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A Meeting of the Minds

Sep 21, 2010 4:52 PM, By Dan Daley

Mobile provider Cricket's new San Diego headquarters is designed for creative collaboration.

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Cricket Mobile

In the executive boardroom, CompView Audio Visual mounted two 70in. Samsung 700 DXn LCD displays at one end of the conference table. For maximum visibility for all those seated around the table, there are four 46in. Samsung 8000 series LCDs soffited under the table.

Cricket Communications was one of the first wireless service companies to launch flat-rate pricing in the U.S. mobile phone market. The company has had its ups and downs like everyone in the mobile space, but Cricket has been nimble; for instance, it extended its coverage reach not just with capital investment but also with roaming agreements with larger providers. The company prides itself on thinking outside the box, and when it began work on its new headquarters building in San Diego, it wanted that philosophy to extend to its architectural and systems design as well.

San Diego is one of seven markets that CompView Audio Visual has offices in, and the two companies made for a good fit. “We did a needs analysis to see what Cricket’s AV requirements were going to be, and it ran the range from basic room displays to high-definition videoconferencing and streaming media,” says Travis Ellis, CompView system integration manager on the project. Working with the interior planner Space Matters, Ellis and CompView Project Manager Mike Varga began planning out how best to run sophisticated AV throughout the 250,000-square-foot new building and its 50-plus conference rooms and spaces, with a mandate to make that environment as facile for creative collaboration and conducive to brainstorming as possible.

The new building boasts several unique collaborative spaces including interior courtyards, open spaces in between work cubicles. Each courtyard has a 55in. Samsung 8000 series LCD.

The largest and most sophisticated of the meeting rooms is the 35'x 20' executive boardroom, where a U-shaped conference table seats up to 20 people. The open end of the table points 30ft. down the length of the room to a pair of 70in. Samsung 700DXn LCD displays. It's impressive, but the farther away one sits at the table, the harder it is to make out the images. The solution was to scale an AV system to the dimensions of the room and the table by adding two 46in. Samsung 8000 series LCD displays soffited into the modesty panels on either side of the table; those seated toward the middle and far end of the table are able to look slightly down and see the same images as on the 70in. displays at the same level of scale. Those seated in the two seats at the head of table (and farthest away from the main displays) have their own 32in. Samsung 320MXn LCD displays mounted on a movable Chief Manufacturing AV cart under the desk in front of their seating positions. The exact angles for each of the soffited displays were calculated as part of sightline drawings done for the AV design.

This entire solution took some time to figure out. Initially the clients had asked about having a videowall in the room as the main display or using projection video. However, the room's narrow and long dimensions would make the displays progressively harder to see clearly along the length of the table. A larger 82in. display was briefly considered but ruled out on cost grounds. “Projection video was deemed too intrusive aesthetically, and the bezel gaps in a video­wall would distract from the overall image, and keeping the collaborative environment uppermost meant minimizing any potential distractions,” Varga says. This was a first for CompView, but Ellis says that the company's engineering background enabled them to accurately predict the location and angles of the soffited sets prior to installation.

The executive boardroom is also the hub for the facility's videoconferencing capabilities. CompView uninstalled the Tandberg videoconferencing system that Cricket executives had been using in their previous building and reinstalled it in the new building, with the Tandberg camera positioned in between the two large video displays.

The boardroom's audio is substantial but well-hidden. A dozen Audio-Technica ES947 button-type tabletop microphones are located on the conference table top in between each seat, with one microphone element covering two seats. These are wired to 11 Extron Electronics desktop cable cubbies. The signals are routed to a Polycom SoundStructure automatic mic mixer and matrix mixer with DSP and a telephone interface for audioconferencing. A Crown Audio 180MA power amplifier powers six Bose DS 16F ceiling-mount speakers. The room's acoustics presented a minor but persistent challenge, again because of its dimensions and the fact that two of its four walls are made from highly reflective floor-to-ceiling glass. The solution was to install two sets of Mecco motorized shades, one of which is a blackout set. “They also have the effect of limiting sound reflections, bouncing between the parallel wall surfaces,” says Ellis, who adds that the equalization function in the Polycom DSP processor was also programmed to mitigate problem frequencies.

Operation of the room's AV, the shades, and the Lutron Electronics lighting system are controlled using an AMX MVP-8400 series wall-dock touchpanel. Less visible is the large AMX AVS-OP-2416-547 matrix switcher that allows each person at the table to plug a laptop computer into the system and route its output to the screens. All 22 positions can be connected simultaneously, and their output can be divided into as many as four separate images on the same display via an Extron WindoWall matrix multiwindow processor and switcher.

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