Audio visual installations are rarely as easy as they might seem to those who experience the end result. For instance, the thousands of AAA members who walk through the doors of the AAA Minneapolis headquarters in St. Louis Park to experience the wonder of a nine-screen, 13-foot, 4-inch by 8-foot, 6-inch, 1080p video wall have no idea of the coordination and planning that went into the digital signage system. “It’s not as easy as walking into a space and putting nine monitors on the wall,” says Trent Fettig, Tierney Brothers’ Project Management and Engineering Manager.
And, just as travelers who stop by AAA’s travel agency, iTravel Advisor, are seeking the best tools to help plan the perfect vacation, Minneapolis, MN-based integrator Tierney Brothers used the best tools and technology to execute the digital signage installation—including the D-Tools System Integrator (SI) platform to facilitate more comprehensive system design, documentation, and project management.
As relatively new adopters of the SI platform, AAA was one of the first projects Tierney Brothers designed using D-Tools, and Fettig attributes the success of the project directly to the strength of the software to ensure all the proper parts and pieces were in place. “It helped us make sure to catch the small parts and pieces—like the cables and connectors—that sometimes get missed,” he says.
Capturing Attention with Technology
The video wall is a 9-screen, immersive masterpiece constructed from nine 46-inch 1080p NEC displays designed to catch the attention of visitors to the lobby, replacing paper brochures and sharing information about tourist hot spots and travel destinations—locations to which, of course, a friendly iTravel Advisor agent can help visitors book a trip.
“[The client] wanted to move away from the static brochure holders and print posters that few notice, and provide a visual and very agile palette that really gives the consumer something to enjoy,” Brian Krisko, vice president of services, Tierney Brothers, notes in an article published on the AV Network and in Systems Contractor News. Commercial Integrator also picked up the story—a testament to the complexity, success, and originality of the installation.
The digital signage system provides a dynamic, eye-catching delivery system for news, advertising, and AAA branding, all important elements to create a distinctive look and feel in the lobby.
The system uses a Tightrope Media Systems server and Carousel Digital Signage Software for content creation and management, along with BrightSign XD230 HD media players. Tierney Brothers specified and installed two JBL speakers and amplifiers for full audio effect.
Installing the Wall: It’s All About the Planning
The video wall project presented several day-to-day engineering and construction challenges, Fettig points out. The lobby had wooden studs, not metal, so the integration team had to be sure the structure was strong enough to support the mounts and screens. They did so by providing plenty of reinforcement to secure the structure.
The Tierney Brothers team used D-Tools to plan the electrical conduit installation as well as the signal flow from the server to the monitors. “The monitors were recessed into the wall, and the cable paths were very challenging,” says Fettig. “The space above the video wall was an open structure, so getting the cable feeds and electrical up there was an upfront process.”
D-Tools helped Tierney Brothers map out the process and signal flow, Fettig explains, “so that when we’re on-site working with the general contractors, electrician, and IT staff, we can be proactive instead of reactive.”
This is a huge benefit in any project, and especially a complex digital signage installation. “The project’s success is a testament to the upfront planning process,” says Fettig. “On a successful project, we’ll spend 75 percent of our time upfront, discussing plans, so that when the rubber meets the road, installation and coordination runs smoothly.”
“The success of this project was a direct correlation of the D-Tools software and our success in using the software,” adds Tierney Brothers engineer Jared Kelsey.
A Stepping Stone to Greater Efficiency
The video wall at the AAA St. Paul headquarters is certainly a marquee project. It is also an important stepping stone for Tierney Brothers, as the commercial integration firm learns more about using D-Tools to the full extent of the software’s capabilities. “This was one of the first designed we created using D-Tools, and it’s an important first step in bringing parts and projects into D-Tools and creating a companywide standard process,” says Fettig. Ultimate, he says, the end goal is to quote every project using the software.
Tierney Brothers is fortunate to have a long-time D-Tools user and brand champion within the organization, although the onboarding and training process is decidedly a team effort. Kelsey, a D-Tools user for 15+ years, is tasked with creating documentation for standard processes in D-Tools. “We want everyone on the same page—from engineer, to installer, to programmer—so it’s a smooth workflow throughout the process,” he says. “D-Tools is helping us build efficiencies, and that’s the most important part.” According to Kelsey, the net impact on the project was an efficiency improvement between 15 – 20%, as the process improved communication throughout the team, reduced the length of time spent in meetings, and the detailed drawings helped reduced questions and unnecessary back and forth during the implementation of the project.
For additional information on D-Tools award-winning software for system integrators and a free 30 day trial, visit www.d-tools.com.