Universal education

AUTHOR: Inavate

Mainz-based integration firm BFE Studio und Medien Systeme has installed presentation, sound reinforcement and conference facilities in three new buildings on Campus Westend of the Frankfurt University as part of a continuing update and expansion plan.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, to give it its full title, is one of Germany’s most respected educational establishments, with ambitions to be one of Europe’s leading Universities.

To this end, the University is part way through an ambitious renovation and expansion plan on the Westend Campus site, which will see several faculties from the Bockenheim Campus in the coming years. This will take the total capacity of the campus from 10,000 students currently to around 45,000 by 2014.

This phase of the project involved the construction of three new buildings, the House of Finance, the Rechts-und Wirtschaftswissenschaften (Law and economics) building and the Hörzaalzentrum (centre). These three were all equipped with AV systems designed by Datech consulting’s Detlef Hartmann and installed by BFE under project manager Jörg Alberti. BFE was awarded the project following a tender process.

Each building contains its own media network, with Crestron’s QuickMedia being selected for video distribution, and Peavey’s MediaMatrix Nion units used for audio routing. The buildings are not actually connected themselves and run separate AV networks to the IT system.

The lecture centre contains two 1200-seat divisible rooms, which can each be split into two 600-set spaces with the addition of a partition wall. These are equipped with a trio of Panasonic PTD10000 projectors, one in the left half and two in the right. These fire directly onto the back walls of the rooms, and are mounted on Peta motorised ceiling lifts. Thomas Euring, BFE’s head of media systems and planning said: “We originally proposed enclosing the projectors in acoustic cases to help with noise reduction, but the University decided against it. Actually it’s not too big a deal once the hall is full of noisy students!”

Detlef Harmann explained the choice of Panasonic’s projectors for the job: “Besides the picture quality, the most important features were the low noise from the liquid cooling system and their strong lamp life.”

Sound reinforcement comes from two hangs of Seebourg Acoustic Line line-array elements powered by Lab.Gruppen’s FP10000Q amplifier. There is also an Ampetronic induction loop installed beneath the front two rows of the seating, which are specially adapted for ability impaired students. It’s driven by an IDL 500 loop amplifier. A sum-mix of the audio from the lecture hall is fed to the building-wide cobranet network via the Peavey Nion units in the control room.

The lecturer’s desk offers full media control for the room via a 17” Crestron DTT-17 touch panel. This includes source selection, level control, lighting, and blinds as well as the ability to move the Sony EVI PTZ camera installed in the ceiling and assign it pre-set positions. In addition to the touch screen, there is a second preview screen for the teacher.

The desk also contains a WolfVision visualiser and is secured via a Pin-card system to limit access to the equipment.

Four smaller lecture rooms in the building each seat around 300 students, these are equipped with more Panasonic projectors (PTD 7000 models in this case) and an identical Crestron QuickMedia media control solution. The sound system is a bit smaller, utilising Renkus-Heinz’s IC-16 units.

The House of Finance, is a totally different proposition, my first notes made upon entering the building were ‘it has a marble floor’. This tells you all you need to know about the level of private funding for the project. Here BFE installed equipment in a number of more intimate seminar type rooms for up to 70 students.

On the first floor, the seminar rooms are similar to those found in the lecture centre, but the ground floor offers something a little different. There are rooms bearing the name of sponsoring financial institutions. The DZ Bank room is a case in point and accommodates 70 people.

It’s outfitted with high quality wooden panelling, arranged in a horseshoe. Each two or three students share a built-in beyerdynamic gooseneck conference microphone, and a priority push button.

The projection system is a trio of Panasonic PTD7700, again controlled by the lecturer. He’s furnished with a large Crestron touch screen, keyboard and mouse and a visualiser. Also in the desk is hidden all the rack-mount equipment for the room. This includes a Marantz flashcard audio recorder, Ampetronic ILD 122 induction loop driver and a pair of QuickMedia receivers.

The room is also equipped with another pair of Renkus-Heinz IC-16 active column arrays, again networked via the Peavey NION equipment.

The Crestron system for the room is slightly more advanced than in the other buildings. A CP2E controller runs the touch screen, but there is also an 8x8 QuickMedia matrix. This is because each of the shared microphone positions also has a Crestron input plate, allowing students to plug in their own laptops to the presentation system. The lecturer then has control over which source is routed to the projection system.

Two ceiling mounted cameras are available for internal recording onto a hard disk, and a third is tied to the Aethra video conferencing codec. This camera is also linked to the beyerdynamic congress system. It tracks to the open microphone position automatically.

Similar but smaller rooms on the ground floor, such as the Deutsche Bank room, are without the desktop microphones and with a smaller projection system. They are also equipped with passive IC-7 arrays instead of the DSP enabled IC-16 modules.

Throughout the three new buildings a basic Powerpoint based digital signage system was installed. Outside the larger lecture spaces in the lecture centre, and in the lobbies of the House of Finance and the economics and law building screens display time-tabling information, and also information about visiting companies (the 1200 seaters are available for rental by private enterprise). In the house of finance a 50” Panasonic plasma is mounted on the wall, providing information about special events, sponsoring companies and guest speakers.

The third new building is the Law and Economics facility. The ground floor is taken up with a large library and a set of small group study rooms (catering for 4/5 students). These are each equipped with 50” Panasonic plasmas and Crestron AV input boxes on the desks into which student can plug laptops.

Located on the first and second floor are further nine seminar rooms, similar to those seen elsewhere on the campus. These are equipped with Panasonic PTD 7700 projectors on Peta mounts, 8” Crestron TPMC touch-panels and Renkus-Heinz IC7 columns. As with the rest of the site, the rooms are all networked via Cobranet / Nion and Crestron QuickMedia so that lectures can be bridged across more than one room, or the audio recorded on Marantz recorders.

In the final analysis, all three buildings are fine examples of AV put to good use in the education environment. The acoustics in the large lecture halls are particularly impressive, and in fact, a lecturer with a strong voice probably wouldn’t even need the sound reinforcement system (as ably demonstrated by Marco, our guest photographer on the site visit).

The ability to shunt content around each building is fairly standard these days, but still very useful. Regarding the use of SD over HD video, Thomas Euring explained that at the time of specification (around two and a half years ago) HD was still very much a future / expensive technology. He is hopeful of firstly winning the contract for the next phase of buildings, which will almost certainly be specified with HD, and this of course will necessitate an upgrade to the existing facilities!