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Installation Profile: Mission: Invisible

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jack Kontney

SGA headquarters installs unobtrusive conferencing technology.

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A secondary lift in the center of the room holds five Tandberg WAVE II cameras, which drop down below the plasmas when needed.

A secondary lift in the center of the room holds five Tandberg WAVE II cameras, which drop down below the plasmas when needed.

With so many systems in place, running in so many modes, the key to a smooth-running conferencing room is a robust, flexible switching system. For this task, CCS specified an Altinex matrix switcher, the MultiTasker. “It's really the infrastructure that allows the overall system design to work seamlessly,” Steineke says.

The MultiTasker is made up of three 20-slot chassis occupying 12RU of space.

The switching system includes a 32x16 RGBHV and stereo-audio matrix, plus a 16x16 video with stereo audio matrix — all controlled by a single connection to the control system. It currently accommodates 28 laptop and other RGBHV sources, plus 10 video sources — including cameras and videoconferencing inputs that are being managed by the switch and sent to the five Panasonic plasmas, the Smart Sympodium, the AMX touchpanel, and the Tandberg videoconferencing system. This leaves a number of spare inputs and outputs for planned expansion.

On the input side, the matrix switcher receives signals from the five Tandberg WAVE conferencing cameras, the room's dedicated computer, and up to 16 laptops around the table. Conventional inputs from cable TV, a DVD/VCR combo player, and a Blu-ray player are also accommodated. Additionally, audio from the ClearOne is married to the video at the matrix switcher, ensuring proper sync.

Everything comes together in the equipment room, where a pair of 44-space Middle Atlantic Products equipment racks house the bulk of the gear. One rack contains the wireless receivers for the Revolabs and Shure systems, the AMX NetLinx controller, the ClearOne conferencing system, and Tandberg video-conferencing system. The other houses the Altinex matrix switcher, a QSC CX204V power amp for the Tannoy sound-reinforcement loudspeakers, and ancillary equipment.

For equipment requiring direct access during meetings, there's a discreet cabinet within the War Room. This holds the computer dedicated to the Sympodium; playback units for DVD, VCR, and Blu-ray; charging stations for the Revolabs microphones; a cable TV box; and cables to connect laptops to the pop-up stations at the conference table.

Asked about the biggest challenges of this project, CCS Project Manager Kelly focused on the physical aspects. “It seems like a small thing,” he says, “but aligning the conference table with all the cabling running in and out of the room — that was a challenge.”

To create invisible connectivity with all the cabling running to and from the control room required two core-drill locations. These had to be perfectly aligned with the table's support structure. A hidden raceway system on the underside of the table contains all audio, video, Ethernet, and control cables, routing them to the conduit running beneath the floor. Working directly with the millwork company that fabricated the table and the building's electrical contractor, CCS used multiple field verifications to ensure that SGA would receive the seamless appearance and advanced functionality it required. “It takes a team approach to get details like this exactly right,” Kelly says. “You can't just rely on shop drawings.”

It's that hands-on approach that ensured a successful installation. Although the visual center of the room is clearly the pentagonal Panasonic plasma display, CCS takes even greater pride in its ability to integrate high technology with minimal visual and operational impact.

“When you look at all the equipment in there, it sounds pretty complex,” Kelly says. “But what really makes a conferencing system like this effective is making the whole room intuitive and easy to use, now and in the future.” Thus, although the videoconferencing system is standard definition today, it is designed for easy upgrade in the future. And while the room uses single-image teleconferencing today, the Panasonic plasmas have the capability of displaying two independent video sources in the future. Similarly, the ClearOne system and matrix switcher can accept additional inputs if needed.

Designing the SGA Corporate Center proved to be a collaborative process for CCS, which fits right into the company's culture. “CCS provided many opportunities in design development based on our input,” says Rich Wilson, project manager for SGA. “They would regularly provide us with working displays of the particular electronic media we were thinking of. From those meetings, we could really tune into our true wants and needs. And they worked alongside our other contractors to ensure the end result was what we were looking for.”

That moment arrived on Feb. 20, 2008, when SGA held its first meeting in the new room. “With experience from our old headquarters in Seattle, we definitely came in with high expectations,” Wilson says. “And I must say, the operation of this room easily surpassed that. The room performed wonderfully, providing a successful meeting environment. And that's what it's all about.”





Chief Manufacturing

ClearOne Communications

CCS Presentation Systems


Hanlon Engineering

Linksys/Cisco Systems

Middle Atlantic Products


QSC Audio Products



Smart Technologies



Jack Kontney is contributing editor, audio for Sound & Video Contractor and president of Kontney Communications, a content-creation and marketing firm specializing in professional AV. He can be reached via

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