Case Study: Microsoft Xbox room, Australia

xbox use
Xbox room at Microsoft in Australia

As the Microsoft Xbox makes the jump to delivering content in 4K, Hurrairah bin Sohail talks with the integrator tasked with using it to create an immersive presentation space about the challenge of delivering 4K video transmission.

Technology keeps moving forward and integrators have to adapt. With regards to video, the move from standard definition to full HD is complete. AV professionals are now looking forward to the shift to 4K resolution.

Walk the aisles of any AV exhibition and you will see a number of 4K video transmission products throwing around words and phrases such as “uncompressed”, “zero latency”, “visually lossless” and much more. Add in the minefi eld of different technology considerations such as frame rates and colour composition and you have realise that deploying 4K video systems is no easy task. There is also the main problem of the dearth of 4K content for consumers that needs to be tackled.

This problem however is being slowly chipped at. Content in native 4K resolution is becoming more prevalent. The release of the Xbox One X by Microsoft, which will output content in 4K resolution is a big step towards making 4K a viable consideration for consumers.

At present, the number of 4K projects in the AV world is low. Alex Smyth from Credible Audio Visual Systems (CAVS) says: “4K rooms are a rarity. The topic comes up in initial meetings with clients because people are aware of 4K, but the reality of 4K is that it is not a great fi t for the corporate sector. You don’t want to present a spread sheet in 4K because the resolution actually hinders readability. But the real problem is that current devices in the corporate sphere, laptops and operating systems, do not output in 4K. Shifting to a 4K system would necessitate having to upgrade your entire fleet of devices.”

That being said, CAVS was engaged by Microsoft to deliver 4K video transmission and audio to match in its Microsoft Xbox room at its 1 Epping Road facility in Sydney, Australia. Smyth says: “Microsoft has been our client for seven to eight years, in fact since they fitted out this location. We have worked on delivering a number of multi-purpose and offi ce spaces. The previous Xbox room was done four years ago and now they wanted to upgrade the space to accommodate the new Xbox One X which delivers content in 4K resolution.”

Smyth explains the scope of the project: “The room encompasses six standalone Xbox stations plus the main display with the focus being on the Xbox running 4K content and laptop presentation.”

Regarding the design for the project, Smyth comments: “Microsoft employs an American consultant who takes care of the design for its California facilities. This consultant came up with the design for the Xbox room and a local contractor, which was us, was assigned to integrate and deliver the project. We were given an equipment list and design and that was it. Usually Microsoft also dishes out the control codes and the programming but that was not needed for this project.”

He continues: “Design wise, the project was three quarters of the way there. The quarter that was left was just tweaks and additions. We didn’t change the design, we just made alterations to make it work while retaining the essence.”

This project was the fi rst time CAVS worked on delivering 4K 60Hz video. Smyth says: “4K was the biggest challenge for us. We’ve done 4K 30Hz projects before for videowalls and we have never had any problems with that. But the jump to 4K 60Hz was new. The new Xbox’s preferred resolution is 4K 60Hz. Once it switches on it does a quick handshake and if it doesn’t like what it sees it just doesn’t output 4K and drops straight to 1080p. So the 4K 60Hz transmission was crucial.”

The Xbox One X serves as the source for the video feed. From it, native 4K 60Hz 8-bit video is fed into an iMag Systems transmitter via HDMI. From there the video is carried via Cat6 shielded cable across to the equipment rack to a corresponding iMag Systems receiver. From here the signal is fed into a Denon AV receiver. Video output from the Denon is the sent to a Digital Projection 7000LM 4K projector, mounted with a Chief bracket, with the help of an iMag Systems transmitter and receiver. A Screen Technics 180- in projection screen is used in tandem with the projector. For the standalone Xbox stations, Samsung 4K display screens are employed. The iMag Systems products were specifi ed by the consultant. Smyth says: “In reality, there are not a lot of products that could have worked for this project. We tried some of the alternatives from the other manufacturers but nothing really worked flawlessly.”

The integrator ran into some issues when deploying the video transmission system. Smyth narrates: “Originally, we couldn’t get the projector to work on 4K. As soon as we connected the Xbox to it, it would just fail and be unable to display a signal. We upgraded everything to the latest firmware and that helped but we were still having issues. The signal would come in and out intermittently. I contacted iMag Systems and asked how we could pull the EDID from the projector. As soon as we got the EDID stored as a custom file on the transmitter everything worked.”

With regards to audio, the core requirement was the provision of Dolby Atmos sound. The Denon AV receiver chosen to manage inputs and outputs was selected with the requirement in mind. Audio in the room is provided by Sonos speakers. As the project neared completion, wireless presentation and a lectern were added. For wireless presentation, a Microsoft wireless presenter was brought in and it enabled smart device displays to be mirrored on the projection screen via Miracast.

For the lectern, a fl oorbox was cut and all the relevant inputs were provided. An Extron USB bridge was included to ensure Skype functionality. Audio is captured by an AKG microphone while a Panasonic PTZ camera is used for video capture. Williams Sound IR hearing augmentation is also provided.

A Crestron control processor is used to control the AV systems and a wireless touch panel with a wall dock has been provided.

In conclusion, Smyth says: “This project was relatively straightforward. The design and specifi cation required no major changes. We just needed to tweak a few things such as switching the originally specifi ed Yamaha receiver for one from Denon since the former is not available in Australia and changing the model for the Samsung panel for the same reason.”