The Community – Placemaking in a Post-Pandemic World

Lisa partnered with Cline Design and other industry peers to look into the future of design, discussing how they might provide solutions that address the current pandemic and other crisis situations.

A summary of the article taken from The Community issue:

“They contemplated how the design of spaces, both inside and out, need to adapt now and in the future to keep our communities safe and connected. This thought-provoking discussion, summarized in the following pages, provides insight for future generations of designers and the considerations they need to make when looking at a multitude of project types.”

See the full issue here: https://issuu.com/clinedesign/docs/placemaking_in_a_post-pandemic_world_vol_i

Lisa partnered with Cline Design and other industry peers to look into the future of design, discussing how they might provide solutions that address the current pandemic and other crisis situations. A summary of the article taken from The Community issue: “They contemplated how the design of spaces, both inside and out, need to adapt… Read more »

Can you hear me now?

As I draft this note we continue to shelter at home and are continuing to see an increase in virtual meetings. I cannot begin to imagine how we would have conducted this work even two years ago. Changes in technology and the adaption of new systems have certainly facilitated this new normal!

As a follow up of our last post on looking your best on video, this post discusses how to sound your best on the call. We have all struggled with the sonic quality of conference calls in the past. Now that we are working from home and social distancing ourselves there are a lot of different sonic issues we experience.

The first is the common “can you hear me now?” question. When video starts and you see folks at the far end and you see your pip, Picture in Picture, you assume you are being seen. But when it comes to audio, there are several boxes that need to be checked:

–            Do you know how to turn you microphone on within the conferencing system that is being used for the meeting? GoTo Meeting, WebEx, Zoom, Teams, etc. are all a little different. The call I am on as I type this (yes multitasking while waiting for my agenda item to come up) has folks that cannot turn on their computer mic. Or they leave their mic muted. With a head set system, you need to check what is muted – the pc or the actual headset.

–            Once we have figured out how to be heard and seen, we need to focus on the quality of the image and sound. When we work on Video and Movie postproduction spaces, the producers always state that the audio experience is more important than the visual experience. For example, a client stated, “until recently, I always had the video shut off and just called into meetings”. In commuting between our east and west coast offices, I have spent lots of time looking at images on the seat back video screen for the person in front of me and much of the movie was lost without the sound.

We know from our audio system and room acoustic designs that the closer we can get the microphone to the talker (and therefore take the room out of the equation) the cleaner the sound will be. Headset microphones are great and work well if you are the only person on your end of the call (and you don’t mind looking like Mickey Mouse with your big muffs on your ears – or you can find a vanity head set that minimizes its visual impact on the call.)

If you are in a room, it needs to have the background noise as well as room acoustic finishes controlled. We have been contacted almost monthly over the last two years to look at rooms that have the far end complaining they cannot understand what is being said in the near end room.

The following link will take you to our website where there are recordings of what the far end of a Zoom call heard (http://ta-inc.com/audio-examples/)

  • The first is one of the rooms we were asked to fix. It had a gypsum ceiling, concrete floor, two gypsum walls, and two glass walls.
  • The second is a traditionally finished board room.
  • The third is my office with my web cam microphone.
  • The fourth is my office with my laptop microphone.
  • The final is my office with my headset microphone.

As we said in the past, the old adage was dress to impress; the new adage is to be seen and heard is to impress.

As always if we can help you with any acoustic, technology, or lighting design issues, just let us know!

Thanks,

Steve Thorburn

As I draft this note we continue to shelter at home and are continuing to see an increase in virtual meetings. I cannot begin to imagine how we would have conducted this work even two years ago. Changes in technology and the adaption of new systems have certainly facilitated this new normal! As a follow up of… Read more »

Looking Your Best on Video as You Work from Home

Following up on the Quick Tips for Virtual Meetings we shared last week (link here), I wanted to dive into the topic of looking your best on camera. As pointed out before, much of this is common sense, but you need to think about it from your camera’s point of view.

In the past, it was hard to see what you looked like on camera; now, it is easy. You can open up the camera app on your computer or phone for a quick preview of lighting or placement issues. You may also record the call or use your picture in picture from the app. Viewing these will let you see how others perceive you. How do you look with all the computer and network issues included?

For example, in our all-hands call on Monday, one of our remote workers was a pure black silhouette in our conference room system; in our huddle room he was still a silhouette, but we could make out facial features enough to know who he was. The conference room’s system display uses a hard codec and video bridge to connect the other endpoints, and the huddle room is an LED screen with a soft codec from a PC. This difference in how the image is processed changed how his image was displayed in the different rooms.

How the image is processed impacts how it is displayed.

Another common issue I have seen in recent calls is clutter or other distractions in the background. What is seen behind you is as essential as viewing you. Rather than grabbing a screenshot from a call, I did a quick internet image search online for photo framing to give us examples of things that we should think about when setting up our camera. To me, these images are not business quality, and I have seen backgrounds that were just as distracting on recent calls.

If you can, find a neutral background to sit in front of or if you can, use a green screen effect in your system (Zoom has that ability). My work office has horizontal blinds behind me, and I have strong morning sun that comes in through the window, so I am both silhouetted and have sharp lines behind me; at home, my desk has a similar set up where I am silhouetted, and the background is of a cluttered bookshelf and printer. In both cases, the green screen fixes that for me. I have a beautiful photo of a theatre we recently worked on. When I use it for my background, I always get a positive comment from first-time callers — think marketing opportunity!

 

In this image it looks like the girl has a pole coming out of her head.

 

In this image it looks like the man is wearing a medieval crown.

 

In this image, it looks like water is spouting from her head.

 

This is a screen shot from a YouTube video that has been floating around for a while. In this case the gentleman is doing a news interview and his young son (in yellow) burst in the room asking him to come play. While it might be considered cute, it is the ultimate distraction.

Way back in 2003, we led an interactive session at InfoComm on “Videoconferencing from the Camera’s Point of View.” That presentation can be downloaded on TA’s website here.

For that presentation, we spent a lot of time on camera placement and what to look for. Remember that was almost 20 years ago. So, a model and a digital still camera and clip art was the norm. But if you look at it, you will see the point of what the camera is looking at.

Yesterday I received an email form an AV system manufacturer that made me laugh.

Camera View Points are often not considered in the room design.

The guy in the video is “looking down his nose” at the folks seated around the huddle table. The guy at the table will have no eye contact with the video subject, and the lady on the left is likely the only person to have good communication contact on the call.

Making eye contact doesn’t always work.

More commonly I see this, a person working at their desk, camera at the top of the monitor, but the person he is looking at is at the bottom of his screen. He thinks he is making eye contact with the person he is looking at on screen, but they only see him looking down. The background is also very cluttered and distracting.

We have used camera placement as part of the experience; we had a Venture Capital firm that did a lot of video calls early on in their research process. They wanted the camera as close to the floor as possible, forcing the prospective that the far end would feel like they are looking at someone from a bench higher than themselves. On another project, for video depositions, we located the camera so it had a view of the door, therefore no one could slip in or out during the deposition without those on the far end being aware of it.

A very good article I came across on this topic of Camera Point of View was by Cindy Burgess in 2016 on How to Frame Your Webcam Video Like A Pro:
https://photography.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-frame-your-webcam-video-like-a-pro–cms-27228

She hits many of the points we have in our 2003 presentation but in an updated style!

CNET has another article that looks at it from still another point of view:
https://www.cnet.com/how-to/ultimate-webcam-tips-how-to-look-sound-great-online/

Most of this is common sense, but unless you see what you look like to the far end (you’re the near end of a call or meeting) you do not know. When we design rooms for clients, we remind them that any money spent on improving their room is for the far end as they get the majority of the benefit.

The old adage states “dress to impress” the new rule is “Being seen well, is to impress!”

History of Video Meetings

Now that we are working from home or holding virtual meetings, I have seen a lot of interesting images. Back in the early days, the role of video conference systems (VTC) was very different and much more costly. The following is a 30,000-foot look at how Video Calls have evolved. Today’s video calls are the 4th Generation of video calls and virtual meetings:

Gen 1 was the fixed rooms that Peirce-Phelps developed with AT&T in the early 1980s; this is when dedicated rooms with lots of light, good background colors, and great acoustical finishes were standard. While it was not a TV studio, it took a lot of cues from the broadcast world. Calls were very costly from a data point of view and at a much lower bandwidth.

Gen 2 rooms came about in the early ’90s; these were mostly board rooms that had POV considered, but many of the finishes did not fully embrace the needs of the camera or the microphones. This also launched the idea of the roll-about VTC. A large, heavy CRT monitor on a cart with a camera on top and a microphone to string out to the table. The idea was if we are going to invest in this technology, we cannot just put it in one room. It needs to be shared. The funny thing was the systems were rarely shared, and the image was far less than optimal for participants.

Gen 3 rooms came online when ISDN and fractional t-1 connections came down in price and increased in availability. If you were the president, your VTC call was completed at 384kbs, and if you were just the engineers, you only got a third of the band with for a 128 kbs call. CODEC farms were set up and the heart of the VTC experience was the Coder Decoder (CODEC); they were also where much of the cost was in the system. So instead of rolling a cart between dysfunctional rooms, the conference room was up with audio and video, which was routed to a rack holding codecs. The router in front of the codec took the signals and connected them to the network. It allowed codecs to be added as the needs grew.

Gen 4 is a soft codec with fast speeds to your home and work. Remember a one mb connection is three times faster than our 384 connection. The development of Zoom, Blue Jeans, Web-Ex, Go to Meeting, Teams, etc. and the need for a dedicated room and support staff has gone away.

Thanks,

Steve Thorburn

Following up on the Quick Tips for Virtual Meetings we shared last week (link here), I wanted to dive into the topic of looking your best on camera. As pointed out before, much of this is common sense, but you need to think about it from your camera’s point of view. In the past, it… Read more »

Western Carolina University – Brown Hall

This project renovated and expanded the 2-story, 1950’s era Brown Building on the Western Carolina University campus in Cullowhee, NC. The ground floor houses the convenience store, which captures students converging down the hill to classes throughout the day. The second level houses offices for Campus Services, Residential Life and Community Ethics. The top floor includes the dining hall, an indoor seating area featuring a large stone fireplace, as well as scenic outdoor seating areas including a rooftop terrace, hillside plaza, a fire pit and a water feature. The dining hall can be used for presentations, performances, and meetings. The large conference room and adjacent medium conference rooms can be used as traditional conference/huddle rooms and as a student body association trial room.

 

Thorburn Associates is proud to have been a part of this award-winning project, providing comprehensive audiovisual design and acoustical consulting services.

Architect: Watson Tate Savory. This project obtained LEED Gold certification and received the 2018 AIA Columbia Merit Award for Adaptive Reuse/Renovation as well as the 2018 AIA Charlotte Architectural Design Citation.

This project renovated and expanded the 2-story, 1950’s era Brown Building on the Western Carolina University campus in Cullowhee, NC. The ground floor houses the convenience store, which captures students converging down the hill to classes throughout the day. The second level houses offices for Campus Services, Residential Life and Community Ethics. The top floor… Read more »

THROUGH THE YEARS… Celebrating 25 Years of Design Excellence! 2017

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years!

2017 Raleigh Union Station, Raleigh, NC. TA is proud to have teamed with Clearscapes Architecture and Sigma Engineering to provide A/E design services for the Raleigh Union Station. TA provided acoustical and lighting design for the space. Additionally, we provided the preliminary design for performance audio and lighting systems, to support special functions just like the dignitary opening pictured. During the networking portion of the opening we heard one attendee say: “I can’t believe how great the sound is in this room, with a crowd of this size we can still have a conversation without shouting”.

Thank you for helping us celebrate our success and reminisce on the projects that paved the way to our future. Looking back on all that we have accomplished, we are honored and proud of everyone who contributed to Thorburn Associates’ success over the past 25 years. We will continue to grow and provide innovative solutions and we look forward to the incredible projects that the future will bring.

To see our favorite projects from 2015 – 2016 click HERE

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years! 2017 Raleigh Union Station, Raleigh, NC. TA is proud to have teamed with Clearscapes Architecture and Sigma Engineering to provide A/E design services for the Raleigh Union Station. TA provided acoustical and lighting design for the space. Additionally,… Read more »

THROUGH THE YEARS… Celebrating 25 Years of Design Excellence! 2015-2016

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years!


2015: Investment Firm, Durham, North Carolina. This 4,000 sq ft. renovation of an existing space connects two buildings in order to provide a multipurpose room which is used for presentations, performances, all hands meeting, and lectures with video conferencing capabilities. Our initial review helped the architect determine the best seating layout to maximize the audio and video experience. The acoustical design included recommendations for the HVAC system and finish treatments to control the reverberation. The audio video system was designed for a simple group meeting in automatic mode (no operator) or in full production mode when the space is used to transmit to all offices and branches.


2016: BMC Executive Briefing Center,
Houston, Texas. To meet client needs, the existing 12,000 sq ft. space was remodeled and expanded into an 18,000 sq ft. state-of-the-art executive briefing center. This center blends technology with organic and natural wood elements and features a custom LCD touch panel interactive wall. TA provided acoustical design for sound isolation, speech privacy and HVAC system noise control. Lighting design services involved fixture selection for the lobby, gallery, video conference meeting rooms, cafeteria, briefing rooms and lecture hall. The center shared the floor with the executive suite making sound isolation and noise control vital. The south and west facing facades required careful control of day lighting.

To see our favorite projects from 2013-2014 click HERE

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years! 2015: Investment Firm, Durham, North Carolina. This 4,000 sq ft. renovation of an existing space connects two buildings in order to provide a multipurpose room which is used for presentations, performances, all hands meeting, and lectures with video… Read more »

THROUGH THE YEARS… Celebrating 25 Years of Design Excellence! 2013-2014

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years!

 

Tim Furlong Jr - Thorburn Associates - Gene Snyder Courthouse (1 of 1)

2013: Gene Snyder US Courthouse Lightwell Courtroom Expansion, Louisville, Kentucky. This six-floor building served as a Post Office, Court House and Custom House and is an excellent example of Classical Revival architecture originally built in 1932. TA provided acoustical consulting services for the 5,800 sf Lightwell Courtroom. The project converted this open air space between two existing Courtrooms into a third Courtroom. With its glass side walls, the design team referred to the nested Courtroom as “The Jewel Box”. The room was designed so that there would not be any elevated sight lines into the Courtroom through the glass windows. By creatively splaying the glass walls, the acoustics were controlled within the Courtroom.

Baca Library RMKM-40

2014: Albuquerque Library, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 25,000 sf building located in Bernalillo County is a state-of-the-art, full-service library with community meeting spaces, study rooms, and computer access. It has become known for being a comfortable place to browse the collection of books, magazines, music, movies and more. The library also features the 1925 Gustave Baumann murals around the fireplaces. TA’s services included room acoustic, sound isolation, mechanical system noise and vibration control recommendations for the project.

To see our favorite projects from 2010-2012 click HERE

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years!   2013: Gene Snyder US Courthouse Lightwell Courtroom Expansion, Louisville, Kentucky. This six-floor building served as a Post Office, Court House and Custom House and is an excellent example of Classical Revival architecture originally built in 1932. TA… Read more »

THROUGH THE YEARS… Celebrating 25 Years of Design Excellence! 2010-2012

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years!

DSC_0186 (Lighter)

2010: Polynesian Cultural Center – Gateway Restaurant, Laie, Hawaii. The existing 140 ft x 250 ft.  space was renovated into a semi-outdoor dining experience, complete with stage and audio system. Murals were printed on acoustically transparent fabric to absorb echoes and control reverberation. TA provided acoustical consulting services and HVAC noise control for the huge exhaust fans, required by the tropical environment, which provided a space quiet enough for musical performances.

UNC - Amberly Wellness_24911.00.0_Ext Entrance 1_PPT

2011: UNC Amberly Wellness Center, Cary, North Carolina. The wellness center provides service to members of the community.  Included in the center are fitness rooms, an indoor swimming pool, massage therapy rooms, indoor track, children’s play rooms, and classrooms.  TA provided the audiovisual system design through construction close out. The goal was to provide a low maintenance AV system for audio and video that required minimal staff.

SWFIMG_120924_12375451_1T1DN

2012:  Alfond Inn, Winter Park, Florida. The Inn at Rollins College is a Boutique Hotel consisting of 110 rooms supported by a lobby, ballroom, meeting rooms, board room, restaurant, library and conservatory. TA designed room acoustics for the ballroom and meeting spaces, sound isolation for the lobby, bar and restaurant, and review of the noise impact from the rooftop pool system.

To see our favorite projects from 2007-2009 click HERE

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years! 2010: Polynesian Cultural Center – Gateway Restaurant, Laie, Hawaii. The existing 140 ft x 250 ft.  space was renovated into a semi-outdoor dining experience, complete with stage and audio system. Murals were printed on acoustically transparent fabric to… Read more »

THROUGH THE YEARS… Celebrating 25 Years of Design Excellence! 2007-2009

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years!

07036-p-KernCountyEOC-interior-sm(1) copy

2007: County of Kern Emergency Operations Center, Bakersfield, California. The 7,000 sq ft standalone facility is designed to be the command center for county operations during a disaster/emergency situation. The three principal areas include the emergency operations center, media room/joint information center, and conference room. TA provided audiovisual consulting for the center including computer stations, eight 58″ flat panel displays, projectors, loudspeakers and wireless touch panels.

08428-p-Greenbridge-exterior (1)2008: Greenbridge Mixed-Use Complex, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The ten story, 240,000 sq ft facility has two levels of parking below grade, retail in the first floor and luxury condominiums on the upper floors. TA provided sound isolation and mechanical noise and vibration control services for the facility. The Greenbridge Complex was designed for LEED Gold Level Certification.

DSCF0689 cropped no lines copy2009: Duke Energy Tryon Tower, Charlotte, North Carolina. The 786-foot tall, 48-floor skyscraper is the second tallest building in Charlotte. TA’s services included a review of the room acoustics, sound isolation, and mechanical noise and vibration. We determined which spaces required sound masking and developed the design. the audiovisual design included 17 typical floors, one legal floor, one multi-use floor and the executive office floor.

To see our favorite projects from 2004-2006 click HERE

 

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years! 2007: County of Kern Emergency Operations Center, Bakersfield, California. The 7,000 sq ft standalone facility is designed to be the command center for county operations during a disaster/emergency situation. The three principal areas include the emergency operations center,… Read more »

THROUGH THE YEARS… Celebrating 25 Years of Design Excellence! 2004-2006

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years!

Baylor 2_Lightened (2)

2004: Baylor University, Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center, Waco, Texas. The University needed to create a learning space with a boardroom like atmosphere while main- taining the functionality of a classroom. With no clear vision on how to achieve this goal, they turned to TA for help in designing the room and implementing the technology. The center includes: 20 seat conference table equipped with wired microphones,  computer, and network access for each seat; financial ticker display and a tote board to show streaming stock quotes, market data, and custom messaging; and a videoconferencing system.

Theater from side Small

2005: DeAnza College, Performing Arts Facility, Cupertino, California. The 20,500 sq ft theater with 400 seats was designed to accommodate lectures, dance and music, cinema and drama,  and to facilitate rapid changeovers from one use to another.  TA provided acoustic and audiovisual consulting for this state-of-the-art project managing to squeeze a significant amount of technology into a very confined space. Obtained LEED Silver.

Cisco789 ElectricalRm

2006: Cisco Systems, Building 12, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Renovation of an existing building which has  two labs of approximately 15,000 GSF on the 1st floor. The labs contain CRS racks producing a high noise level. TA provided recommendations for sound isolation from the labs to the adjacent spaces and to the 2nd floor of the building.

To see our favorite projects from 2001-2003 click HERE

Thorburn Associates is proud to have worked on a variety of projects throughout our first 25 years! 2004: Baylor University, Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center, Waco, Texas. The University needed to create a learning space with a boardroom like atmosphere while main- taining the functionality of a classroom. With no clear vision on how to… Read more »