Location is everything in real estate. When Michael Warren opened his MW Audio equipment supply and design firm in the Playa del Rey area of Los Angeles in July 2005 he probably didn't expect to find a major account just up the street, but his proximity to one of the largest advertising agencies in the country has certainly been good for business.
TBWA\Chiat\Day, one of the top 20 largest ad agencies in the nation and influential industry journal Adweek's Agency of the Year for 2004, moved into its purpose-built facility in the late 1990s, relocating several miles inland from the company's Frank Gehry-designed landmark "binocular" building near Venice Beach. As luck would have it, Warren moved into his new office just a stone's throw from Chiat\Day's self-styled "Advertising City" last summer, and has quickly built a close relationship with the company. "They're awesome," reported Warren. "They're a great client; they're almost like family. We take very good care of them."
Audio-video supervising editor Stacy Chess is equally effusive: "Mike's a fantastic businessman and really knows his stuff. He's very reliable; I would work with him from the smallest to the biggest job."
Warren is currently working on a total refit of the AV equipment in three conference rooms at the agency's facility, where some 800 people are employed, according to Chess. Equipment for the latest two rooms will be patterned after Warren's initial conference room retrofit earlier in the year.
In each room, an LG Electronics HD plasma screen is secured on a Peerless universal wall mount. A Da-Lite Cinema Contour high-contract projection screen, measuring 77 inches by 58 inches, is paired with a ceiling-mounted Eiki LCXG210 XGA projector.
Playback sources in the media rack in each of the rooms include a Sony 4-head VHS deck, a Sony DVD/CD player, a 3/4-inch video machine and a Macintosh G5 tower, with audio feeds routed through an Alesis Multimax 12-channel rackmounting mixer and a Blue Sky 5.1 surround sound monitor system with bass management.
An Extron ISM 182 dual-output integration scaling matrix switcher with Extron's S-Video, VGA and component video modules provides video feeds, with audio, to the two displays. "Video can be played on the plasma and the projector screen simultaneously, or one or the other," said Chess.
Control of all AV systems as well as room lights is centered in a Crestron Electronics CP2 compact fixed-resource system. Access to the system's custom-programmed presets is via a Crestron Isys 12-inch touchscreen panel. A Crestron 60-inch interactive Smart Board is additionally installed.
The rooms will be used for meetings, PowerPoint presentations and even parties, according to Chess. "But mostly it's for big pitches-we'll show reels, new work, animatics, and so on."
One major change for Chiat\Day is the addition of a teleconferencing setup in one of the rooms. "We don't have any of that in the building currently. The audio-video conferencing will definitely be useful, because a lot of the companies that we deal with have moved their headquarters out of Los Angeles," offered Chess.
The Polycom VSX 8000 videoconferencing system is being installed with the company's Vortex EF2280 box. The unit offers automatic mixing of up to eight microphones while internal DSP provides cancellation of acoustic echoes and other background noise. The box may additionally be interconnected with codecs, VCRs or other AV equipment.
Warren is supplying eight EV/Telex 18-inch gooseneck table microphones. The mics are combined with a Telex FMR-500 RF setup of belt packs and receivers, together with a Telex APD-4 antenna distribution rig.
As it turns out, the conference room projects are merely the tip of the iceberg for MW Audio. Known for conceiving such memorable campaigns as the Taco Bell chihuahua and "Enjoy the Ride" for Nissan, TBWA\Chiat\Day boasts an impressive client list that also includes Anheuser-Busch, Energizer Battery, MapQuest, PepsiCo and Sony Computer Entertainment America (PlayStation). But it is the agency's long association with Apple Computers-including the development of the "Think Different" campaign and the now legendary 1984 "Big Brother" TV commercial that helped launch the Apple Mac-that will keep the lights on at MW Audio for months to come.
Chiat\Day has acquired a Frank Gehry building located between Advertising City and Warren's office and will dedicate it almost wholly to the Apple account. Warren has prepared a 25-page equipment list-including dozens of Apple products-for the new facility, to be known as the Media Arts Lab, that totals over $1 million.
"That building is a massive project for us," he said. "It's going to include three Final Cut HD edit bays, a Pro Tools HD studio with a Mackie Digital X-Bus console, a machine and dub room, and a vocal booth. And that's only part of it."
Harman International is also a major account for the agency, noted Warren. "So we're also building out a concert stage in the main area with JBL cabinets and Crown amps."