Dante-enabled Shure Microflex Wireless microphones bring greater flexibility to instructional communications, establishing two-way audio paths between an instructor and an assistant, or between instructors and students.
“The application is, in general, to digitize audio as quickly as possible from the source – and keep it digitized all the way to the output, which in this case is the amplifier rack driving the loudspeakers,” says Menon. “Dante is providing the scalability and modularity we require to achieve these goals, while playing a major role in the noise immunity across the various student benches.”
The noise immunity requirements were instrumental in their eventual choice of loudspeaker. Orsatti and the Fredon Technology team worked with WSP, an AV systems consultant, to develop a pilot program for testing loudspeaker solutions.
“We tested a very traditional column loudspeaker solution sitting above the benches, as well as electrostatic loudspeakers from Panphonics,” said Orsatti. “We found that the Panphonics speakers offer a very acute listening angle. That tight coverage band delivered the isolation we needed between benches, and even allowed for segregation on each side of the bench. Each student hears the audio assigned to his class, and that’s it. There is a sharp and immediate gradient as you move away from each speaker.”
The Dante network implementation simplified the overall integration process, reducing costs and eliminating the complexity of running wire and cable throughout the lab. The only traditional cabling and integration costs were for the loudspeakers, as well as backup microphones under each teaching position in case the instructors want to put down their headsets.
From the outset, the client’s vision was to take advantage of a networked architecture to futureproof the installation.
“Dante enabled the University of Sydney to deliver a unified system that took advantage of the existing network,” says Orsatti. “We already had close history with the university’s IT team from previous projects, so integrating Dante was straightforward as it is based on standard IT principles. ”
“Dante is a Layer 3 system leveraging the existing network infrastructure, which saves on audio-specific cabling,” says Menon. “The installation of the Dante X-Lab network was fast, cost-effective, and more importantly, delivered a very flexible solution. ”
The networked infrastructure also incorporates key video systems, notably Haivision Makito encoders to convert instructional feeds into H.264 streams. Those streams are displayed within Haivision Instream players on each touchscreen-enabled student PC; each student can view up to three simultaneous streams, and can resize player windows to suit their needs. Video streams of student work are also regularly captured on mobile phone cameras, and transmitted wirelessly to a tablet connected to a demo workstation. The streams can then be transmitted to the entire classroom.
However, it’s clear that the audio networking and reproduction system delivers the most pertinent benefits for the multi-classroom learning environment of the X-Lab.
“Looking specifically at the X-Lab, banishing the headsets has resulted in a dynamic networked audio distribution system promulgating through electrostatic loudspeakers,” says Menon. “The students are immersed in the sound of a specific demonstrator’s voice, without the tangle of cables or headsets; and with a speech reinforcement system that is sufficiently precise enough to mask noisy neighbors. I believe this to be a dynamically switchable architecture with highly directional sound immersion, and the user experience blows people away.”
Brian Galante is President and Owner of Dimension PR, and is additionally a published author in broadcast, professional AV, digital signage, transportation, energy and security publications worldwide.