DGI Technologies Featured in HigherEdTechDecisions.com Special Report
Integrated A/V Systems Fuel Collaboration at New UMass Research Facility
Audio and videoconferencing, high quality projection systems and lecture capture bring science and academia together.
-Administrators at University of Massachusetts Medical (UMass) School cut the ribbon on a new biomedical research facility in January 2013. The facility is known as the Albert Sherman Center, named for the former vice chancellor of University Relations. It’s a $400 million building that brings together students, faculty and scientists of different disciplines. It also features cutting-edge A/V systems that reflect the facilities collaborative nature and high-tech design.
“They wanted to build a state-of-the-art research facility with all the technological advancements from an audiovisual standpoint. From large, high quality projection systems to integrated audio conferencing for all the rooms as well as integrated videoconferencing for about 50 percent of the rooms,” says Mark Rue, account manager at DGI Technologies, the Billerica, Mass-based integration firm that completed the UMass install.
Choosing the Right Equipment
The A/V project spans 109 rooms and came with some pretty hefty requirements. As a research facility, it was of great importance that its visual presentation systems be top of the line as various departments needed to be able to view high quality images. For example, the neuroscience department needed to be able to view an accurate picture of the brain on a large scale and the cell biology department needed to be able to look at digital slides. Each room has a dedicated PC that faculty and students use to pull up the images. Integrated audio and videoconferencing allows one class to share its results with another or to discuss findings.
“They wanted 1080p native images for the rooms. Everything was in a 16:9 aspect ratio on the Draper projection screens so we had to use a 1080p native projector,” says Rue. He also adds that at the time of the bid, there were not many projectors on the market that fit the university’s requirements—and there still aren’t. “most of them are 16:10 or WXUGA,” he says. dGi technologies went with digital Projection’s m-vision series projectors for several reasons. one, the projectors were capable of providing the correct native resolution and two, Umass already had several of the company’s titan projectors installed in various lecture halls on campus. Although the facilities department was the integrators primary point of contact for this project, dGi technologies had a long-standing relationship with the university’s A/v department and consulted them on the projector selection.“Based on the color performance and the lumens, the A/v department felt the digital Pro-jection m-vision would be the best option,” says rue.the videoconferencing systems in the building are a cisco solution using their c series codecs.“the school already had quite a bit of tandberg infrastructure so it was an easy move for them to go with the cisco platform and company,” explains rue. (cisco bought tandberg in 2009.)
Getting the Right Sound
There are also 12 echo 360 lecture capture systems throughout the building as well as an Avaya voiP phone system. lecture hall and presentation rooms have an assortment of microphones available including 18-inch gooseneck Audio-technica lectern mics, lavalieres and shure UlX series microphones. dGi technologies also installed AKG ceiling microphones in the rooms with integrated audio and video conferencing.“the architect designed that to be as unobtrusive as possible within the rooms so they worked out well aesthetically, but there was a lot of challenges in regards to programming the audio processors,” says rue.the audio challenges resulted from the construction of the space. the majority of the con-ference rooms were on the perimeter of the building. Even the hallway side of the rooms had glass with a writable surface and there was hardwood veneer finish on most of the tables and hard surfaces, which caused reverberations. “really the only acoustical treatments in the room were the ceiling tiles for absorbing any sounds. those reflections bouncing around the room made it very challenging from an echo cancellation standpoint,” says rue.
A Learning Experience
The Albert Sherman Center was the largest project DGI Technologies had ever acquired. though the end user was happy with the result, the project was not without its challenges, which served as a learning point for everyone involved.“it really helped us to implement some best practices because we saw some things that worked and some things that didn’t work,” says rue. The most difficult aspect of the project was not being able to work directly with the UMass A/V team.
The integrator worked with the facilities department and a general contractor instead.“on some of these larger projects, they put a lot of the onus on the general contractor or the contract is awarded through the general contractor,” says rue “my advice would be something that is so hands on with regards to your users, whether it’s a university or a large corporate America account, it’s better if they strip that contract away.” day-to-day project management may be better left to the A/v team who has intimate knowledge of the verthe campus community.for example, when it came time to design the user interface on the school’s crestron touch panels, the integration firm hit a few snags. “it was a really tough challenge to create the right user interface on the crestron touch panels for a lot of these rooms,” says rue. “some departments had certain expectations and other departments had certain ideas. really making a happy medium so everyone could have the same experience no matter which room they went to was a little challenging.” this resulted in a lot of meetings about the touch panels and information had to go through the contractor rather than through the customer.
The integrator ran into a similar problem in the school’s dining, multipurpose room. the space has six projectors that can be used for presentations and it can be divided into two spaces. the school wanted to use this area to host large gatherings and events, but the design in particular an open area known as the atrium, located behind the room, did not call for much audio equipment. “Basically space and for everybody to be heard and also for mul-tiple microphones to come into the room, etc.,” says rue. “there were multiple components that had to be added.” in order to use the space as a performance area the way the school had intended, there needed to be a front-of the-house or back-of the-house mixing console, which was not called for in the design. “i just don’t think that was conveyed into the design based on some of the technology that they chose for that space,” says Rue.
The lesson here is about the relationship between the end user and the integrator. the end user’s involvement with an A/v project as well as their ability to provide the appropriate guidance can mean the difference between a job well done and one that leaves them scratching their heads. rue’s advice for avoiding such problems is simple: “Be very, very in touch with the integrator. communicate to the point of almost annoying the integrator.”end users should also remind their integrator that function of the equipment follows form. “Although the systems have to look nice,” says rue, “more importantly, they have to work prop-erly and be easy to operate.”
By Chrissy Winske