The Anderson Center at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) is home to several academic departments and also serves as a busy conference venue. It boasts meeting breakout rooms, a large banquet hall and a 400-seat auditorium equipped to host professional theatrical productions. The conference venues can be booked by the campus community, government agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations and business associations. The McNeil Banquet Hall recently completed a major remodel that included installation of a new audiovisual system. Thanks to the improvements made in the remodel, bookings are way up, making the banquet hall a robust profit center for the university.
The Tech Challenge
Constructing the banquet hall improvements presented all of the typical challenges of a remodel. For the new AV system, WSSU’s Technology Support Analyst Chris Screen worked with Winston-Salem based AV integrator Recursav, LLC to meet those challenges. Although they had a blank slate of an empty room, they had to devise an AV design that could be installed with minimum disturbance to the existing walls and ceiling, while meeting the need for multiple screens on each wall to provide good viewing angles for people seated around dining tables throughout the room.
Plans also called for additional video screens in the lobby area at the banquet hall entrance, which required drilling through existing concrete structure for cable routing. To simplify cable pulls through existing construction, AV over IP signal distribution over CATx Ethernet cable was the logical choice.
The integrator selected a range of Extron switching, distribution, control, and audio products to meet system design requirements.
The Design Solution
Extron’s NAV Pro AV over IP Encoders and Decoders form the backbone of the video signal path, using 1 Gbps Ethernet cable infrastructure to send 4K video and RS-232 control signals throughout Anderson Center’s conference venues, including the McNeil Banquet Hall, the Dillard Auditorium, and their lobbies. The Ethernet cable distributes the audio, relying on Dante audio network connectivity. A NAVigator AV over IP System Manager configures the NAV encoder and decoder endpoints and also manages matrix switching between AV inputs and outputs through an IP network switch.
Signal Routing and Distribution with NAV Pro AV over IP NAV Pro provides several advantages that make it the right choice at Anderson Center. It transports video, audio, and control signals over standard CATx Ethernet cabling using readily available Ethernet network switches, saving installation time and expense, and allowing AV content routing from any source to any destination. WSSU plans to add more endpoints to the building’s AV over IP network during future budget cycles.
Projectors in the Banquet Hall
The banquet hall has five ceiling-mounted laser projectors aimed at two screens on the South wall, two screens on the North wall, and one screen on the East wall. The East wall with the single screen is considered the “front” of the room, but event organizers have the flexibility to make any wall the focal point of the room to suit varying crowd sizes, dining table layouts, or when dual screens are needed for a presentation. The projectors are fed HDMI content and RS-232 control signals from NAV decoders mounted atop each projector.
Flat Panel Displays in the Lobby
The hallway lobby at the banquet hall entrance serves as the “pre-function” area, where attendees can mingle, register and pick up badges before going into the hall. Two 65″ flat panel displays on the wall of the lobby display informational messages, entertainment, real-time views of presentations screening in the hall, or views of what is going on in the hall captured by two cameras located on the North and South walls of the hall. Extron NAV decoders mounted behind each display supply HDMI content and RS-232 control signals to the displays.
AV Connections Between Venues
The banquet hall also has bi-directional NAV AV over IP connectivity with the Dillard Auditorium, increasing event capacity by 400 seats. Content from the banquet hall can be sent to displays in the auditorium, or the auditorium can supply content to the banquet hall.
According to WSSU’s Screen, the latter option came in handy during a heavily attended strategic plan presentation conducted by the Chancellor. The event took place in the auditorium, which filled to capacity. Multiple studio-caliber cameras connected through a live production switcher to a NAV encoder allowed the overflow crowd to watch from the banquet hall, as well as streaming to YouTube via an SMP 352 streaming media processor.
Commenting on how Extron NAV technology makes this possible, Screen says, “To get that kind of AV distribution capability with just one network cable pull? I’m so impressed with that.”
Streaming, Recording & Software Codec Conferencing
An SMP 352 Dual Recording Streaming Media Processor receives HDMI from two NAV decoders, as well as two DSP-enhanced analog audio channels. WSSU uses the SMP 352 to record and stream events from both the banquet hall and the auditorium. This allows events and conferences to be disseminated to wider audiences beyond the confines of the two venues.
Distant participants can also join events interactively via web-based software codec applications like Zoom. The soft codecs run on the AV system’s PC, which is looped into the AV over IP network via a NAV encoder and decoder.
NAV Wallplate Encoders Located Near Each Projection Screen
In keeping with the concept of making the room layout flexible for all types of events, a NAV wallplate encoder is located next to each of the five projection screens in the banquet hall. No matter which screen the presenter chooses to use as the main screen, there is an encoder nearby where they can plug in their laptop or other HDMI content source. NAV wallplate encoders are also located near each of the two cameras on the hall’s North and South walls, allowing the cameras to feed their HDMI content into the AV over IP network.
Clear, Powerful Sound in All Venues
The IP network also distributes audio, relying on Dante and AES67 network connectivity. Audio sources include program audio from presenters’ laptops, delivered through NAV wallplate encoders. Eight wireless mics provide audio from presenters and attendees. Sixteen SoundField ceiling speakers in the dining hall are driven by a NetPA four channel amplifier with 100 watts per channel.
A NetPA amplifier with two 100-watt channels drives six SoundField speakers in the pre-function area. Both amplifiers receive their inputs from the Dante audio network. Assistive listening transmitters at the North and South walls connect to the Dante network via AXI 22 AT D Dante audio interface wallplates and provide full coverage of the room for attendees who are issued portable auditory assistance receivers.
AV System Operation Through Touchpanels
Event organizers and presenters control the AV system at five TouchLink Pro 10″ touchpanels on the banquet hall walls next to each projection screen. Intuitive GUIs control the AV system power, raise and lower projection screens, route any AV source to any screen, and set up streaming and Zoom sessions. By entering a password at the home screen, AV technicians access a set of technical GUIs for performing advanced system configuration.
The touchpanels work together with an IPCP Pro xi control processor, an IPL EXP expansion interface, and the NAVigator AV over IP system manager to control all AV system functions. Using Extron Control for iOS, the control system mirrors the touchpanel GUIs via Wi-Fi to an iPad, enabling wireless control from anywhere in the room. Recursav designed and implemented the touchpanel GUIs using Global Configurator Professional and GUI Designer software.
A Flexible Space
On his first walkthrough of the McNeil Banquet Hall, WSSU Chancelor Elwood Robinson was inspired to post a panoramic photo of the space to his Facebook page with the comment, “The transformation of the Anderson Ball Room into a ‘State of the Art’ teleconferencing and technology center is amazing. I was blown away during my visit this morning!”
If the banquet hall’s packed booking schedule is any indication, those in the academic community and in the surrounding Winston-Salem community are blown away too. The hall hosts everything from educational symposiums to awards ceremonies, business meetings, weddings and memorials. First class food catering service and sophisticated multimedia capabilities make the McNeil Banquet Hall a natural choice for those seeking a convenient, cost-effective event space.
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