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Beyond Books

May 13, 2013 1:17 PM, By Tim Kridel

Building the multimedia library of the future

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The Right Amount of Noise

For all its emphasis on multimedia, the Hunt Library still is a place where a lot of students and faculty come to read and study. To provide peace and quiet, copiers and vending machines are tucked in rooms with doors. The main reading room features wooden sound diffusers that look more like architectural features. “They look gorgeous,” Treasure says. “They do a fabulous job of breaking up the sound waves and creating a space that’s lovely to be in.”

The library also uses networked audio in rooms such as the visualization and gaming labs.

“Because of that, we’re able to very exactly zone the sound,” says Graeme Harrison, Biamp Systems executive vice president of marketing. “All of the multimedia is pretty much contained within specific rooms. The overall effect is that it’s a very quiet space.”

Even so, the reading room and other traditional spaces aren’t 100-percent silent by design.

“You need a little bit of HVAC and a little bit of human activity, just enough to mask a conversation so you don’t hear people 50ft. away but not too much that it doesn’t disturb you from working,” Treasure says. “Nobody wants to listen to pink or white noise. When you put noise on top of other noise to mask it, it’s like putting perfume on a stink. You’re better off removing the stink in the first place.”

Simplicity Amid Complexity

Some of the rooms at Hunt Library are configurable, which created challenges at the time of installation. One example is the creativity lab, whose features include shared videoconferencing codecs that can be assigned to different zones on the fly.

“The walls are on ceiling tracks and can divide the space into many small spaces,” says Mike Cenzer, AVI-SPL project manager. “The projectors can be moved to display on any of these movable walls. It took a lot of brainstorming and late nights to look at all of the potential combinations and how they would be accomplished in the room and on the touchpanel control.”

Another example from the creativity lab is configuring the 32 audio zones, such as to create an immersive experience.

“They wanted to be able to set up different sound fields where they can route audio from any source to any location [for] simulations,” says Holt Stevens, the AVI-SPL senior design engineer who coordinated the installation team.

These kinds of variables added to the basic challenge of making the control system intuitive enough that faculty and students wouldn’t need a lot of handholding by library staff.

“On the programming end, due to the complexity of some of the larger systems, NCSU was looking for as much flexibility, combined with simplicity, and innovative controls not typically seen in most AV control system touch panels,” Cenzer says. “This meant we needed to incorporate 3D models into touchpanel designs, implement drag-and-drop features, video preview with thumbnail snapshots of sources and VNC controls, all which are features of AMX’s MXT newer line of touchpanels.”

Cenzer and AVI-SPL’s interaction designer worked with NCSU’s team, which included a graphic designer and interface designer to meet the client’s needs. “We held many programming design meetings with the client over WebEx, over the phone, and in person to flesh out the desired details,” Cenzer says. “Since AV programming generally relies on test-driven development, interacting with some of the new hardware and complex systems while programming was required, increasing development time but providing the results the customer needed.”

One place where Hunt Library looked to the past is Biamp’s Audia platform, which is an 11-year-old product. Sextant chose Audia partly because it was a proven product at the time that the project’s design was finalized.

“We know that it’s rock solid and reliable,” Valenti says.

Audia also didn’t mean trade-offs.

“They have a solution that does everything they want and more and is capable of growing with them,” Harrison says.

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