The Allegan Community Fine Arts Center, with capacity of just under 1,000, was designed to
use a large-venue audio system with a super bright LCD video/data projection system.
The project engineer selected Central Interconnect to design and install the system - beginning
a relationship that would see the school district continue to trust Central Interconnect with its
"They're just really good people to work with," said Bill Hammer, director of operations for
Allegan Public Schools. "They basically did all the technical pieces in terms of our system,
video projection and all the wiring. They really did an outstanding job - neat, clean,
Because of the quality of Central Interconnect's work on the Fine Arts Center, Hammer said
the company has been invited back several times to work on other projects, as well as
providing upgrades on the original system for the Fine Arts Center. That system was built
with an LCD projector with four bulbs sharing the load, ensuring that the failure of one bulb
will not impede the system.
"It was a very state-of-the-art system at the time," Hammer said. "We've had to make some minor upgrades in terms of our audio pieces, wireless microphones and so forth. They came right out and knew what to do. They really know the business, and I have a very high level of confidence in their expertise."
Hammer also complimented the Central Interconnect installation crew for neat, clean appearance of their completed work.
"The wire ties are where they should be," Hammer said. "If they're putting pipe in, if it's supposed to be plum, it's plum. Nothing is ever sloppy. You never have to go back and get after them."
The Grand Rapids-based law firm Barnes & Thornburg has a variety of spaces within its office, and was looking for a way to make them not only look better, but also function more powerfully in support of the firm's client service objectives.
To design the look and configuration of an upgrade to these spaces, Barnes & Thornburgh hired the architectural firm Concept Design Group. And when CDG needed a partner to make the audio/visual aspect of the project work, CDG President Steve Fry went to a source he has trusted for more than 20 years - Central Interconnect.
The challenge was to transform four conference rooms and single large space, often used as a break room, into areas where the firm could make sophisticated audio/visual presentations. Because of the high-design nature of the space, Fry and his clients wanted as inconspicuous a system as possible - with wireless microphones, hidden connections and as many maneuvers as possible to prevent interfering with the aesthetics of the space.
"When we're using videoconferencing systems and so forth, the client is looking for ways to hide the equipment and still make it very functional and accessible," Fry said. "They wanted to be able to make adjustments while the while the system is working in the background. Central Interconnect pulled it off fantastically. They always do. That's why we keep recommending them. They always stay in there until our client is happy, and that makes us look good."
And in this instance, Fry said, Central Interconnect did something else that the client did not expect.
"They came back at the end of the job and gave them some money back," Fry said. "They found a way to do something less expensively than they had anticipated, so they handed them back some cash."
High performance, great aesthetics and cash back too? Clients do like that.
When Central Interconnect was asked in 2006 to upgrade the City of East Grand Rapids's audio/visual system, city clerk Karen Brower says the team was truly starting from scratch.
"We had nothing before," Brower remembers. "We had a building that was built in the late 1960s and was kind of retrofitted, but it was not any kind of integrated system. Our meeting space had a projector on a cart and a standup screen, and a very basic sound system that didn't work very well anyway."
But just as it didn't take much to improve on the status quo, East Grand Rapids wasn't looking for a mere step in the right direction. City officials wanted a truly functional, easy-to-use system not only for their city commission chambers but also for several other multipurpose and conference rooms.
Central Interconnect installed a complete sound and video system for the commission chambers, as well as systems for several lower-level rooms with sound systems, microphones, projectors and screens. Finally, Central Interconnect added a "noise-cancelling" system - an artificial white noise system sometimes referred to as pink noise.
While East Grand Rapids officials weren't able to get everything on their "wish list," Brower said Central Interconnect was able to design and install a system that contained every crucial element the city wanted, without sacrificing anything in the areas of quality or performance.
"They worked with us every step of the way," Brower said. "They were very cognizant of municipal budgets, and needs versus wants, and their team was very good to work with."
A Digital Breakthrough with Minimal Costs -- and LEED Points to Boot -- Thanks to Central Interconnect.
The developers of the Forest Hills Performing Arts Center wanted the facility to be first-class. So it should hardly come as a surprise that facility director Brian Hire wanted to be able to patch his soundsystem into a TV studio. It was not an unreasonable thing to want, but how complicated would it be to do?
At first, the task looked daunting. Such an application would typically require an enormous rack of patch panels, accompanied by significant labor costs to pull the whole thing together. It would requirea complicated jungle of microphone lines. It would require the operator to leave the mixing console and go up to the equipment booth to repatch. It would create a system at significant risk of distortion, sound loss and noise.
Of course, it would be susceptible to bootlegging, as there would be little to prevent signals from being fed to unauthorized places.
Oh, and it would require thousands of soldered connections and more than $20,000 in splitter amplifier technology.
Not acceptable. Forest Hills is a public school district. The district wanted a first-class facility, but it is in no position to be extravagant with taxpayer dollars, let alone incur the labor costs necessary to make such a system work.
But rather than just give up on the idea, Hire posed an intriguing question to engineer Ray Lehmoine of Central Interconnect: "Is there a way you can do it digitally?" Lehmoine didn't have a specific idea off the top of his head, but he's not the kind of guy who shies away from a challenge. So he started considering the various possibilities presented by the technology of Biamp Systems - a leading provider of digital audio technology. Central Interconnect uses Biamp technology extensively in the systems it designs for clients, and Lehmoine was confident he could figure out a way to use Biamp to meet Hire's needs. This is how he came to approach the engineering department at Biamp with the idea of the Digital Snake. Right away, the team at Biamp was impressed.
"It definitely was an innovative use of the technology," said Biamp's Frank West. "They simplified the wiring of the system by integrating CobraNet, which made the system a whole lot easier to navigate and made for a better sounding audio system. The beauty of it is that it's a pretty simple retrofit because you can use a simple piece of cat 5 cable to move up to 64 channels of audio. The guys at Central Interconnect are definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to audio and video integration."
The result is that Forest Hills Performing Arts Center is the first in the country to use a digital patch bay and microphone transmission system for the entire facility.
"It adds immediate versatility - and it's incredible versatility," Hire said. "What we were looking for was basically a three-way split of each microphone in the space. The need it filled was to send a simultaneous audio signal to a TV studio, the sound system and the theater. Also, because we are a LEED-certified building, we were looking for LEED points. Anything that's digital is going to use less cable and save on the use of natural resources."
Central Interconnect's innovation proved to be the perfect solution for the facility's needs, and should serve the same purpose for many other facilities. To consult with Central Interconnect, call 616.458.2999.
The Haggai Institute is an Atlanta-based Christian ministry organization that provides extensive training services at its facilities on the Hawaiian island of Maui and in Singapore.
In the summer of 2001, the Haggai Institute's Maui facility underwent a $9 million renovation, with the Grand Rapids architectural firm Design Plus overseeing the job. With a high-end multimedia audio/visual system as major component of the project, Design Plus brought in Central Interconnect, which began the job as a consultant but eventually was given the green light to design and build the entire integrated A/V system.
"They wanted a state-of-the-art system," said Michael Smith, Vice President of Central Interconnect. "I spent 12 months consulting on the system design, developing drawings and specifications for the bid with Design Plus and the Haggai Institute. When they were unable to reach an agreement with a local A/V contractor, they asked us to build the system. I flew out, took a look, and six and half months later we completed the project."
The three classrooms can accommodate between 30 and 40 individuals. Each room is outfitted with a mix minus sound system, LCD projector, touch panel control system, microphones, a video camera, document camera, DVD player, cassette player, VCR, and desktop computer. Floor boxes to the A/V system and extra connection points to the LAN can also be found in the classrooms.
Many of the institute's special events are held in the 200-person capacity dining room. The dining room is equipped with microphones, a sound system, and LCD projector. A podium-mounted ISYS touch panel control system enables the presenter to monitor videoconferences as well as images from a VCR, DVD player, laptop, 16mm film, or 35mm slides. Like the auditorium, there are a couple of floor boxes for additional, external connections to the A/V system.
Gregg Lamse, A/V Manager at the Haggai Institute in Maui, has been extremely pleased with the new system. "It's made my job a little less complicated. Instead of sitting behind a mixer in one room and running around to the other classrooms to put out fires, I'm in the control room, watching the monitors, and operating remote video cameras to tape the classroom teaching."
Lamse is also gearing up to expand on the system's flexibility. "The System 7SC switcher is handling almost all of our video switching, but we've barely scratched the surface of what we want to do," he said. "We're still working on expanding our videoconferencing capabilities, distributing signals to hotel rooms using cable TV, and web streaming. 2002 is going to be a very busy year."