Extron XTP Systems & Fiber Optics Ensure Visual Excellence

The Annenberg Space for Photography and Skylight Studios in the greater Los Angeles area are cultural destinations dedicated to the exhibition of both digital and print photography in an intimate environment. The Space features state-of-the-art, ultra high-definition digital technology as well as traditional prints by some of the world’s most renowned photographers and emerging photographic talent. Every three to six months, the exhibit area in the Space is transformed to showcase a different artist. Across the courtyard from the Space is Skylight Studios. Its various multimedia installations feature the work of artists who are challenging photographic boundaries with social media and other non-traditional approaches. Skylight Studios also provides an enhanced lecture environment and experiences through a state-of-the-art AV system with concert-quality audio and 4K video broadcast capabilities.

Extron's XTP Systems and FOX II extenders were simply the best solution to deliver on our promise of visual excellence.

Chris Russell, Manager, AV Systems & Technology Operations, Annenberg Space for Photography and Skylight Studios

To take full advantage of commercial and produced content, the Annenberg Foundation upgraded both facilities in 2015 with Extron XTP Systems® high performance AV signal switching and distribution solutions. Additionally, Extron FOX II Series fiber optic extenders support the Space's new 4K video theater and enable communication between the Space and the Studios.

“Our exhibitions and special events are dedicated to displaying digital and print photography that convey a wide range of human experiences and elevate our understanding and appreciation of the art form,” says Chris Russell, Manager, AV Systems & Technology Operations at Annenberg Space for Photography and Skylight Studios. “Extron's XTP Systems and FOX II extenders were simply the best solution to deliver on our promise of visual excellence.”

One XTP System for Spiral Exhibition Space

The 10,000-square foot Space for Photography is constructed to encourage visitors to view the exhibits in a unique way. The flow is reminiscent of film winding through a camera, and leads into the digital gallery in the center. The facility also includes administrative offices, a workshop, a library, a professional-grade kitchen, support areas for conferencing, and a master Control Room. An important aspect of this facility is the capability to form a single, expanded space for large gatherings by sliding the dividing wall from between the exhibit area and the back office.

To allow visitors to see more of each exhibition and experience the artwork on a personal level, destinations within the exhibit area, front lobby, workshop, and lounges include flat panel displays that range in size from 46" to 75". An interactive annex also features 50” touch displays, offering research data about the featured artist or subject matter. In addition to traditional still images and video clips, the Annenberg media operations team generates a wide variety of digital material for display throughout both facilities. To accompany rotating exhibits and specialty programming, the team produces 4K video shorts and a documentary about the artist or subject matter for the run of the exhibition. Later, this internally produced content may be played on a loop at Skylight Studios for a short period prior to being archived.

In the Control Room, the various sources are rack-mounted with the Extron XTP CrossPoint 3200 modular matrix switcher, which is fully populated as 32x32. The XTP CrossPoint 3200 routes AV and control signals over shielded CATx cable to XTP R HDMI receivers installed behind the wall-mounted displays and within the cabinetry for the touch displays. Remote power is delivered from the switcher to the receivers over the same cable, eliminating the need for local power supplies. RS 232 commands were inserted through the Ethernet port of the XTP CrossPoint from the control system to manage the remote endpoints and connected devices. This simplified the design, greatly reduced the amount of required cabling amongst the various equipment, and gave complete control capability over the entire AV switching system.

The design includes the Extron TLP Pro 1020M 10” TouchLink® touchpanel and IPCP Pro 550 IP Link® Control Processor, providing a simple and intuitive interface for the Annenberg staff to monitor and manage the application at the Studios as well as within the Space. “Extron’s Pro Series touchpanel and control processor had the power, capabilities, and versatility to run both facilities from the Control Room, which helps make my job easier,” says Russell.

The digital gallery is an isolated system. It includes a 4K rear-projection imaging system and two seamless 7'x11' glass screens to display photographic and video content with stunning clarity and color saturation than can only be seen in true 4K resolutions. It is also one of the first public institutions to show 4K aspect ratio on an 11-foot display. The screens are positioned on opposite sides of the circular theater to provide optimal viewing in this fascinating and very popular venue.

Digital Theater Features 4K Content Over Fiber

Because of the extreme distance between the control room and the projection system, OM4 multimode fiber optic cable was run to the theater. Extron FOX II DP fiber optic transmitters and receivers provide AV and control signal extension between two Rohde & Schwarz® Pronto4K-HFR media servers in the Control Room and the theater's two Christie® D4K2560 native 4K projectors. This media server provides the 4K/60 video signal over four parallel DisplayPort connections, each sending video at a resolution of 2048x1080. Extron FOX II R DP receivers deliver DisplayPort video and RS 232 control signals to the projectors installed behind the glass screens. Sending bidirectional control over the fiber optic cabling reduced the number of cable runs between the control room and the theater, and simplified system integration for the team.

Periodically, commercially produced material is shown. Both the XTP System and the FOX II DP extenders include Extron's Key Minder® technology, ensuring delivery of any HDCP-encrypted content.

“In the past I've thought about the potential for system failure, but with XTP Systems and fiber optic extenders, that isn't a concern," says Russell. "Extron's high level of quality and proven reliability coupled with excellent support made their products the best fit for our application.”

XTP System for Lectures, Invitationals, and Exhibits at Skylight Studios

Open since June 2013, Annenberg’s Skylight Studios is a multimedia studio and retail gallery located directly across the park from the Space for Photography. Slated to be built and operational in only 120 days, the 5,000-square foot facility was ready in time for opening day.

Primarily, Skylight Studios is used for private events such as photographer workshops and for The Iris Nights lecture series, a weekly, free-to-the-public program with presentations by exhibit-featured photographers and other notable experts and guest artists. The lecturer often provides AV content to staff in advance to allow streamlined presentation. When not in use for an event, the documentary created for the current or most recently retired Space for Photography exhibit is shown on the two main projection screens and the various other displays.

Another XTP CrossPoint matrix switcher provides AV signal routing within the Skylight Studios. "The Extron technologies, comprehensive system monitoring, and control capabilities built into the XTP Systems helped ensure that presentations and automated looping content display properly at Skylight," says Russell.

Periodically, the two facilities are linked for major exhibits or events. Approximately 460 meters (1,509 feet) of OM4 fiber optic cable runs under the plaza and park to connect the two XTP Systems. Similar to the Space, Extron fiber optic extenders enable content sharing between the facilities. The linked systems are operated from the control room within the Space for Photography.

Positive Feedback

The Annenberg Foundation is quite pleased with the performance and reliability of the audio and video in these philanthropic facilities, and the staff is impressed with how easy the systems are to operate. Foundation representatives report that the public has responded enthusiastically to the exhibits and events held at the Annenberg Space for Photography and Skylight Studios. Often heard after events are comments about the amazing visual impact of being surrounded by the photography and the quality of the productions shown in the spaces. Chris Russell summarizes, “The XTP Systems give us the ability to switch and display high quality imagery in a streamlined workflow with high reliability. This is critical for our environment, an environment where an artist’s work is expected to be shown in its best possible light.”

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