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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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SGA Corporate Center’s high-end conference room

The literal centerpiece of SGA Corporate Center’s high-end conference room is its pentagonal plasma video display system, weighing nearly 1 ton. A major challenge was designing a structurally sound and maintenance-friendly lift mechanism that doesn’t intrude on the room’s sight lines or elegant aesthetics.

When the Services Group of America (SGA) built its new headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz., one of the goals was to create an infrastructure that enabled interaction and smooth cooperation among its many far-flung subsidiaries. Designed by Phoenix-based Cox James Architects, the new SGA Corporate Center is a five-story building fronted by a huge fountain with a beautiful mountain view, housing SGA and some of its subsidiaries. The executive boardroom, Room 503, (unofficially known as the War Room), is located on the top floor of the building.

Rich Wilson, president of SGA's real-estate subsidiary, Development Services of America, managed the project from the client side. “SGA believes strongly in team meetings,” he says, “so this facility was designed to provide the ability to display and communicate seamlessly with any of our branch locations across the United States.” All conference rooms within the corporate center provide electronic connectivity to corporate servers, allowing realtime presentation and discussion of strategies among multiple business units.

The Scottsdale office of CCS Presentation Systems was engaged to design and install the audiovisual systems. “The focal point of it all is the War Room,” CCS Project Manager Flynn Kelly says. “They had done something similar up in Seattle, but they were looking to improve on that.”

The room itself is huge. And round. Dominating the space is the conference table, a massive wooden structure measuring 40ft. across and seating 32. The idea was to seamlessly incorporate technology that would enable everything from local PowerPoint presentations to company-wide videoconferences. Another key requirement for the room was for the conference table to provide an uncluttered look, while still providing laptop connectivity and voice pickup of meeting participants.

The literal centerpiece of the room is its video display system. An array of five 65in. Panasonic TH-65PF10UK high-definition plasmas hang from the ceiling, allowing comfortable viewing anywhere in the room. “The Panasonic plasmas were probably the last thing we purchased for this room,” Kelly says. “We wanted to make sure [SGA] had the latest model in there.” To meet the customer requirement of unimpeded line of sight in the room, a custom lift system was specified.

“The biggest challenge was the round room,” Wilson says. “The lift mechanism, weights of units on the building, and the geometry to make it all fit into a coffered ceiling was extreme. We also had to make sure that dimensionally we could actually make things fit, run power, tele/data connection pop ups into a round table, and still make everything look symmetrical. With table structural supports, tabletop layouts, and functional-use parameters; a whole lot of brain cells were killed thinking and making it work.”

Designed by Hanlon Engineering of Costa Mesa, Calif., the lift supports about 2000lbs. of gross weight (including the lift itself). The five plasma screens are attached via Chief Manufacturing PPH2000 mounts. In the hollow center portion, a secondary lift holds a teardrop array of five Tandberg WAVE II cameras, which drop down below the plasmas when needed. When deployed for presentations and videoconferences, the structure is a little more than 5.5ft. above the floor, allowing easy viewing of both the plasma screens and others seated at the table. When retracted, the video array is 8ft. above the floor, allowing full line of sight around the room. For serviceability, the structure can be lowered to just 3ft. above the floor.

The Panasonic plasmas, capable of 1080p resolution, accept a variety of input sources — including videoconferencing cameras; DVD, VCR, and Blu-ray players; and computer-based sources. “Flexibility is a key requirement in the room,” says CCS System Designer John Steineke. “Meetings might involve audio-conferencing only, full videoconferencing, or just local PowerPoint presentations. Our job was to make all those presentation modes equally easy to operate.”

On the conference table, a DT770 Sympodium by Smart Technologies provides an interactive presentation medium for the room. The Sympodium is connected wirelessly to a dedicated PC secreted in the equipment closet, and it features a 17in. touchscreen, allowing annotation of presentations. In addition, a pair of Smart AirLiner tablets can interact wirelessly with the room's presentation system, allowing other attendees to provide direct input. Presentations can then be annotated in realtime and saved to most MS Office applications, thanks to Ink Aware software from Smart Technologies. Keyboard input is available via a Gyration wireless keyboard-and-mouse suite.

For PC input from other participants, 16 Altinex TNP500 Tilt ‘N Plug custom laptop interfaces are spaced around the table. When not in use, these pop-up panels lie flush with the tabletop. With a gentle push of a finger, however, the panels rise to expose full laptop connectivity, including RJ-45, 1-15HD, a stereo mini plug, and AC power. A Show Me button allows the user to send the signal from the laptop into the video system on command.

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