Five Steps to Building a Better Boardroom - AvNetwork.com

Five Steps to Building a Better Boardroom

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Be prepared to have your budget limit tested.

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Oregon-based Planar Systems has expanded its 4K product offerings with new displays ranging in size from 28-inches to 98-inches. The new Ultra HD resolution Planar EP-Series LCD displays come standard with the features required for commercial-grade applications, such as boardrooms. The portfolio is also available in touch versions. As a veteran AV integrator and tech manager in higher education, I can usually prepare a room for upgrades and overhauls without taking too much time or sweat working out the details. When tasked with working with our designer and brainstorming ideas for renovating our executive boardroom, we realized the old school projector, screen, table microphone system were not going to get us into the modern, functional, multi-use space we were envisioning.

Ten years of hard use with minimal upgrades to the actual space meant that all of our facility trades would have to be called on to produce our intended finished product. Plaster repairs and unused wall boxes would have to be covered. Old chalk boards and wall-mounted coat racks would have to be removed. Holes would have to be patched. The windows had motorized shades that I had never seen work in my five years working on campus. Repair costs for them was two-thirds the cost of purchasing new ones. Low-cost, manual, bi-folding blinds replaced the old ones and the color options were endless. We took advantage of the fact that the carpet was going to be replaced and had more pipes run to the table location. Power at the table was needed to accommodate our new system design. Camera locations around the room changed and, so to did the lighting scheme for teleconferencing and video calls. In order to shave some costs, new sides and top panels for the existing rack were built by DL Carpentry Inc. in Poland, Maine. The custom color was a perfect match with the new $12,000 conference table.

Budgeting for this kind and scale of renovations to the building infrastructure is hard to plan for. Knowing the level that you are willing to take your boardroom project up front will help avoid disappointment when the money runs out half way through.

KNOW THE INTENDED USAGE BEFORE YOU START

I pictured our new college President having meetings with visiting dignitaries and board members and faculty sharing breakthroughs in their respected fields of knowledge. After several meetings with department heads, faculty, staff, and many other interested parties, we found that the equipment list was growing at an alarming rate. Room design would have to allow for teleconferencing, audio conferencing, Skype calls, job interviews, staff and faculty presentations and training sessions, as well as class capture capabilities for Peer Writing classes. Pre-employment interviews for faculty and staff are being conducted in the new space now, saving time and money for all parties involved. Getting input from several departments and sectors of the college was very time consuming, but paid huge dividends. We are able to meet the needs of nearly all requests so far.

ESTABLISH A SET TIMELINE FOR PROJECT MANAGERS

Like most other conference spaces of this type on our site, it is booked and in use continually. Limited space and not having another place on campus to do conferencing meant that our time frame for completion was very tight. Project management and facilities work crews had to be held to a strict time line that could keep the project moving forward. AV personnel explained in detail, the expected results and passed on important information regarding wiring changes, cameras, monitors, speaker and lighting locations. Electrical and data requirements had to be met to allow for wall patching and painting. Until the lighting for the conferencing aspect of the job was in place, all the finished, repaired sheet rock work passed inspection.

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A new boardroom and collaboration space powered by Crestron and new audiovisual solutions.

ADDRESS ANY UNEXPECTED ISSUES ASAP

Unfortunately, once the walls were lit, imperfections in the wall repairs were apparent; more sanding and painting was needed. These are the type of things that can’t be predicted, but must be addressed. That particular wall was behind the head of table and on camera all the time. This is when “good enough” just isn’t good enough.

HAVE YOUR DESIGN PLAN AND EQUIPMENT LIST

A completed design plan and equipment list will help mentally place equipment in the system and help locate where pieces and parts will reside. The documentation should give equipment brands and locations for mounting and installation. Integrators will also need distances and dimensions to locate monitor mounts, cameras, speakers and any other associated equipment.

Equipment for the new boardroom will more than likely have to reside in the space, due to users needing access to things like the computers disc drive, DVD player and capture devices USB ports. Rack design and layout is critical unless you want to have a big, cumbersome standalone rack. Racks of this type do not often work well with boardroom furniture and conference tables. Think small and plan wisely. Transmitters for AUX inputs and keyboard/mouse combos can be tucked away in table legs to help hide wire and save rack spaces.

BE PREPARED & EXPECT CHANGES

After building our new boardroom at Bates College, we found that there were users who were in need of a camera facing the front of the room. They wanted to practice interviewing and record the results to critique themselves. Another camera was added to the system. When the room was in the Skype or teleconferencing mode, lighting was harsh and caused the camera video levels to be to high. The previous lighting layout was not setup for a table of this size and had to be repositioned. Most of the presets in the lighting controller were also reset. The Crestron V15 control panel was used at the head of table location for complete system control and also doubled as the computer monitor, saving space and clutter on the table. We have Crestron Capture HD and DMPS-300, Sony EVI-D100 cameras, the Vaddio Conferencing Bridge, and LG monitors.

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Middle Atlantic Products is expanding its C5 Series Credenza to address new trends in commercial interior design, such as boardroom design. The Credenza’s Frame to Furniture design complements the installation workflow with foundational frames that are in stock. The frame is paired with a custom furniture finishing kit that is manufactured to order and shipped separately to the jobsite. It was at this time that we realized the programming for the system needed major changes to keep up with the modifications done to the system. Separate pages were added for picture-in-picture (PIP) window size and position. A page was added for the two cameras and their presets. A lighting page with presets for conferencing, Skype, capture recording and streaming, and several meeting and function presets. A monitor page was also added to allow tech savvy users to route signal to the three monitors. A Skype button, teleconferencing button, audio conference button, Peer Writing button and Meeting button all reside on the initial start up page that automates room functions. For example, the Skype button turns on all of the monitors giving a view of the far end in the large, center monitor. The left monitor shows what the far end is going to see and the right monitor has the computer image for notes or to be used as a poor mans teleprompter. Lighting presets are initiated and audio levels go to predetermined presets. For most situations, one button push gets the ball rolling for even the most technology challenged people on campus.

When thinking about building a better boardroom, take the time to ask questions and get input from varied groups and stake holders. Be sure everyone is aware of your time line and expectations of the system when it is done. Don’t get discouraged if, in two months, you are back in the room kicking up a little dust and driving your programmer crazy. 

Bates Boardroom At a Glance
Crestron Capture HD
Crestron DMPS-300
Crestron V15 control panel
LG monitors
Motorized shades
Sony EVI-D100 cameras
Vaddio AV Conferencing Bridge

Gary Russell is an AV engineer for Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He has more than 30 years of experience in varied AV related trades, including installation, mobile production, bench repair, Airbourne Video Specialist USAF. He has his CTS, CTS-I, and Crestron DMC (T.E.D.) certifications.

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AV, Design, and User Needs Make Boardrooms Unique

There’s at least one in nearly each of the estimated five million commercial buildings in the U.S. Every school, university, and even houses of worship have spaces dedicated for this purpose, too. In fact, any space where people meet in groups can be considered a conference room, and lots of AV gear can be found in just about every one of them.