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Case study: Lecture theatre AV install puts Newcastle Uni on the map

Continuing our series of case studies on recent AV installations in education institutions, we get an insight into Roche Audio Visual's work with the University of Newcastle and a lecture theatre that is having a positive effect for the local economy

The £34 million Frederick Douglass building was built by construction company Sir Robert McAlpine on the ‘helix’ site at the University of Newcastle. 

This flagship addition to the University and city’s education and conferencing infrastructure is designed to ‘shape the future of learning and weave together social spaces and lecture theatres’. To achieve their aim the University required the integration of the latest audio-visual technologies, to deliver both traditional and collaborative teaching, and assure an outstanding student experience.

The standout feature is the 750-seat auditorium that, due to one of the largest acoustic walls in Europe, can be divided into 250 and 500 seat lecture theatres. A nearby 200-seat collaborative lecture theatre can be configured as an overflow facility, giving the University the option of hosting up to 950 people at lectures, conferences and other events. This makes it one of the largest lecture theatres in the UK and gives the University great scope for hosting both internal and external events.

After a number of briefing sessions in January 2019, Roche presented the University with a range of different options based on their requirements. University Audio Viusal Team Leader Colin Fahey stated that “We were impressed with the amount of detail and variety that Roche presented us with, which went beyond our expectations whilst also remaining within our budget requirements.” 

The University opted for an AV over IP system. Crestron’s DM-NVX system controls the inputs and outputs to and from the auditorium and provides the overflow link to the collaborative lecture theatre and exhibition space. By using AV over IP there are financial savings compared with the cost of a large matrix switcher whilst also alleviating concerns around the length of cable runs created by the move-able walls.  

The audio solution, designed by Polar Audio  in collaboration with the University and Roche AV, allows control of the 250, 500 and 750 modes from one tech box utilising Dante. The solution provides flexibility to cater for external organisations, to provide their own audio system to specific events, allowing them effectively to ‘plug in and play’. 

The exhibition space is an open plan area, which serves multiple purposes. It facilitates informal work via study booths and also acts as the cafe area, which uses digital signage to display its menu. The link to the lecture theatre allows streaming to the 86″ screens located in the space and also audio via the speakers. It will also be used as an area for ‘exhibitions’, with inputs to the screens, allowing students, staff and external organisations to display their content, in an open plan setting.

The integration was completed by Roche engineers and programmers over the summer of 2019 and was completed for October of the same year.  

The University is already benefiting from their new space, which has opened up educational and conferencing possibilities, that were not previously available. The International Sports, Exercise and Nutrition Conference was hosted at the centre over three days in December, with users commenting on the spaces ease of use and state-of-the-art facilities.

“I just wanted to say on behalf of NGI thank you so much to you and your team who looked after us and our AGM last week. It all went really well and venue was fantastic. We were relieved the AV all went to plan and the screens looked really impactful,” read a statement from the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative AGM, held on Thursday 5th December 2019.

“The lecture theatre has completely changed the dynamic of what Newcastle University can offer in terms of education and conferencing,” added Fahey. “A space this size and boasting state-of-the-art audio and visual technology is not just appealing to prospective students, but also to businesses in the area we are looking to connect with. The Frederick Douglass centre is a huge step on the way to the University becoming a go to place for conferencing and exhibitions in the North East.”