Money talks

The OECD Conference Centre welcomes 50,000 delegates each year including dignitaries who come from all over the world to discuss global economic issues. Anna Mitchell learns how the Centre’s technical team provided conferencing equipment to facilitate the meeting of heavyweight economic minds. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was established in 1961 and is headquartered in Paris.

The Organisation describes part of its remit as providing “a setting where governments can come together to compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practice and co-ordinate domestic and international policies”.

As part of this remit the OECD overhauled its conference facilities, opening the doors of its new centre in January 2008. An initial audiovisual installation facilitated the meetings of the 50,000 delegates that come through the Centre’s doors every year and over the past few months the Conference Centre team have worked hard to further modernise the equipment to boost the usability of the site.

Picking up the story from the beginning Gerlando Taibi, head of division at the OECD Conference Centre said: “We had to equip 12 conference rooms: two rooms of 400m², five rooms of 300m², three rooms of 200m² and two rooms of 70m². Our main objectives were to provide audio conference and interpretation facilities and video projection in all rooms. Video projection is used for Powerpoint presentations and for displaying a video image of the speaker on a large screen.”

There was also the issue of communicating between the rooms via audio and video. This was essential in the Centre as many conferences require listening rooms for participants that do not need to contribute to the discussion.

“Another major consideration was flexibility,” continued Taibi. “We have to be able re-shape the rooms, for example from a round table conferencing layout to an amphitheatre conferencing layout. Furthermore the Centre has been built to create a much larger layout by removing partitions. We can create a room size up to 1,000m² by combining various rooms.”

For the audio-conferencing system Taibi decided on beyerdynamic. “We’d used their equipment in the past,” explained Taibi. “But we were particularly set on beyerdynamic because of the Revoluto delegate unit. It allows you to provide good sound quality without the traditional gooseneck microphone. Furthermore, the quality of the connectors allows you to mount and dismount them frequently without creating technical problems.”

So the beyerdynamic system is at the heart of conferencing and interpretation at the Centre but there are also numerous listening rooms for observers, essentially delegates attending conferences to listen and not speak. Taibi said the Centre decided the best way to communicate with these people was wirelessly via digital Bosch receiver systems integrated with the beyerdynamic set-up. The listening rooms are often used to house the press for big events or can be a useful asset when trying to keep a meeting fairly small to provide the right atmosphere for discussion.

Projectors and LCD screens provide visuals throughout the Centre. “We installed 16 projectiondesign F32 projectors and we have 57” Samsung LCD screens, which are also used for visualising Powerpoint presentations and videos.

“We’ve also installed dome cameras in all the rooms. Four Panasonic cameras in each room are integrated into the beyerdynamic system so they point automatically to the speaker as they push the button on the Revoluto device,” Taibi says. The images are used within the conference room and are also displayed in the listening rooms.”

To manage the visuals, a multi-image processor, based on Datapath technology was installed in each room. The processor provides PIP or multi-PIP facilities. “We also use the processor for a facility that is very important in conferences,” continues Taibi. “Beyerdynamic provides a timer which measures the number of minutes that delegates speak for. We display this information on the screens, in a sense we simulate a clock that changes colour as the person reaches the maximum time allowed. So, for example, using the multi-image processor we combine the image of the timer with the Powerpoint presentation and the image of the speaker.

“Now,” says Taibi, “the major evolution of the centre is that we are managing more and more large events. We have forums that involve 700 or 800 people and forums typically require an amphitheatre layout. For those events we need higher quality cameras. We recently bought four Panasonic HD cameras and we invested in a TV One multi-media display system, which is based on broadcast technology.”

Taibi explains that, in terms of video, the Centre is moving towards higher quality. “Our strategy is as the price of the HD cameras goes down, which will take place over the next two years, we will replace all existing cameras. We also hope to replace all the Datapath systems by TV One equivalent products and push towards broadcast quality. Depending on the event, the Centre will stream videos of the proceedings over the OECD intranet. Certain conferences are streamed over the internet.

In all rooms teleconferencing is supported by Polycom systems. “We often have VIPs who are perhaps abroad and can’t come to the OECD for some reason because the cost of the transport is too high or they don’t have time. They can intervene in the conference via the teleconferencing system.” The conferencing and image processing systems are integrated with the Polycom unit so the remote participant is visible to the conference when they speak. Furthermore, when someone within the Centre contributes to the discussion their image becomes visible, not only to the delegates in the Conference Centre, but to the remote delegate as well. The audio channel from the teleconferencing system is also integrated into the Centre’s conferencing and interpretation facilities. “In a sense it appears like they are in the conference,” adds Taibi.

“All our rooms are equipped with amplifiers and loudspeakers,” explains Taibi. “The voice of the speaker is always transmitted over the loudspeakers and you have the option to listen to an interpreted channel over headphones; either the wireless headphones or beyerdynamic ones.

“Sound quality is excellent,” Taibi asserts. “Whether over the loudspeaker or through the headphones. The video projection is great, we bought 6,000 lumen video projectors so we can keep the light in the room fairly high and still see the Powerpoint presentations.”

And the response from delegates? “People are impressed by the quality,” answers Taibi. “People adapted very quickly to the Revoluto technology. At first they were tended to speak very close to the microphone but after a while they understood they didn’t need to. The only thing we need to improve is the quality of video we provide. But that is just because the technology is moving very quickly. What we invested in just two years ago isn’t really acceptable now so we will probably replace everything with high definition broadcast based technologies.

With the technology side of the OECD’s important economic discussions handled, all that remains now is for the delegates to take care of global finances.

Beyerdynamic MCS-Digital conference systems, interpretation systems and Revoluto microphone units
Bosch wireless receiving devices

Datapath multi image processor
Panasonic dome cameras and HD cameras
Polycom teleconferencing system
Projectiondesign F32 projectors
Samsung 57” LCD screens
TV-One multi-media display system

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