The seat of government

A modern interpretation and room control system keeps the wheels of bureaucracy turning in Brussels.

Following a thirteen year renovation programme to remove asbestos used in its original construction, the Berlaymont building in Brussels is again used today as the headquarters of the European Commission. As multilingualism is the corner stone and foundation of the European Union, conferencing and simultaneous interpretation is one of the most important keys to the European Integration.

Today digital is the standard for conference systems due to ease of installation, the flexibility to upgrade without significant disruption and also enhanced system diagnostics. The other important new feature is integration and interaction with other audiovisual systems such as automated cameras, digital recording systems, integration with security systems, multimedia interaction and intelligent sound systems.

Following a tender process, French integration company Ineo were selected to supply and install AV equipment for the project and they in turn selected a Televic conferencing and interpretation system within the specification from the SCIC (Directorate General for Interpretation).

Televic’s TCS5500 system was chosen for the conference rooms and interpretation booths, with a full room coupling system in place making any interaction between multiple rooms possible without the need for patching or complex wiring interventions.

Didier Hespel, Head of Unit for the SCIC explained the requirements of the interpretation systems : “The most important feature of modern interpretation equipment is its capability to deliver a number of bridging languages efficiently. In a meeting with maybe 20 languages being spoken it is not practical to simply translate to one language and back, we therefore translate to maybe four or five bridging channels and languages, which are then translated to the correct language. The Televic system handles this effectively.”

The TCS5500 system allows for 60 simultaneous high quality audio channels. From the standard set up any microphone in the system or any mix of several microphones can be sent out of the system to digital or analogue mixing tables or digital recording systems. Incoming signals can be allocated freely to any available channel. For example remote or distant interpretations can be inserted and allocated to the matching channels. The high digital bandwidth can also transport up to 4 video channels over the conference network (single Cat 5 cabling with RJ45 connectors) with a selectable bandwidth between 5 and 20 Mbit/sec.
One of the requirements of the installation was to preserve the original character of the building, this was another factor in the selection of the Televic system – the TCS5500 is a flush mount set up intended directly for this purpose. Additionally, as is rapidly becoming the standard, the delegate microphones and electronics are shielded to prevent any possible interference with mobile phones or other electro-magnetic disturbances. At the time of completion this installation was believed to be the first installation in the world to have a fully mobile phone interference free delegate system.

Meetings at the Berlaymont building are supported by an operator and an usher. The operator supervises the meeting from the control room adjacent to each space. In all rooms there is a PC with touch screen for microphone management functions (activating microphones, closing microphones, changing the microphone mode from request to speak to FIFO or direct access and several other possibilities). In three rooms there is also a mimic panel in parallel, which is a panel on which there is a button with integrated LED indicator for each microphone, as well as the most important function keys of the system and a monitoring speaker. The usher is in or around the room and can be called upon by a push on a button that is integrated in all delegate panels.

The RCS5500 room coupling system is capable of activating any combination of microphones in multiple rooms, the available channels and the available interpretation booths. Practically speaking this means that for example the press could follow a meeting in one or more other conference rooms or that if there is shortage in capacity of microphones several rooms can virtually operate as one room or even in case of a shortage of available interpretation booths, booths of other conference rooms can be deployed for interpretation in another room. The room coupling system in the Berlaymont building can manage 60 channels in all 13 rooms, which equals 780 audio channels. Another important feature for the Commission is the ability to remotely conference. Delegates on different sites can all participate in the same meeting.

At the Berlaymont building there are 13 rooms with simultaneous interpretation systems. There is one press room with 218 microphones and 21 simultaneous interpretation booths, one video conference room and eleven meeting rooms of different sizes. In total there are 664 microphones and 342 interpreter desks ready for the daily conventions and meeting of the European Commission.

Along side the conferencing and translation equipment, a Crestron room control system, operated by two 15” TPS6000 touch screens for each room was installed. This system brings together control of the AV facilities - conference system, projection, audio system, visualisers – as well as other ancillary facilities. These range from lighting and blind control, to the motion and sound sensors installed in each room for presence detection.

All 13 rooms are connected over a dedicated, but standard IP network to a central control room. This network between the rooms and the central control room runs over a multimode fiber optic network. From the central control room all Televic and Crestron systems can be monitored and controlled. If necessary, technicians can remotely operate any decentralised system from the control room, up to the level of basic microphone management, for example to take control over on ongoing meeting if the local operator is in trouble or unavailable. In the central control room the Crestron system can also route one of the four Tandberg videoconference codec’s to any required meeting room.

A lot of attention was also given to the voice annunciation / evacuation system. The Berlaymont building was divided into 104 zones that need to be addressed separately or in any combination according to the applicable evacuation scenario. 36 Bose M32 amplifier drive Bose FS3 Cube speakers. There are 5 call stations in the building from which any zone can be addressed. The voice evacuation system interfaces also with the Building Management System of the European Commission that links all EU buildings to a central point in Brussels. The digital matrix system at the Berlaymont building is the Televic TRS5000 system.

Despite the long overall renovation time, the installation of the audiovisual systems was conducted in a total installation time of 6 months. The European Commission officially re-entered the Berlaymont building in September 2005.

Article Categories