Galaxy Lanes: New Puerto Rico Entertainment Center Goes the Distance with Extron Twisted Pair AV Technology
When the future owners of Galaxy Lanes returned from a trip several years ago to survey some of the modern, trendy bowling centers in Florida, they knew exactly what they wanted for their new installation in San Juan: an expansive venue offering even more than the locations in Florida. This would include not just bowling, but also two restaurants, two bars, a gaming area, a control station for a DJ, and an area for live entertainment. The AV requirements were substantial—40 flat-panel displays and projectors throughout the facility, including an array of 10 projectors to fill a wall of screens spanning 32 bowling lanes. A total of 20 input sources would feed the displays, and a comprehensive sound system was needed for various live and programmed audio applications. A fully-equipped AV system, with an extensive lineup of Extron products and technologies between source and display, addressed the need for long-distance signal distribution that would cover the sheer size and scope of this facility. The system also fulfilled the necessity to effectively route signals everywhere, and to provide optimal signal and format conversion to the native resolution of each display.
A Long Distance Challenge
For the systems designer and integrator, San Juan-based Media Integration Group-Audio Visual Concepts - MIG-AVC, the immediate challenge was to provide effective video signal transport to cover the substantial distances within the 35,000 square foot facility. Component video connections were needed, starting from the control booth and DJ station, where most of the AV sources were situated, to the equipment room tucked away elsewhere in the building. From there, signals would be routed and then distributed to all displays. The required cable runs would be as much as 400 feet. Given that installing coaxial cable could be challenging and quite costly, the decision was made to run UTP - unshielded twisted pair cabling throughout the facility. Its light weight and smaller size makes it much easier to pull through conduit.
"Because of the large scale and complexity of this project, we determined that running UTP cable would be much easier for us to manage than coaxial cable," says Ivan Mendoza, Vice President of Technical Support for MIG-AVC. "As a result, a twisted pair approach really simplified our installation."
To send video along this cabling, MIG-AVC elected to use Extron MTP - Mini Twisted Pair products, including a total of 46 pairs of MTP T 15HD RS transmitters and MTP R 15HD RS receivers. Several of them are used to transmit component video from 11 sources in the control room to the equipment room, where an Extron Matrix 6400 matrix switcher then routes and distributes component video signals to another bank of MTP T 15HD RS transmitters. From there, signals are sent over twisted pair to displays throughout the facility, each paired with an MTP R 15HD RS receiver.
Conventional CAT 5 cabling could have been employed for this installation. However, because of the inherent twist ratio variations between the twisted pairs—also known as skew, calibration at each of the 45 MTP receivers for skew compensation would likely have been necessary. As an alternative, MIG-AVC elected to use Extron's UTP23SF-4P Enhanced Skew-Free™ AV UTP cable. Because there is no skew in this cable, AV system installation is greatly simplified. "Using Extron Skew-Free cable really helped to simplify the whole installation process for us, since we did not have to fine-tune skew compensation at every display," explains Mendoza.
Extron Twisted Pair Installation Provides a Foundation for Control
The Extron MTP 15HD RS Series products and UTP cabling throughout the AV system also serves as an infrastructure for sending RS-232 control signals from a third-party control system. RS-232 signals can be passed though the MTP 15HD RS transmitters and receivers, offering an opportunity to further simplify system integration by eliminating the need for separate cabling to control displays and other equipment. "The decision to run UTP cable everywhere and install Extron twisted pair equipment gave us another important advantage in that we were able to use the same system to pass through RS-232 signals to control displays and devices," notes Mendoza.
A comprehensive matrix switching system was needed for routing and distributing signals from 20 sources, from conventional sources such as a PC, DVD player, and satellite receivers, to special-purpose sources including SMS text servers, a multimedia server, IP-based PTZ cameras, and a broadcast advertising server. A total of 45 outputs were necessary to feed an array of 10 projectors for the main bowling area, as well as flat panel displays in various locations throughout the venue, including the restaurants, bars, control booth, and several other areas with customer access. The solution was an Extron Matrix 6400 Fully Configurable Matrix Switcher, configured in a 32x64 size, which offered the capacity and performance to accommodate this installation's switching needs. To meet the needs of the installation, the inputs and outputs of the Matrix 6400 can be fully customized, or virtualized according to video signal format. This is accomplished using the included Extron virtualization/control software, which offers an intuitive, graphical user interface to simplify the customization.
Mendoza and his team were able to get the Matrix 6400 up and running and integrated with the third-party control system, easily and smoothly. "We had absolutely no problems setting up the switcher and using the Extron SIS™ commands to program the control system, and the whole process turned out to be intuitive," he says.
Scaling and Conversion
For scaling and signal conversion, 17 Extron DVS 304 Video and RGB Scalers were used to upconvert, optimize, and also convert incoming signal formats to progressive component video at the native resolution of each display. Ten of these scalers were situated in the equipment room, devoted to converting the computer-video output from a server providing broadcast advertising content. The rest were located in the control booth and were tied directly to individual input sources to process incoming computer-video, standard definition component video, and S-video signals.
The equipment room provided just enough space for two equipment racks, one of which was devoted to Extron equipment including the Matrix 6400, DVS 304 scalers, and 46 MTP 15HD RS transmitters and receivers. Because the latter require their own external power sources, this could have posed a real challenge in terms of dealing with a clutter of wires and external power supplies, and also coming up with 46 available AC receptacles. Therefore, MIG-AVC decided to install six PS 123 Multiple Output Power Supplies, each of which could power up to eight twisted pair transmitters or receivers via short, custom-cut wiring. In doing so, the number of required AC outputs was reduced substantially from 46 to just six, and rack space was conserved since no trays were necessary for external power supplies.
"By using the PS 123 units, we were able to neatly organize the power cabling to the MTP units and achieve a very neat, clean installation," explains Mendoza. "This really helped us in managing power as well as eliminating a potential cluster of power supplies."
Extron from End-to-End
The use of Extron products and technologies enabled complete integration, from sources in the control booth, to the equipment room for routing and distributing video signals, and finally to the 40 flat-panel displays and projectors in the bowling area, bars, restaurants, pool tables, and other areas. This included various Extron cables for short-length video connections within the control booth and equipment room, as well as the twisted pair cable infrastructure to cover the expansive area of this facility.
Mendoza had specified Extron equipment for this and several other installations based on personal experience with Extron products and service over the past 15 years. "We've always been appreciative of Extron's customer service, which is second to none," he says. "And we've always known about the quality of their products, so selecting them for this project was an obvious decision for us, knowing that Extron would always be 100% behind us whenever we needed them."