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Sophisticated audio installation with five DME64Ns at the Swissôtel Zurich Convention Centre

Apr, 2008

Beware of the misconception that providing pro audio for a few conference rooms is a straightforward task! The new installation of complex audio and media technology at the Convention Centre of the Swissôtel Zurich, is a good example of the impressive flexibility of Yamaha’s DME64N Digital Mixing Engine, and of how simple the control of highly complex systems can be for the user when all stops are pulled during the design and programming stages.

The Swissôtel in Zurich’s Oerlikon district is a large, top-class hotel with 347 rooms on 31 floors. The Convention Centre on the first floor was refurbished and completely re-equipped with new technology in 2007, making it the most modern conference center in Zurich. Here, Deutschschweiz and Westschweiz – as the German and French speaking parts of Switzerland are referred to locally – cover only a few hundred square meters. In fact the names refer to the two conference areas, the rooms of which are named after cities in the two regions. A generous foyer with an exclusive atmosphere connects the two areas which house three large and five smaller conference rooms. The highly flexible spatial concept allows the rooms to be combined or divided into a number of configurations: from a small conference room operating independently of the events in the other rooms, to a large 650 square-meter hall that can hold up to 800 people. At the same time this concept represents a real challenge in terms of the media technology installed, which must be adaptable to the room configuration selected without requiring specialized technical personnel.

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The contractor for the conception, planning and installation of the audio and video technology, as well as programming of the AMX remote control system, was communications technology specialist Kilchenmann Telematik, a company with some 140 employees based at three locations in Switzerland. External support was called in for the complex programming of the five DME64N systems installed: Andreas Baumann, Managing Director of Mediensystemhaus in Zurich, was entrusted with the task of providing sophisticated scenarios for every imaginable room configuration. These can be easily recalled via AMX touch panels during everyday conference proceedings. The user merely has to press a button in order to activate a complex background signal processing setup consisting of routing, equalization, delay compensation, dynamics processing and many other functions that are fully implemented in the DME64N units.

Three separate DME64N units are responsible for the Bern, Basel and Zurich rooms, which together cover some 650 square meters in the Deutschschweiz area. The five rooms in the approximately 300 square-meter Westschweiz area are served by another two DME64N units. The combined DSP performance of the five DME units, which are connected to one another and to the other audio components via an EtherSound audio network, ensures optimum acoustic conditions in every situation.

The complete setup comprises four MLA8 eight-channel microphone front ends and six Yamaha digital mixing consoles: an LS9-16, an LS9-32 and four 01V96 V2s. Further features of the system include comprehensive wireless technology by Shure and other top media technology such as video/data projectors with a luminance of up to 10,000 ANSI lumen, 35 square-meter projection screens, large-format plasma screens, video conferencing, wireless LAN, cabins for simultaneous interpreters, and a 360-degree LED light projection facility.

Today, a professional audio solution for a conference center must work perfectly in standard situations even when there is no engineer at the desk. At the Swissôtel Zurich Convention Centre this is ensured by Kilchenmann’s sophisticated programming of the AMX room control, operated by touch panels which are installed in each of the eight rooms, plus the DME units which are controlled from the touch panels via RS232. The system ‘knows’ the location of the speaker giving the presentation, and manages the priority and time-alignment of the individual loudspeaker groups, automatically assigning the manual volume controls on the touch panel to the correct signal outputs. The video/data projector, projection screen, lights, and air conditioning are also made accessible to the user in accordance with the selected configuration.

The programming of the five DME64N units by Andreas Baumann – with the aid of Yamaha’s DME Designer software – took several weeks, and is one of the most complex DME setups ever undertaken. As is often the case when the user interface needs to be as simple as possible, the behind-the-scenes hardware and software is very complex. The solution for the Deutschschweiz area was comparatively easy to implement, as each room is equipped with a DME64N controlled via the appropriate presets with the necessary matrixing.

The task becomes rather more involved when a DME64N unit is responsible for several rooms, as is the case in the Westschweiz area. If the units are used both independently and simultaneously for different purposes, simple switching of presets is no longer an option as this could, for example, lead to undesirable signal interruptions in another room controlled by the same engine. Andreas Baumann explains, "The greatest challenge during programming of the Westschweiz area was to enable all the required scenarios to be called up without modifying the parameters for the rooms which were not to be affected. We solved this problem via matrices, and have utilized the processing power of the two DME64Ns as efficiently as possible."

Assignment of the individual signal processing operations to the individual DSP modules of the DME64N represented a problem for the Westschweiz area, so the task could not be performed in the usual manner by means of an automatic compiler.
During programming Andreas employed several user modules in DME Designer in order to keep the layout as clear as possible. These user modules are independent switching blocks which, in contrast to the many preset signal processing options available in DME Designer, can be freely assigned by the user to the required modules –for equalization and dynamics processing, for example. As they combine several individual modules in a ‘black box’ and only reveal their contents when double clicked, they contribute significantly to simplifying the overall layout. In this way Andreas provided an input module for each room, which includes components such as microphone signal processing, a printer, matrix, and summing. On the output side the input modules provide the system with a stereo sum of the media involved as well as a mono sum of the microphone signals.

A further user module defines which media and microphone sums from the five rooms have to be linked together in the various scenarios. For instance, if three rooms are joined together for an event, the levels of just those rooms have to be controlled together when accessed by the user, while the remaining rooms remain unaffected. The output signals are then supplied via output matrices for each room and a source selector for each of the three sums to an individual speaker processing circuit integrated in the DME64N for the loudspeakers in use. In total, the DME programming for the Westschweiz area comprises more than 250 individual modules.

In the end, all this technology and hard work combines to achieve a single but highly desirable goal. Unintelligible speeches, howling microphones, and surprise acoustic eruptions at disco volumes are annoyances from which the guests of the Swissôtel Zurich Convention Centre will definitely be spared in future!


Products LS9 , 01V96VCM , DME64N , MLA8
Location Zurich

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