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POLAR expands Newcastle University’s AV capabilities

Newcastle University’s Armstrong Building is a Grade II listed building that plays a key role in the social and academic life of the university. POLAR Integrated Solutions was invited to submit system designs that would address a number of AV issues at the site.

Situated within the building is the King’s Hall, which hosts prestigious events including graduation ceremonies and concerts. Opened by and named after King Edward VII in 1906, the hall seats 500 delegates and in 1967 hosted the presentation of an honorary degree to Dr Martin Luther King. The Armstrong Building also contains number of lecture theatres and classrooms.

POLAR made recommendations for the three key areas of The Armstrong building that the university wished to address. Integrators Roche Audio Visual was engaged to install the solutions. While each of the three areas required its own dedicated solution, it was also important that these solutions could tie in with each other, to provide the most comprehensive and flexible range of options throughout.

The first brief concerned the King’s Hall itself where the university required a solution to effectively facilitate intelligible audio for presentations and live sound applications. The heritage nature of this multi-use setting demanded that the hall’s aesthetic must not be compromised, requiring the solution to be as invisible as possible.

POLAR recommended a Renkus-Heinz Iconyx solution, controlled via software to create beams of audio that can be focused on the audience and away from hard, reflective surfaces. Two Renkus-Heinz ICL-F-DUAL-RN live arrays were positioned in The King’s Hall in conjunction with two IC2 15S subs. A Biamp TesiraFORTE AI AVB was installed to control all signal processing in the venue and enable audio and video content in the hall to be routed to and received from the other two key venues in the Armstrong building via Ethernet. An Australian Monitor AMIS 26 distribution amplifier was employed to power the audio for the hall’s video screens.

Two relatively small reception rooms in The Armstrong Building are often used for presentations and after-dinner speeches. The university required a small system for local sound reinforcement and presentation audio that utilised an unobtrusive loudspeaker system. One room would host the presentations, with the other acting as an overflow space. POLAR recommended a system based around Novasonar speakers. These flatpanel loudspeakers are integrated into original construction materials to transform walls, ceilings and furniture into sound reproducing surfaces.

The wood-panelled Keeton-Lomas room required a wireless microphone system with local sound reinforcement and program audio capabilities, able to hold videoconferences utilising a networked HD video system. As with the reception room, the loudspeakers were to be as discreet as possible. Each seating position was to have a desk microphone and its own dedicated sound reinforcement. Further requirements included USB output for lecture capture, a feed to adjoining seminar rooms, the capacity for using software codec such as Skype for conferencing and that the system could integrate with a VC system.

A beyerdynamic Quinta wireless conferencing system was chosen. Its high level of wireless encryption provides protection against unauthorised listening and it offers user-friendly operation. A total of 63 delegate MU31 and 1 MU33 microphones were supplied for the system, all employing beyerdynamic’s Revoluto technology. Two beyerdynamic TG V50w handheld wireless microphones enabled presenters to move around the theatre.

“The Armstrong Building at Newcastle University is now equipped with a flexible and fully integrated system that serves a wide variety of functions,” said Stuart Leader, director of POLAR Integrated Solutions. “Presentations in the King’s Hall are now delivered with a level of intelligibility and clarity not previously possible and what’s more, the content can be broadcast beyond the hall itself into the other venues.”

“Although the install was not without its tricky moments – the nature of old, listed buildings will invariably create issues – project manager Craig Pickard’s team worked diligently to deliver everything on schedule,” added Andy Ramsey, Newcastle University’s senior AV technician. “The situation in the King’s Hall is a massive improvement on what went before and it’s now a great asset to the university.”