in October 2006
By Jim Stokes
Conrad Indianapolis' elegance extends to presentation environments.
The new Conrad Indianapolis Hotel in Indianapolis IN extends the 5-Star facility’s amenities to its meeting spaces with extensive AV capabilities. Conrad’s Conference Center is comprised of two hi-tech boardrooms, a flexible ballroom space and six small conference rooms that often are used for corporate meetings and special events. The Center offers more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space, all conveniently located on the same floor of the hotel. And the AV system accommodates DVD, VCR and PC-based presentations with great ease of use. Before we explore the AV, let’s look at the hotel and its Indianapolis environment.
The Conrad Indianapolis, which opened in March, is the fourth Conrad Hotel in the United States and the first to be constructed from the ground up. The Conrad has been designated as “the luxury brand of the Hilton family.” Located in the heart of Indiana’s capital city at one of the prominent downtown intersections, the 23-story hotel tower is integrated into the Artsgarden, a public space for the performing arts. It’s also close to famed monuments. And a sky bridge links the hotel to the Indiana Convention Center. Thus, the Conrad accommodates both business and leisure activities.
Concurrent with the emergence of the Conrad, Indianapolis business has been undergoing an economic surge. According to the IndyGov website (www. indygov.org), job numbers have been bolstered by major expansions from FedEx Express and Rolls-Royce. Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson noted growth by local businesses, as well.
Referring specifically to the growth of Applied Composites, he said, “It’s deals such as FedEx and Rolls-Royce that grab headlines—and for good reason because these companies are two of the largest employers in our city. But we will never lose our focus on supporting the growth of our hometown businesses that are a huge driver of our local economy.” Indianapolis long has been a destination for commerce and recreation, as evidenced by the annual high-profile Indy 500 motor car race spectacle. The Hoosier state’s capital city is home to several Fortune 500 companies, such as pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company. On our AV side, Indianapolis is the headquarters of trade association CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association). And the city is home base for the American Legion.
[Reminiscing, this writer vividly recalls the city’s famed downtown military monuments. Some years after attending an army reserve school in Indianapolis, I mustered in and out of that same campus for Desert Storm. I took a jaunt to author Booth Tarkington’s old neighborhood, which had been well preserved. That author, along with poet James Whitcomb Riley, conjured up youthful images of bygone and much gentler days.]
Among the great many other famous Hoosiers are TV host/comedian David Letterman, controversial songster Michael Jackson, actress Shelley Long, popular standard songwriters Hoagy Carmichael and Cole Porter, astronaut Virgil Grissom, actor James Dean, writer Kurt Vonnegut, inventor Wilber Wright and octogenarian/contemporary composer Ned Rorem, whose opera, Our Town, premiered this year at Indiana University.
And what of the term “Hoosier?” Although there is a plethora of definitions, here are two widely accepted theories. A 19th century Ohio River canal contractor named Samuel Hoosier had many workers from Indiana. They were called “Hoosier’s men” or “Hoosiers.” The other reference concerns the Old English word “hoozer” that referred to a hill-dweller or highlander, sort of a hardy and stalwart backwoodsman. Whatever the tale behind the term, Hoosier definitely refers to Indiana nowadays.
Conference Center AV Install
|The ballroom, which can be divided into up to four separate rooms, features mobile projection systems with 150-inch screens.
For the Conrad Indianapolis Hotel Conference Center AV install, our local interviewees include Steve Owen, vice president of contract management, Barth Electric; Travis Combs, vice president of production, electronic evolutions/e2; and Jeff Ecker-man, IT manager, Conrad Indianapolis.
According to Owen, Barth Electric was the prime contractor for design/build of all the hotel’s low-voltage systems, such as audiovisual, the guest messaging system, background music sound system and the communication system that distributes the TV system. Barth collaborated with e2 on the final build-out. Prior to electronic evolutions’ involvement, he noted, “Panasonic and Barth spent a year with the owner in designing and developing all the systems. And then electronic evolutions was brought in at the tail end of the project. That meshed very well with us in the ‘11th hour’ where they worked with us in a team effort to finish this hotel project.”
Regarding e2’s involvement, Combs explained that they were brought in by Kite Realty Group, which is the building owner responsible for negotiating the deal that brought Conrad into Indianapolis. electronic evolutions had done previous corporate work, an auditorium and other projects for Kite. Combs noted that, when Conrad first came onto the project, Barth was responsible for all the AV needs within the building and subcontracted Panasonic to do the overall system and design.
“When Conrad finally hired its management staff and became familiar with the project, it was already under construction,” related Combs. “However, Conrad noticed that the design was your standard design for a standard hotel that really lent itself to rental equipment as a very open architecture system. So Conrad relayed that aspect to Kite, which brought us in and asked, ‘What can you guys add to this system?’”
Keeping Equipment In-House
Conrad didn’t like the typical rental arrangement that’s most common in the hotel industry. Combs related that e2 did some investigation to find out what the going rates are in different hotels to bring in basic AV equipment such as a projector and a screen. “It was truly amazing to us how much rental companies charged,” said Combs.
Under Conrad’s AV-in-house scenario, the hotel was able to offer the amenities and collect all the revenues itself, without having to do the typical 60/40 split with the rental house. A big issue was the disruption of the Conrad’s atmosphere. “They didn’t want the rental guy walking around the hotel wheeling in carts,” said Combs. “That just wasn’t ‘the Conrad way,’ which is very ‘5-Star’ and elegant.”
An issue with the hotel’s IT staff was changes and updates in equipment. However, the consensus was that it was worth having a fixed system in-house that would work time after time with no setup.
“Right off the bat, one of the biggest challenges was to look at the system and ask ourselves, ‘What can we do to improve this system and bring it up to a Conrad standard?’ We noticed that there was a lot of video run to all the rooms that had to be patched manually back in the equipment room.”
The solution was putting an AMX backbone in all the Conference Center rooms with matrix switching via AutoPatch. “So we went from rooms that really had no functionality unless you brought in a technician to wire everything up, to rooms that had a nice, elegant AMX key panel on the wall. When you hit the button, the projector would turn on. The screen would load. Activating a particular input would give you a fully functioning room.”
He pointed out that the old wiring didn’t permit any volume control within the room. The room had a fixed level for paging and background music. If you brought in a microphone, you’d have to bring in a mixer. AMX control solved that problem. “From that keypad, you could not only activate the video source, you could also turn the background music and paging on and off, and control microphone gain. We tried to integrate those functions into all the rooms.”
As mentioned, e2 partnered up with the electrician, Barth Electric Company. “We had a good relationship with them,” said Combs. “Because they were already in the building, we subcontracted a lot of our additional wiring. And they mounted our projectors and our screens. Barth was a big help in meeting those tight deadlines.” He emphasized that Barth provided the building’s background music system, which features Panasonic speakers and amplifiers that are governed by a Peavey MediaMatrix console. “Their system was basic and straightforward.” Therefore, e2 interfaced with the second floor Conference Center’s existing speakers, floor and wall boxes, patch panels and related relevant AV equipment.
Before we launch into specific descriptions of the nine spaces, which are comprised of two boardrooms, a ballroom that can be condensed or expanded and six small meeting/conference rooms, here’s a brief description of the most commonly accessed equipment, by make and model, in the advanced install as furnished by e2. This avoids listing frequently used equipment over and over again in the story.
At its most basic level, the AMX-based system accesses Sony XGA LCD projectors and various model Draper screens. Matrix switching is via AutoPatch. Of course, we’ll go into details of the rest of the components, as well.
Boardrooms and Ballrooms
The technology systems in each of the Conference Center’s two formal boardrooms are comprised of a wall-mounted flat-panel Panasonic 50-inch existing plasma monitor along with a few local sources such as a DVD, VCR and a building satellite. The spacious rooms each comprise 500 square feet. Equipment furnished by e2 included a projector, a motorized screen, lighting control and a wireless touchpanel control that ensures simplified system management for the hotel’s guests, no matter what their level of technical savvy. Thus, the system easily accommodates DVD-, VCR- and PC-based presentations, and provides exceptional ease of use. “We added projection and a screen so a presenter can have an option of watching the plasma and/or LCD projected displays,” said Combs. “The touchscreen allows organizing and choosing which display or displays.”
The versatile ballroom, with its 18-foot ceilings, can be used as one large room, four separate rooms or any combination, to accommodate a variety of events. Mobile projection systems, complete with portable projection screens, provide plug-and-play usability. “The 150-inch screens are used for the ballroom area as needed,” said Combs. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to integrate any projectors or screens in those rooms because of the ornate nature of the space. When it came to the projectors, we didn’t want just any generic cart wheeled in. So we had four custom millwork cabinets on rolling carts made by VanSan (City of Industry CA).”
The custom-designed rolling carts have a flip-top on an easily transportable, attractive piece of furniture. The user wheels in the cart, unhinges the cover back and the projector comes into play. And there’s a dedicated DVD/VCR combo as well, plus additional shelving for another DVD, VCR or PC. Equipment is housed in a Middle Atlantic rack. Via connection to the floor box, video can be sent to all four projectors in the ballroom and meeting rooms as needed, for large audiences.
|The hotel's Conference Center includes two 500-square-foot executive conference rooms. The New York conference room, pictured here, includes a wall-mounted flat panel plasma monitor, portable projector and motorized screen, lighting control, and a wireless touchpanel device that ensures simplified system management.
In addition to rolling carts, a portable “smart podium” that houses a variety of technology applications also is available for use throughout the Conference Center. VanSan was approached by electronic evolutions for the podium design, as well. Combs considers the AMX-accessed smart podium as the highlight of the system. “It was a concept we shared with VanSan. Although we came up with this one unit, we’re set up to do more as needed. We’ve used VanSan to do lecterns in the past and our intention was to put a lot of technology into the podium and make it portable. We looked into what someone in business is using or has access to within his own boardroom or conference room. So we included such equipment as a VCR and a DVD, and laptop accessibility.”
However, Combs stressed that e2 went steps further in providing useful technology in the custom-crafted podium, which has Middle Atlantic rackmounts for equipment. Thus, the lectern has a WolfVision portable Visualizer document camera. There’s a PolyVision interactive walk-and-talk board, which is also a preview monitor. Its interactivity functions as an interactive whiteboard where the presenter can make annotations on the panel itself and pull up a spreadsheet from a laptop.
Microphone-wise, the podium has a Shure gooseneck as well as a wireless pack that travels with it, so the presenter has the flexibility of putting that on and stepping away from the podium. Rounding out the dedicated smart podium AV, there’s a Sony DVD and a VHS player.
The last stops on our Conference Center journey are the six small conference rooms. Surrounding the ballroom, these meeting rooms function as breakout spaces. Each includes a ceiling-mounted projector and motorized screen. Similar to the boardrooms, each conference room has an in-wall wireless keypad for equipment access. Bringing it all together, Combs gave an example of a typical scenario in which the smart podium would be used for a meeting. The operation is so simple that it’s nearly intuitive: “When I wheel the lectern into the Tokyo meeting room, I plug everything in and tell the touchpanel what room I’m in. Then the touchpanel takes control of not only the equipment within the podium but also the room I’m in. Now I can select my source. The room’s projector will come on for me. And the screen is going to drop.” The rest is presentation history.
Conrad IT Perspective
According to Conrad Indianapolis IT manager Jeff Eckerman, the hotel Conference Center’s AV definitely is in use every day. “There have been situations where we’ve used the full ballroom. We’ve had three projectors set up there. The AutoPatch system is very nice. I don’t have to run cables all over the floors. I can feed from the podium up on the stage.”
According to Combs, “This would be our first go-around in the hotel industry.” He added, “So far, it’s been received very well from Conrad. We’d be interested in doing more projects like this, although we’d love to be involved in one of these earlier-on because we’d do a few things differently to make it more of an integrated system.”
Conrad Hotels represents the luxury tier within the Hilton family of brands. Properties are located strategically in capital cities and exotic resorts in the US, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and the Middle East. Locations include Bangkok, London, Dublin, Indianapolis, Istanbul, Miami, Brussels, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Queensland, and Brisbane.
Barth Electric Company
Founded in 1945, Barth Electric Company, Indianapolis, is responsible for designing and installing electrical systems in many of Indianopolis' high-profile buildings, including Circle Centre, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Connor Prairie Museum and the RCA Dome. Barth has left its mark on major warehouses, landmark office complexes, stores of every type, distribution centers, museums, entertainment venues, industrial plants and residential buildings throughout Indiana. Related services include emergency service, infrared thermography for detection of potential electrical malfunctions, power quality analysis, rental systems, high-voltage services, teledata services and design/build.
For more information, go to www.barthelectric.com.
Located in Carmel IN, electronic evolutions/e2 is a leading provider of custom audio/video, lighting control and automation solutions for central Indiana. The company firmly believes technology should be a pleasure, not a challenge. The firm has distinguished itself by receiving the highly regarded CEDIA Dealer of the Year award in 1999.
The company’s highly experienced, nationally recognized team has implemented sophisticated electronics systems in prestigious homes and businesses throughout the Midwest since 1985. The versatile team can provide videoconferencing for businesses or a fully integrated home theater system. Commercial projects include auditoriums, boardrooms, conference centers, presentation systems and training rooms. Residential projects include home entertainment centers, home theaters and media centers.
For more information, go to www.electronicevolutions.com.
Meeting Rooms, Ballrooms, Boardrooms
5 AMX AC-RK accessory rackmount kits w/3 module capacity
1 AMX MVP-8400 8.4" Modero wireless touchpanel
1 AMX MVP-WDS in-wall docking station
2 AMX MVP-8400 8.4" ViewPoint touchpanels in boardrooms
2 AMX MVP-TDS tabletop docking stations
1 AMX NI-4000 NetLinx integrated controller
6 AMX NI-700 NetLinx integrated controllers, 7 control ports plus Ethernet, AXLink connectivity
1 AutoPatch Modula 32 x 1 32x16 RGBHV matrix switcher
12 Draper 121007 LVC III, LVC-S single station low-voltage control modules
1 Draper M1300 Access/V 7' diagonal NTSC video matte white diffusing surface
5 Draper M1300 Access/V 8' diagonal NTSC video matte white diffusing surfaces
2 Draper Ultimate Folding portable 150" front projection event screens
2 Draper Traveller portable 100" front projection event screens
2 Extron dual-output VGA to UXGA distribution amps
2 Extron 4-input video scalers w/RGBHV output
2 Extron VGA, audio - input switchers
1 Middle Atlantic ERK-4420 45-space (77"), 19½" deep standalone rack w/accessories
1 Middle Atlantic WRK-44-27 44-space (77"), 27" deep gangable rack w/accessories
6 Premier Mounts PP-FCTA hidden projector mount system for false ceiling tile grid
8 Sony VPL-PX41 3500 lumen XGA LCD projector
4 AMX AXD-MSP16 B 16-button keypad; black
4 AMX NI-700 integrated controllers, 7 control ports plus Ethernet, AXLink connectivity
Middle Atlantic accessories
4 Sony VPL-PX41 3500 lumen XGA LCD projectors
4 Sony SLV-D560P DVD/VCR combo units
4 VanSan RC42 custom wood cabinet rack w/exposed shelves for DVD/VCR, locking lower cabinet
1 AMX NI-700 integrated controller, 7 control ports plus Ethernet, AXLink connectivity
1 AMX NXD-CV7 7" Modero wall-mount video touchpanel
1 Biamp SPM723 programmable stereo preamp/mixer
1 Extron 4-input video scaler w/RGBHV output, RGB scaling
1 Extron “The Peaker” VGA-UXGA line driver
1 Extron accessories
1 Linksys 8-port network switch for Ethernet-controlled devices
1 Middle Atlantic SRS2-12 150lb. capacity, 12-space sliding rail system, w/accessories
1 PolyVision IP 15 15" Walk-and-Talk interactive panel w/remote control
1 Shure MX418/C gooseneck mic
1 Shure ULXP 124/85 pro frequency, agile diversity wireless combo system operating in the UHF band
1 Sony DVP-NS90V single disc DVD player w/HDMI interface
1 Sony SLV-N900 VHS hi-fi stereo VCR
1 VanSan Classic 32 32" wide lectern
1 WolfVision VZ-8plus portable Visualizer series, XGA
4 Xantech 282M mouse emitters
1 Xantech 789-44 1-zone, 4 terminal connecting block
**List is edited from information supplied by electronic evolutions
Sound & Communications Contributing Editor Jim Stokes has been involved in the AV industry for more than 30 years as an AV technician and writer.