Alan Bender, Account Executive, says the Diversified team worked very hard to maximize not only the video, but the audio quality of the new rooms.
To optimize the video, the CompView team based the conferencing systems on Cisco C40 codecs, which provide full 1080p high-definition over an IP network connection. At the front of each room are two 70” diagonal Sharp flat-panel displays, also offering 1080p resolution. “Normally they’ll use one display for far-end images and the other for supporting visuals, whether PowerPoint, video, or computer images,” Bender adds.
Between the displays, CompView mounted a Cisco 1080p pan-tilt-zoom camera to capture images of the students. On the back wall is an additional Cisco PTZ camera to capture images of the instructor.
To optimize the audio, the team included a Biamp Nexia TC processor, which handles microphone mixing, graphic equalization, filtering, and the echo cancellation that’s critical to a room-to-room call. The Nexia allowed the CompView team to tune each room in much the same way they would tune a concert hall, adjusting the frequency by frequency performance of the microphones and ceiling speakers to maximize speech intelligibility.
In the room in San Mateo the team installed hard-wired Shure boundary microphones on the boardroom-style table, which is shaped like a ‘V’ to allow the front camera unobstructed views of all who are seated there. They also included a wireless mic system with hand-held and lavalieres for the presenter’s use. “It’s always easier to get good pickup if you put the microphones close to the people talking,” Bender explains.
In Sacramento, however, they did not have that option, since the tables can be moved according to the needs of the class. Instead, they used the new ClearOne Ceiling Microphone Array. “These ClearOne arrays do a great job,” Bender says. Each hangs just over the heads of the students and includes three unidirectional microphone elements arranged to provide full 360-degree coverage. CompView used just four for the entire room, and the sound quality is virtually identical to the table mics. Marcus Walton, Information Technology Services Manager for Samuel Merritt University, says: “Students are able to collaborate anywhere within the classroom, with no limitations. The sound system provides the flexibility to speak freely.”
One small touch adds a lot of utility to the room in San Mateo. “Because of the way the room is configured, we had to mount the displays on a window wall,” Bender explains. “Of course it’s easy enough to add shading so that people can see the monitors without the sun in their eyes, but we couldn’t use standard monitor mounts. Fortunately Premier makes a pendant-style mount, the ECM -3763S, that we could secure into the framework above the ceiling. We like Premier because it’s a good, reliable mount that we can depend on, and there’s a lot of flexibility in their product line for when we run into an unusual situation.”
AMX touch screens in each room give instructors highly visual, step by step operating menus for every system, from the volume levels to camera controls. For video calls, the system connects automatically without instructor input. “We add each class to the schedule and, on that date and time, the systems turn themselves on and make the connection. They’re ready when the instructors and students walk into the classrooms,” says Blair Simmons, Director of Information Technology Services for Samuel Merritt University.
Given the possibilities for error, the IT department monitors each video class and can monitor local uses of the AV systems as well. “The nice thing about it,” Bender explains, “is that they don’t need to leave the IT office. A technician can open a window for each classroom on his PC workstation and see the AMX controls, the video windows, and he can monitor the audio. They normally keep these windows open during video calls yet can do other work unless there’s a problem.”
Walton says problems are few. “The faculty and staff love the new rooms and their AV systems. With distance learning initiatives growing, the preference to use these rooms will be great. Currently we have a waiting list to use them.”