The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Orange mobile services, Cambridge, Mass.
Oct 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez
Before this year, the conference room installations inside the Orange mobile services' R&D facility in Cambridge, Mass., resembled Frankenstein's monster. Over the course of about five years, five different integrators had worked on different aspects of the two spaces. The result: a hodgepodge of audio and video equipment that wasn't ideally suited for the rooms.
One of the two conference rooms, known as the boardroom, was equipped with a videoconferencing system, an audioconferencing system, a VCR, a DVD player, a cable tuner, laptop and PC connections, and a rear-projection system. The other room, called the “Imaginarium,” isn't a typical conference room at all. Rather, it's an open space that can be transformed into an enclosed space with retractable walls. The rear-projection system that occupies the spaces makes up the back and front walls of the Imaginarium.
The biggest hurdle in both spaces was audio. Craig Wiley, system designer with Single Source Group, in Nashua, N.H., says the underlying problem was the architecture.
“The room acoustics were terrible,” he says. “The floors were stripped bare — solid concrete, no carpet, no flooring, no nothing. The walls were 100 percent either glass or wood paneling — solid wood-gloss panels — as were the ceilings. So the rooms were literally [barrels].”
The dilemma was how to solve the reverb problem in rooms that were extensively used for audioconferencing. Added to that, Orange didn't want to make any structural or architectural changes. Previously, the rooms were outfitted with table mics, but even table mics weren't an optimal solution for these spaces, according to Wiley.
“Even if you're 6ft. or 7ft. away from somebody standing in that room with each other, your own ears are starting to trick you with how just reflective [the] space is,” Wiley says. “So any microphone or acoustic echo canceller[s] were just completely freaking out and over-tapped.”
The question was what technology would work in the space, within the confines of what Orange would agree to. The options were therefore limited. Because table mics obviously weren't an option, Wiley moved to a gooseneck-mic option, which would bring the mic closer to the speaker. But Orange couldn't get behind that idea.
“They were very particular about the architecture of the building,” he says. “They really didn't want these big, ugly, honking, 18in. black microphones sticking out of the tables.”
That's when Wiley thought of the Revolabs Executive 8-channel wireless lapel system — a system he'd been fortunate to learn about during his CTS certification coursework.
“The June before last, when I attended the CTS design course, Level I, I actually sat next to and was group partners with Tom Zimmerman of Revolabs, who's their senior sales engineer. So that's how I got to know them. The first time I worked with [the system] was in our fictitious project [during the course]. So I got back, and saw this thing come up about four months later, [and] I thought, ‘Hey, wait. I know how to solve this.’ ”
Wiley installed two of the 8-channel systems in the Imaginarium and one system in the boardroom.
“Say you wanted to use [other, large wireless-mic systems]; you need eight individual receivers,” he says. “The Revo piece actually works as 1RU with all eight receivers built into it, so it takes up a whole lot less space, and it's easier to wire in.”
The wireless lapel microphone would be close enough to the person wearing it that when they spoke, there would be no distortion. The microphones would also allow the speaker the flexibility to get up and walk around while speaking.
But audio wasn't the only problem. First, Wiley and his team had to find a time when they could get access to the two spaces. It's not surprising that as one of the largest mobile communications companies for Europe, Orange uses the rooms constantly.
“Finding even a week where we could get in there and have the thing dismantled and then rebuilt as we go was tough,” Wiley says. “We had to schedule out a couple months in advance.”
In the end, they broke the installation up into two sessions. In the first phase, they changed out a majority of the original rack equipment, cleaned up the audio wiring, and installed the microphone system. In the second phase, they replaced the rear-projection system.
Beyond audio, the integrators were also focused on cleaning up and upgrading the backbone behind everything, especially the wiring. “A lot [of the wiring] was just in the racks. We had to pull some new wire to different spaces based on getting rid of the scalers, and we had to have some S-Video and composite video here and there,” Wiley says.
Single Source Group also installed a Hitachi CP-SX1350 720p SXGA+ projection system. Orange opted not to go widescreen because it would involve too much millwork and structural changes. The original installation used older Extron CrossPoint switchers and at least half a dozen Extron scalers, which were all burnt out or dying by this point, according to Wiley.
“To avoid this problem in the future, we redesigned the system to work via S-Video switching, instead of through scalers,” Wiley says. “We reused the existing Extron CrossPoint-series switchers and added in Extron MAV [SVA] switchers. We reused and added in several ClearOne XAP units to expand the audio system's capabilities.”
The rooms' control systems were also upgraded with Crestron Pro2 processors with Ethernet for remote access. Keeping the original 15in. Crestron touchpanels, Single Source Group upgraded the units with a Crestron MC2E Ethernet control system, which allows a user to do everything from their laptop via the network.
“Over four years a lot of stuff had become a service nightmare,” Wiley says. “Things that just couldn't work were ripped apart and never quite put back right. We just went in there and tore it all out and put it all back in and made sure everything worked 100 percent. A lot of stuff was in total need of just tear down and replacement. Plus, it was just getting old, and some things weren't working any more, or things here and there were failing and [had] just never worked because the architecture of the building.”
After the overall upgrade, the rooms look identical to how they looked before — even down to the table microphones the company left in the tables, despite the fact they are no longer usable, just so Orange could avoid purchasing new tables — but the overall quality is much improved.
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