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Investment Firm Banks On AV

Calamos Investments embraces AV technology to leverage growth opportunities and talented staff.

The Calamos Investments team's "war room" meeting space features a videowall that includes six Barco DLP display cubes and 50-inch Sony plasma displays.

The Calamos Investments team's "war room" meeting space features a videowall that includes six Barco DLP display cubes and 50-inch Sony plasma displays.

CHALLENGE: Help a tech-savvy global customer future-proof its new six-story office building with a TV production studio and a state-of-the-art boardroom.

SOLUTION: Upgrade the studio to high definition without busting the budget, and install scalable AV technology to maximize growth potential.

IN THE WORLD of AV integration, it's often refreshing to find a client who not only embraces new technology, but sees technology as a way to leverage talent. Such was the case when the Chicago office of AV integrator SPL Integrated Solutions won an open bid from Calamos Investments, a diversified investment firm based in Naperville, IL. Calamos Investments wanted state-of-the-art technology for its new six-story headquarters, which was designed as a long-term investment.

“We've been in the building since July 2005,” says Corey Owens, manager of the network services group (which also oversees the AV) for Calamos. “We had outgrown our old facility and were operating out of two buildings. Our new headquarters was built to our specific needs and technology requirements.”

The new headquarters, designed by Chicago, IL-based architects Lohan Anderson, includes office space for 350 associates, an executive floor with executive offices, a state-of-the-art boardroom and conference rooms equipped with video- and audioconferencing capabilities, a trading floor and network operations center (NOC), a “war room” where investment team members are able to display and interact with multiple financial models, and a television production studio.

“Calamos is a fast-growing company in the Chicago-area,” says Tony Jones, account executive for SPL's Chicago office. “They needed an integrator with large project experience that could offer cost-effective solutions and all technology in a one-stop shop.”

Prior to the installation, SPL conducted a full system test and configuration in its shop warehouse to maximize time in the field. According to Jones, it's also an opportunity for the SPL engineering team to prove out the system and address any issues before bringing it to the client site.

TV production

In the Calamos Investments network operations center (NOC), administrators can access IT information using four NEC 1980FXi LCD displays, eight 50-inch Barco RSDLP32720 DLP display cubes, or two Sony 50-inch FWD-50PX1/B high-definition plasmas.

In the Calamos Investments network operations center (NOC), administrators can access IT information using four NEC 1980FXi LCD displays, eight 50-inch Barco RSDLP32720 DLP display cubes, or two Sony 50-inch FWD-50PX1/B high-definition plasmas.

So why would an investment firm need a production studio? “It's an efficiency tool for our Co-Chief Investment Officers John P. Calamos, Sr. and Nick Calamos. John and Nick are regularly asked to appear on TV shows to comment on the financial markets. Both John and Nick see the shows as a great opportunity to discuss the firm's investment strategies. The studio maximizes their exposure and minimizes the time they would waste traveling to a TV studio.”

The former studio consisted of one camera in a small “live shot” room, whereas the new studio measures approximately 25 feet by 25 feet with enough room for a few people and two Sony HDCX300 cameras. The multi-camera system is high definition (HD), and is remotely controlled from the adjacent production control room using two Sony RMB750 remote control units interfacing with a Telemetrics CP-D-2A desktop robotic camera control panel.

“The original studio design was much simpler, and the specification called for a standard definition system,” Jones adds. “We suggested they try to do HD for the same budget amount. Knowing their internal focus on technology, we felt the SD technology didn't match their needs. The Sony HD systems made the hi-def platform affordable. It's a good balance between quality and price. We also tweaked the layout to mimic a professional production studio. We called in David Wilts of AV consultant firm Shen Milsom & Wilke to consult on the layout. By making small changes, SPL was able to expand the functionality of the production facility beyond its original intent. Not only can Calamos conduct live shots for TV, but also use the studio for recording, videoconferencing, or as an internal training room.”

The Sony HDC X300 cameras range from $13,000 to $15,000 — much less than what a broadcast-quality camera would typically cost. The conversion to HD offered additional cost savings. “With the move to HD, we also saved them money in the longer term by not having to upgrade their equipment later,” Jones says. “The move to HD also means that Calamos can ditch the tape library in favor of recording to a Panasonic DMR-T6070 DVD-R/DVD-RAM recorder housed in the control room.”

A small audio system accompanies the HD video system. Two Shure SLX14/85 wireless lavalier microphones and two Shure MX185 wired lavalier microphones are used for broadcast, while a set of Genelec Triple Play Speakers are used for monitoring. Audio is mixed on a Yamaha 01V96v2 console. A custom lighting package designed for Calamos Investments by Julie Mausey at Production Resource Group (PRG) rounds out the professional touches in the production studio.

Data central

At the heart of Calamos Investments is data flow. Several rooms in the new headquarters were outfitted with AV equipment specifically to showcase data. With so many IT and AV hardware systems installed, the firm built in maximum flexibility by installing a raised floor system, which allows for reconfiguration at will because cabling and equipment ventilation can be done from underneath the facility's flooring.

In the NOC, network administrators operate and monitor the firm's IT systems. In addition to the four NEC 1980FXi LCD displays at each workstation, eight 50-inch Barco RSDLP32720 DLP display cubes and an Argus Video Wall Processor are built into the wall. Along each side of the Barco displays sit two Sony 50-inch FWD-50PX1/B high-definition plasmas.

The videowall is controlled using an AMX NI-4000 controller. “We wanted extreme flexibility as much as possible on the interface page,” Owens says. “We can do any combination of layout between the displays. We can do feeds from the workstations to the videowall and have the plasmas display TV programming. The AMX is also used to control lighting, audio, and the window shades.”

A separate air conditioning unit feeds into the wall to cool the Barco rear-projection displays. For maintenance, a technician can access the back wall via a side door, and has approximately 6 feet of space between the wall and the display in which to work.

Two floors up, outside the trading desk, is the investment team's “war room” —a meeting space that features a similar videowall. The architectural features of the room allowed for six Barco displays versus the eight in the NOC.

“The analysts need as much data as possible to make the investment decisions that drive the firm, so the room is designed to provide that environment,” Owens says. “They can bring up research models and analytics on the videowalls and use the plasmas to catch current events and market info via the news networks. The goal was to give them as much flexibility as possible.”

“Each videowall was designed as highly visible technology to everyone passing by, so we worked closely with the contactors on custom millwork,” Jones adds.

Impressive boardroom

The original design and specification for the Calamos boardroom called for a basic, fundamental meeting space. However, architectural changes that occurred later in the process doubled the size of the room. With the additional square footage, technology changes soon came.

“The major technology driver for the boardroom was the ‘look' for videocon-ferencing,” Jones says. “The Calamos team is very savvy in terms of how to conduct a videoconferencing session. They wanted two different scenes in the same room — a full room view with people seated around the table as well as a more intimate, small group.”

AMX programming enables users to access either mode at the touch of a button. Three AMX touchpanels are installed in the room: an AMX NXT-1700VG 17-inch tabletop Modero touchpanel is mounted on the podium, an AMX NXD-CV12 12-inch color video widescreen is installed in the custom millworking, and an AMX MVP-8400 Modero Viewpoint 8.4-inch wireless touchpanel is available as a backup.

The marble-topped boardroom table can seat approximately 20 people, and more if a second row of chairs is added. Rather than suspending microphones overhead or taking up space on the tabletop with goosenecks, 12 Audio-Technica ES945 omnidirectional condenser microphones were built into the table. The microphones are embedded into a 15/16-inch diameter hole that was cored out by a marble specialist.

“We placed the microphones in the table along marble seams,” Jones says. “There are more than 20 different pieces of marble that make up the 29-foot-long by 10-foot-wide table, so it was a challenge to place them uniformly.”

A credenza on the side wall also features a custom marble top, underneath which SPL installed two 50-inch Sony FWD-50PX1/B plasmas and a Vaddio videoconference camera on lifts. At the push of a button, the setup, which is outfitted with Display Devices PM-TBD flat panel adapters, rises from the credenza on two Display Devices PL-2200i 110V PlasmaLifts designed to rise up to 41 inches.

“Our general manager, Doug Carnell, had used this setup with a previous client and it worked well,” Jones says. “The off-the-shelf solution can be configured based on the size of the TV as well as any extra poundage. In this case, it was a 60-pound marble slab on top.”

The Middle Atlantic AV SR Series pullout racks are all located within the credenza. For presentations, one wall conceals a Da-Lite 120-inch screen behind a solid wood sliding door. A Sony VPL-FX51 5,200 lumens LCD video projector is hidden in the ceiling.

“Video can be rerouted to the AMX Modero touchpanel, so there's no need for a laptop to monitor the video,” Owens says. “You can pull up your presentation just like it's a computer screen.”

The boardroom's Atlas Sound loudspeaker system is used for light sound reinforcement, and audio- and videoconferencing is neatly hidden in the ceiling. A Polycom Vortex VSX800 unit with built-in echo canceling provides the room's audioconferencing capabilities.

The firm uses the Systimax LazrSPEED300 Solution for its 10-Gigabit network backbone to support other applications, including IP video security cameras, data networking, and voice over IP.

In addition to the new headquarters, the expanding company recently broke ground on more office space at its corporate headquarters campus.

Linda Seid Frembes is a freelance writer and PR specialist for the professional AV industry. She can be reached at linda@frembes.com.



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