in February 2007
Lockheed Martin's Lighthouse Shines
By Dan Daley
Defense contractor's Center For Innovation blends flexibility and security.
|Lockheed Martin's Center For Innovation, aka The Lighthouse, features an extensive Command Center.
It’s as though a piece of Star Trek landed in the sprawl that surrounds Hampton Roads, in Virginia, one of the largest military naval bases on earth. Topping out at 80 feet with glass-and-steel walls, the Center For Innovation on the city of Suffolk’s Harbour View Boulevard has an optimistic, if somewhat prosaic, title. But inside what’s known as The Lighthouse, it’s all business. A replica of a screwpile-type lighthouse common to the Chesapeake Bay region (with several parts from actual lighthouses found on eBay) acts as a kind of iconic tent pole for the 50,000-square-foot structure that defense contractor Lockheed Martin built in 2005 as the ultimate stage for weapons and warfighting conceptualization and systems demonstrations.
A hexagonal exterior defines an interior that gives five separate sectors and a main Command Center their outlines. Each sector is dedicated to a particular purpose, including homeland security, joint force projection (warfighting), logistics and materials, and other military rubrics.
Military, Commercial Interests
The Lighthouse was envisioned as a place where the military and commercial interests could intersect, using technology to let them collaborate in a world that moves as fast as an F-16. It would be net-centric, with a largely fiber backbone, and use projection and LCD displays in a controlled-lighting environment (lighting is controlled by an ETC SmartFade console) that is ergonomically efficient yet Strangelovian enough to give any enterprise done there a heightened sense of purpose.
It’s not unlike a movie set, one in which Lockheed Martin would bring actual fighter aircraft simulators in to give those who made decisions about what the Air Force will be flying a decade from now a virtual ride into the future. (A SCUD missile was brought to the site on its opening day, and an entire helicopter (sans rotors and tail section) also has been used there for demonstration exercises.) The Lighthouse also is connected to the larger world, via the internet, to Lockheed Martin’s Global Vision Network—a string of R&D labs globally.
It is, in short, a media systems integrator’s dream house.
Building the Backbone
Lockheed Martin called on General Projections Systems, of Altamonte Springs FL, and laid out expectations. “The purpose of the facility is two-fold,” said General Projections Systems president Drake Wayson. “First, it’s a place to showcase Lockheed Martin’s offerings to the government for military applications, such as the F/A-22, homeland security and homeland defense’s net-centric products, and so on. The second is as a place where the various customers of Lockheed Martin can learn about [those] products as well as experience real-time exercises, network communications to hubs all over the country and explore the various options with respect to the products, through simulation, war-gaming and other exercises.”
Matt Tang, General Projection’s supervising systems engineer for the project, acknowledged that a primary function of the structure would be as a marketing tool for Lockheed Martin. “That was definitely part of its purpose,” he said. “But it’s also a place where ideas and concepts get exchanged. The media technology had to be able to support and enhance that.”
The integrators laid out a combined fiber and copper backbone with hundreds of MT-RJ ports in walls and floor (every 10 feet in the floor), able to accept two inputs each, voice and data, throughout the facility. The strategy, said Tang, was to enable each sector of the building to operate autonomously; to interact with other sectors as needed (and as allowed, depending on security demands); and for each and all in any configuration to connect with a central command sector on the main floor and a machine room, where all video, audio and multimedia connections terminate, on an interior wrap-around mezzanine.
|The multi-purpose auditorium, which seats 75, has a 30-foot-wide screen.
Furthermore, Lockheed Martin asked for flexibility in the wiring to allow for new applications of the building’s technology. “Because they are never going to be completely certain what any area of the building will be used for [in the future], the mandate was [for us] to design capabilities that are highly adaptable and can be changed rapidly without a large reinvestment, such as additional structured wiring,” Wayson explained.
Indeed, although the facility was opened officially nearly two years ago, Wayson stated that it remains a work in progress. “There are permanent capabilities such as the large auditorium, but most of the facility is flexible and changing,” he offered. “The initial project was built in a period of about three months in 2004/2005. But ever since then, the facility literally has been alive with changes, additions, tweaks and capabilities that support the latest applications.”
Although the interior walls were in place when General Projection began its integration work, Tang said a raised floor was put in place that enabled cable runs beneath it, allowing interface jacks to be placed generously on the floor for the workstations. In addition to running extra cabling for possible future expansion, parallel lines had to be run to accommodate the requirement for secure and non-secure fiber, reminding, once again, that national security is very much a function of the building.
The fiber cabling was specifically “keyed” by manufacturer AMP for custom plugs and sockets for secure areas of the center. The copper wiring uses 24 Extron CrossPoint routers and three AutoPatch Modula routers. Because the structure was already in place when wiring began, the copper runs were long, several hundred feet in some instances, and had to go in conduits up walls and over ceiling joists back to the main equipment racks. For these long runs, larger-gauge 20AWG RG-59/U cable was employed and signal was boosted with high-resolution line drivers from Altinex.
As the wiring install moved forward, the systems riding on them were selected. Wayson said the equipment choices were based on the original mandate for flexibility. “We looked for adaptability and flexibility in the products,” he offered, choosing, among others, three of Pesa’s Cheetah HD digital fiberoptic routers, Extron and AutoPatch copper routers, and 10 BSS Soundweb 9088ii units, with the SoundWeb network, for audio processing.
Next, he said, products were selected for
their ability to be used in numerous environments as the theme
or use of an area changes. “To that end, we chose high-resolution
Christie digital projectors that can handle incoming computer
signals at UXGA rates, as well as high-def formats such as
WXG,” he said. “Speaker systems—in this case we selected JBL—had
to be capable of being re-aimed quickly and had to handle
both media and voice applications. The Crestron control system
provides the AV version of ‘net-centric’ in that it can be
configured quickly, controlled from afar, and is compatible
with all of the infrastructure, particularly QuickMedia.”
The 40-foot-tall Command Center is the building’s largest working area. A huge 43'x9' Draper Clarion screen dominates it. Four Christie DS+8K projectors, lined up and suspended from the circular box truss above the center of the floor, can project four individual images or be controlled, via an Electrosonic VN-Quantum win-dowing processor, to project one fourth each of a larger, seamless image. Video data is routed on fiber cabling from any number of sources, including the VGA or DVI outputs of the computers built into portable Dell workstations on the main floor, to the main machine room to a Pesa digital router, which feeds the video processor.
This main screen is supported by four 9'x12' Draper Onyx screens, fed by Christie LU-77 projectors. These same 9'x12' screens and projectors are in each of the other smaller sectors of the building. There are also five Clarity Bay Cat 46-inch LCD displays near the Center’s technology command station.
The Command Center’s truss carries a heavy load, which adds to its stability. That wasn’t the case in one of the other areas, where four Christie DS+60 projectors are mounted in a large 4:3 aspect ratio configuration. “The smallest movement of the projector’s platform can cause huge problems with the image, and this particular truss had constant sway,” said Tang. The rigging contractor was called back in to add more cross-bracing and pick points.
Using a Creston TPMC-17-QM touchpanel controller, the person routing the Command Center’s signal paths during presentations can call up any of the screens in the Center, and any screens in other sectors of the building. The security classifications of the content are vetted manually, but the controller is programmed so that classified information coming to the Command Center from one sector cannot be sent to other sectors. “The balance is making the system highly connective and interactive, so they can achieve the collaboration they want, but also assure that there is strict control over the routing process,” Tang explained.
|Multi-screen workstations allow for multi-tasking, seen here during a homeland defense military exercise.
A display area such as this deserves video arcade-grade sound, and The Lighthouse gets it, up to and including 5.1 surround. (Wayson joked that the place is Lockheed Martin’s own private and permanent CES Show.) Eight JBL AC2212/64 speakers (the total throughout building is 30) are flown from the central box truss and powered by two (five total in building) Crown CTs 8200 eight-channel amplifiers. CTs 600 (10) and 1200 (4) amps are used in conference rooms. Two of a total of 10 BSS Soundweb Original 9088ii controllers are the main component of a pair of rolling racks that serve as portable microphone processors.
The microphone complement includes Shure MX392/C and Sabine SWM/7000 2.4GHz wireless lavalieres and handhelds, as well as Sabine FBX1200 Feedback Exterminators. [See “Someone’s Listening In” for more about how wireless and security interact.] The conference rooms also are equipped with ClearOne XAP 800 echo-canceling microphone systems that run on one strand of fiber back to a rack, minimizing cable runs.
“We can control the entire audio matrix using Soundweb’s software on a laptop to make gain changes and change routings,” said Tang, noting that the Calzone-made racks are essentially roaming XLR jack panels, with the Soundweb as the hub from which signal goes to a transceiver to one of the fiber access points in the floor. A pair of BSS 9000ii active digital hubs—one for each level of the Center—adds more digital I/O capability to the system with six network jacks.
Six BSS SW9014 fiber interface units are in portable racks. These connect to the audio system via Cat5 RJ45 and fiber terminations, and can allow up to eight channels of digital audio to run in two directions for a distance of up to 1.2 miles. “Considering the size of this facility, the ability to have long audio runs is important,” said Tang.
The Center’s auditorium seats 75 and has a 30-foot-wide Da-Lite screen and a Christie high-resolution Roadie 25K projector. Tang said that the video setup was straightforward, but the auditorium’s walls required treatment to eliminate reflections and feedback. The sound system is 5.1-capable, and live presentations are mixed via a Mackie Onyx 16-channel console with a BSS 9000 Series speaker controller. Video switching is via an Extron ISS 408 seamless switcher.
Dual Role Space
The Center For Innovation performs both its marketing and presentation roles gracefully. JBL Control 25 surface-mounted speakers sprinkle gentle background music through the entire facility, giving it the ambience of a trendy hotel lobby. The Command Center and its satellites transition into each other’s spaces quietly. ”There is something ‘Treky’ about the place,” said Tang. And one of the install challenges was keeping audio intelligible in a reverberant, cavernous space. “We went at that from two approaches: directionality of the source and acoustical wall treatments,” he explained.
“The JBL AC2212/64 speakers have a tight horn dispersion pattern, so that gave us the directionality we wanted. Then, we used Armstrong Sound Soak panels on the walls to absorb reflected sound. The sound is good but, more importantly in this installation, the sound is highly intelligible. There’s a lot riding on understanding what people are saying here.”
Wayson stated that the entire concept of such a large and heavily connected presentation space was the biggest trial of all. “By far the biggest challenge was building a flexible system that could change quickly, yet provide the aspects of permanency that an incoming [Lockheed Martin] customer would want,” he said. “Although in many ways, large portions of this facility act as a showcase, the installation had to be handled unlike the staging of an event. Installing semi-permanent systems that use such flexible infrastructure is a challenge in that the customer might want a display ‘here’ but the closest connection point is ‘there.’ To overcome this, we worked with [integration] partners Applied Minds, a Los Angeles-area set design firm, and Sce/Con, a Chesapeake Bay-area staging company, to create the decorative and environmental elements necessary to which we could install our systems, displays and cabling.”
Currently, General Projection Systems is replacing some of the copper cabling with new fiber runs. Tang is certain that they’ll be making more changes to this complex, multi-purpose structure. “This building doesn’t just have to change with the technology,” he said. “It has to change with the times.”
General Projection is a turnkey builder of audiovisual conferencing systems, based in Altamonte Springs FL. The company has designed a number of significant installations for the US government and military, such as The Lighthouse, and also has done extensive work in other areas, including corporate boardrooms, conference centers and training/communications facilities, education, distance learning for educational institutions, telemedicine and training applications for the medical community, and for enhanced communications in churches and houses of worship.
Someone's Listening In
Security at the Center For Innovation never stops being an issue. Wireless microphones were provided for in the audio design. However, they can be used only during non-classified presentations. To split security hairs further, the point-and-click mouse controllers for the Dell desktop computers in the Command Center can be wireless, but the keyboards cannot. Most of what wireless there is in the heavily shielded building belongs to Lockheed Martin’s own proprietary systems.
All cabling had to meet Department of Defense standards for security reasons, and all had to be shielded and kept at least six inches away from any electrical source. “We kept it 18 inches, just to be sure,” said Tang.
Altinex hi-res line drivers
AMP wiring, cable
Armstrong Sound Soak acoustical paneling
3 AutoPatch Modula routers
10 BSS Soundweb 9088ii audio processors
2 BSS 9000ii Audio Soundweb DSP hubs
6 BSS SW9014 fiber transceivers
1 BSS 9000 Series speaker controller
Chief mounting hardware
4 Christie LU77 projector side, rear screens
4 Christie DS+8K front projectors
4 Christie DS+60 conference area projectors
1 Christie Roadie hi-res 25K projector
5 Clarity Bay Cat 46" LCD displays
ClearOne XAP 800 echo-canceling mic systems
1 Crestron Pro2 control system
1 Crestron TPMC-17-QM 17" Quick Media touchpanel
1 Crestron TPMC-15-QM 15" Quick Media touchpanel
18 Crestron QM-RMCRX Quick Media receivers
5 Crown CTs 8200 8-channel amp, main speakers (bridge mono)
10 Crown CTs 600 amps
4 Crown CTs 1200 amps
1 Da-Lite Da-Snap 30'W screen
1 Denon DVD-1710P DVD player
4 Draper Onyx 9x12' screens
1 Draper Clarion 43x9' screen
1 Electrosonic VN-Quantum wall processor
ETC SmartFade console
24 Extron CrossPoint routers
1 Extron ISS 408 seamless switcher
1 Extron 32x32 NTSC/stereo audio router
30 JBL AC2212/64 speakers
27 JBL Control 25 surface-mounted speakers
1 Mackie Onyx 16-channel console
3 Middle Atlantic WRK-44-32 44RU equipment racks w/accessories
50 Pesa CH1612RX-V5A2 fiber receivers
36 Pesa CH1612TX-V5A2 fiber transmitters
3 Pesa Cheetah HD digital 128x routers
3 Sabine SWM7000 Series (7231-L dual-channel wireless systems)
1 Sabine SWASS-EXT external antenna pair
2 Sabine SW70-H13-U-M1 handheld mics
1 Sabine SWA6SS-U-M1 wireless mic antenna distribution amp
3 Sabine FBX1200-U Feedback Exterminators
50 Shure MX392/C table mics
List is edited from information supplied by General Projection.
Dan Daley is a journalist and author covering the business of entertainment technology, working out of New York, Nashville and Miami.