XL Video supplied a substantial projection system and control together with HD cameras / PPU, HD LED screen, several hundred monitors, networking and fibre infrastructure plus audio systems for two high profile Microsoft events staged back-to-back at the Fira de Barcelona Gran Via convention centre in Barcelona, Spain.
TechEd is Microsoft’s premier event for IT professionals and enterprise developers, and this was followed immediately by Convergence, the Microsoft community’s chance to network with other users, share and expand their experience and realise their potential.
XL’s team was led by Project Manager Nick Askew assisted by Chris Ellis and Dick Crabbe and they were working for live event consultancy Nteractive headed up by Technical Director Matt Brownfield, Technical Consultant Andrew Vass and acclaimed Sound Designer Colin Pink (a recent TPi Award nominee).
The Nteractive team paid close attention to all video and audio aspects in all areas, from comms system down to video-switcher labelling, and worked closely with XL’s HODs and crew to make sure all aspects were delivered to their required standards.
Matt Brownfield comments, “At Nteractive we have very exacting standards and high production values. To deliver a Microsoft event at this level is a significant technical achievement. XL Video has the equipment and packages it to allow us the optimum configuration and setup for the systems, and also provides the right people to install and operate to the levels we require.”
The format for TechEd comprised a Keynote space – taking over Hall 6 of the Fira and featuring a primary conference session on one of the four days attended by around 7,000 people. There were then multiple breakout areas accommodating anything from 400 to 1100 people.
The projection system for the Keynote comprised four large screens, two at 21 metres wide left and right of the stage area, with another two at 14 metres wide functioning as repeater screens mid-way down the auditorium to ensure that the large audience could get a clear view of the presentations wherever they were sat in the hall.
Sixteen Barco HDF W26 machines were used to produce the edge-blended images. One of the major technical challenges for the XL crew was achieving the high clarity and definition on the software code-heavy screen graphics using double edge-blended projections, a task that takes skill, precision and time.
Multiple demo and presentation sources plus XL’s Coolux quad and dual Pandora’s Box media servers operated by Chris Bowman, were switched to the screens via a Barco Encore screen management system operated by Andrew Vass.
Cutting the camera mix on a Grass Valley Karrera PPU was Jonathan Chard, and feeding into this were four Sony HXC-100 operated units - two positioned at FOH, one on a rolling spider at the front of the stage and the fourth on a wireless steadicam rig – plus one of XL’s HDiye minicams and a Pixel Power Clarity live production graphics system.
The Karrera provided a mix to all screens in the hall, while separate TXs were sent to an OB truck broadcasting live to Microsoft’s production studios at their headquarters and also web-streamed by Tri-Digital.
The Karrera integrated Grass Valley Turbo hard disk players which were used for wipes and to store visual stings for the broadcast feed, triggered via pre-programmed macros on the Karrera..
Multiple backstage and comfort monitors were fed via 40 x fibre / CAT systems and 64 ways of DVI matrix also supplied by XL.
To deliver crisp, clear high clarity audio, XL provided d&b V-series and Q-series loudspeakers and a Yamaha CL5 console, operated by the aforementioned Colin Pink. Comprehensive Clearcom Helix and Eclipse comms systems ensured that all departments had reliable and discreet communications with up to twelve independent comms channels available.
The breakout rooms were dotted around the Fira in Halls 8 and 8.1. There were 21 in total accommodating the various capacities, and additional video-over-IP relays were activated for the most popular sessions so they could be seen and heard in the over-flow rooms.
Each breakout room contained at least one Panazonic DZ12000K, DZ13K or DZ21K projector to provide high definition displays for the small lines of multiple code text and demo content being displayed.
A Barco PDS-902 switcher and preview monitor was deployed in each room, together with an Interspace Industries touch-operated count-down clock, with about 60 Fibre / CAT transport systems in use across all of the rooms. Presenters were hopping from room to room, so it was imperative that all the desks and switchers worked and looked identical, right down to the input labels and available cables and input adapters!
A custom audio system was designed for each break-out room, each utilising different combinations of d&b E3, Ci80, Q-7 and T-10 loudspeakers, the exact choice determined by the position of the flown trusses which also had to facilitate lighting.
Each room was assigned an audio engineer, while a team of ‘floating’ video techs were on hand to assist presenter’s set-up and configure their devices and systems to appear correctly onscreen.
Over in Hall 7, XL supplied around 60 screens ranging from 32 to 65 inches in size for the Microsoft Solutions Exchange exhibition space, together with multi-touch solutions and advanced switching for two theatre areas.
Also in Hall 7 three Instructor-Led Labs each had its own sound system and selection of 65 inch and 55 inch monitors, all driven by another Barco PDS-902 switcher configured to mirror the breakout room set ups.
Between Halls 6 & 7 was the Channel 9 studio, a small TV facility established to handle virtual broadcasts and webcasts to remote audiences outside of the conference relay screens (that were next to the studio structure). XL’s brief was to provide a set-up that could convert multiple PC sources and four Bradley CAMBall 2 robocams to Microsoft’s own TriCaster streaming system. The cameras were operated by XL’s Adrian Grau and Bjorn Parry.
Just outside the TechEd exhibition area was a large media wall for which XL supplied a 7.6 metre wide by 1.9 metre high Unilumin 2.5 mm LED screen. This displayed show sponsor messages, presentations with fine text and demos in native pixel resolution.
A Barco Encore system run by Alex Thomas was at the core of this. The XL crew in this area also looked after 26 x 46 inch and 10 x 55 inch monitors displaying info. relating to assorted room sessions, together with event-wide messages.
TechEd ran for four days – and within that, Keynote for one day – which was then followed by a quick turnaround for Convergence.
The major changes were the reduction of Keynote Hall 6 to a 4000 capacity venue and the removal of the repeater screens; Hall 8.1’s breakout kit was de-rigged and this became an exhibition space with some of Hall 7’s equipment being re-deployed in there; the media Wall and digital signage was moved to the ‘new’ exhibition space now in Hall 8.1… And the Channel 9 studio was dismantled!
As well as organising trucking for five artics of equipment from XL’s UK HQ in Hertfordshire to Barcelona, Askew co-ordinated around 50 video and audio engineers and technicians on site. A serious amount of pre-prepping went into ensuring that this mammoth task and the extremely intense build-up schedules ran seamlessly and efficiently on site.
Nick Askew comments, “It was great to be working with the TechEd and Convergence teams and the time, attention to detail and hard work by all departments and suppliers really showed, making both events hugely successful. On shows like these, aside from the quality and presentation of the equipment, we will be judged by the skill and ability of the many crew - from warehouse to HOD – who all did us proud”.
Photos : Xavier Vila, courtesy of Microsoft