Audio-over-IP for an Entertainment Venue, Part 1
Apr 14, 2010 11:30 AM, By Bennett Liles
Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.
DataNab, a firm specializing in audio and video IP network solutions, installed a whole new Barix audio entertainment network for the 7-acre amusement park Nickelodeon Universe in Bloomington, Minn., and Adam VanOort is going to fill us in on all the behind-the-scenes tech details of the installation coming up on the Networked AV podcast.
SVC: Adam, thanks a lot for being with me on the Networked AV podcast. We’re going to talk about Nickelodeon Universe, a big theme park up there in Minnesota. It looks like a fairly massive job here. You’re with DataNab. Tell me a little bit about DataNab and how long that company has been around and what you do.
VanOort: We have been around since about 2003. I was one of the original partners that started the company along with two other guys. We pretty much provide automation and control technologies, products, and solutions that fit into the automation and control spectrum for process controls, monitoring, and really any general type of automation category. And then we also provide IP audio systems and solutions that we resale through Barix. They provide a number of IP audio products that we take and we can resale them just as standalone products, or we create solutions and customize the systems based on those products if necessary. [timestamp: 1:45]
Okay, and it looks like you got called on for a pretty big job with this Nickelodeon Universe. Exactly what is Nickelodeon Universe? I mean, other than being a theme park? Is it sort of inside the Mall of America? I believe it was.
Yeah, the Mall of America. At least at one point, I know [it] was the largest mall in America. I think when it was built it was. I don’t know if anything has been built since then [that is] bigger. In fact, it was the largest indoor mall in the world for some time. I am sure someone has passed that up by now, but Nickelodeon Universe is actually an entire theme park located within the mall, completely inside of it. It’s got roller coasters, flume slides with the water, and a whole bunch of different rides and attractions within that park. So it’s just like any other park that you would go to outside except it’s inside the mall, which is nice in Minnesota especially since it’s pretty cold here for a large part of the year. They needed us to provide them with some ways to get their audio streams or deal with their audio needs, and they wanted it to be as flexible as possible, which led to their requirement of it being network-based; that’s where we kind of came in. [timestamp: 2:58]
Was this a new setup or was it sort of replacing something that they already had?
Nickelodeon was the new sponsor, so it became Nickelodeon Universe and that’s part of this process. They completely tore out the old theme park. I am sure some parts of it were reused, but anything to deal with what we were doing was pretty much designed from the ground up and brand new. They called us because they found Barix—I am assuming online, and we are right in town here too; we are in the Minneapolis/Twin Cities area, but I am sure they found Barix onlineand saw that we were the reseller in this area, and they talked to Barix, and Barix recommended that they come to us. Because Barix is the leader in the IP audio field, so that’s how they found them, and then they referred to us through the reseller program that Barix has. [timestamp: 3:46]
Okay, and when they explained to you, [and] when you saw what you had to do, what seemed to be the most challenging aspect of the [install]?
As far as the specifications went, there were some cool requirements in there that dealt with having audio products, the IP audio products, interact with the automation products, in that they needed a large number of pushbuttons to be able to be monitored and then trigger audio feeds to be played from an audio device that has MP3 false start on the USB stick. So typically, you are doing one thing and then the other. You are not mixing and matching these applications, and that was something new. So what we ended up doing is we created a program within the devices that allowed them to communicate with each other. So we have an automation device with a bunch of inputs on it that they can attach buttons to and then we had the IP audio device that could get the status of those buttons from the automation device and then use the change of states and those triggers to trigger an MP3 file to be played off of an attached USB stick. So that was, as far the requirements specification, that was probably the most interesting part of that.
In the installation itself, the most challenging thing was probably the fact that all of the engineering and construction teams at the mall itself were the ones handling the design and installation as far as all the networking, infrastructure, and all the hardware. Our responsibility was to get the solution made for them using the products like I just explained, but then once we got that made, we pretty much handed it off and they had to install it. And as you can imagine, some of these guys, your general electrical contractors and such, don’t have a ton of experience with this type of technology or even low-voltage controls in general. So to get the point across, or to make it very clear to them how this needed to be put together, was probably the most challenging aspect of the installation part—just making [and] getting very specific drawings and instructions to them on how things had to fit together and be wired up and connected. [timestamp: 5:58]
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