Multimedia administration

AUTHOR: Inavate
The custom operator interface runs on a standard PC and provides full control of the AV system.

Experienced AV firm RTA-Engineering of Moscow were subcontracted to provide new AV systems during a renovation at the Education and Science Ministry of the Russian Federation’s historic offices in the capital.

Igor Kondakof is a quiet, but well-spoken man with an impeccable grasp of English. This is not entirely surprising since much of his work revolves around the translation of technical manuals, onsite documentation and user interfaces from English to Russian for his customers. He also provides on the job training for clients one systems are delivered. However this is just one part of his role as an application engineer for RTA Engineering. He is also a fully certified Crestron programmer and an experienced user of Biamp and Extron equipment. Skills used to the fullest extent during RTA’s latest contract - the installation of AV systems for the multimedia and conference facility of the Education and Science Ministry of the Russian Federation (ESMRF).

The Ministry sets education policy for the entire Russian Federation and as such its discussions are subject to scrutiny by political observers and the press but also require input from outside experts, contributors from across Russia and educators themselves. To this end, the Ministry commissioned the delivery of a multimedia conference suite in the ground floor of its Moscow office.
The suite consists of a main conference room, which seats around 50 guests and journalists and perhaps thirty people to participate in the discussion. The surrounding smaller rooms, of which there are six, can provide ten journalists or other observers with an s-video signal and balanced audio feed from the main room. This allows them to record proceedings on camcorders or similar equipment, without actually participating in the discussion. Observers can watch what is going on on a 42” NEC plasma panel fitted to each room.

In the conference room, the video presentation system consists of a rear-projection set up, with a Christie LX 66A projector playing onto a DNP Supernova screen. Igor explained the selection of a rear-projection solution: “The decision to take an indirect rear projection route was mainly to provide the best possible image quality and also to take the projector out of the room. It looks much more elegant. The projection space behind the screen also hides our equipment rack and is acoustically as well as luminously isolated. This provides the brightest possible picture and also keeps any fan noises from the equipment out of the conference room.”

The screen can display the usual selection of sources. The room is equipped with an HD-DVD player, standard VHS, and five VGA for laptops to show power point presentations and the like. It also features a Polycom VCS8000 videoconferencing codec, allowing remote participation in discussions by other officials. Polycom is the preferred VC supplier for the ministry and so was specified directly by the client. Video pick-up in the conference room is provided by three wall mounted, Sony EVI-D300 cameras. Their feeds hit the video matrix to be used with the videoconference or directly fed out to the S-Video sources in the ancillary chambers. A new Extron ISS 408 is the preferred presentation switcher for the task and this is paired up with Extron’s MTP series of transmitters and receivers for full AV distribution in the centre over Cat-5 cabling.

Kondakof remarked: “Because the video distribution network for this site is quite large, it’s a real advantage to use this kind of technology. In the past years the price has really dropped, so its very cost efficient to use Cat-5 instead of a large number of high-resolution cables. We try to use this kind of solution wherever a cable run extends more than about ten meters.”

The audio system is based around two of Biamp’s AudiaFLEX units. One is installed in the equipment rack in the projection room, whilst the second is fitted with ten telephone interface cards and is installed 100 metres away in the Ministry’s telephone exchange. The distance between the two is bridged using a Cobranet link. This arrangement allows the telephone system to interface with the audio system, opening up new possibilities for contribution to the dicsussion.

“This solution allows contributors from outside the building to participate in the discussion,” said Kodakof. “My thought is that not every school or ministry building in Russia has access to a Polycom codec, therefore using this solution anyone with a telephone line can participate in the discussion. The integration of the twenty different phone lines into the audio system was probably the hardest part of the solution to realise.”

In the conference room itself RTA supplied a number of Televic’s DCS2500 discussion units. These are inteded as a temporary solution, which the ministry can use when necessary. Their simple Cat-5 connection makes setting them up and putting them away very simple. Sound reinforcement comes in the shape of JBL wall mounted cabinets from the Contractor series, powered by QSC amplification.

One feature of the system of which RTA Engineering is justifiably proud is the control solution. The brain is a Crestron PRO2 AV controller, managing all aspects of AV via RS-232 control. The lectern is given a small TPS-4L touch panel for basic source switching and presentation control, but the clever part comes in the shape of the operator’s control surface. Instead of investing in an expensive, and probably unnecessary, large touch panel, RTA provided a PC based control solution for the AV operator. A simple but powerful HTML interface gives him access to all aspects of the AV system. This includes switching the various phone lines, control of the videoconferencing system and source selection. The same interface also provides him with diagnostic information about the projection system, and the status of the video cameras.

“The most important principle here was that everything on the control interface is in Russian. All the buttons, the legends, the pop up messages, they are completely translated so that it is as easy to use as possible. This localisation is the most important part of my job. The interface was developed by sitting down with the operators to discuss in each case the most appropriate terms to use for labelling.”

The €150,000 AV installation project was begun in February of this year and completed at the end of June and it represents RTA’s first project for the Ministry. Igor hopes there will be more.