There’s something incredibly satisfying in being let loose to totally renovate an existing space, with permission, nay a requirement, to completely gut the thing and start again from scratch. This is what the team at Melbourne’s JAK Audio Visual got to do with Richmond’s Epworth Hospital auditorium, which was suffering from a serious case of 1980s-itis.
The grand piano-shaped auditorium is an important space for the Hospital, being utilised for video conferencing, team meetings, and all-important fundraising and donor special occasions. It was one of Epworth’s donors that spurred the renovation. They weren’t happy with the aging space’s 80s vibes and funded the renovation with the simple observation that; “It looks terrible. Fix it.”
“It was quite tired,” relates JAK Audio Visual’s Director, Kyle Hoppitt. “Apart from the colour palette, there were electric projection screens that didn’t wind up anymore, and an AV system that had been added to and Frankenstein-ised over a couple of decades. While parts of it were new enough to re-use, like its Crestron DM-MD16X16 video matrix, the bulk of the room and its AV system needed to be ripped out and replaced.”
The biggest change was removing a solid dividing wall and replacing it with retractable bifold doors, removing the old catering and storage area and effectively creating an entirely new meeting space. With this done, the auditorium can be used as one big space, or two meeting rooms. The main meeting space, effectively the ‘keyboard end’ of the grand piano shape, has the main screen and bigger sound system, and the secondary meeting space at the other end of the piano shape operates at right-angles to the main space.
Epson EB-L1505UHNL laser source projectors were installed at either end of the room, one for the main screen and another for the secondary. Five Sony LCD screens were mounted on the walls in between, covering everyone in the room who might need to see video, especially when the auditorium is in fundraising dinner function mode.
“The client brief was that the space had to be very flexible,” outlines Kyle. “It’s a true multipurpose room, not just a straight lecture hall or VC room. Aesthetics were very important as it’s the Hospital’s public face, so it had to look impressive. Another consideration was user-friendliness. This was actually the start of Epworth’s conversion to Microsoft Teams. We worked on the project with Qtec Systems – they look after the Teams side, and we look after the AV.”
The Teams conferencing audio is handled via three Shure MXA910 ceiling tile mics, covering the entire space. Teams audio is routed to Crestron ceiling speakers driven by a Crown DCI4X300DA four channel amp. Presentation audio input is from a hardwired mic in the lectern or four channels of Shure QLX-D radio mics. Audio processing is handled by a Biamp TesiraFORTÉ DSP. A Crestron control system administers every aspect of the room, with Crestron being JAK’s control system of choice.
The left-right speakers for the main and secondary presentation screens were chosen for both their full range performance and customisable aesthetics. “On the primary screen, we have a pair of Fohhn Scale-2, and on the secondary screen, Fohhn Scale-1,” explains Kyle. “As the speech audio is routed through the ceiling speakers, the purpose of the Fohhns is playback, presentation, and media audio. We wanted high quality audio with solid low end that was also controllable. Through Fohhn’s Australian distributor, CMI Music & Audio, we got these speakers produced with RAL colour matching, so they totally blend into the wall. It was also important that their amp connect to the TesiraFORTÉ via Dante. I’m glad we went with Fohhn, as music sounds much better on the Fohhns than through comparable products, and the results needed to be sonically and aesthetically impressive.”
JAK chose a wheelchair-friendly, height adjustable lectern, which needed to be able to run from two positions, each side of the main screen. The challenge was to get minimum cabling into two separate floor boxes, and automate lighting and control as it moved. With the Crestron video matrix running HDBaseT, JAK used the video sync on two of its inputs to detect which position the lectern is plugged into. The control system and a Crestron dimmer then fades up one of two ETC Source4 Fresnels as appropriate, ensuring the presenter has good light for VC. Dante handles the lectern microphone via a Shure A/D converter and Dante adapter, and USB over IP is included for presenters and video conferencers to utilise their BYOD functionality if they don’t want to use Teams.
Finished off with multiple Crestron touch screens dotted around the space and in the lecterns, Screen Techniks projector lifts, and side-tensioned electric screens, the Epworth Hospital Richmond’s auditorium has made a full recovery from its reconstructive surgery, and will be hosting, educating, and fundraising for years to come.
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