Optimal Media for Optimal Health
Apr 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Daniel Keller
Flexible AV design at Nutrilite serves many presentation purposes.
On any given day, thousands of visitors make the pilgrimage to Orange County, Calif., armed with a checklist of must-see destinations. There's Disneyland, of course, and the area's famed beaches, and Knotts Berry Farm. For many independent business owners, there's also the Nutrilite Health Institute's Center for Optimal Health. Nutrilite, the multinational vitamin and nutritional powerhouse, is a major provider of products created through organic farming methods, and a leader in health and nutritional research. The company, a division of the Amway/Alticor group, distributes its products through a global network of independent entrepreneurs, many thousands of whom visit the company's corporate headquarters every year, families in tow, to learn more about its products and gain a better understanding of health and nutrition.
Nutrilite has recently completed construction of a new complex at its Buena Park campus, which hosts the offices of the company's research division, Nutrilite Health Institute. The building also houses a pair of multipurpose meeting and presentation venues, designated the theater and the auditorium, equipped with impressive multimedia systems offering multiple high-definition and standard video formats, 5.1 surround audio, and advanced control systems.
The theater and auditorium are both located on the first floor of the new two-story building, with adjoining structures on three sides of the auditorium. Although the rooms' designs have much in common, each room is designed to meet specific form and functional needs.
Mike Fay, senior engineer at Sound Image, Escondido, Calif., handled the planning and execution of the facility's media systems package. The challenge was to design acoustic, audio, video, and control systems for two separate rooms, each with a wide range of uses. The halls share a common control room located between the two, and while each venue operates independently, the two systems can be linked if needed. The facility operates from 5:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., six days per week, and the media systems have been designed to run around the clock.
Fay worked closely with the architects and the company's media department from the inception of the project. “We got involved early in the planning stages, around two and a half years ago,” he recounts. “The building was entirely new, purpose-built construction, so we were faced with little in the way of major acoustical challenges, and we were able to deal with any minor issues as they arose.”
The building's 56-seat theater is an intimate, fan-shaped hall in traditional screening room fashion. The first row of seating is sunken to about 30in. below the stage platform, with the remaining rows sloping gently upward. As Fay explains, the theater was designed for three primary purposes — live presentations, meetings and videoconferencing, and video presentations. “As part of their factory tour, the company brings tour groups to the theater for a high-definition video presentation on the farming and manufacture of their products. They run a minimum of three or four screenings every day, and needed to have a flexible, high-definition-compatible facility with 5.1 surround sound in which to present the screenings.”
A custom 19ft., 2.35:1 aspect ratio Stewart Filmscreen microperf projection screen is built into the front wall, served by a Christie DW6K WXGA projector. “They had some fairly elaborate requirements for video presentation in this room,” Fay remarks. “In addition to showing 2.35 ratio program material, we had to be able to accommodate 16:9, 4:3, and dual 4:3 side-by-side formats. There was a lot of emphasis on the side-by-side functionality, as they frequently use that to run a Power Point and videoconference simultaneously.”
Fay determined it would be most practical to accomplish these multiple format goals using a single projector. “We looked into using multiple projectors with edge-blending technology, but that represented a much higher degree of cost and complexity,” he explains. The solution presented itself in the form of the Extron MGP 462, a dual-window multigraphics processor. “We did a lot of homework and looked at a lot of demos,” he recalls. “The Extron was a good solution, in that it lets us use the pixels available in the Christie DLP, giving us the ability to create different window sizes and positions. It's probably not the newest thing on the planet, but it was an important piece in the development of this particular project.”
A Doremi Nugget Pro video server delivers a 22-minute high-definition video presentation covering Nutrilite's history and its organic farming processes. The video, produced by the U.K. production company Live, runs several showings per day, six days per week.
An Extron CrossPoint 450 Plus 2424 RGBHV switcher handles the video matrix switching, and a pair of DVS 204 switcher/scalers and two VSC 500 scan converters handle scaling, scan conversion, and distribution to recording decks and ancillary support displays.
MULTIPURPOSE BY DESIGN
The client also specified that there would be a regular need to hold live presentations in the theater, from training seminars to sales presentations and other corporate events. A small stage area was created in front of the screen, equipped with multiple inputs for computers and wired microphones. The control room also hosts a selection of playback and recording equipment, including NTSC and PAL DVD and VHS players.
The theater's primary audio system is designed to present 5.1 surround audio program material. The room's main left, right, and center loudspeakers, three SLS T28R systems, are mounted in the wall directly behind the screen. Four PRD-LCR units are flush-mounted in the side and rear walls, and the 215EL subwoofer is recessed in a bunker centered directly under the screen, on the same level as the small stage platform. QSC CX902 and CX302 amplifiers power the system. Multichannel mixing and sound processing is handled by two Symetrix SymNet 8×8 digital processors, a BI-12 input interface, and a Bryston SP 1.7 surround processor and preamp.
Wisely, Fay also specified an additional, fully discrete system dedicated to voice reinforcement. A single Renkus-Heinz PNX82/12 loudspeaker, also powered by a QSC CX404 amplifier, is mounted directly above the screen. “Aside from better intelligibility, it also helps us to eliminate the potential for wireless microphones wandering in front of the screen and producing feedback, which is never good,” he says.
Four Lectrosonics Venue series UHF systems cover the bulk of live presentations, with an assortment of UT400 handheld and LM beltpack transmitters available, though a wired Shure podium mic is also available when needed. Mixing is handled within the Symetrix 8×8 DSP unit, and Fay created a custom “virtual” mixing console GUI running on a dedicated Sony MFM-HT75W WXGA monitor.
Because it has satellite offices across the United States and around the world, Nutrilite is also a major proponent of videoconferencing, and the theater is amply equipped with full videoconferencing capability. Three Sony BRC300 PTZ robotic cameras triangulate the room, and the system is easily adapted to handle multi-venue meetings. “They really like using this room for videoconferencing,” Fay remarks. “It's got quite a unique character to it.”
Fay was also responsible for the acoustics consulting on the project. An acoustic room model was created with EASE software to establish and verify the rooms' acoustics and loudspeaker selection and placement. Variable acoustics were not a requirement. “The room was pretty well designed, and they did some fairly significant wall treatment as well, so even though the back wall is concave, there's no real reverb and minimal flutter echo,” he explains. Windows in the theater's back wall provide operators a full view of the room's activities.
The auditorium is a somewhat larger room, more rectangular in shape and with space for approximately 240 people. Unlike the theater's fixed seating, the auditorium's tables and chairs can be arranged to accommodate meetings, awards ceremonies, and other corporate events, including banquets courtesy of the adjoining industrial kitchen.
Much of the auditorium's media capabilities were designed to mirror those of the theater, with a few practical exceptions. Surround sound was not a requirement in the auditorium, nor was it necessarily practical within the scope of the room's flexible seating scheme. Instead, the auditorium's system runs in an A/B stereo matrix, with a dozen JBL Control 26C 6in. coaxial speakers and six Control 19 subwoofers flush mounted into the high acoustic ceiling. A pair of SLS PRD-LCR speakers provide additional front fill. Three more QSC CX404 amps power the system.
Rather than replicating the theater's multigraphics projection scheme, the auditorium is fitted with a pair of built-in Stewart Filmscreen 9'×12' projection screens, flush-mounted to one of the short walls, with two Sanyo PLC XF31N projectors permanently installed. Thus the need for side-by-side format is addressed in a fairly conventional fashion.
The auditorium also uses a Symetrix 8×8 system processor, along with 12-channel input and output modules and ARC adaptive remote control. A similar audio console GUI was created for realtime audio control, and an Ashly LX-308B 8×2 line mixer handles the audio sources. For simplicity and consistency, the mic setup is identical to the theater's, using four Lectrosonics Venue series UHF systems and a Shure podium mic. And, as with the theater, the auditorium is fully set up for videoconferencing, with three more Sony BRC-300 PTZ cameras triangulating the room. An Extron CrossPoint Plus 1616 switcher handles the video matrix switching.
The control room is situated between the two venues, with windows on either side to overlook both rooms. Three 44-space Lowell racks house the gear for each room's independent systems, which can lock together for larger shared functions. Typically, only one or two people are required to run either room's systems. “The audio systems are pretty well optimized for the client's operational needs via the Symetrix units,” Fay explains. “Most of the complex signal processing is done under the hood. Only basic functions like faders, mutes, EQ and PFL, and metering are available on the virtual console.”
Each room has its own dedicated audio monitoring system, and while the control room is hardly diminutive, some compromise is occasionally needed. “It doesn't happen often,” Fay elaborates, “but in the event that both rooms are in use at the same time, for different functions, the AV crew will sometimes monitor through headphones.”
The control systems for the two venues are some of the more impressive aspects of the installation. Fay designed a custom graphical interface for the bulk of the video transport and routing chores, bringing in a team of programmers to execute the design. “The AMX control in itself is quite intense,” he observes. The GUI is served up on an AMX NXT-1700VG Modero 17in. color touchpanel connected to an NI-4000 integrated control center. The auditorium and theater use identical systems.
“One of the unique things about the systems control is that we didn't try to do it all as a single system,” Fay continues. “Instead, each room utilizes three independent control interfaces.” While the AMX system covers the bulk of the video, transport, and routing tasks, the camera control is handled separately, via its own dedicated Sony RM-BR300 joystick. Audio is also its own system, using the DSP capabilities of the SymNet system.
The company's multinational orientation also created another unique requirement, a regular need for live translation during its meetings and presentations. The control room area houses two translation suites dedicated to simultaneous foreign language broadcasts via multiple Williams Sound FM ALS systems. Both suites are equipped for live program feed, with dual monitors provided to emulate the projected images on screen, allowing the translators to do their jobs without having to rely on optimal sightlines.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE
If the project wasn't already bordering on the overwhelming, a Scientific Advisory Board conference room was added to the scope of the project only a few months before the facility was due to open. While significantly smaller than the theater or auditorium, the room did require a moderately sophisticated AMX Netlinks control system to handle AV source switching and audio levels via an Extron CP300-84HVA switcher. A custom GUI running on an AMX Modero MVP8400 wireless touchpanel communicates with a pair of DVS-304 scalers, DVD and VHS deck transports, and projector power management, as well as Tandberg videoconferencing commands. Sanyo PLV-Z3 projectors serve dual 16:9 Draper Cineplex screens.
As Fay observes, the complexity of the two-and-a-half-year long project did tend at times to be all-consuming, and he often found himself thinking about it night and day. “I was in the shower one morning when all of a sudden an awful thought hit me,” he recalls. “I realized the custom fixed screens we had specified for the auditorium would probably be too large to fit through the doors once the construction was completed. I got in and took some measurements and sure enough, my worst fears were realized. We weren't going to be ready to install the screens for several weeks, but we had to jump through some serious hoops to get them fast-track manufactured and delivered, while the general contractor held two sections of the walls open for us, just so we could get them inside the building.”
As with any marathon project of this scope, long hours and dedication are part of the plan. And as with the most successful projects, this one came in on schedule and as promised. “Through the hard work and perseverance of all the people involved in this project, we managed to meet a tight schedule and build a great facility for Nutrilite.”
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