Extron NAV Pro AV over IP Is the Core of UNC’s Multimedia-Rich Curtis Media Center
It is my vision that this building will provide a place where dreamers and believers can come and learn for years to come and hopefully prepare for a future that makes for a better North Carolina.
The University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media opened the Curtis Media Center to students in the summer of 2022. The 13,000-square-foot, three-story building features a high-tech broadcast studio and control room, a podcast studio, a makerspace, and two divisible classrooms equipped for HyFlex learning. Curtis Media Center will educate current and future generations of journalists and media practitioners in a multimedia-rich environment that supports innovation and collaboration. Construction was made possible by a $10 million gift from the family charitable foundation of broadcast entrepreneur Don Curtis, a 1963 alum and founder of Curtis Media Group, the largest privately held broadcast company in North Carolina.
The audiovisual system supporting the media-focused activities in this building is the brainchild of Gary Kayye, Assistant Professor of Advertising and Public Relations at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, in partnership with Gary Kirk, Broadcast & Emerging Media Engineer at the UNC Hussman School. Kontek Systems, Inc. performed the detailed design, installation, and commissioning of the AV system. An Extron NAV Pro AV over IP system serves as the building’s AV backbone.
Gary Kayye is the founder of THE rAVe Agency, a respected AV industry creative agency and trade news organization. As a recognized AV industry thought leader and an educator teaching media technologies at UNC since 2008, he is uniquely positioned to apply his AV expertise to enhance the teaching environments in his classrooms. Kayye partnered with Gary Kirk, who applies his extensive technical expertise in broadcast engineering, AV systems design, and integration to oversee the audiovisual department at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. The two men set out in 2018 to create the “perfect” fully networked
NAV Pro AV over IP Simplifies Signal Routing and Streamlines AV System Maintenance
Every learning space in the Curtis Media Center can be used to originate and display multimedia content. The AV system can route any source to any destination over a dedicated 1 Gbps AV over IP network that includes AES 67 audio. NAV Pro encoders and decoders provide ingress and egress of AV content to this network. The NAV Pro encoders and decoders convert HDMI signals to IP packets and back again. The packets are routed by standard network switches, allowing scalable matrix switching of AV signals over the LAN. Currently, there are 57 encoders and 57 decoders, and with support for thousands of endpoints, there's plenty of room for growth. A NAVigator AV over IP System Manager configures and controls the NAV Pro endpoints and establishes the connections made through the LAN. The NAVigator has an intuitive browser-based user interface, providing maintenance personnel with convenient access to all functions. Users in the learning spaces establish their desired AV connections between sources and screens with a couple of taps on their in-room
NAV Pro AV over IP and NAVigator are great because NAVigator is remotely accessible. I can configure all of the building’s AV end points from my desk. If there’s an AV issue in a classroom that’s in use, I can re-route AV assets from a vacant classroom, allowing teaching to continue while I fix the problem.
Divisible Classrooms and Seminar Space
Virtual Mics, Ceiling Speakers, Cameras, Displays: Large sunlit classrooms that can seat 50 students occupy most of the second and third floors. Movable partitions can divide each of these classrooms into two rooms. In each classroom, 9,000 virtual microphones can pinpoint the location of sound originating from anywhere in the space. Extron pendant speakers, surface mount speakers, and ceiling mount subwoofers provide room audio. Video is captured by PTZ cameras. The rooms on each side of the partitions feature two laser projectors aimed at adjacent walls, and two 75" flat panel displays pointing into the rooms from the partition wall. The third floor includes a seminar space that has the same AV amenities as the classrooms, but without the flat panel displays.
Lecture Streaming and Recording: A pool of Extron
Mobile AV Credenzas: Each classroom includes a mobile AV instructor credenza housing room-specific AV equipment. Among this equipment are multiple Extron
HyFlex Ready: The classrooms can accommodate a mix of lecture-based and active learning methods. According to Gary Kayye, they are true HyFlex classrooms.
The classrooms in the Curtis Media Center are true HyFlex classrooms. Professors can use instructor reference monitors to see remote students as if they were an extension of the classroom. If students are missing class, they’ll feel more like part of the class because they are getting a two-way experience and the professor can actually see them.
Podcasts are a key and growing part of the media landscape. A cutting-edge podcast studio and audio workspace on the second floor provides students with real-world podcast and audio production experience. The studio is equipped with three podcast mics and three monitor headphones to accommodate group discussions. Podcast participants in the studio can share AV content from BYOD devices via HDMI, Wi-Fi, or USB using Extron ShareLink Pro and MediaPort units. AV content is also sourced from two Apple TV media players. A DMP 128 Plus audio DSP processor selects, mixes, and optimizes audio sources and connects the studio to the Dante/AES 67 network. NAV Pro AV encoders and scaling decoders link the studio to the AV over IP network. The studio is equipped with two PTZ cameras and two 75" flat panel displays.
Broadcast Studio and Control Room
The James F. Goodmon Studio is a professional broadcast studio and control room that occupies the ground floor. Passersby can see activity in the studio through a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass. A 16x9-foot high-definition LED screen fills an entire studio wall. It is visible to all who stop to view the video content, which includes campus news, cultural event performances, and sporting events.
A fiber connection between Curtis Media Center and UNC Athletics facilities, including the Dean Smith Center arena, home for the UNC Chapel Hill Tar Heels basketball team, allows the broadcast studio to originate programs like Sports Xtra. Sports Xtra is a student-produced show featuring sports highlights, analysis, and commentary. Students also produce the live news program Carolina Now, which keeps UNC students, faculty, and staff informed about what’s happening on campus, around town, and around the world. Both shows live stream on Facebook and YouTube. Check out the opening minutes of recent broadcasts in the Featured Video in this article's sidebar at right.
The broadcast studio has the same SMP 352 live streaming, recording, and Panopto capabilities as the classrooms, and does double-duty as a classroom - with the studio’s floor-to-ceiling LED screen functioning as the classroom AV display. Connection to the Dante and AV over IP network is also similar to the classrooms, via a DMP 128 Plus audio DSP processor and NAV Pro AV encoders and decoders.
AV System Control
User feedback about the Curtis Media Center AV systems is very positive. Thanks to the ‘wizard’ style touchpanel interface, users are self-sufficient after a brief onboarding walkthrough. Support calls are minimal.
Extron Scheduling Panels at Each Door
With a ribbon-cutting ceremony in early April 2022, Curtis Media Center opened its learning spaces, makerspace, and broadcast studios to students, faculty, and staff. Don Curtis' vision of creating a top-tier learning center to prepare future journalists is now reality. Classes are in full swing and making use of the building’s AV amenities.
Our school has a proven track record with Extron products. The hardware is solid and requires little maintenance. Setup and support are top notch. It was a no-brainer for us to go with Extron AV systems for the Curtis Media Center.
Gary Kirk says that plans are underway to expand the AV over IP network because users are already requesting more endpoints to allow connection of more program sources and more displays. Beyond the flexibility of the NAV Pro AV system, Kirk credits Extron for assisting in enhancing the robustness of the University’s network to support AV signal transport. According to Kirk, “This was one of two projects on campus to implement layer 3 routing. Until now, our network was very flat. Extron worked directly with our networking department to make this as easy as possible.” Kirk summarizes his views about Extron this way: “Our school has a proven track record with Extron products. The hardware is solid and requires little maintenance. Setup and support are top notch. It was a no-brainer for us to go with Extron AV systems for the Curtis Media Center.”