Technology and Community

The Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons is a unique facility, designed to teach the regional community to express itself through digital technology, while helping individuals learn to tell their own stories and the stories of their communities through audio visual and digital media.

The Public Media Commons added 8,000 square feet to WHYY's 60,000 square feet of studio and office space on Independence Mall.

Its main features include a 4,100 sf Media Education Studio, two media and computer classrooms, two multi-station edit rooms, a student-based digital control room, meeting space, and a reception/display area showcasing the latest works of learning lab students.

The integration of the technology with architecture during design and construction was central to WHYY’s mission. As a result, WHYY identified a design team that was known for their collaboratively development styles selecting RJC Designs Inc. as their technology design consultants.

The Vision

WHYY’s VP and Chief Technology Officer, Bill Weber, set forth the functionality vision for the Public Media Commons to be an interactive learning environment that simultaneously served as media laboratory, classroom, performance and content production space and, most importantly, a center for connectivity across a spectrum of media platforms, giving citizens from all walks of life the ability to connect and participate fully with their community.

The Studio

The centerpiece of the Hamilton Public Media Commons is the Lincoln Financial Digital Education Studio. This flexible studio space which can hold 300 participants has the ability to accommodate presentations, broadcasts, performances, teaching, business, and community events. The Lincoln Financial Digital Education Studio opens up to the rest of the WHYY Technology Center and the public street to feature, enhancing its mission of learning and community.

The challenge was to design the technology and communication systems within this versatile space to accommodate the present and future needs of WHYY and the community. RJC designed the systems to allow reconfiguration and relocation of major components to meet the various user needs and room set ups.

The plant infrastructure was based on an HD/SDI structure. This would allow compatibility with fixed and broadcast cameras, displays, and other technologies within the studio and control room with the broadcast portion of WHYY.

Within the studio there are tie lines for both local control room connections and TOC (Technical Operations Center) connectivity. These wall mounted tie line plates are located on the north, west, and south walls. This allows the system to be multifaceted and interfaced with other systems within the building. All operations of the studio system are handled in the studios local control room.

In addition to holding the studio lighting, the grid provided a perfect structure for various support technologies. Within the grid and at designated locations are connectivity ports. These ports have various i/o’s, fiber, CAT6, microphone, speaker level, video connectivity, and power utilities.

This allows the supporting technology to be adjusted and reconfigured according to the event and corresponding floor plan. Connectivity of microphones and line level feeds from the studio to the control room and to the TOC is done by routed splits and digital distribution via. Cobra Net.

Also within the grid system are the Community iBOX i2W8T loud speakers. These 12 downward facing speakers provide equal coverage and amazing clarity. The speakers are zoned thru a DSP and multi-zoned Crown amplifiers to allow set-up for speech reinforcement in various configurations accommodating flexible event and presentation set ups. It is also possible to route program audio with a specific equalization through these speakers if the room configuration calls for it. Dual drapery tracks provide adjustable perimeter hang positions for stage curtains, chroma key and other lighting effects. The drapery also allows the acoustics of the room to be tailored.

The Experience

The display presence is impressive with its 16’ wide 9’ tall Draper Cineglass rear projection screen as the focal point at the front of the room. The Digital Projection model DV30-1080PXL is the display engine producing incredible brightness and clarity.

Surround 5.1 audio is reproduced using Community’s iBOX series loud speakers. L/R speakers recessed within the front projection wall utilized iHP3594 speakers. The i215LVSS sub woofer is recessed off of stage right and the custom designed Community iHP 1226 was for the center channel located off the front center of the lighting grid aprox. 4’ out from the the top of the screen.

The i2W8 was used for left and right rear channels and hangs off the lighting grid at the rear. The balance is perfect and the sound is amazing.

The Control Room

Within this room are the audio and video support and processing technologies, pre and post production equipment with non-linear editing, audio mixing console and digital recording capabilities. The control room systems also acts as a post production hub providing sources to the TOC for a broadcast, on air production or web streaming.

Communications including VTC, multiple channels of Skype, and connectivity with various WHYY broadcast options are also available.

As is the continued theme of the facility, this space will also be available as teaching and a community learning extension.

The Broadcast Pix Granite Series HD was the production console of choice. This production console also provided editing, effects, clip store, and CG all which could be networked with TOC’s resources.

Also within this room is the production lighting console a Strand Lighting Pallete VL64 controlling a 96 channels of dimmers. A Soundcraft Si-3 digital sound console is used for live, broadcast, and recording mixing.

Set-up and source configuration of the multi-screen LCD’s above the control rooms window and other displays within the portal and lobby are also done within the control room and the designated window processor. These LCD’s can display any source available including feeds from the studio, classrooms, custom signage information, and feeds from WHYY’s broadcast center.

Device management and room configuration within the control room is done utilizing the AMX NXT-1500VG touch panel. There is also a portable and wireless AMX MVP-8400 control panel which allows for a stage or production manager to set up, cue, or adjust various technology configurations while in the studio space.

Community Classrooms

Production and meeting space includes two community classrooms for teaching. These classrooms maintain the broadcast feel with production lighting as part of its environment. Technologies included DVI and HDMI formats, touch screen technologies, 65 foot wall mounted LCD monitor, and the latest in application software allowing for innovation and experimentation with editing stations.

To maintain the collabrative and community function of the facility there is a bidirectional digital connection between the classrooms and the Public Media Commons allowing for students to share or view events occurring in the PMC studio or the classroom to make a remote presentation to participating studio viewers.

Functions in the classroom can also be connected with the TOC and utilize Skype and other internet communications.

A table mounted Extron HSA 400 box is mounted in the instructor’s desk and provides power, data, laptop input, HDMI Input, USB, and an A/V input (composite video with stereo audio). Other sources located in the desk for instructor’s use include: Blu-Ray/DVD player, annotation devices, and a local computer. System control and devices management is done by an AMX control panel.

Conference Room

This room is used as a creative and collaborative space for WHYY’s development, news and programming group. The technology was developed to support the flow of ideas through the various input means of the team.

The conference table has built in connectivity for several laptops and other video devices. Mac and PC devices can be interfaced with the system.

These sources can be viewed on the LCD panel utilizing a SmartTechnology touch screen overlay. Source and device control is done by a wall mounted AMX control panel.

Vision Achieved

Since its completion in the summer of 2010, the Dorrance H. Hamilton - Public Media Commons has helped hundreds of individuals of all ages and demographics tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

The PMC has already proven to be an extremely versatile and capable new resource supporting education, the community and WHYY member events. The venue has to date been the host site for thousands attending media events.

Bill Weber of WHYY explains, "the projects success produced a convergence of broadcast, education, media production techniques and technology tools. These creative tools and resources which coupled with the expanding content distribution platforms gave birth to a unique and powerful public resource continuing to demonstrate the value of public media organizations."

>> See WHYY profile page

WHYY’s Public Media Commons’ LED exterior facade
The Lincoln Financial Digital Education Studio
The Control Room
Community Classrooms