The University of Essex has seen a dramatic increase in student numbers over recent years and, with old AV equipment in its teaching rooms, it needed a major overhaul across its estate to improve the experience for both students and presenters. As part of this development, it needed the flexibility to deliver any kind of teaching from any room.
Wayne Laughlin, Learning Environment Technology Services (LETS) Manager at the university, said: “Our AV technology was old and needed updating. It was mostly composite or VGA based with very little HDMI. Much of this legacy equipment was end of life, with no warranty and finding spare parts was difficult.
“Also each room had different systems with poor integration with user devices and very little scaling. This meant presenters had sync issues when they plugged in their devices with the output resolution different to that of the display.”
To modernise this equipment, the university wanted to change to video-over-IP, which allows content to be distributed via a media server over LAN, and install switcher scalers into each room to improve compatibility with presenter devices.
“Our fast expansion into new buildings meant that we required an AV design that was scalable and repeatable with a highly effective supply chain”, he added.
In each room, the in-house team installed a height adjustable lectern, visualiser, control touch panel, AMX SVSI video management system, amplifier, PC and a Calibre HQView620A scaler-switcher as the core integration device.
The HQView620A universal audio and video scaler-switcher allows presenters to use a range of resolution inputs and automatically scales the content to a common output resolution. It also allows presenters to switch quickly between sources.
Optoma’s parent company, Coretronic, acquired Calibre, the British image processing technology manufacturer, in August 2017. Since then, the core technology of the HQView620A has been incorporated into the Optoma PS200 scaler-switcher.
Calibre’s HQView and Optoma’s PS200 ranges provide best in class picture quality with low latency video processing. The PS200, PS200T and PS300T all include Calibre’s class leading HQUltra 4K image processing technology with HQUltraFast input switching. Each model is able to switch input channels in as little as 0.25 seconds with easy transition between different generations of sources and displays by seamlessly interfacing between 4K, HD, and even SD signals.
The scaler-switchers feature front panel controls with easy to read front panel menu plus remote control via inbuilt webserver and easy to implement API commands.
All have stereo analogue audio inputs and outputs with audio-follow-video capability. There are two microphone inputs with phantom power available and an internal mixer for talk-over. The internal power amplifier provides 2x15W RMS to directly drive loudspeakers in meeting rooms and smaller conference room, plus line level balanced stereo outputs to drive an external amplifier or powered loudspeakers.
Michael Rosevear, LETS Development Team Leader, said: “We looked at a large range of scaler-switchers to see what would fit for us. We chose this model not just due to the number of inputs, ability to scale and seamlessly switch between sources but also its value for money and small form factor. These create very little heat compared to other scaler-switchers on the market. This, coupled with their diminutive size, allowed us to shrink the size of the lecterns which gives a much smaller visual impact in the teaching spaces.
“Having amplified outputs for speakers within the scaler-switcher was an added bonus as it reduces the number of devices in the room and reduces the complexity of each installation.”
AMX SVSI video management system was used within the system to give consistency and familiarity for presenters. Wayne said: “The university has used AMX for a long time and all control interfaces are based around an AMX touch panel. AMX SVSI was the natural progression for us to achieve the video over IP.”
The university has increased productivity by implementing a common specification and control architecture, making the rooms more intuitive for each user. It has improved reliability, source compatibility and uniformity.
Wayne explained: “Using the same equipment in all rooms allows our technicians to switch out components easily with very little downtime and provides a consistent teaching space design. While for presenters, this common implementation gives them confidence that when they plug their laptop into the system it will correctly display their content and if they can use one room, they can use any room. It all adds up to a better experience for our students.”
He added: “Having a roadmap for this scaler-switcher gives us confidence that spare components and support will always be available – we have resilience in our rooms.”
Video over IP gives presenters the flexibility on how they wish to connect to the system. Michael explained: “Lots of presenters use the inbuilt PC. They prepare presentations on their office PC and simply log on at the lectern to access this via the network shares. Others may prefer to use their own equipment. They can simply plug the system straight into their laptops and the presentation is seamless. This is perfect for external presenters.
“The switching speed is great too. When you change source you want it to be straight away so there is no delay. The these scaler-switchers have no lag or latency.”
Installation is complete across a third of the university’s teaching rooms with more to be added as the replacement cycle is completed.
The university’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) building will open for September 2018 with this uniform approach into every room. Lecterns will have the same functionality, look and feel but, rather than traditional teaching rooms, spaces will be designed for collaborative group-based learning around huddle desks.
Michael said: “The rooms range from single teaching position PC labs to a collaborative suite with 23 shared work stations, where the lecturer or students can present to the whole group. Each huddle space will have two pods built into it – this means we need to install two switchers, two sets of transport and two displays. The reduce form factor of the equipment allows us to fit this into a smaller housing and not encroach on the leg space under the desks.”
He added: “The STEM building will have around 90 displays. To put video out to all those displays without pre-scaling you would be relying on all of your scalers and your displays to generate an image that looks acceptable. Video over IP allows us to roll out the same system across every room regardless of how many displays and whether they are front wall mounted, ceiling mounted and the ability to send content to multiple rooms.”
The University of Essex
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Image copyright ©Optoma Europe Ltd