Case Study: Macquarie University, Australia

Image from Macquarie University, Australia

The clinical AV and IT coordinator from Macquarie University details how the AV facilities at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences were upgraded with a focus on minimising waste.

The Surgical Skills Lab at Macquarie University was constructed in 2010. Originally known as the Australian School of Advanced Medicine, it later transformed into the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The faculty’s clinical AV and IT coordinator, Iain Brew says: “The space can be thought of as having ten operating theatres in one large room, where our medical community can collaborate and explore human anatomy.”

Brew outlines the AV systems previously used in the space: “Each area (or pendant) comprised a surgical grade monitor and numerous local inputs (S-Video, VGA, DVI via Fibre and SDI). Two sets of additional inputs were provided at the front and side of the lab for laptops or portable medical equipment to be integrated into the system. The main teaching station also has a surgical in-light camera and the room itself has a projector and speaker system. All of this was controlled by an AMX touch panel. Educators also had access to two wireless headset microphones and a consumer DVD recorder to capture demonstrations.”

Macquarie University wanted to upgrade the capabilities of the Faculty of Medicine and Brew says: “The project scope was to allow full HD video to be routed from any source to any combination of destinations from an easy to use and maintain control system. The system had to be fully commissioned within a six week time frame with a tight budget of AUD 75,000 (approximately USD 57,500).”

He continues: “The projector and screen, surgical displays, in-light cameras and the speaker and amplifi cation components were all kept and integrated. This reduced deployment time, project cost and greatly reduced waste.

“Planning for the project began in 2016 when I fi rst joined the faculty. I conducted a thorough audit of all the installed AV and IT equipment and made the recommendation to our faculty executive that we should be exploring video over IP and audio over IP (Dante) for routing and switching, which would provide great fl exibility and expansion for our evolving programmes. The audit also recommended switching to a non-proprietary control system which could be managed in-house. The majority of issues from the existing system came from the need to route multiple analogue and digital signals from input plates to displays via expensive and limited matrix switches, which made expansion very costly. In addition, the existing control system did not meet the current needs of the facility and had not been maintained due to the expensive costs involved when hiring external consultants to modify the original code, of which we didn’t have ownership.”

He continues: “I worked closely with the director of Clinical Skills Training, Associate Professor Richard Appleyard, and the Anatomy and Surgical Skills coordinator, Dr. Janos Tomka, to ensure that all their requirements were met. “We wanted a control system which we could manage in-house. This allows us to easily add and modify controls as the lab expands and as users’ needs evolve and change. For example, we have created a preset for our anatomy classes which with one press, will set up the entire lab AV experience for the instructors. This makes it easy for inexperienced users to get the lab up and running quickly, however it also allows more advanced users to drill down and further customise signal and audio routing to suit their classes.”

Video over IP

Upgrading the video system was the core priority of Macquarie University. The new video system is centred around the Gefen video over IP family of products. In total, there are 19 inputs and 17 outputs confi gured from the Gefen EXT-CU-LAN controller, via two Cisco SG300 series switches. One of the Cisco switches is used for all control equipment while the other is employed purely for multicast video.

The old displays for the lab have been retained. These comprise 10 Stryker full HD medical monitors and an NEC PA550WG projector. The only new addition is a Dell 24-in display which has been mounted to the wall and is used to preview sources prior to routing. A range of Gefen transmitters and receivers are employed to bring the displays onto the network.

Due to the specialised nature of medical display equipment, Gefen scalers are used. In particular, three Gefen EXT-MFP scalers, one used for wall inputs and two for C-arm X-ray machines, can be found. In addition two Gefen GTV-COMPSVID- 2-HDMIS S-Video to HDMI scalers are used for the two in-light surgical cameras. Ten Gefen EXT- 3G-HD-C SDI-HDMI converters for SDI surgical equipment to interface to HDMI transmitters are also employed.

Brew says: “Some Gefen S-Video to HDMI convertors are used to bring legacy in-light cameras in to the system, along with a Gefen EXT- MFP scaler to replicate the existing functionality of wall inputs. We also have a few extra on hand to ensure we can integrate any piece of medical equipment which comes into our lab to the system. Gefen SDI-HDMI convertors are supplied at each pendant to allow the integration of medical equipment which might have fussy HDMI or DVI outputs, yet feature standardised SDI outputs.”

Brew comments about the selection of Gefen for the video routing and switching: “The Gefen solution was chosen as it was very competitive in cost, and is very easy to expand and control. Rather than having to directly control a managed switch and VLANS, the Gefen EXT-CU-LAN allows for simple control commands similar to a traditional matrix, which then in turn manages all the routing and switching of the Gefen transmitters and receivers. This lab uses the HD model of the product, however it is also compatible with the new 4K range which we are installing in a second lab. This has allowed us to protect and future-proof our investment.”

In addition, an AJA RovoCam 4K block camera was added to the teaching pendant to allow for very high quality image capture above the surgical fi eld. Brew says: “The large optical zoom range and ease of use via a single HDBaseT cable have made usability and set up a simple task. This is complimented with a Panasonic AWHE40 PTZ camera mounted at the front of the lab for videoconferencing and video link purposes.”

During the upgrade, Macquarie University also took the opportunity to expand the overall level of level of AV capabilities of the space. Brew details: “As part of the upgrade, we also enabled soft conferencing for the lab, allowing us to live stream demonstrations to students who may be at home, or to other sites within our campus. This has since been further expanded with the addition of a Polycom RealPresence Group 700, allowing secure conferencing to our neighbouring hospital, or any other medical facility in the world.”

Video recording capabilities were also improved. Brew says: “The lab was only capable of capturing selected S-Video signals on to consumer DVD recorders. [We upgraded] to two Matrox Monarch HD recorders, which record directly on to a Synology NAS drive. This automatically synchronises to a Microsoft Offi ce 365 OneDrive which allows us to securely archive and share content as needed.”

In addition to the Matrox Monarch HD recorders located in the AV equipment rack, a VLogic rack mount dual 7-in display and simple Logitech Z150 speakers for confi dence monitoring are also used.

Constant audio

“The majority of components in the audio system were re-used from the previous installation,” Brew says. “This includes two Extron S128 program speakers, ten Extron S126W in-roof pendant speakers and their associated amplifiers which include three QSC CS254 units and one QSC RMX50 amplifier.

“However, the heart of the system was upgraded with the addition of a Behringer X32 rack digital mixer.”

Brew continues: “Two Sennheiser EW352 G3 headset microphones were also provided to improve sound reproduction for our educators, saving their voices and allowing students to hear instruction no matter where they are in the lab. In addition, an aux input was also provided with an EQ curve more suited to music for when the labs are being prepared, or for surgeons to listen to music whilst working.”

The provision of wireless microphones caused some issues during deployment. Brew narrates: “An interesting issue arose with wireless audio interference. By repurposing an older Shure antenna distribution system from the previous installation, we were able to bring the Sennheiser antenna’s into the lab itself. RF squelch also had to be adjusted quite high to minimise the impacts of medical equipment in the space, and the effects of the lead lining used in the lab which eliminates X-ray radiation from escaping the lab. Intriguingly, the Clipsal C-Bus lighting system would often create spikes and interference, so the relocation of the antennas helped prevent this from occurring.”

Control considerations

Flexible control and the possibility of easy expansion in the future was a key consideration. Brew says: “The lab is entirely controlled from a wall mounted Apple iPad Pro running iRidium Mobile Pro software. This package is inexpensive and allows the creation of complex and responsive control systems which can be deployed on almost any platform. This has allowed us to integrate all kinds of legacy and new products which can be controlled from a unified system. The iPad is connected via Ethernet to a secure, air- gapped control network and directly controls IP equipment, or contact closure, IR and RS232 based equipment through the use of Global Cache iTech controllers.”

He continues: “In the past we would have had to engage a programmer at great cost to make a simple change, however now we can make and deploy changes rapidly with no external costs.”

Regarding the overall implementation of the project, Brew comments: “Luckily, due to extensive testing and planning, we didn’t run into many technical hurdles whilst building the system. Some unexpected challenges came from the PoE splitters we used to power the Gefen VoIP equipment on the pendants. The first generation didn’t have PoE built-in, however the PoE splitters we bought came with cables with a poor fit which would often cause the Gefen units to restart or not power up if a pendant display was moved. This was resolved by sacrificing the official plugs from the provided power supply and soldering on a new DC plug for the splitter. For units located in the plenum space, low voltage cabling was run in a similar fashion to an upcycled 12V multi-output power supply.”

He continues: “Power also proved to be a challenge for the iPad Pro, when combined with a lightning to USB camera connection kit, and subsequent USB to Ethernet dongle. This was to enable the iPad to be connected to an Ethernet network for better security and control reliability. The power drain issue, would see the battery deplete over a few days, was solved by using a stronger USB power supply and also adding a powered USB hub in-line with the Ethernet adaptor. This solution isn’t ideal, however it has proved reliable.”

The project was completed in early 2017 and has been functional since then.

He concludes: “If I was designing the same lab today, I would be fitting out all new equipment with 4K as default, as this has really gained momentum not only in the consumer space, but also in the medical space for end-to-end imagery needs. Also, I would want to further the active classroom model by having small iPad or iPod Touch control panels located on each pendant, allowing instructors or students the ability to control what they are seeing on their screens independently, or push their sources to the lab projector when the lab is being used as a collaborative environment. Luckily with the system we have designed, these additions are easily possible in the future without needing much or any infrastructure change or modification.”

Tech Spec


Behringer X32 rack mixer
Extron S126W in-roof pendant speakers, S128 program speakers
Logitech Z150 preview speakers
QSC CS254, RMX50 amplifiers
Sennheiser EW352 headset microphones
Swamp Stereo AV-DI units


Apple iPad Pro
Cisco SG300-52MP switches
Gefen EXT-CU-LAN matrix controller
Global Cache IP2SL-P, IP2IR-P, IP2CC-P PoE iRidium Mobile V3 pro software
iPort SurfaceMount


AJA RovoCam 4K block camera
Dell Ultrasharp U2415 preview display monitor
Epiphan DVI2USB3
Gefen EXT-HD2IRS-LANTX HDMI transmitters, EXT- HD2IRS-LANRX HDMI receivers, EXT-HDKVM- LANTX DVI+USB KVM transmitters, EXT-HDKVM- LANRX DVI+USB KVM receiver, EXT-MFP scalers, GTV-COMPSVID-2-HDMIS S-Video to HDMI scalers, EXT-3G-HD-C SDI-HDMI converters
HP EliteDesk mini PC Kensington SD4000 USB3 dock
Polycom RealPresence Group 700 videoconferencing
Matrox Monarch HD recorders
NEC PA550WG projector Screen Technics motorised in-roof projection screen
Stryker VisionElect 26 medical displays
Synology Disk Station with 1TB RAID storage
V-Gear VG-702SDI Dual 7-in preview display