University of the Arts

London audio-visual installer for top London university

The University of the Arts London (UAL) is one of the top two universities in the world for art and design education, composed of six campuses across the capital. Boasting a star-studded alum, UAL recently sought to update its audio-visual systems in classrooms at three key campuses. As a London audio-visual installer, we were approached directly to work on the project.

“The project encompassed classroom refurbishment works at South London-based campuses and a full installation at a further campus in High Holborn,” explains Joby Morris, Audio Visual Installer and Networks Specialist at Tateside. 

London audio-visual installer Tateside installed UAL classroom

Understanding the audio-visual vision

“We selected Tateside because it was clear from the start that they understood our vision for using NDI and Dante to create learning environments that had the flexibility of AVoIP without the vendor lock-in of other protocols,” explains Tom Lynch, Technical Manager at UAL. “Also, as a London-based university, working with a London audio-visual installer is valuable and rare.” 

A tailored approach

The most significant part of the project was at UAL’s High Holborn site, which is part of the university’s Creative Computing Institute. Here, two newly refurbished classroom spaces required audio-visual integration to improve the learning experience for both in-person and remote students. Without the hardware limitations of a pre-established system, we specified a solution built around the university’s preference for streaming and distributing content over an NDI network. 

“The team at UAL are NDI visionaries, and their campus systems are based around this flexible protocol,” confirms Jack Cornish, Technical Director at Tateside. “They were also keen on using BirdDog technology, so we incorporated this into the solution, too.”

London audio visual installer Tateside installs UAL classroom

Significant upgrade across multiple sites

In the larger of the two classrooms, the primary display comprises a pair of Panasonic PT-VMZ71 Series projectors with Supernova Core 120” projection screens. A custom lectern from Top-Tec, which houses the room rack, is equipped with a Q-Sys touchscreen and computer screen that allows the lecturer overall control of content and audio.

Lessons can be recorded or streamed via a BirdDog 1080p full NDI camera, whilst speech pick-up is through a Sennheiser Bodypack microphone. Dante signal flow ensures high-quality audio reproduction. For interactive Q&A sessions involving students, we provided a branded Catchbox mic that a lecturer could throw into the audience. For complete visibility throughout the room, we installed two 65” Samsung screens at staggered intervals along the length of the space.  We positioned Six Genelec 4040A loudspeakers in black on ceiling brackets.

“The second classroom followed the same overall system layout, but instead of projectors, we opted for two 85” Samsung screens for the main display,” continues Cornish. Throughout the High Holborn campus, Q-Sys manages the source, endpoint, and audio control and provides an easy-to-use UI for speakers at the lecterns. Video is distributed via a Blustream HDBT splitter, and all content is encoded and decoded with BirdDog NDI endpoints, making it easy to share and distribute content.”

London audio visual installer Tateside installs UAL classroom

A different approach across London sites

A different approach to audio-visual was necessary at UAL’s South London campuses. “At the Peckham Road and Greencoat sites, the idea was to improve the system and integrate new equipment to cater for the newly expanded teaching space following building works,” explains Morris. “The Camberwell classroom mainly involved some Crestron re-programming and bringing the university’s NDI standard to these rooms. We also made generic system improvements and bug fixes alongside the integration of additional microphones. Our in-house Creston programmer got this room running smoothly and efficiently.”

At the nearby Greencoat campus, a newly expanded classroom required distributed audio, plus additional microphones and screens to ensure a consistent learning experience from front to back of the new long and narrow room. “Using DISCAS, we calculated that the room required a 110” display for the farthest viewer to see the on-screen visuals,” continues Morris. “Four Samsung 55” repeater monitors were staggered down the room to reinforce the learning experience, alongside four Genelec 8020D wall-mounted speakers in white, to match the room’s aesthetic.” We integrated additional microphones into the existing Shure ecosystem.

London audio visual installer Tateside installs UAL classroom

Network based set up

As with the High Holborn site, everything is network-based, with all audio passed over a Dante network and video distributed via a Blusteam HDBaseT splitter. The BirdDog cameras’ flexibility and system infrastructure allows any source to be picked up on any screen. 

Unlike the High Holborn project, the rooms at Camberwell and Greencoat are controlled via Crestron, with touchscreens installed into each room’s custom control panel housing from Top-Tec. Adding a monitor atop each lectern improves class engagement, allowing the teacher to face students rather than turning around to look at the screen behind them during lectures.

“Working with existing code was tricky and presented us with the challenge of working in reverse to the traditional method of setting up equipment and programming from a clean slate,” recalls Morris. “In the end, we were not only setting up the new technology but also upgrading the existing system, leading to an enhanced user experience at UAL.”

Audio-visual success

We completed the project in time for the new academic year, and we’ve received great feedback on the usability of the new rooms. “Tateside were able to flex around building delays and shifting manufacturer deadlines to ensure we had working spaces for the start of the term,” reflects Lynch. “The project team met us where we were and intelligently made suggestions with their experience to create fantastic spaces that are not limited to one purpose.”

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