Case Study: Projection and Display Education Center (PDEC)

Services:  System analysis, design and consulting, project management, software development, system deployment

Overview

Our staff was retained by the publishers of Presentations Magazine (Excelsior, MN) to design and deploy a technology training pavilion to be used at an annual training conference and expo.  The purpose of the pavilion was to provide added value to conference attendees by giving them a venue where they could learn more about current and “state of the art” video display technologies.

The time span of the project, from initial consulting through clean-up at the convention, was approximately five months.

Background

Presentations Magazine sponsors an annual convention whose attendees are teachers, trainers, and presenters.  One of the main purposes of the annual convention is to “train the trainer,” providing attendees with opportunities to learn new information that helps them increase the quality and professionalism of their presentations.

Since one of the most important technologies required by presenters is video displays (projectors, flat panel displays, etc.), providing education regarding available display technologies and how to use them is a great value that Presentations Magazine offers to the attendees.

Our client had already contracted with a graphics design firm to produce the content that would be shown on the informational displays throughout the pavilion.  Also, they had already worked with an exhibit fabrication company to design and build the physical structure.  However, they needed someone to produce the technology design, write the software that would drive all of the systems, deploy the technology and graphic content, provide staff to assist in the training, and manage all phases of the project.

Additional Details

The pavilion was comprised of five separate rooms/areas, each highlighting a different display technology, plus a registration area and a pre-function area.  Each area required one or more flat panel displays which presented introductory and educational information based on that area’s focus technology.  Each participant who went through the exhibit was issued a wireless headset, and as they moved from room to room the audio program received by the headset would automatically switch to the appropriate content for that room.

Each informational large-format flat panel monitor displayed an animated character (the “professor”) which taught various concepts regarding the focus technology.  The graphic content for this character was stored as MPEG video files.  The playback of each file was precisely timed as participants worked their way through the exhibit.  Multiple computers were required for the content playback, and were controlled by a master server which handled authentication and system synchronization.

Precise synchronization was key since the entire presentation throughout the pavilion was completely automated.  The server application controlled all projectors and monitors, audio and video players, lighting, animation playback, and touch-panels.  It also facilitated efficient flow of attendees through the exhibit.

Carrying Out the Plan

We were provided drawings and dimensions of the structure by the exhibit maker, which allowed us to duplicate the floor plan of the exhibit in our facility in Salt Lake City, UT.  With this, we were able to build and test a full-scale mock-up of the system as it was developed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were able to partner with a number of equipment manufacturers who supplied (pro-bono) much of the technology equipment used in the exhibit both during the development and during the convention, saving our client from the tremendous expense of renting or purchasing the equipment.  In exchange for use of their equipment, complimentary signage acknowledging their contributions was provided throughout the exhibit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe shipped the materials to arrive two days before the opening of the convention.  Our crews arrived that afternoon and began setup of the technology, working alongside the exhibit assembly crews.  This photograph shows the state of the exhibit when we arrived.  We worked through the night setting up all of the systems.  Much of the following day was spent in systems testing and training temporary workers who would be running the system during the convention.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a photograph of one of our two teams on the project, as they are wrapping up the system testing phase.  The convention lasted for three days (during which we also provided several classroom training sessions regarding the proper use of technology in presentation spaces).  Immediately after the conclusion of the convention, our crews disassembled the technology portion of the exhibit, packaged it up for shipping, and sent the materials off to the manufacturers who so graciously allowed us to use their products.  With a successful “job well done,” we flew home early the next morning.