Audiologic Delivers a New Standard of Hybrid Teaching at the University of Birmingham
Darren Gatenby, Senior Consultant at Hewshott Consultancy, has been lead Technology Consultant on the project since its inception five years ago. The goal was to establish the premier events and conferencing venue in Oxford, catering to educational events, weddings, and corporate functions. Darren closely collaborated with the client and stakeholders to meticulously craft a design that fulfilled all requirements.
Incorporating a number of different spaces, the venue comprises the main 280-seat convening hall plus a number of smaller rooms and a garden pavilion. Darren comments: “Originally the rooms were essentially echo tunnels, the challenge was to address the acoustic issues within these spaces, making a robust audio infrastructure that was infinitely flexible, scalable and expandable across the spaces imperative.”
Hewshott put the extensive project to tender, with leading AV solutions provider GVAV, awarded the contract. Stuart Harris, Technical Sales Manager at GVAV who, in consultation with Audiologic, specified a comprehensive Q-SYS ecosystem. This system centred around 16 x NV-32 H core capable software configurable video endpoints with 4 x TSC Touch Screen Controllers, AD-C6T speakers and Q-SYS PTZ cameras was specified, integrated with Shure MXA710 and 910 ceiling microphones, SM58 and WL185 handheld and lapel microphones, and Yamaha VXL1B line array speakers.
Q-SYS, an innovative cloud-manageable audio, video, and control platform, forms the backbone of the conference centre's technology infrastructure. Its modern architecture and development tools facilitate seamless integration with third-party partners' solutions, providing a versatile and cohesive ecosystem.
The main Convening Hall, flexible to be divided into three separate areas, is equipped with Shure MXA microphones and front/rear cameras, allowing versatile configurations with multiple screens, excellent acoustic properties and easy to use control panels. Smaller meeting rooms have full controllable audio with NEC large format screens, running bars, logitech scribes and taps with roommate PC running Zoom rooms.
The XR Lab offers the ideal space for extended reality presentations or exhibits. Lighting can be changed to marry the mood of the space or the exhibit, with the ability to highlight items within the nook areas.
The Garden Pavilion fully glazed meeting space, with camera technology built-in, has Shure MXA 710 microphones built in to front, Q-SYS touch panel for control of the space and a large format display.
Despite delays caused by the restoration project's scope, the resulting evolution of the brief and technology enhancements proved advantageous, following the latest trends and technology, as equipment became more available post pandemic.
Early engagement on the project was key for all parties, Hewshott were working directly with the architects and stakeholders from conception to ensure that the technology was fit for purpose and installed correctly - such as the physics of the microphone installation, ensuring premium sound and functionality was maintained when architects wanted everything to be as invisible as possible. Darren adds: “Acoustics needed to be thought about at the very beginning, not as an afterthought. Cabling and recesses were all addressed from the start, with everything configured from a discovery perspective, making the building a matrix which is then easy to plug-in the hardware.”
Accurate designs made for a seamless installation with fine tuning and finishing touches delivered with ease. Stuart continues: “Though we didn’t stray far from the original design, adding in elements such as the lectern with the screen in the back was a nice little edition we came up with. As the Q-SYS system is so flexible, it makes tweaks very easy. Keeping lines of communication open throughout the project was key - we worked very closely with Audiologic to make sure we had priority for Q-SYS kit coming in to overcome those hurdles - without their help and flexibility we would have been missing some key components.”
On the decision of choosing Q-SYS, Darren explains: “The aim was to find the optimal solution, and AVoIP was a no-brainer. QSC was a contender from early on, and with the delays we saw the Q-SYS ecosystem evolve, with the cores developing, the NV technology and the way the system communicates with the cameras and the controls, it became the perfect fit. The Q-SYS ecosystem is now the system of choice across many of our projects, due to its seamless flexibility.”
Stuart reflects on the growth of Q-SYS into a holistic solution: “A few years ago we would have used QSC for audio, but not for the control platform. As they started to bring in control and elements and build, it has become this holistic solution - one platform that does everything, and then you bring the Wolfvision into that as well, it gives you that ability to manipulate what’s on each display.”
Efthymios (Tim) Chatzigiannis, AV Manager at The Rhodes Trust praised Q-SYS’s flexibility and user-friendly interface, and feels empowered by his Q-SYS Level 2 training: “I was impressed with the flexibility and ease with which you can integrate different elements and change the simply by dragging and dropping. I needed to add some exposure controls for the cameras and it was so simple to do. The training really opened my eyes to the possibilities, and I am confident I can tweak and adapt the system as we require. The Q-SYS communities have been an invaluable resource for support.”
Stuart underscored Q-SYS's adaptability and speed in implementing changes compared to other systems “In comparison to the short time that it took Tim to add the camera controls, it would have taken at least half a days work with a different control system, with new OI layouts, new background programming, whereas within the QSC environment you do it all in one go - in minutes, not hours.”
Jess Rararty, Internal Business Manager at Audiologic, emphasised the empowerment that Q-SYS provides to users for remote control and learning, thanks to its comprehensive training program. “With Q-SYS you have the ability to control the system remotely from anywhere, even outside the building, managing and learning as you go.”
Darren concludes: “Our client is extremely pleased with the solution, as new technology and new requirements come along, we will modify and update the system as required. It is clear that the usage of the system will be dynamic and evolving, once users get used to the impressive capabilities, it will pave the way for new events.”
The refurbished Rhodes House Conference Centre stands as a testament to a harmonious blend of historical elegance and cutting-edge technology, made possible by the seamless integration of the Q-SYS ecosystem.