How adaptable AV creates flexible learning at Teesside University, UK

Universities require a more flexible approach to adapt and learn on the fly. Teesside University’s comprehensive new AV infrastructure redefines the learning process. Reece Webb reports

GV AV (formerly GV Multimedia) was called up to provide a solution that not only provided flexibility for the university’s various needs across the building but formed the centre-point of the university’s entire operations.

GV had already completed several projects for the university and won this job via a competitive tender. The project came to GV via the main contractor, Willmott Dixon. GV is part of the NEUPC (North Eastern Universities Purchasing Consortium) framework that covers universities across the UK, so has experience of dealing with many universities as a result.

“This job was known about well before the tender and using the NUEPC framework meant we were ‘pre-qualified’ in the sense that our abilities had already been tested and our qualities were known,” says Michael Atkinson, branch manager, GV.

The specifications for Teesside University came from the client, with the main design focus on the ability to have a completely flexible building so users can take an input from any one classroom and share to any other display in the building.

“The overarching requirement is that any content can go to any location, it’s ultimate flexibility which drove all the details.” – Michael Atkinson, GV AV

GV found themselves with the task of installing equipment in various spaces throughout the university, including a stunning videowall setup in the atrium as well as flexible teaching rooms, a café area, a ‘digital lounge’ space for comprehensive and intuitive learning and a standalone teaching room for maximum flexibility.

Clevertouch displays and Panasonic signage displays are dotted around the building alongside a large videowall. All the content from anywhere in the building can be shared. “Traditionally, you’d have to go to a huge HDBaseT matrix with hundreds of connections going backwards and forwards, but now the logical option for that is AV over IP,” says Atkinson.

A ZeeVee management platform sits at the core of the system, holding everything together with a comprehensive network that allows for the distribution of video and audio content across the entire campus with minimal latency.

Atkinson said: “Teesside had already looked into the options out there and wanted something from the SDVoE Alliance. A solution was required that was interchangeable, flexible and can go in any direction that they want to go.” GV evaluated the SDVoE offerings at the time of install and chose ZeeVee, largely due to the previous work that the company had done focused on AV distribution. “They had a lot of boxes in the range that could fit with whatever we wanted to do and they had a dedicated management platform that really appealed to Teesside as it is self-contained in one place without thinking about connecting things to the internet.”

“This is all to meet the overarching requirement that any content can go to any location, it’s ultimate flexibility which drove all the details. Most of the time, we start with AV over IP because it’s the simplest and easiest way to meet the needs of the customer now.”

 

Stepping on to campus for the first time, visitors find themselves in the university’s atrium, greeted by a Panasonic videowall made from TH-55VF1HW panels.

Atkinson explained: “The main videowall is a large 3x3 display. We chose Panasonic because they have high brightness, high reliability [rated for 24/7operation] and had the smallest bezels available at the time of the installation [1.8mm edge to edge].

Rather than having one picture spread across the whole display GV decided to choose a TVOne matrix which gave the integrator a number of windows, including several decoders from the ZeeVee network and Onelan signage players. GV then had to configure it to run over HDbaseT to the videowall due to the fact that displays all had digital link-in.

That gave GV the flexibility to have one picture at more than 4Kover the entire wall because of the 3x3 1080p displays. Teesside also wanted to have traditional presets, with one in 3x3, three portrait content displays and lots of different flexible ways of using the screen.

The flexibility doesn’t stop in the atrium, with GV installing an adaptable audio system to suit the varying needs of the university.

Atkinson: “We integrated a virtually invisible audio system, using the Bose Edgemax ceiling speaker which is directional, pushing the high frequency forward from the speaker to give a good forward facing sound stage in front of the videowall for content, music, presentations, etc. It’s the focal point of the building as people walk in, they could have a presenter in front of the videowall having content playing and sound being presented there. That was all tied into the ZeeVee network, meaning that the same content could be streamed with almost zero latency to anywhere in the building. They can overflow toother areas of the building such as the café which has more digital signage.”

Several teaching rooms have Clevertouch displays within-built encoders. “These are flexible as they have a master display where the content is driven from, with the other displays in the room taking the output from the Clevertouch so that as you write on the display, it appears live on the other displays in the room. That’s a concept we worked with Teesside on a few years ago, but this time using it over the ZeeVee network for plug and play functionality.”

The café also provides user-friendly flexibility, merging signage displays, Bose audio and simple control for the café staff.

Atkinson added: “There’s a café space where it’s mainly Panasonic EQ signage displays in various sizes, but we also have background music, using Bose speakers. The audio is via AVoIP but there is Dante available on the network, however the ZeeVee system provides everything we needed from a presentation and audio point of view.

In the cafe Sonos software running on an iPad provides a simple and recognisable way for the cafe staff to control music. “We provide a good amount of handover and technical support information, but wherever possible we aim to make the system intuitive to cut down the barrier to use.”

Ceiling speakers were originally designed for throughout the cafe, but once the ducting has been fitted GV needed an alternative plan. After discussions with Bose GV was able to use wall-mounted versions of the same speakers. “With only minimal optimisation required they worked superbly,” says Atkinson.

The middle floor is home to the ‘digital lounge’, a space which incorporates four 86-inClevertouch displays at either side of the room all linked into the ZeeVee network.

This allows for teaching on all four individual displays, teaching on one screen with content sent to the other three displays or two ends working simultaneously. Atkinson explained: “It’s very flexible, this content can also be broadcast around the building and this is the most flexible of the spaces. We have Extron [TLPPro 725M] touchpanels at either side to select which screen the user wanted to use.

“That offered one of the ways of showing the latency of the ZeeVee network. We’d have a timer running on one screen, take the encoder output and put it into the screen next to it. We’d take a picture of the screen next to it and the latency was within milliseconds. The 10Gb networking allowed us to do full frame 4K, it’s the best performing system I’ve seen.”

There is also a standalone space with an NEC P525UL laser projector and speakers, a standalone teaching space using a NEC projector and distribution to smaller side screens in a standalone part of the building.

Reflecting on the challenges of this expansive and ambitious project, Atkinson said: “The usability of the building really revolves around the way that the technology is put together in the right place to the right standards. We had to tread that line between the key stakeholder from the university point of view, as well as the building main contractor with a different set of requirements and us managing the AV design and integration to ensure the end solution meets the expectations and the intent of the way the specifications were originally designed.

“One of the main challenges was slotting the right products into each space. While Teesside had already specified a broad solution, when it came to the signage screens and ZeeVee deployment, we were left to make those decisions, so we went on a consultation process. That changed again when we started to engage with the main contractor as some products would have required additional space, so we altered the system. It was a challenge though satisfying bringing all of that together.”

Atkinson closes: “It was great to see everything come together and working as intended. That’s what keeps us in this game -The grind can be challenging, but you get to the end goal and end results and the customer’s happy, that’s always our ultimate goal.”

Kit list

Video

Apple iPad

Clevertouch LUXHP displays, wall mounts, PC module

Dalen portrait wall mounts, wall mount table for iPad

Extron IPCP Pro processors, TLP Pro 725M touchpanels, TLP Pro touchpanel table mount, IPL Pro control processors, DTP T MK 232 VGA input plate CTL 100 auto input switch and display control, HDMI DA distribution amplifiers

NEC P525UL laser projector

Onelan 4K digital signage players

Panasonic 55-in videowall monitor, videowall monitor frame kit, TH75-EQ1 4K display screen, TH55-EQ1 IR touch screens, TH55-EQ1 display screens, TH43-EQ1 signage screens

Peerless-AV videowall monitor mounting system, spacer kit, wall mount brackets

Screen International Si Ellipse electric projection screen, recessed screen trim kit

Audio

Apart powered speakers

Bose Edgemax EM180 Loudspeakers, PowerMatch PM425ON amplifiers, Freespace DS 100 F celing speakers

Sennheiser power supply, modulator, ITK20 unit mounting clip, GZP10 mounting plate

Sonos Connect player

Control and distribution

OE Electrics pixel CW HDMI and USB passthrough

TV One HDBaseTCoriomaster output module, 4K HDMI input module, C3-540 4RU video processor, S/PDIF and analog audio module

ZeeVee ZyPer 4K management platform, ZyPer 4K rack mount for encoders and decoders, HDMI 2.0 decoders and HDMI 2.0 encoders