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Oxford University lecture theatres undergo AV system overhaul

Duncan Proctor 11 November 2016
Oxford University lecture theatres undergo AV system overhaul

The University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology has installed Optoma EH7700 ProScene projectors in its three main lecture theatres as part of an overhaul of its AV systems and wider refurbishment of the entire Tinbergen Building.

Despite this being the premier teaching site of the university, the lecture theatres had not changed in over two decades.

The refurbishment aims to improve the seating, carpets and decor, as well as upgrading the AV equipment. This included replacing the old XGA and WXGA projectors and control room equipment and installing cameras and audio equipment that could be used to record lectures.

The project brief stipulated all equipment be reliable and have longevity in terms of future proofing the technology and infrastructure installed. There was also a tight budget and timescale for the whole refurbishment with only a couple of months in the summer to complete it.

Conferex Communications was appointed to supply and install the entire AV solution including projectors, audio, cameras for lecture capture and control room equipment.

Two Optoma EH7700 ProScene projectors have been installed in each lecture theatre. These WUXGA projectors include 7,000 ANSI lumens brightness and use BrilliantColor technology.

The EH7700 has a dual lamp system, which adds to its reliability, and both lamps can be used together to achieve maximum brightness, while still providing redundancy should one of the lamps fail. The projector can be managed and monitored remotely with Crestron RoomView, Extron IP Link, AMX and PJ-Link, which allow almost all aspects to be controlled across a network. It has extensive connectivity supporting a wide number of computer and video inputs including VGA and two HDMI ports.

Motorised lens shift, focus and zoom combined with the extensive lens options, 360˚ operation and interchangeable colour wheels provides flexibility in installation.

The image from each projector is projected directly onto the walls in each of the three lecture theatres. The walls were painted with Screen Goo, a high resolution acrylic water-based paint designed specifically for the video projection industry.

The cameras can record the lecture from multiple angles to show the presentation, the blackboard as well as the lecturer and/or students. For audio, the largest theatre was installed with two Martin Audio Mini Line Array Speakers. Smaller Tannoy VLS Column Array Speakers were fitted for the other two and these are focused to take into account the lecture theatre’s tiered seating and transmit sound across the whole space. In addition, Sennheiser Omnidirectional remote paddle antennas were installed to improve the audio received from wireless roaming microphones.

The video capture system has four inputs plus audio and each input goes into the recording software with two views. This ensures high quality audio and imagery from the lectures would be captured and saved for future viewing.

Ivan Constable, director at Conferex, said: “This was a really exciting project. The complete overhaul gave us the chance to design a system from scratch that would provide everything the university needs now, as well as future-proofing it for technology advancements.

“The projectors work seamlessly with all the control equipment and the image quality is spot-on. We are also really pleased with the lecture capture system. Most systems are of a very poor quality but by installing the wide-angle lens cameras and the dedicated audio equipment with multiple inputs directly to the recording software – it really is first class.”

Simon Ellis, IT manager at the University, explained: “Reliability of the equipment was absolutely key. If a unit fails, we would need to erect a scaffold tower over the seats, which in itself, takes around half a day to put up. Our lecture theatres are always fully booked and we have just half a day available each week for maintenance. This is one of the reasons we chose Optoma and opted for the dual lamp EH7700 ProScene projectors.

“It was also important to us that we use the same projectors across all lecture theatres. These needed to be high resolution and bright, as well as reliable. We had a tight budget to completely refurbish all our lecture theatres, including the IT equipment. I am delighted to say that we got exactly what we wanted.”

Optoma projectors

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