The University of Phoenix AV system is controlled wirelessly. Three channels of HD video are stored on an Alcorn McBride media. In the sales process, the “closer” is the person who seals the deal. They’re the one who makes the final pitch to the client in a way that makes the deal irresistible—perhaps impossible to refuse. At the University of Phoenix in Tempe, Arizona, the “closer” is actually a place, specifically the Executive Briefing Center (EBC) inside the new 8,000-square foot John G. Sperling Center for Educational Innovation. The Sperling Center is home to a stunning, walk-through AV tour created by 3Stage Design of Jasper, Georgia, that tells the University of Phoenix story to donors, dignitaries, and prospective students. Founded by the Apollo Group’s Dr. John Sperling in 1973, the University of Phoenix offers university degree programs at 112 campuses locations and worldwide over the Web.
The Executive Briefing Center is where the tour finishes. It is a small, intimate conference room with a round table and six to eight chairs—and an astounding 20-foot, 4000 pixel curved widescreen that appears to float on air. The widescreen shows 4K video of happy University of Phoenix graduates, in a scale and clarity that drives home the tour’s message. Coupled with the EBC’s discreet yet expansive 7.-surround sound system, this inspirational video can’t help but make an emotional connection.
“Yes, we do informally refer to the EBC as ‘the closer,” said Hal Korff, the Apollo Group’s program director. “We recently took the head of a rather large healthcare entity into the EBC. After seeing the presentation here,” he said, “If you can’t close a deal in this room, then you don’t know what you’re doing.’”
The University of Phoenix is a for-profit educational enterprise that understands the value of its brand. This brand positions the University of Phoenix as the preferred choice for continuing university-level education up to the PhD level, for students anywhere in the world.
This is why the University of Phoenix hired Cincinnati’s The Brand Experience to create the walk-through AV tour for the Sperling Center. The Brand Experience creates branded corporate events, visitor centers, and mobile engagement for powerhouse clients such as Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, and Polycom.
The Brand Experience hired 3Stage Design to build the Sperling Center walk-through tour, including all of the AV installations and integrations. The EBC is the crown jewel of 3Stage Design’s work here. The EBC itself was started in October 2010, and completed in May 2011. “Our tour tells the University of Phoenix story, and the EBC is where this story comes to a head in a two-minute video,” said Todd W. Hall, president of 3Stage Design. “The lights go down, the video comes on with its stirring images and soaring music. Afterwards, the deal is usually closed; that’s how powerful the experience is.”
Nuts and Bolts
The Executive Briefing Room’s 20-foot 4,000-pixel widescreen measures three HDTV pictures wide by one tall. It is thus perfectly covered by three Barco 8,000 lumen RLM-W8 projectors, their image edges blended to create a seamless visual experience.
The University of Phoenix Executive Briefing Room’s 20-foot 4,000-pixel widescreen measures three HDTV pictures wide by one tall. It is thus perfectly covered by three Barco 8,000-lumen RLM-W8 projectors, their image edges blended to create a compelling visual experience. Users can
operate the system via an iPad. “The video was shot in 4K using a RED camera,” said Hall. “We needed to work in 4K to get the level of detail the client was looking for.”
Three channels of HD video are stored on an Alcorn McBride media server. It feeds these to a Vista Spyder X20 image processor, and then into the three Barco W8s for projection.
The audio is ported to the room’s Dolby 7.1 surround sound system, with speakers hidden in the walls. The EBC’s roundtable has four stations where presenters can plug in external devices (such as laptops) for presentations using HDMI, VGA, or composite inputs.
The entire AV system is controlled wirelessly using an iPad/iPhone Touch; it runs UDC software made by HRS Control of Clarkston, Michigan. Short for Universal Device Controller, the UDC is a software package that allows a consumer device such as an iPad to manage all of the AV functions traditionally associated with proprietary touchscreen terminals. Moreover, HRS Control’s UDC is designed so that the user can configure it as required to work with whatever AV equipment they may have on site, including lighting.
“We originally came up with the UDC program, to fulfill our own need for a low cost control system, to work with equipment from our rental and staging company,” said Drew Taylor, founder of HRS Control. “Once we saw how well it worked for us, it made sense to offer it to other integrators for their projects. After all, our UDC is not tied to any one AV product line, and it costs less to implement than a standard proprietary touchscreen system.”
For 3Stage Design, being able to use an iPad as the EBC system controller offered two benefits. “First, an iPad is a much more cost-effective solution for us and our clients; and if it wears out, it is inexpensive to replace,” Hall said. “Second, our customers are familiar with and comfortable with this interface. So it is easier for them to operate— which makes them happy.”
Theoretically, it is possible to quantify the Executive Briefing Center’s ROI by compiling the value of contracts signed within its LED-lit walls. But these figures are not being made public by the University of Phoenix. What they are willing to talk about is how well the EBC is working for them.
“The presentation is stunning, the controls are easy to use, and the results speak for themselves,” said Hal Korff. “The EBS is known as ‘the closer’ for a reason: Its impressive AV helps us close deals.”
Alcorn McBride media server
Barco 8,000-lumen RLM-W8 projectors
Vista Spyder X20 image processor