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Immersive Videoconferencing and Digital Signage at the NHL, Part 2

Apr 22, 2010 2:33 PM, By Bennett Liles

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Did you have any kind of challenges running cables and getting all the stuff back there to that?
No, again, it’s all in the planning. When we designed the system, and with the architects, we made sure we had the spacing within the room to place the rear projection rig, to place the AV rack, power for all of it, and then also we made sure that we had conduits sleeves that went from the AV room out into the board room so that we had a means to run those cables and protect them. Once we did that, it was all pretty easy. It was just stub ups from the wall devices up to the ceiling, ran our cables up over through the conduit and to the rack and projector, and away we went. [Timestamp: 8:27]

Obviously it has to be functional, but it was also laid out to be impressive as well.

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Immersive Videoconferencing and Digital Signage at the NHL, Part 1
Professional ice hockey is a furiously fast moving and exciting game, and the National League wanted visitors to its headquarters to get a real taste of it right out of the elevator. ...

And when you get to the commissioner’s office, I guess that’s the, sort of, ultimate thing.
Yeah, he has a very unique system.

Describe it a little bit. It’s a fairly a big room, isn’t it?
It’s a very large room; it’s probably about a 20’x20’room or maybe a little larger, 25’x25’—something like that. And what we were told there is that the commissioner wants to be able to see live NHL news reports, what’s happening in all different markets, and we were told that there were three that he was very interested in seeing: Dish Network, Direct TV, and there’s also a feed from a Canadian satellite provider. So he wanted to be able to have all these three essentially up at the same time. So what we did is we created one wall in the front of the room, across from the desk, with a 50in. flatscreen monitor and then with two 42in. flatscreen monitors flanking it and we had an AV room built and we put a AV rack in there with all our sources—DVD player, the three satellite providers that I just mentioned, as well as being able to take his computer—his desktop computer, which is a dual monitor—and send that up to those three flatpanels as well. Now, that’s a lot of sources, a lot of monitors. How do you make this all happen and so that the commissioner can control it real easy? Again we went to Crestron—used their product, a Pro2 controller and another TPMC-8X touchpanel—and essentially we created a simple matrix that was easy to follow. On the touchscreen page we had all the sources and then we had the three monitors; you simply just select your source and tell it which monitor you want it on. Bingo! Makes the route and you have your video that you want on the monitor that you want. So if he wants to have Direct TV on the large 50 in. he just makes that route he wants to switch it and have his computer up there and then put the Direct TV on one of the smaller monitors. It’s just a couple touches of a button and away he goes. [Timestamp: 10:27]

So easy even a commissioner can do it.

And you guys program the Crestron stuff, right?
Yes, we do. We do all that inhouse. And that’s kind of important for us. It vitalizes to maintaining a certain quality control of what we are doing and also to be able to respond to the clients needs pretty quickly. If they decide they want to change something us—they want to rename a button—we don’t have to go to an outside source to do it; we are able to handle that inhouse quickly. [Timestamp: 10:55]

Yeah, that’s one thing that would really impress people because I would imagine that with a system as complex behind the scenes as this, it’s almost inevitable that sometime or other they decide they want to something a little bit of a different way or they get confused and they want to have the system, well, maybe a change or two done there.
Yeah, but that’s just the nature of what it is. See, you can think about this system through as much as you want and then they go to you and because maybe they can’t visualize exactly what the end event is going to be like and you want to be able to respond to them—they say, “You know what, can we make this slight change to make it easier for me to operate?” We are able to do it very quickly. [Timestamp: 11:33]

Right, and you already know what the original layout was so there’s no back tracking necessary. So did they have any kind of surprises or changes they threw at you during the installation?
A minor one, not a big deal. What they decided to do was to add electric blackout shades and a lighted control package in the commissioner’s office, which was not difficult for us to handle. As the contractor went in to do some high voltage rewiring for the lighting and for the shades, we went in there at the same time, dropped a couple of low-voltage cables in a couple of key areas, and we were able to give them the lighting and shade control right to the touchpanel. [Timestamp: 12:11]

So did you have to provide any training for the people? Obviously you had to show it how it worked, but how difficult was that? Yeah, the showing them how to operate the system wasn’t very difficult at all. Again, that goes back to how you program your touchpanels. If you make them intuitive enough, people are going to be able to pick them up and just use them and follow the key prompts and it leads them through what they want to do. The one area that we did have to do a quite bit of training was with the Watchout system. They have a production department that creates their clips and sizes their videos and creates all their audio tracks for what they produce, so it wasn’t very difficult to train them on a Watchout system. It was a matter of just sitting down with them one session, going through it, showing them how to do it, and then I would suggest, “You know what, use this system for a while, create a few clips.” We scheduled a return visit because at that point we figured now that you’ve used it you going to have some key in depth questions, and we went back, answered those questions, and they’ve been using it since. [Timestamp: 13:13]

Yeah, they probably like to, after you show them how it works, just sit there and play with it for a while and so they can impress people who come in. And nobody wants to look like they don’t know how it works anyway, when they have people coming in from the outside. Yeah, exactly, that’s why we went in with the notion of we are doing this in the two-step training process: one, we’re going to come in and show you how to use it, you make some clips, come up with some questions that fit your needs, and we will come back and answer them for you, and it worked out splendidly—gave them the ability to learn the system, how to use it, and everybody is happy. [Timestamp: 13:45]

So how many people did it take to do all this and how long did it take you to get all this set up?
To do the installation took, well, the rough end work, if I remember correctly, was about a five month process from the time they demoed the place until it was done. So it was about on and off for about a little over three months of coming in and pulling cable, doing cable tipping and testing, and that sort of work, and then it was a little over four weeks to do the finish work. [Timestamp: 14:16]

And how many people did you have involved in all that?
On and off during the pre-construction phase: Let’s see, during the construction phase, we had about four people in demand at various key points, and then during the final install, it would range between four and six people, depending what rooms we would get into and what we needed done. [Timestamp: 14:35]

That was a very ambitious project.
Yes, it went pretty fast and furious for just the nature of working in Manhattan. Real estate is expensive and people want to get in there and use it as quickly as possible. [Timestamp: 14:49]

So what’s their reaction so far?
So far so good. They’re running their meetings in there, people walk through and every time I go there, they’ve got a new video clip up on the Watchout system/Samsung wall, which is nice to see, and they’re doing a lot with it.

Well, thanks very much, Joe. This has been great. And I’m sure the visitors and the NHL commissioners staff are all impressed when they go in there and get all this hockey video and sound coming from everywhere. Thanks a lot for being here to explain how you made it all happen.
I appreciate it. It was fun.

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