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Unique audio system brings impact to Watson Wyatt conferences

Sometimes itís the obvious answers that are the hardest to find.

When managers at Watson Wyatt, a multinational consulting firm specializing in human resources issues, built a conference room in Chicago last year, they knew what they wanted, but werenít sure how to get it.

Part of the problem was that Watson managers wanted an a/v system that would disappear when not in use. In particular, says John Lytle, the consultant most responsible for the project, "we needed individual microphones for our teleconferences and the recording of meetings. But our managing consultant really didnít want them hanging from the ceiling all the time." In the same way, firm managers wanted the screen, rack, and other equipment either hidden at all times or hidden when not in use. It was, says Lytle, a question of esthetics and professionalism.

Conference center showing door open to equipment room. Sony projector mounted in ceiling projects on Draper electric screen.  Equipemt room contains products from Bose, Altec Lansing, Gentner, Lectrosonics & Visitec.The other problem was that Watson consultants needed a first rate system. Esthetics were important, but the quality of the sound and projected image were critical. There was no way they could accept anything less than the best with the number and level of client and internal meetings that would go on in the room. Critical, too, was the issue of system control. Watson Wyatt employs over 200 consultants in its Chicago office, and virtually all of them use the system regularly. They needed a system so intuitive that anyone could use it with a bare minimum of training or help.

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United Visualís Doug Carnell and his engineering staff were able to design a system that met all of these criteria. For the best possible sound pickup, for example, they used eight miniature ElectroVoice microphones hanging from the ceiling. To meet esthetic concerns, they put them on motorized reels so they would disappear when not in use. In the same way, they installed first rate components from Sony, Bose, Altec Lansing, Gentner, Lectrosonics, Visitec and Draper. To make the system operable by so many people, they put all controls on an AMX Tiltscreen, programmed to operate each function with the touch of a single button. Choose "audioconference," for example, and the mics extend, sound components turn on, and the touch screen brings up a menu for dialing.

Lytle says United was the key to making their needs a reality. "We knew what we wanted, but Doug was the person who went back and brought all the pieces together, found all the components that would put together the room we wanted. The servo reeler technology is one example. It wasnít something Iíd seen before, but it solved our problem and works very well."