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Simple Green

Nov 9, 2009 10:42 AM, By Trevor Boyer

The Orlando Utilities Commission needed simple, smart AV that could adapt to LEED-driven construction.

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Control Systems

The LEED guidebook specifies that a point is awarded if 90 percent of a building’s occupants can control lighting for individual tasks and there’s sufficient lighting control in all shared multi-occupant spaces. Reliable Plaza fulfills both of those requirements, and it has person sensors in parts of the building to facilitate autoshutoff of the lights.

For training rooms, the architects had specified a Crestron lighting-control system before the AV integrators started their portion of the job. That presented the Teer team with the task of integrating the dimming controls into the AV touchpanels. “The architect, previous to us getting involved, specified Crestron as the main dimming system throughout the building,” Teer says. “We needed to control the lights in the training rooms and the commission chambers, so we used the Crestron PAC2M [controller] to let AMX talk to Crestron,” Teer says. The AMX talks to the Crestron system over IP. “We literally set up a simple language so the AMX system could tell the Crestron to set this light dimmer to this value,” Sheppard says.

For the training rooms, Teer wrote AMX controls to a series of HTML pages that are accessible on the Dell PCs installed in the rooms’ podiums. For user control, the Dell computers are wedded to 17in. Hitachi StarBoard ST-17SXL touchpanels. As mentioned, Teer Engineering later added a standalone tabletop touchpanel from AMX to the commission chambers so that someone not at the podium could adjust mic levels and perform other control tasks.

Sheppard was responsible for setting up an AV control system that would be intuitive to the nontechnical OUC employees who drive the DVD players and switch computer sources for PowerPoint presentations. He says that many employees never understood how to operate the control system in place at the OUC’s previous location. For Reliable Plaza, the four AutoPatch Precis LT series switchers direct traffic for a fairly complicated matrix of video sources and displays, but the user sees easily identifiable source and display selections, such as “Desktop Computer” and “Laptop Computer.” Teer Engineering devised a system that color-maps sources and displays based on what’s connected. For instance, if a DVD player running an OUC logo is selected to send the signal to two LCD monitors in the commission chambers, this source and these displays could be all coded blue on the control panel.

Perhaps the most complicated function of the AV control system for employees is the act of sending video signals from one room to another. For example, a well-attended public meeting in the commission chambers might necessitate the use of a training room as an overflow room. In this case, the user needs to turn off the “Privacy” option in the commission chambers, and the Training Room 1 control panel would then have access to the video sources of the commission chambers via a “View Other Rooms” command.

Ongoing Attention

Below all these simple controls are layers of system reporting (such as projector lamp-life information) and menu editing that only Teer Engineering knows how to access. The integration firm has a maintenance contract with the OUC to clean projector filters and replace their lamps when necessary. Projector and DVD player data is shared over serial connections to the AMX system, and the AMX systems talk with each other and to the London BLU DSP infrastructure over IP.

Another part of Teer’s contract is to run the audiovisual portion of the public meetings that take place in the commission chambers. “We’re just using the exact same AMX panel that they have at their disposal,” Teer says. A maintenance contract guarantees a regular billable service without a new sales effort, so Teer Engineering is understandably eager to help the OUC continue to improve its AV operations. For instance, there’s the Keywest Tecnology MXS-MZRV digital signage system that the firm installed in the building lobby. So far, the content is less than compelling and not updated regularly, according to Teer. “They’ve never had a system like this before,” he says, “so they don’t really have anybody who normally runs it or creates media for it.” Teer Engineering has designed an elegant, simple AV system for nontechnical users to operate, but there’s apparently still a need for its expertise.

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