly matched its requirements. Paul Milligan reports.

The Hungarian Parliament Building, or  Országház  (which  translates as House of the Nation) as it is known, is home to several landmarks.  It is the largest building in Hungary and is the world’s third-largest parliament building, and Europe’s second largest (behind The Palace of the Parliament in Romania).

At the end of 2014, the Parliament announced a  tender  process  for  the development  of  the conference and AV system of the Count Albert Apponyi  room.  It  was eventually awarded to integrator Galax (one of four candidates).

“The  main difficulty in the project was  that the  Parliament  required  complex,  custom development in several aspects (voting, meeting management, camera  control,  etc.),  which had to be implemented within a  short  period  of  time,” said Krisztián  Tolvaj,  who  was responsible  for  designing  the system  and  managing  the project for Galax.

The  conference  technology  is  built  around the Bosch DCN NG digital system “To give you an  idea  of  the  complexity  of  the  system  and the  multiplicity  of  functions,  its  operation  is ensured  by  10  Bosch  and  10  MVI  Engineering software modules,” continued Tolvaj.  The MVI software  can  be  tailored  to  user  requirements, offering fl exible conference management for the Parliament.    Michiel  Van  Ingen,  owner  of  MVI Engineering,  was a continuous presence in the project from initial design to the final stage of implementation  and  constantly  adapted  the software  to  the  circumstances  and  individual needs.

The  complete  system  includes  three  venues – Committee Room, TV Studio, and Secretariat which are connected to each other via Ethernet and fibre optical network. 

Meetings are prepared on the client PC of the Secretariat.  Administrators can create agendas and voting sessions in each respective  meeting,  and  can  use  the  delegate database  to  set  the  permissions  of  individual delegates  and  invited  guests,  individual  and group  speech  times,  and  encrypt  personal identification  cards  accordingly.  In  addition  to settings  and  meeting  preparation,  reports  and audio recordings made of the meetings are also available here for further processing.

In  the  committee  room,  delegates  may participate in the discussions through units; they can speak, listen to the speakers, be put on the waiting list in case of multiple concurrent speech requests, vote, and choose language channels.

When  inserting  the  chip  card  into  the  card reader, the LCD screen will automatically display information about the user in the language set on the participant’s chip card.

On  the  integrated  graphic  display,  other information  related  to  the  discussion  can  also be  easily  displayed, whereas the  flat panel loudspeaker  provides  high  speech  intelligibility, regardless of the headcount.

The application software installed makes sure the  management,  control  and  broadcasting of  the  meetings  meet  the  highest  possible level.  The  individual  software  modules  perform the  following  tasks:  system  configuration, remote  meeting  preparation,  attendance  and authorisation  management,  delegate  and group  database  management,  touchscreen meeting  management,  synoptic  microphone control, voting management, identification card encoding,  voice  recording,  automatic  report generation,  camera  control  and  subtitling, showing  meeting  information  on  external  hall displays.

“For the final outcome to be successful it was crucial  how  we  implemented  the  automation process and managed the numerous functions.  If it wasn’t done correctly, it would add complexity and diminish the user experience and, ultimately, the operator would get lost in a sea of available options,” said Tolvaj.

The  control  interface  that  was  designed ensures there is no need to switch between the windows of individual software modules, as all functions  of  conference  management  focus on one point. The core software succeeds because of its ergonomic design; the control application is optimised for standard touchscreen monitor use, so the system can be managed in real time, in an intuitive way.

The  meeting  is  controlled  by  an  operator sitting  in  the  corner  of  the  room,  based  on the instructions of the chairman, from a 23-in touchscreen.  The  content  and  control  options on the monitor were edited by Galax to fit the needs  of  the  Committee  using  the  synoptic editing  software  of  MVI  Engineering.  The operator normally views an overview of the event through which he/she can access the functions most commonly used during the meetings. The specific  sub-functions  are  accessible  from  here with one touch.

“A  separate  challenge  was  to  solve  the management  of  speaking  and  voting.  In  the committee work in Hungary, if a delegate leaves the meeting room, he/she can pass his/her voting right  to  another  person.  The  implementation of  this  also  required  bespoke  programming by  Van  Ingen,  so  the  operator  can  perform tasks using a few taps to ensure that its results are  automatically  displayed  on  the  relevant information screens and, of course, in the report as well,” said Tolvaj.

To ensure a high level of interaction between the  chairman  and  the  operator,  a  50-in  LED display  was  installed  for  the  chairman,  which ensures  constant  monitoring  of  the  relevant information  during  the  meeting.  Throughout the installation, camera management was of the utmost importance, as the video material plays an important role in both the live stream and archiving.

When a chairman or delegate microphone is activated in the DCN NG conference system, the full  HD  PTZ  camera  assigned to that position is activated. If there is no active microphone, an overview camera image will be automatically displayed.

In the meeting room, four Full HD PTZ cameras were mounted on the sidewalls.  The  HD-SDI video and RS-422 control signals of the cameras are connected to a Z440 workstation.

In addition to the seamless video connection, the  software  can  overlay  the  name  of  the current  speaker  on  top  of  the  camera  footage using HD generated text (delegate’s name, title, speech time, etc.) and the logo of the political party.   The cameras can be set up and controlled from the remote TV Studio, where one monitor displays  the  complete,  mixed  picture  with  the control options, and the other – the live view of the four cameras.

The  technician  can  intervene  at  any  time during  the  automatic  broadcasting;  he/she can  reposition  prepositions,  cut  a  still  image and  can  bring  up  the  voting  results  in  a graphical/text  format  on  a  layer  above  the camera image.

The  room  location  and  lighting  technology required  the  use  of  custom  colour  settings  for each preposition. The in-depth settings can be made  either  from  the  Committee  Room  or  the remote TV Studio, or any combination of the two (which can be saved in the settings), which the technician can retrieve during the meeting with a touch of a button.  

Sound  in  the  committee  room  is  recorded separately  as  well,  however,  archiving  of  the complete AV materials and live streaming is made in the TV Studio. The Extron H.264 processor is able to stream in two different resolutions at the same time and record the meetings in HD quality.

The dates of the meetings can be uploaded to the  processor  using  the  iCalendar  so  recording and  streaming  will  start  automatically.  The recording  also  contains  the  metadata,  making retrieval quick and accurate.

The  conference  system  adds  value  to  every aspect  of  committee  meetings,  ensuring greater activity and comfort of the participants.  It  also  provides  efficient  communication  of information  to  internal  staff  and  the  public, with  only  minimal  human  resources  for  the operation needed.   

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