DIGITAL SWEET SPOT
Rising 12 storeys above Melbourne’s busy Haymarket intersection, the University of Melbourne’s Business and Economics Building earned the nickname ‘The Spot’ soon after its completion in 2009 due to its striking façade.
University of Melbourne recently embarked on a project to refurbish and expand three of The Spot’s collaborative learning spaces, merging single to double rooms and updating the AV backbone from analogue to digital. The Spot now boasts two spaces that can accommodate up to 100 students and one space capable of hosting 50.
Built around a system of pods designed for 10, audiovisual content can be shared across PC screens, wall-mounted flat panels or projection screens around the room, providing a huge amount of flexibility in classroom delivery and participation. Chosen to assist the university on the project were integrators Soundcorp and audiovisual consultant WSP Group.
Crosspoint to Make
Duncan Johnston, audio visual engineer with consultants WSP Group takes up the story: “The functionality of the new system is similar to the old one; each of the pods have two PCs the students can use. The option now is to share either of those PCs to the local monitor, flat panels or projection screens, or to have the teaching material presented on the flat panels and other devices at the teacher’s discretion.”
Powering the video and audio switching needed for such a large system are Extron XTP Crosspoint modular digital matrix switchers. Crosspoint 3200s are installed in the larger rooms, with a Crosspoint 1600 in the smaller space.
Michael D’Aprano, senior technical specialist in the learning space support team at the University of Melbourne, worked with Duncan on the AV specifications to ensure the university was getting what it needed: “This is the first time we’d used Extron XTP in a collaborative space as opposed to a lecture theatre.”
Sam Moore, sales manager at Soundcorp, knew they’d made the right decision: “Extron XTP ticks all the boxes,” he agreed. “It’s simple to install, simple to use, and very versatile.”
While the university repurposed some existing equipment, including power amplifiers, ceiling speakers, and document cameras, the upgrade required new audio processing from Biamp, tabletop microphones from Shure, wireless microphones from Sennheiser, flat panel displays and projectors from Sony, and AV control processing from AMX.
Each room now includes a teacher’s lectern with touchpanel AV system control, local inputs, document camera and a combo DVD/VCR, plus wired and wireless microphone options. The student pods, in addition to two PCs, each have HDMI, DVI and VGA laptop connectivity and a simple AV system control keypad. Each room includes four large projection screens. All AV equipment is monitored, logged and maintained remotely through AMX’s Resource Management Suite. The 10 new Sony VPL-FHZ55 data projectors installed in The Spot are part of an ongoing upgrade process at the university to replace traditional discharge lamp projectors with laser models.
“When projectors are workhorses, laser offers significant advantages,” noted Duncan Johnston. Michael D’Aprano agrees: “We’ve been installing laser projectors for the last 12 months. They really suit our needs, as we don’t have to get a ladder out and change a lamp every 3000 hours. The laser projectors are rated for an operational life of 20,000 hours. Our replacement cycle for lamped projectors is three years, but installing laser projectors allows us to extend that out to probably six or seven years.”
Time, Quality, Budget
As with all universities, the biggest challenge in installing a successful digital collaboration system wasn’t technology, but time. Peter Nanscawen works in project management for the University of Melbourne and is in charge of overseeing seasonal works for AV installations. “These projects have big dependencies and tight constraints,” he illustrated. “These sorts of works need to get done over semester breaks, often working nights to get them done.” This is why the university turned to Soundcorp to deliver the project. “I’ve dealt with Soundcorp a number of times over a number of installations and I was confident they’d be the ones to pull it all together,” said Peter. Soundcorp’s Sam Moore added: “We did two weeks’ worth of night works between 8pm and 6am, roughing in, going into ceilings and under floors. We worked closely with the university’s Information and Technology Services staff to make sure they imaged the PCs correctly to feed the right video resolution and audio output into the Extron systems.”
WSP Group Asia Pacific: wspgroup.com
Soundcorp: (03) 9694 2600 or www.soundcorp.com.au
Extron Electronics: 1800 398 766 or www.extron.com.au
Jands (Shure): (02) 9582 0909 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sennheiser Australia: 1800 648 628 or sennheiser.com
Audio Products Group (Biamp): (02) 9669 3477 or www.biamp.com
AMX: (07) 5531 3103 or www.amx.com