Meet Your Manager: Derek Chalmers, Audio Visual Production Manager, The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre

Meet Your Manager: Derek Chalmers, Audio Visual Production Manager, The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre
(Image: © @The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre)

The Queen Elizabeth II Centre is the largest dedicated event space in central London, opposite the historic icons Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The organization offers professional audiovisual facilities for conventions, exhibitions, corporations, hospitality events, medical and association meetings and Central Government Summits. There are 32 meeting spaces over seven floors including a QEII Lawn, Outside Broadcast Bay and forecourt for outside exhibits. The AV Department’s QEII Live won best AV in-house service team in 2015 at the AV Magazine Awards. The AV team was one of the first UK AV service teams to join InfoComm International, now AVIXA, and is a member of the London AV User Group. We asked Derek Chalmers, Audio Visual Production Manager, about his technology usage, best practices, and industry insights.

What AV equipment do you use?

Derek Chalmers: We habitually use D&B public address systems, Sennheiser, and AKG microphones with Yamaha digital and Allen & Heath control desks. The Centre licenses radio microphone frequencies via JFMG. Our preferred projector manufacturer is Panasonic and we use mostly laser projection technology for its sustainability and brightness although we do have some of the latest and smaller lamped projectors in our seminar areas. We favor AnalogWay for their matrix switchers using the Saphyr, NeXtage, and Ascender ranges.

We currently use HDBaseT technology to transmit but we are keenly watching the other AV over IP projects via our colleagues within the AV User Group. We have a point-to-point fiber system, which backs up our IPTV system (using Exterity). We can easily relay sound and vision to any room(s) plus send feeds to the BT tower.

We also have a digital signage system which is linked to our room diary, (Ungerboeck EBMS) using the OneLAN system with a Lightware processor. The digital signage consists of 26 x NEC high definition flown screens in the registration foyer, portrait signs in every lift core and corridor for way-finding, HD signs (1080p) outside each room and a 4K NEC video wall at the entrance. Anyone can load a single JPEG onto the system and it will populate the screens associated only with that client’s booking.

How is AV/IT convergence playing out in your facility?

At the QEII Centre, AV and IT teams are still separate; IT teams managing the internal as well as the client networks. However, the IT team provides an online exhibition service to companies hiring stands from the organisers; as well as providing dedicated bandwidth for webcasting, video-conferencing, file-sharing and web-based programs including presentational software and audience response systems. So culturally, we may still see things through different eyes but it’s a seamless service from the client viewpoint.

What AV/IT problems have you solved recently?

We don’t really have the same AV and IT convergence issues as some facilities. I think the revolution for us was best played out on a single event. We managed to link 21 live operations on one day, to the venue. We organised a test a few months before the event day using traditional Video Conferencing Units, and a traditional bridge hire. On the actual day, we used laptops to stream three operations at a time and to queue them up before going live waiting in a virtual waiting room using a soft bridge. The operations were taking place in Madrid, Mexico, Brazil, USA, Lebanon, Montpelier, Belgium as well as several sites in the UK.

Does the IoT (Internet of Things) have any influence in your organization and or facility?

The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t key to our business at the moment. I believe the industry is wary of the security hazards of IoT. It’s easy to record a voice, use it as a key and open systems, cars and houses. It’s a necessity to focus on security before being first.

How do you procure/purchase your AV for in-house installs?

When purchasing we tend to talk to the manufacturer, and then purchase via a distributor or integrator. We tender the larger AV projects. Being part of the AV User Group means that we are able to change the course of product development sometimes as we see equipment at prototype stage. Sometimes we buy second hand equipment if it is in good repair and the manufacturer has a solid pedigree. The latest example of this would be with projection screens.

Where are technology manufacturers getting it wrong or missing opportunities?

The industry is huge and good design stands out, so it’s probably easier to say where they get it right. An obvious example is a company like Blackmagic Design where they have pioneered broadcast design and reached out to an audience that probably didn’t exist a few years ago.

The miniaturization of broadcast cameras and their use in products such as drones and camcorders, coupled with the 4K quality and excellent pricing structure, beggars belief [editor’s note—defies expectations]. From a different perspective, the use of software applications, e.g. for the hard of hearing via mobile phones; for house light control; and for digital and for induction loop testing, creates a whole new meaning for those in the audiovisual industry. We should ask why we as an industry keep getting it right. We are proud to be a most opportunist industry in growth.

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