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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: National World War II Museum, New Orleans

May 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

Wireless History


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Integrating modern AV into older conference rooms can sometimes require sensitive, creative treatment of items fraught with special significance, such as the handmade conference table in the National World War II Museum’s Purple Heart Boardroom.

They're often beautiful and stately, but older conference rooms can prove challenging for systems contractors who are trying to integrate modern AV equipment into their idiosyncratic tables, walls, and ceilings. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans houses a perfect example — its Purple Heart Boardroom, where the museum's board of directors, director, and staff frequently hold meetings.

Museum officials hired New Orleans-based systems integrator SoundWorks to provide integration and support services for the new AV systems added to the museum during a $300 million addition and renovation project. The Purple Heart Boardroom needed an audio and teleconferencing system, and it was obvious to the SoundWorks team going into this phase of the job that the install would prove challenging.

“The room's architectural challenges called for a different approach to the system design,” says Rob Pourciau, division manager of SoundWorks. “The structural elements make sound reinforcement necessary within the room, while those same elements make installation of AV equipment challenging. The fourth-floor room has a massive conference table made of several different types of rare wood, an all-glass wall that looks out into the museum, and a hard-rock, concave ceiling, so the firm had several clear obstacles to avoid in creative ways.”

The concavity of the ceiling swallowed up the voices of conference participants, and its hard-rock composition meant SoundWorks could not install ceiling speakers as it might have in a typical drop-ceiling situation.

“Because of the large conference room and conference table, a mix-minus audio system would have been a great solution, but limited access above the ceiling and a concave ceiling directly above the conference table didn't allow this application to work,” Pourciau says. (A mix-minus system allows microphones within a zone of a room to be played on the loudspeakers of other zones, and disables them from being played within their own zone as needed.)

The handmade conference table has sentimental significance — its wood is from specific World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific — so there was no option to drill or replace the table. “The museum would not allow any cutting, penetrations, or attachments to the table for microphone I/O or speakers,” Pourciau says. That meant a traditional wired conference system would be out of the question.

For those reasons, SoundWorks decided to go wireless, and earlier this year, the company installed a Beyerdynamic MCW-D 50 conferencing system. The speakers integrated into each base station obviated the need for a separate sound reinforcement system for the room.

Comprising the wireless system is an MCW-D 50 central control unit, 17 MCW-D 521 delegate microphones, an MCW-D 523 chairman mic, two CC10 charging and transport cases, and three CA2411 angle-rod antennas. The base stations each feature a gooseneck microphone and handle nine channels of audio — eight incoming and one outgoing. The chairman's base station is also equipped with a button that lets the chairman temporarily mute delegate base station mics, if needed.

Pourciau says that the system, which operates across the 2.4GHz digital frequency range, has not encountered interference within the museum. The fact that the MCW-D 50 system is wireless opens up two other potential points of vulnerability: meeting security and battery drain. Beyerdynamic's data encryption of the wireless transmission allays the first concern, and testing revealed that the microphone base stations could hold a charge long enough to survive meetings that sometimes ran as long as 12 hours.

SoundWorks integrated the system into the Beyerdynamic CC10 transportable cart so that the conferencing functionality could be shared among the rooms of the National World War II Museum, as needed, and according to Pourciau, it has indeed been used in different meeting areas.

For teleconferencing, SoundWorks installed a Polycom Vortex EF2211 system. This provides a phone interface to incorporate remote participants into board meetings, as well as acoustic echo/noise canceling for the call.


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