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How Extron Eases the Pain of Remote Conferencing for NC Marketing Firm

Extron Pro Series and AV-over-IP solutions deliver quality to marketing firm.
(Image credit: Extron)

Located in the historic, recently renovated Bailey Power Plant in Winston-Salem, NC, The Variable is a multiple award-winning global strategic marketing firm. Through the course of growth and success, The Variable’s staff had outgrown their previous office location and found themselves elbow to elbow, in desperate need of more space as well as new AV technology. When it came to specifying the AV equipment for the project, Warren Martin, UX design engineer at KONTEK said that Extron (opens in new tab) was the obvious choice.

The Variable team wanted AV that was far better, more reliable, and easier to use than in their previous location. “Having experienced those [AV] issues again and again, we knew the next time we moved that we were going to invest," said Kate Fenstermacher, associate director of operations at The Variable. "We were going to do it right." The Variable teamed up with Durham-based AV Integrator, KONTEK Systems, and began planning their move into the new space.

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“We chose Extron because Extron is one of the very few companies where I have no problem spec’ing a brand-new product," explained Martin. "They do their due diligence. Their boxes are quiet and small—and do their job.” 

Even with Extron and the other AV brands secured, there were several specific requirements that The Variable expected from the components and the system designs. In particular, they wanted to vastly improve their video conferencing capabilities. “When we moved into the Bailey Building, videoconferencing was huge for us—and this was pre-COVID," Fenstermacher said. "Thankfully, we had planned to make sure all our rooms were ready for videoconferencing, but especially our main conference room and larger conference rooms. The decisions we made early on allowed us to have those teleconferences seamlessly, and Extron AV in the room helped with all that.” 

The conferencing systems in the old building caused some confusion and frustrations. Working with KONTEK, they were able to smooth out all of these challenges and Extron Pro Series control systems, room scheduling panels, as well as NAV Pro AV-over-IP systems were all essential to the success of their new AV systems. “We know how to operate the [conference room] system, and we don’t run into all the challenges we had with our old systems," said Fenstermacher. "It’s a lot cleaner, as a set-up, than it was before.”

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Supply shortages and a time crunch present Pro AV challenges

Extron Pro Series and AV-over-IP solutions deliver quality to marketing firm.

(Image credit: Extron)

The challenges in outfitting this new space mainly surrounded the timeline and working up against supply shortages as COVID-19 started impacting the project. “One of the key takeaways for us was the timing," Keith Vest, founder and chairman of The Variable, explained. "So much of this project was co-dependent on one another. If something wasn’t done in a certain order, then what followed couldn’t be done.” From their perspective, The Variable was thrown a lot of curveballs that confounded the construction. KONTEK came in fairly late in the game, so the AV decisions needed to be made in short order. Luckily, Extron was an easy choice. 

“Especially with COVID, and all the tariffs and shipping issues and timing our ordering, sometimes we were forced to make decisions before we wanted to,” Vest added. "Luckily, KONTEK was there to help smooth the waters. The peace of mind of having great AV, like Extron, certainly helped. They were the first choice and, even in these times, they were available.”

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Extron TouchLink Pro helps enhance conferencing

Extron Pro Series and AV-over-IP solutions deliver quality to marketing firm.

(Image credit: Extron)

Looping back to the conference room setups, the new rooms in the Bailey building were outfitted with Extron TouchLink Pro touchpanels. The main conference room had the TLP Pro 1025T 10-inch tabletop touchpanel and a custom UI, so intuitive that anyone entering the room could immediately use it. “Even though we don’t have everyone back in the building yet, if you are working from home and you jump on and see faces in our conference room, not just everyone with their own little cameras," said Fenstermacher. "It’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference. These systems have eased the pain of being remote.”

Unique to The Variable’s office space is a large, two-floor, tiered seating area that acts as a large venue for presentations, social gatherings, and other activities. The Variable calls it the “Stadium.” “We invested a lot of resources, AV, and square footage into the Stadium," Vest explained. "We’ve had people come in here as visitors to the agency and they’ve asked, 'Can I schedule that for a meeting? Can I reserve that space for my own meeting?'" 

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Multiple Extron NAV AV-over-IP encoders and decoders handle the video streaming tasks within the Stadium. Vest talks about how impressed visitors are with the AV technology there. They’ve been approached on many occasions about renting the Stadium out for community meetings and special events. “The AV works flawlessly,” Vest said.

Extron exceeds expectations

Extron Pro Series and AV-over-IP solutions deliver quality to marketing firm.

(Image credit: Extron)

So how did the project turn out? According to The Variable, it exceeded expectations. Vest put it best, “Before we moved into this new space, we were constantly trouble-shooting our conference rooms, the projector or the phones. And the aesthetics of those rooms...we had extension cords going from the table to the ceiling. We had a camera sitting on a cardboard box—and you know I’m sure that looked good to the client on the other end. But now, we’ve upped our game. To be able to pop into one of our conference rooms and, with a minimal level of stress, be able to jump on a video call with a client—it’s a breath of fresh air.”

AVNetwork Staff

The AVNetwork staff are storytellers focused on the professional audiovisual and technology industry. Their mission is to keep readers up-to-date on the latest AV/IT industry and product news, emerging trends, and inspiring installations.