Divided learning: Flexible integration at Israel Institute of Technology

The Technion –Israel Institute of Technology, a leading public research university in Tel Aviv, Israel, opened a new lobby and auditoriums to provide a complex and smart electricity, control, audio and video conferencing experience fit for a world class institute. Reece Webb reports.

Following the university’s campus move in 2013, The Technion opened a 200-seat auditorium and lobby in Israel’s tallest skyscraper, the Azrieli Sarona Tower.
The new auditorium is designed to host conferences, lectures and presentations with the ability to accommodate large scale events either in one giant auditorium or to have the room divided into two auditoriums, allowing two events to take place simultaneously.

To make the project a success, The Technion enlisted the help of AV consultant Erez Or, CEO, Or-Tech to design the comprehensive system and systems integrator Ardan Tech, led by its multimedia division manager Mark Prepelitsky, to oversee the installation.

Or based his design on audio, video and USB over TCP/IP technology, handling the multimedia, communications and security systems for the new auditorium with a focus on providing a scalable distribution platform.

Ardan Tech and Prepelitsky’s team - led by Michael Krispin and Itzik Dobrohovsky (management), Moshe Werner (programming), Amit Shuhami and Ilya Berman (install team) - became involved with the project via a tender process.
They spent a total of five months on site from June 2018 to January 2019, with two months lost during the installation process due to ongoing work at the university which limited the amount of time Ardan Tech had to complete the project. 

Visitors enter through a lobby area featuring house seating and a cafeteria which serves as a breakout area after events in the auditorium. Two Samsung videowalls made up of 2x2 UH55F screens provide university signage or a live feed from the auditorium. Audio is delivered by eight JBL speakers and a subwoofer installed on a ceiling mount alongside Atlona AT-GAIN-NET amplifiers providing power. 

Mark Prepelitsky, multimedia division manager, Ardan Tech, explained: “Each videowall enables presentation from a BrightSign BrightAuthor digital signage player, or of a lecture from one of the auditoriums.

“All of these elements integrate with OmniStream single and dual-channel encoders for routing and distribution over the network.”

Audio clarity and flexibility was paramount in this installation, with Or deciding to use Atlona OmniStream Pro encoders and decoders to enable configuration via a web-based GUI, providing virtual AV routing over an IP network.

Or clarified: “AV over IP enables the expansion of our project without replacing expensive equipment by adding end units. The system core is based on a communication switch so that the organisation’s IT team can provide an initial response to any problem if required.”

Moving into the auditorium, visitors find themselves in a crescent shaped, 200-seat room with a central dividing wall which can be extended to divide the room into two 100-seat auditoriums, using identical equipment in both sides of the room to create a consistent and familiar user experience in both halls that is not affected by room division.

Two Vivitek projectors with short throw lenses are installed with one for each side of the room, projecting onto two 140-in projector screens. Ismart USB HDPTZ cameras are also featured for live video capture.

A recording system is also included to allow for local recording and simultaneous streaming, with the systems able to be controlled via a local PC.

The consultant’s AV over IP design proved to be a challenge as Prepelitsky outlines: “By design, the system components should be routable in an ‘any to any’ format. The two auditoriums would be joined into a single bigger auditorium by simply removing the dividing wall, which invokes an automated process.

“There are also two detachable podiums which transfer all AV over a single optical 10G network cable. Inside each podium is a switch to which all components are connected. The components include OmniStream AV encoders/decoders, USB over IP devices (for HID, cameras and Symetrix AEC USB soundcard) and microphone inputs via Dante.”

The OmniStream Pro encoders and decoders allow for automated monitoring and centralised firmware updating, being able to be configured with managed network switches along with audio distribution based on the AES67 standard.

Both single and dual channel units were used, integrated with a Symetrix Radius NX 12x8 digital sound processor. When the auditorium is divided into two rooms, allows the Radius zones the audio in each area using JBL speakers powered by Stewart Dante-supported DSP100-2-LZ amplifiers, allowing for audio to be taken directly from the network. 

An OmniStream USB over IP platform, comprised of an Atlona AT-OMNI 311 USB to IP adapter for host devices and an AT-OMNI-324 IP to USB adapter for peripherals, enabled flexibility for videoconferencing and audio integration. 

Or explained: “This enabled the implementation of a Zoom software-based video conferencing system for each hall in the auditorium and supports BYOD compatibility with our Atlona SW-510W wireless presentation switcher.”

Atlona’s OmniStream Pro encoders and decoders enable configuration via a web-based graphical user interface (GUI) for virtual AV routing over the IP network. They also provide automated monitoring and centralised firmware updating and can be configured with many of the popular managed network switches.

From Ardan Tech’s perspective, Or’s flexible AV over IP design was complex and challenging for the integrator, with Ardan Tech establishing a ‘pilot environment’ in its laboratory to test equipment, inviting Atlona and Symetrix engineers to overcome the complexities on site.

Prepelitsky explained: “The Atlona and Symetrix engineers supported our own engineers via phone whenever we had specific questions regarding the implementation of the Omni-Stream devices in the existing programming environment. Initially this was quite a challenge because we had to write our own drivers for the OmniStream devices.”

Looking to the future, Ardan Tech plans to continue working with the Technion on further developments throughout the institute, taking lessons learned from the project into further developments on site.

Prepelitsky closes: “The highlight for us was to succeed in realising the consultant’s vision of providing a flexible IP distribution platform with AV over IP technologies that integrate virtual system processing matrixes.

“This was a challenging project, but we invested many resources in learning the technology together with Atlona and Symetrix engineers and from a long-term perspective, we are confident that this technology is the cutting-edge technology that will control all AV functionalities in the future.”

Kit list
Atlona Omnistream AV over IP encoders and decoders, universal switcher,IP-USB/USB-IP adapters, PTZ camera
Atterotech Dante/AES67 networked audio interface
Audio Technica ATW1312 system, BP892CWTH head-worn microphone, 829CE lavalier microphone
B-Tech BT8310 pop-out wall mount
Extron H.264 streaming media processor
JBL Control 29 AV monitor speaker, ceiling mountm InvisiBall assembly, Control 14CT ceiling loudspeaker,Control 19CSTin ceiling subwoofer, Control 64PT pendant loudspeaker
Samsung PM43H display, UH55F-E videowall display
Stewart Audio DSP1002-LZ amplifiers, DSP1002-CVmono amplifiers
Symetrix RadiusNX 12x8 digital sound processor
Vivitek DU8090ZWHDLP laser projectors, D88-UWZ01 ultra-wide zoom optical lens