The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), located in North Carolina, was in need of a complete Tribal Council House AV upgrade in order to support the people of the Cherokee nation with governance communication.
With the help of AV integrator Multi-Media Solutions, Chinese conferencing equipment manufacturer Taiden, and Media Vision USA (Taiden's U.S. distributor), EBCI turned an antiquated conferencing and audiovisual system into a state-of-the-art package during a three-month installation in the summer of 2007.
EBCI audio video specialist Jason Ledford had researched the Taiden 4100 series conference system and thought it would be the best possible fit for the tribe. "The tribe needed the system for accountability reasons," Ledford says. "We broadcast every Tribal Council meeting on our government cable Channel 28. The public wanted a record as to how each council member voted and they wanted to see it as each resolution was voted on. The council members each carry a weighted vote depending on the community they represent, and the public wanted to see how that played out as well. We also thought it would ease the workload on the Tribal Operations Program, who drafted up all resolutions and voting tallies."
Ledford says the Taiden system, which cost the tribe roughly $42,000, serves as a voting solution as well as the Council member's primary sound reinforcement system. With Taiden's on/off speaking function, Council members are able to speak with one another during their meetings without being overheard over the air or during other council members' speaking time.
"It also allows the Chairmen more control over the proceedings by reducing the number of concurrent speakers during any given moment," Ledford notes. "Before the system was in place, the Council used a traditional 'raising of the right hand' vote. Now we have the system set up so our camera operator can display the name list and voting results as soon as the resolutions are voted on. The name list has each council member's name, weighted vote, and how they voted. The public wanted this so they could hold their representative council members more accountable."
Ledford cites both Multi-Media Solutions and Media Vision as key partners in making a smooth transition to the new technology.
"Working with Multi-Media Solutions has been great since they are very knowledgeable about audiovisual solutions," says Ledford. "We sent them the specifications of what we wanted to augment and they put us in touch with Media Vision, who worked hard to help us out. Media Vision even came out to Cherokee, NC to do some training on the system."
Based in Alcoa, TN, Multi-Media Solutions (MMS) served as AV integrator - both designing and installing the system for the EBCI. MMS owner and president Mike White, along with installation and integration specialist Jason Ion, used a four-man crew working for four weeks and a two-man crew working for two weeks to complete the project. Ion says the Taiden 4100 system serves a very critical part of the integrated chamber AV system. "The two most important functions are audio support for microphone and individual speakers for each chief and providing real-time voting feedback," he notes. "With this system, the feedback and results of the votes are immediately displayed in the room and every element of audio is supported by the Taiden system."
Ion says logistics played the most challenging role in the installation. "When you integrate several components together, there will be issues that are difficult to solve due to the complexity of the system," he explains. "At the same time that we were installing and integrating the AV components, the entire chamber room was being renovated, literally torn down to the supporting structure and refinished. We also had to take special care to respect the historical elements within the building."
Along with the Taiden system there were several other significant subsystems integrated during the EBCI conference system integration.
Ledford is enthusiastic about what he is working with now.
"We had 12 monitors installed, one for each council member and two for the clerk, says Ledford. "We display numerous feeds to these monitors so the council members can see what the public sees.
We also installed two 60-inch LG plasma monitors. These allow the gallery to see what's being transmitted over the cable channel. There's a multimedia presentation lectern, which has full laptop connectivity, DVD/VCR, microphone, and digital document camera. We can pipe everything from the lectern to the council monitors and to the cable channel. We also installed a loudspeaker system that runs through a Symetrix Symnet digital audio processor."
All audio runs through the Symnet processor, which along with five Canon 3 CCD pan-tilt-zoom cameras controlled by a Vaddio ProductionView FX production switcher, and the Audience TV delivery system from Capital Networks gives the public a complete audiovisual experience. Council meetings are also captured and streamed live to tribal members across the country using an Accordent Capture Station.
"The icing on the cake is that this system is 'fully' Crestron controlled," says Ledford, "right down to dimming the lights to low, medium, or high, and raising the window treatments."
Ledford describes some technical issues that came into play. "One of the main issues concerning the Taiden system was mixing of the sound to avoid feedback through the PA system, he says. "Another was getting the sound mix right for the cablecast, the streaming webcast, the videoconferencing system, and the room mix. We also had to have Taiden make a custom name page.
In order for some of our elders to see the voting results that were displayed, we needed the name/voting result page larger."
And that's where Media Vision, the exclusive distributor of Taiden conference system in the United States and Canada, comes in. Fardad Zabetian, president and founder of San Francisco-based Media Vision, says the EBCI vote weighting provided an interesting challenge.
"EBCI asked for a special feature on the voting system so they can set various voting weight for council members, depending on the tribe they represent," says Zabetian. "It took us about three working days to add this [voting] feature to our system so when we created the list of participants we could change the voting weight from 1 to 99," explains Zabetian. "We provided onsite training as well as training over the web for software."
Simple operation, ease of setup, multiple screen management for agenda, vote result, speaker list, speech timer, and affordability are all components Zabetian credits the Taiden system with providing clients like the EBCI. And Ledford concurs.
"We are very satisfied with the results of the installation," he says. "It addressed our needs to fully move into the 21st century. It allows us to prepare for the future as well as enables us to be at the forefront of other municipalities and governments when it comes to technology integration."
Freelance writer Matt Wunsch is a studio musician who lives in Wakefield, RI. He can be reached at