Springvale Community Hub, Australia

Equans ANZ talks about the extremely interesting AV deployment at Springvale Community Hub where the integrator added swivel to the LED screen, connected two locations, battled the elements and much more.

The Springvale Community Hub is a community facility in the centre of Springvale, Melbourne. Dandenong Council was looking to upgrade the hub’s capabilities with the addition of an ‘Urban Screen’ that would serve as a display for text, graphic and video content along with the requisite supporting technology systems. Eqauns ANZ was engaged to supply and integrate the solution and Aecom served as the consultant.

Tobias Feld, technology solutions specialist at Equans ANZ, talks about the beginning stages of the project: “This was a performance specification, and we were given a set of guidelines for the minimum performance levels that needed to be met. From there it was a design and construct contract for us, and we had freedom to come up with a design and a solution that we thought would meet the performance specification.”

The first focus of the project was to get the ball rolling on the Urban Screen. Feld details: “With our proposal we put forward four to five different LED brands, all with different pixel pitches and price points to see which fit with the performance specifications and the budget. Originally Mitsubishi had been specified but during the course of the project they moved out of the LED market which meant that we had to go back to the drawing board. VuePix was the next option, and the Community Hub was very happy with it. We went through a process of daylight modelling because the screen faces north and is exposed to full sunlight. We also went through a study with Arup to see how the screen would perform in sunlight especially during the Australian summer and we found that 5,000 nits brightness would be sufficient. The LED screen was obviously a big investment for the Council and they wanted to make sure it was the right investment.”

The Urban Screen measures 6.5m wide and 3m high with VuePix ER3 LED tiles with 3.9mm pixel pitch being used.

However, a request from the client threw a spanner in the works. Feld says: “At the last moment before the project was to get going, one of the counsellors came up with the notion that it would be a great idea if the LED wall could swivel out allowing for a bigger audience to be engaged on the greens. But as you can imagine, this design request sent everyone from the architects to us back to the drawing board. The LED screen weighed approximately 2.2 tonnes and with the ‘swivel’ that would be like having a car hanging off the wall. You have to start taking in completely new considerations for safety and environmental factors like wind have to be taken into account as well.”

Equans ANZ set to the task of making the screen swivel and Feld details: “We went to a number of different companies to manufacture and install a frame that would allow the LED display to swivel and some of them said no straightaway. Eventually, IDE, one of the companies we had shortlisted, expressed interest in taking up the challenge and was confident it could deliver. That was a big challenge surmounted for us. We also added in a failsafe for the environment so that in bad weather the screen automatically returns to a closed position.”

The change in the function of the LED screen also impacted the rest of the design. Feld details: “Initially, the plan was to have line array speakers next to the LED for audio. But of course, these require space and there is a certain depth to the speakers. With the swivel features added in, we had to deviate because we were left with just about 40cm of depth and that is the reason we switched to a beam steering, column speaker system. There was physically no room for the line array speakers and when you have limitations you have to start being creative and the column speakers worked perfectly.”

Regarding the selection of the speakers, Feld says: “As part of my investigations for the tender, I reached out to different suppliers and asked then what the best fit for the audio performance specifications was. Fohhn is distributed by CMI and they were telling me about this new product at the time which had been used at the Winter Olympic Games. From my perspective, the Fohhn speakers met all the technical specifications I needed and looked great on paper and the beam steering functionality was an advantage on top. It would help us control the coverage area so that we could make sure the neighbours were not disturbed. We went ahead with the Fohhn speakers, and the client is stoked with the results. The speakers have great low frequency response even though there are no subs. But if subs are required, we have additional input points to support that.”

The audio system is completed with QSC Core 510i DSP, Crown DCi8-300 amplifiers and secondary pole-mounted Fohhn LX-60 PA in-fill speaker system to provide the possibility of surround sound.

An eye-catching display and a great sound system were not all Springvale Community Hub was looking for. Having technical expertise on the end user side with experience in broadcast and staging meant that the backend system had to be comprehensive. Stuart Williams, technical solutions engineer at Equans ANZ, says: “The requirements from Springvale were low latency and no performance issues underneath the image that was being shown on the LED. This was mainly the reason that we went towards a broadcast solution and why the products for the video system were chosen. There was also a requirement to send the content from Springvale to a second location and vice versa so that content or production could be on either end and still be viewed at both places.”

The video backend comprises a Newtek TriCaster TC1 Vision switcher and Birdog 4K NDI encoder and decoders together with a redundant SDI transmission system. Williams says: “The NDI protocol was at the forefront when the Springvale project was being executed and using it allowed us to have network-based video but also meet broadcast latency requirements. It also worked because we didn’t just approach the backend from a designer’s perspective but also took into account the guys that will be operating the space and they have a broadcast background. And there was a requirement for the whole performance to be able to be controlled from an iPad and video over IP enabled this. This was pre-pandemic but obviously being able to remotely control the show came in extremely handy.” Control was another important aspect of the project and Crestron CP3 processors were called into action together with the requisite integration with Newtek and programming. The Crestron control also acts as a deadman switch to override the positioning of the LED screen.

A unique challenge faced by Equans ANZ was the fact that a portion of the technology products were installed outside and hence had to contend with the Australian weather. This impacted multiple decisions throughout the course of the project. Equans ANZ collaborated with Arup for a study to properly evaluate the brightness required for the LED screen arriving at the 5,000 nits mark.

Williams says: “We had a unique challenge with the Panasonic cameras that were selected, and we needed IP-rated boxes for them to protect them from the elements. We had trouble finding the right enclosures with the right ratings that fit the cameras. Eventually we had to have the IP-rated boxes custom made in the US and it took some time to get them imported.”

Feld adds: “The Fohhn speakers are indoor speakers, but Fohhn provides a special cover that is transparent to sound and allows the speakers to be protected from the environment. I think that the German manufacturer might not have tested them for the Australian summer because the colour faded very quickly. But the covers were easily replaced.”

The Springvale Community Hub project has been completed and Feld concludes: “Dare I say it, we are just coming out of Covid-19 and the Springvale facilities have yet to be fully used. They are of course stoked with the functionality, especially having the two sites connected together.”

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