7 Important AV Technologies for Your Auditorium
Corporate auditoriums often hold the highest visibility meetings at an organization. They need to support single presenters, panels, and other configurations with clear audio and crisp visuals. Auditoriums may broadcast all-hands meetings to satellite offices or stream presentations to hybrid workers.
Modern AV technology can achieve all this.
While some AV components of a corporate auditorium may be obvious, others aren’t as apparent. If you’re planning for a new auditorium or an auditorium refresh, keep reading. This blog unpacks the most critical AV components in an auditorium.
1. Projector & Screen
Floor to ceiling windows and natural light have become more popular in auditorium design over the last decade. The trend towards bright spaces makes low-lumen projectors a non-starter. High lumens projectors with high contrast ratio help keep the content from appearing washed out.
What do we mean by high lumen? Auditoriums often need 10,000+ lumen projectors. These high-quality projectors don’t come cheap- around $15,000-$25,000 plus. Remember, this is the hardware cost and doesn’t include the services required to design and install it.
Most new systems will feature motorized screens which tie into the control panel. A user selects the desired configuration on the control panel which triggers the screen to automatically drop down from its ceiling recessed housing.
Depending on the size of the space, you may want two or three screens for convenient viewing from any seat. The screens can either be spaced across the stage with content on each one or placed next to each other so a single image spans across the entire canvas.
These screens typically range from 133” to 270” diagonal. The right size will depend on how large the room is and viewing distance of the farthest participant.
Not all screens are created equal. It’s important to consider the Projected Image Systems Contrast Ratio (PISCR) standard. We may select a screen with light rejecting material or a projector with a higher contrast ratio in order to meet the PISCR standard.
2. Video Wall (Optional)
Video walls are an alternative to the projector and screen. Direct View LED video walls offer flexibility for the super-premium auditorium experience.
Pixel pitch determines the resolution. For example, a 1920x1080 resolution is 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically. If there’s a larger pixel pitch (the amount of space between pixels), the video wall must be larger to achieve the desired resolution. A smaller pixel pitch will be able to achieve the same resolution in a smaller wall.
There are a few major ways LED displays differ from the projector and screen. First, is their ability to scale. They are not limited to a specific aspect ratio, and the sky is the limit in terms of size.
With flexible scaling comes flexible layouts. This can be achieved through pre-configured layouts with many different sources. However, the preferred method for an auditorium is a canvas that multiple pieces of digital content can be presented on.
Another major differentiator is that LED displays are incredibly bright, making them easy to see in areas with high ambient light. They typically have a lifetime (half brightness) of 100,000 hours. This is compared to projectors which often feature 20,000 hours of laser module life.
These added benefits do come at a cost. Size and pixel pitch drive the price for LED displays, which can vary greatly depending on those two factors. While LED displays are more expensive than most projector and screen solutions, that should be evaluated against any potential reduction in operating cost as the solution ages.
3. Speakers (and speaker placement)
While the visuals are the most eye-catching aspect of auditorium AV, the audio is even more important. Nothing halts the flow of an event faster than audio disruptions.
Speaker and speaker placement are critical in auditorium AV design. So, it’s important for your AV integrator or consultant to follow best practices for audio design. This includes formulas to find the appropriate db SPL, headroom, and distance (loudspeaker to listener and reference distance). Each of these elements inform the number of amps required and location of speakers.
We also look at calculations to ensure the system is stable and free from feedback loops. The Potential Acoustic Gain (PAG) is what the designed system can actually deliver. It is compared to the Needed Acoustic Gain (NAG). The PAG should be greater than the NAG for a stable system.
As a client, you shouldn’t have to worry about this technical jargon and calculations. That’s what you’re paying your AV partner for. But it should be happening behind the scenes. Ultimately, this results in a speaker layout that creates a consistent, comfortable audio level across the space.
4. Flexible Microphones
In corporate auditoriums, your microphones need to be just as flexible as your furniture layouts.
Finding the right type and number of microphones to fit the needs of the on-stage presenters is the first step. An event may feature a single presenter and panels. Lapel microphones are a go-to for both presentation types.
It’s also important to coach presenters on microphone placement and etiquette. It can be difficult to reach the desired NAG when a microphone is not placed correctly.
The second piece of the microphone puzzle is audience participation. Will attendees need the ability to ask questions? If so, there’s a couple ways to tackle it.
Standard wireless microphones passed around is a tried and true method for audience engagement. A proctor will often run up and down the isles passing the microphone to different participants. It’s a familiar configuration that attendees are comfortable with.
Another option is something like a catchbox. This soft microphone is thrown from one audience member to another. Someone catches it and can speak into it to ask their question. While it’s great for some events, it can be too informal for others.
Biamp Crowd Mics is another alternative. This new technology allows the audience to use their cell phone as a microphone. It’s important to note it does require critical network accommodations to ensure a strong Wi-Fi connection between audience members and the equipment’s network.
5. Multiple Cameras
Cameras are a critical component in the corporate auditorium and allow for remote viewing of the event. Whether you’re streaming to remote attendees or recording for archival, you’ll need a feed of the presenter and audience.
The right camera will depend on how deep the room is and the far-end experience you’re trying to create. You may consider features like auto-tracking, which will track the presenter as they move back and forth on the stage. With this and other Ai-based features it’s important to consider the backdrop since windows, lighting, and reflections can impact the functionality.
You’ll also need to make a few decisions around the workflow. Will someone be driving the camera control, switching and preset selection? If so, a joystick controller may be preferable. For a more automated experience a control panel and PTZ camera allows for easy selection of preset layouts.
If you expect attendee participation, audience-facing cameras are a valuable add. This allows remote participants to see the audience and people asking questions throughout the event.
6. System Control
Auditorium system control typically requires custom programing. We frequently use Crestron to power our clients’ auditorium, but Extron, AMX and Utelogy are other good options too. The right choice for your auditorium may depend on what control system your organization is standardized on.
The programmers working on your project should have experience in similar systems. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and certifications. Our programmers create systems with ease-of-use at the forefront.
For auditorium, this means pre-set configurations. For example, configuration 1 one may be for a single presenter, not streamed. When selected, the DSP unmutes and routs the primary lapel microphone. The projector powers up and the main screen descends from the ceiling. The content is controlled from the presenter podium connections or booth at larger events.
Configuration 2 may be for a panel. In this instance four lapel microphones are unmuted and routed. The three projectors and screens power on, and the control system triggers the preferred lighting and shading.
While simplistic, these two examples illustrate how pre-set configurations save time and create consistency. It reduces frustration and makes the system more approachable for users.
Streaming is becoming a ‘must-have’ in the corporate auditorium. It provides the hybrid workforce an opportunity to attend these highly visible meetings. It also includes satellite offices in an event. Companies are streaming all-hands meetings and events across platforms like Zoom, GoogleMeet and Teams.
Ensuring your auditorium audio, video and control is integrated into these streaming services is critical for the far-end experience.
Bonus- Overall Aesthetics
Aesthetics are important in offices, especially in an auditorium. While companies want technology to work flawlessly, they don’t necessarily want it visible. Instead, they want the technology to fade into the background. For example, one auditorium we worked in had a beautiful wood ceiling. The client didn’t want the projector mount detracting from the overall aesthetics. So, we worked with other trades to develop custom covers at the bottom of the projector lifts to camouflage them with the ceiling.
What about your space?
There are many different considerations for a corporate auditorium. Many of the choices will depend on how your company will use the space, the desired level of flexibility, and any existing hardware standards. It’s important to create alignment internally on what types of meetings and events the space will need to support. That will be the foundation to determine the functionality, and ultimately drive the design and product choice.
A little overwhelming, huh?
There’s a lot that goes into an auditorium AV project. While we tried to provide as much information as possible in this article, there’s many more considerations when designing auditorium AV. This just scratches the surface.
The good news is you don’t have to figure it out yourself. That’s where we come in. We’re not a jack of all trades. We’re an expert in commercial AV solutions, and we can help reduce some of your stress when it comes to building out your corporate auditorium.
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