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Focus on Hospitality: Cutting-edge AV in Luxury Hotels

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt

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AVT also used existing wiring whenever possible.

“In some cases, there were some existing network cables that we were able to bastardize and take over,” Phalen says. “One of the biggest hurdles was that we had to find ways to patch into that stuff without unpatching existing networks. It took weeks of mapping out exactly how we were going to do it.”

The signage network is managed using Omnivex's digital-signage software suite, which includes modules for managing content and scheduling (Display 3 Director); devices (Display 3 Player); and data sources (Datapipe Server 3). Both 40in. reader boards in the lobby area have their own dedicated PC-based players; otherwise, each of the hotel's players handles up to five of the 22 15.4in. displays located by meeting-room doors. Player hardware includes four HP ProCurve 2600 series managed switches and 20 Dell OptiPlex 755 small-form-factor PCs.

Content for the digital signs is rich and dynamic within the available space. Meeting-room-door signs are relatively simple, primarily displaying conference schedules and meeting information extracted directly from the hotel's database. But when no events are occurring, or when events are concluding and attendees are departing the room, these signs can run hotel restaurant promotions.

“If a group finishes the general session at 4 p.m., then at 4:03 p.m., we can run an ad for the lobby bar or Trader Vic's,” Phalen says.

Driving content on the lobby displays is a more involved process. Meeting information comes from the hotel database; advertisements and other promotional content often are developed by AVT's Chicago-based creative and technical staff, which runs a network operations center based at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, and then put on the screen.

“To utilize them as a reader board and for directional information and for advertising, we don't have enough real estate,” Phalen says. “So for 85 percent of the day, we run a splitscreen feed. There's a 3D hotel map on the right side, then on the left side is a reader board that scrolls if you have more than five meetings. For advertising purposes, we will schedule in something like a happy hour advertisement that runs for 5 minutes and then goes back to the reader board.”

Business Center to Poolside

Phalen's three-person staff works out of the hotel business center, which is managed by AVT Event Technologies sister company Commerce Concierge.

“Normally, the AV guys are stuck under the stairs, but we're right off the lobby in a glass-fronted space — the coolest AV office that you'll see,” Phalen says. Onsite capabilities include on-the-fly video editing and production, in addition to managing content on the hotel's AV networks and Omnivex digital-signage system.

“This is a Hollywood hotel, so you often get a lot of video content for meetings,” Phalen says. “Also, having three AV guys really makes the business center into a tech center. People bring in their cell phones and laptops when they have a problem, and we often can help them. In the eyes of the hotel traveler, that's a major improvement over what other hotels might offer.”

AVT even has used AV technology to enhance one of the hotel's most legendary landmarks — the largest heated hotel pool in Beverly Hills. Using two blended Sanyo PLC-XF46N projectors, movies are projected each night onto the 80ft.-high wall that backs the pool. AVT installed 6in. Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast LEDs to complete the nighttime poolside scene.

Chicago and San Francisco

In many respects, AVT's efforts at the Beverly Hilton and a later project at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco have taken their inspirational cues from the company's cutting-edge transformation of AV capabilities at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

“If you had to pick one of the best AV and signage installations out there, the Chicago Hyatt is slick,” says Jeff Collard, president of Omnivex. “How they got there is interesting. Many years ago, the hotel had cobbled together a software solution deployed on a Mac. It was easy for graphics, but a horrible platform for networks. They had a full-time woman just to run it, and it's just not the hotel's function. So when they decided to bring us in, they also brought in AVT.”

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