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The AV/IT Blitz

Mar 28, 2011 5:04 PM, by Dan Daley

The St. Louis Rams’ new practice facility and office complex takes fantasy football into the IT realm.

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Communication with the press is a huge part of major league sports. The Rams’ new facility has a separate press auditorium for that purpose. Seating up to 125, the space had previously offered only non-networked standard-definition video system replaced by a high-def one using a Sony 5000-lumen VPL FW41/US projector that illuminates a 78”x139” motorized drop screen. The room’s control system also got an upgrade, with a new Crestron Pro 2 Processor system replacing an older AMX one, and with a Crestron TPS 6X touchpanel added to the coach’s desk to allow control from both a main wall panel and from the desk itself. Signal can be pulled from any of the HD sources within the building, as well as from the NFL’s own secure feed. Murdick says that a multiple-source distribution box was also built that allows up to 16 discrete audio feeds to be sent to reporters in the auditorium and passed through to their broadest networks. “The news can now get a full controlled clean output for their newscasts directly from this room,” he says.

The press auditorium’s AV equpiment can be controlled both from a wall panel and from the coach’s desk.

The press auditorium’s AV equpiment can be controlled both from a wall panel and from the coach’s desk.

Digital Signage/Digital Phone, HD IPTV

There are two discrete zones in the digital signage system. One is for publicly displayed signage, the other for internal use. The public signage zone offers content such as Rams Video, local weather, special announcements and news, and customized greetings for VIP visitors. The displays are Sony KDL42V4100 42in. and KDL52S4100 52in. LCD screens. The internal side of the signage network is also synched with scheduling programs for the facility, and the day’s training schedule and other agenda are posted and change dynamically and automatically as the day progresses. X20’s Xpresenter works from “smart templates” to let users work directly inside Microsoft PowerPoint, which allows non-technical users to create advanced broadcast graphics and video applications, without ever leaving PowerPoint.

The Ram’s new facility features an HD IPTV system that allows any computer on the network to control any video display.

The Ram’s new facility features an HD IPTV system that allows any computer on the network to control any video display.

The VOIP telephone system has its own unique aspects, says Steven Wood, executive account manager of TSI’s communications division. For starters, it can be made portable, by deploying a LAN system, allowing the team to set up telephone communications anywhere, such as for training camps at other locations, or for the “war room” during the NFL drafts that follow the Super Bowl every year. “It’s a secure network and totally separate from what the NFL requires a team to have in its facility,” says Wood. “The data, AV, voice, and digital signage are completely discrete and bridged through a managed router.”

The internal aspect of the HD IPTV allows the systems administrator with access to the network to pull content from a variety of sources, such as the video storage and replay servers or 40 channels of DirecTV, and control it at any desk or workstation and transport it to any TV in the building. The HD IPTV system on the network has a lot of the usual neat IT tricks, including remote diagnostics, maintenance, software and firmware updates, as well as few unique ones. One of those is the ability to turn any computer or laptop on the network into a remote control for any video display by creating a desktop shortcut and making an online channel guide available. “You can change the channel or the input source for any display from any computer, and the best part is, no more lost remotes,” says Murdick. There is also an application available to the administrator for emergency override that breaks in with any urgent warnings.

That kind of remote access capability is a win for both the client, who can get 24/7 service for the network, and the integrator, for whom a remotely accessible network means a lasting connection to the customer and lower costs for maintenance. But it also reinforces the idea that the convergence of AV and IT is becoming ubiquitous. “This is a true turnkey network system, a total solution and in that sense it’s a milestone in terms of putting IT together with AV,” Murdick says, adding that TSI has two IP engineers on staff in addition to systems engineers. “It fundamentally changes the way you approach a project—the content is more integrated with the systems it moves over, you have to know what the bandwidth requirements are and IP schemes and so on. This is the way the industry is going.”

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