ZAGREB, CROATIA - APRIL 2011: The Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb - Croatia's largest city and its capital - recently moved to a new Igor Franic-designed building that took six years to complete. Well worth the wait, the new MCA is a marvel to experience, from the gigantic LED display that covers its western facade, to the open and airy exhibition spaces, and to the amenities, which include a library, a multimedia hall, a bookstore, a cafe, and a restaurant. The total floor space is 161,000 square feet, of which a third is devoted to exhibition space. Local A/V designer and integrator JSN Comon delivered a sophisticated, but easy-to-use sound reinforcement system that centers on SymNet open-architecture digital signal processing.
Maroje Sardelich, sound engineer with JSN Comon, oversaw the design and installation of the comprehensive system, which provides sound reinforcement
to the entire building. Exhibition spaces, public and service areas, and even the outside commons are covered and appropriately zoned for appropriate audio content. That said, the exhibition spaces are certainly a priority, accounting for ten of the seventeen total zones. Each exhibition zone has a Crestron TPS-4 touchscreen controller for selecting input sources and volume. The remaining seven zones cover outside terraces, service areas, a reception area, and two bars. There is also a zoned paging microphone for announcements of the "lost child" or "poorly parked car" variety.
In addition to three Crestron AAS4 media servers equaling twelve stereo sources, a CD changer, an FM tuner, and a computer produce the main input content. There is also an Alcorn McBride audio player for prerecorded announcements (such as "the museum is closing in thirty minutes"). The audio player triggers priority inputs on all the amplifiers. A rack of class D 250W 100V transformerless amplifiers by JDM provides power to the loudspeakers (a total of 260 in-ceiling speakers were installed, and seventy of them were custom painted to match the custom lighting fixtures), together with fifty speakers of other types.
A second rack holds the processing and control equipment. A SymNet 8x8 DSP forms its heart, with an additional SymNet BreakIn12 and BreakOut12 raising the total input by output count to twenty on each side. The SymNet processor works hand-in-hand with a Crestron PRO2 to allow intuitive user control throughout the museum. Initially, Sardelich thought that the SymNet system would provide a lot of dynamics and equalization. But the museum proved to be acoustically amazing, and very little conditioning was required. So the main role of the SymNet 8x8 DSP is to route signals from the sources to the outputs, to provide volume control, and to provide automatic gain control where needed. In addition, it integrates with the 24/7 video surveillance room to allow PRE and POST listening to all the sources and outputs using the Crestron TPS-15 touchscreen control. A paging microphone in the surveillance room allows for museum-wide announcements.
"The build quality and support of SymNet products is superb," said Sardelich. "The folks at Crestron in Belgium recommended SymNet initially. I did some research and found the 8x8 DSP to be the perfect match for the project. Because this was my first time programming a SymNet unit, I called on SymNet's support team to overcome a few issues. They were great, and after they helped me over those few hurdles, the rest was easy. I actually had fun installing and programming on the platform! Integrating the DSP with the Crestron control system was also straightforward. In addition, the SymNet system is very robust. It went in working and has continued without interruption for a year now."
The museum operators have multiple access points to control the system. Together with the ten Crestron TPS-4 panels that are zone-dedicated, there is a single Crestron TPS-15 for full control over all aspects of the system. From the TPS-15, a user can control all of the zones (even those without their own touchscreens) and all sources and media servers. They can save presets and also listen to the SymNet inputs and outputs to be sure about what is playing. There is also a rack-mounted PC that connects directly to the SymNet DSP via RS232 and runs SymVue with all the controls already made available on the Crestron TPS-15. This PC also serves as a remote diagnostic point over Internet and that saved me a lot of driving to the museum just to see that somebody pressed a wrong button. "Despite a total of eleven touch screens, three media servers, and a lot of other programming, I must say both Crestron and SymNet have almost no latency," said Sardelich. "That is amazing, and a real compliment to the design integrity of the devices and their integration."
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