Control rooms provide operators and decision-makers access to myriad video and audio sources with the ability to move rapidly between sources. A typical control room has a large video wall and operator stations with some level of display capability. As video processors, signal routing technology, and operator control technologies continue to advance, the functional possibilities of control rooms only continue to grow. Designing with flexible layouts allows for a control room that is nimble not just in terms of what can be accessed, but also in how the room can be used.

Adding Flexibility into the Infrastructure and AV Processing Plan

New video wall models, though not all, offer a enhanced flexibility. Rather than static configurations with one or two large images and surrounding smaller images, operators are increasingly able to reconfigure image sizes and layouts as needed with drag-and-drop ease. Supervisors can also alter the image layout quickly to direct the focus of individuals in the room to the most important information. “In some applications, the operators have three, four, or more displays right at their station,” says Jim Mauger, senior systems designer with Spinitar. “Typically, the real value is the operator’s ability to then share streams with everyone on the video wall.”

A fairly common approach is to have provide operators with specific zones on the video wall, and to give supervisors control of the entire video wall. In normal operation, each operator manages their zone, but the supervisor can respond to urgent situations by drawing focus and pulling in critical sources.

Purpose-Built and Agile, Too

Planning and designing control rooms require a laser-beam focus on the purposes of the room. Mauger suggests that the focus should be on, “what the users of the room want to see, not what the wall ‘should be.’ Having a solid understanding of what the sources will be and what needs to be accomplished is a big part of an effective layout.”

Mauger also recommends, “getting the noise and heat producing gear out of the operators’ stations and into the IDF closet. Utilize as much KVM as possible for work stations.”

In some cases, control rooms need to pivot in their application based on events that may occur. For applications in which emergencies or critical events may need handling, the room should be agile enough to allow changes in who is operating the room, where the sources are coming from, and whether content may be delivered from personal or mobile devices. Again, the key is understanding the needs and goals of the control room from the very start.

Like so many AV enabled spaces, considerations for how people will interact with the technology and for what purpose, become critical to design. Creating a space that is not only effective but takes advantage of the latest technology and harnesses the power of up to date features means a command and control room that is flexible and can be adapted quickly to fit the needs of the organization. Flexibility, effectiveness, and adaptability equate to maximized investment.

Justin O'Connor, AV Technology magazine's Technical Advisor, has spent nearly 20 years as a product manager, bringing many hit products to the professional audio world. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music Engineering Technology from the Frost School of Music at The University of Miami. Follow him at @JOCAudioPro. Subscribe today for The Agile Control Room newsletter sponsored by RGB Spectrum (distributed twice per month, every other Tuesday).

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