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One-Stop Shopping for Digital Signage

When Oklahoma's Choctaw Nation needed new AV throughout all its casinos and a digital signage system, it turned to a single source: Alpha Video & Audio of Minnesota.


The CastNet system is TCP/IP-based and controllable through a Web browser. DDG integrated custom-built Dell OptiPlex PCs with Scala digital signage player software to display local content at about 30 screens, as well as a ClearOne NetStreams IP-streaming network to distribute video. (NetStreams made a name for itself as a residential multimedia-over-IP solution before the company expanded into commercial gear. ClearOne acquired the company last year.) DDG deployed 40 NetStreams MLAV9300 MediaLinx encoders to packetize AV streams and send them to more than 150 NetStreams VL100 ViewLinx decoders at various displays throughout the casinos.

“Each of the digital signage players is connected to a NetStreams MLAV-9300 encoder to transmit the digital signage to the displays,” explains Alpha Video systems engineer Steven Westra. “The MLAV-9300s are also used for the cable channels that are available as part of the digital signage system. The encoders convert the audio and video signals into a multicast IP stream and send it throughout the casino utilizing a dedicated network infrastructure that’s not shared by the gaming systems and other internal communications.”

That infrastructure comprises a 10-Gbps fiber backbone with a Cisco Systems Catalyst 4506 core switch and a variety of Cisco 3750, 3560, and 2960 closet switches throughout the casino. “At the majority of the displays there are NetStreams VL100 decoders,” Westra continues. “The decoders subscribe to one of the available multicast streams and the video is then displayed on the monitor.”

All told, the completed digital signage system includes more than 300 displays, mostly Samsung 400DX and 460DX-2 LCD screens. There are also several Samsung 460DXN LCD displays with embedded media players that are used as menu boards. Their content is fairly consistent from day to day and doesn’t require a lot of updating. But when computer interfaces aren’t triggering digital signage events automatically, casino management needs to maintain a certain amount of control over what’s displayed.

Control of the entire signage system rests back at the Durant headquarters, where operators can monitor and override anything on the signage network. At the local leveldown to the lounges and casino floor—both digital signage and general AV systems are managed by Crestron Electronics PRO2 controllers and operated by Crestron TPS Series touch panels. Depending on the location within a casino, Alpha Video and DDG programmed more or less control into the system. For instance, lounge managers and pit bosses had to be able to quickly change the mood and content of a system depending on the crowd.

“It might be to display different images or insert a visitor’s name into the digital signage,” Medlin explains. “Or it might be to just [reduce] content overall in order to create less of a distraction for a whale,” he says, using the Vegas term for a high-stakes player.

The casinos’ larger, 12-inch Crestron touch panels have QuickMedia receivers built in so that casino workers can preview digital signage content before it is sent to the displays. “The goal is to allow the casino to customize the experience for the players when they need to,” Medlin says.

The distinct AV and digital signage systems are bridged by a centralized Crestron controller. The integration means content can move freely between the digital signage network and the zoned audio, for example.

“There are many areas where the AV system can take its feed from the digital signage system,” Westra says. “In the poker room, the distributed audio speakers have the capability to play any one of the background music channels, but they can also play the audio that accompanies one of the digital signage displays in that room.”

Doing so required additional control logic from Alpha Video to ensure that the digital signage and AV systems communicated information about which source is being played where and to synchronize the audio and video for that specific area.

For the casinos’ various audio zones, Alpha Video installed more than 600 Tannoy ceiling speakers, powered by roughly three-dozen Crown Audio amplifiers and controlled by a series of BSS Audio Soundweb London BLU-800 and BLU-80 processors, networked together via BSS Blu-link and CobraNet.

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