Published in May 2008

Wide World of Nano
By Jim Stokes

UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute magnifies its technology.
The California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) is a research center at UCLA in Los Angeles.

The University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) new CNSI (California NanoSystems Institute) theater/auditorium provides a wide range of AV technology with minimal technical support. This facility, based in Los Angeles CA, required an integrated AV environment that provides resources for high-level events in support of the work being done at the CNSI. CNSI is a multi-disciplinary institute that deals with nanoscience research and fabrication. The auditorium is required because colleagues from around the world give lectures and present their work.

Media Support

Thus, there’s a lot of media support for a huge world that we can only see with the aid of specialized technology. In the theater, seeing the unseen in nanoscience comes out of laboratory electron microscopes and onto the theater’s widescreen via digital projectors. And the vast hidden nano universe can be videoconferenced, as well. Speech reinforcement and show/program sound augment the visuals. And it’s all user-friendly touchpanel accessed. The auditorium is a science venue. So, in addition to nanotechnology, the theater is also used for other science and technology lectures, presentations, seminars and symposia.

The room is arranged in a standard theater configuration, with center and side seating and a gently sloping floor to improve sightlines to the front of the room. There’s an enclosed control room in the back of the auditorium and a removable stage at the front. The room is staffed most of the time, but it’s also capable of being operated by researchers and faculty with little or no specialized assistance, thanks to touchpanel access. In addition, there are two rooms adjacent to the theater, which can be combined into a single room via a retractable air wall. Operation of each room is independent of the other, as well as in unison as an option to accommodate overflow if the auditorium is filled to capacity (see also later detail about these rooms’ AV).


According to CNSI information, the rapidly changing disciplines of nanoscience and nanotechnology are high priorities at UCLA, as evidenced by CNSI’s new 188,000-square-foot, seven-story research facility (see sidebar, “California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI)”). In addition to the expansive laboratory space, the new building offers vast community space designed to stimulate interaction and collaboration among researchers.
Although we’ve already alluded to it, just what is “nanoscience?” It’s the science of making things very small: creating machines and materials at a sub-molecular level. The resulting impact on the world is huge. In 2005 alone, CNSI had 119 patent filings and five patents issued. As a result of nanoscience research, our everyday products are becoming smaller, lighter, faster and stronger. Research extends though many sciences, including biology, chemistry, biochemistry and physics.

Some of the diverse topics in the NanoSystems Seminar Series presented in the auditorium include a “Nanotechnology Summit,” “Extreme Sports with Nature’s Nano-Machines, in singulo,” “Magnetic Rings for Memory and Logic,” “Promise of NanoMedicine” and “Nanoscope Imaging of Biomolecules and Cells.”

AV System Highlights

Our interviewees are UCLA Academic Technology Services’ Jimmy Suo, who is the new CNSI theater’s project manager and AV system designer. Mike McLean, CTS-D, integrated systems sales account manager at Avidex, Los Angeles, the integrator. Suo emphasized that it was CNSI managing director Susan Rubin who came to his department to initiate the AV project (see sidebar, “Credits” for additional information).

“One of the biggest challenges was the short time frame to get this all in,” said Suo. “The actual install took four to five months. However, we had to work around the CNSI events schedule, because the building was already open and events were already taking place. We had to put the projection system in first, with some front of room input. It took longer than expected.” The install was completed by the end of 2007. “The AV system was used right out of the gate, and it’s being used on a daily basis. Just this morning, someone was doing a videoconference in the auditorium. People are using it. And they’re happy.”

Avidex’s McLean explained that CNSI wanted a state-of-the-art facility that would be easy to use with minimal technical support. Rafael Vinoly, founder of Rafael Vinoly Architects, “presented us with a nicely shaped 250-seat theater, a control room and a very wide projection screen (9'x24')” McLean said, adding, “By the way, this is the New York-based firm’s first completed building in California.

According to McLean, “A dual projector, side by side, display was developed to make maximum use of the available screen area. An image-processing device was used to allow multiple media devices and imagery to be shown simultaneously in a giant, widescreen, picture-in-picture display. The processor allows users to make computer images as big as the screen will allow, then place those images anywhere on the screen surface. This allows side by side comparisons and provides the ability to monitor multiple events.”

Perfect Reproduction

Furthermore, he noted that projected imagery had to be a “perfect electronic reproduction of original media, much of it originating as electron microscopy.” Thus, three-chip DLP projectors were chosen because “they do the best job of reproducing accurate color, shade and hue.”
Suo further emphasized that the DLPs were chosen because “image overlap was built into the system and you could calibrate it so there’s a blend. You could do edge blending and color matching without having to pay for hardware. So, a lot of money was saved by going with the Panasonics.”

However, the projectors wound up being mounted inside the theater itself rather than in the control room. “The windows in the booth were only so large. In order to fit the projectors to make them poke through the projection window, we wouldn’t be able to actually see through the projection window. And that, in itself, was quite tricky,” explained McLean.
The control room features 24-inch lCD computer monitors mounted across the room's large window. The projection screen, showing a multi-image display, can be seen through the window beyond the preview monitors.

‘Biggest Challenge’

The criteria remained that images had to fit the widescreen design of the architect. “The biggest challenge was to fill the screen, top to bottom, side to side,” said McLean. “And that was huge. The projectors wound up being ceiling-mounted inside the theater itself, using the widescreen version of the originally specified model.” The task of making sure the zoom lenses wouldn’t distort the image went to general manager Frank Kautsky of the Avidex Los Angeles office, who carefully placed the projectors. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to get a perfect blend of images, where the left and right sides butt together,” said McLean. “It was a perfect match.”

He also noted that “the imaging is very good for the scientists because it allows several people to be working on the screen at one time and have their images up simultaneously for comparisons.” He added, “During videoconferencing, you can see people from a remote location at the same time that another person’s PowerPoint is on the screen in a small window for everyone to see. There’s the ability to run one big superwide screen presentation.”

Windows management and compositing hardware/software are provided by the RGB Spectrum MediaWall 2000. “We wound up getting this more advanced Model 2000,” Suo said. “The RGB Spectrum was chosen because it has a good reputation for 24/7 operation, redundant power supplies and it’s pretty robust in the signals it takes in.”

In addition to videoconferencing to and from other locales, most of the labs within the CNSI building have STEMs (Scanning Tunneling Electron Microscopes), which are high end, very high resolution devices. The labs have all been wired to accept video signals from these various labs in CNSI. “It was built so that, in the future, we could bring microscopic images from the labs into the auditorium, either through fiber or through Cat5 video distribution,” explained Suo. “It’s not currently in place because it’s such a new building, but we have the infrastructure with the Extron matrix switcher. And we have additional inputs and outputs on tap for future growth.”


On the audio side, two sound systems were used: one for speech reinforcement and one for show sound. Intelligibility is perfect, whether the room is full or empty. There is an abundance of wireless and wired mics for presenters. Sixteen JBL ceiling speakers ensure full coverage throughout the space. In addition, the JBL show sound/presentation speakers are a left/right stereo pair augmented with a large subwoofer.

Regarding the control room audio mixer, Avidex was in favor of an automated board. However, Suo favored traditional gain controls. The result was an analog live Mackie 32-channel/4-buss mixer. “If there’s a panel of speakers in front, I want the tactile feeling of actually pushing a lever to bring up sound or pull it down,” said Suo. However, there’s also an automatic mode via Symetrix DSP that can override manual operation for a controlled mixing environment where certain inputs on the board are preset.

Suo further noted that he wanted the Mackie board there because, “first, it’s good for live events, and I don’t want to sit and touch a touchpanel. And second, you can look at it as a redundancy; what if the Symetrix goes down? With a knowledgeable operator, you could reroute and just use the mixer.”

In addition to the presenters’ microphones, four Shure omni ceiling mics are fed through an Ashly mixer. They’re used for control room monitoring of what’s going on in the auditorium. “I need them to get a little feedback from the theater,” explained Suo. “I chose those mics because they’re low profile. They’re unobtrusive. People won’t get freaked out.” Along those same lines, he noted that four small Sony EVI-HD1 PTZ cameras, mounted in the auditorium, are not intimidating to the presenters.
The AV sourves in the theater.


Because Suo alluded to touchpanels, he also gave kudos to Avidex programmer Chris Mathis for “a great job in terms of programming the AMX. In some initial guidelines, I wanted a full administrative page where I could route any video or audio signal from location to location, from an input to an output. For example, I could send someone’s laptop audio to the conference room.”

McLean added, “Touchpanel control systems were designed so end users would be able to operate the presentation devices and the presentation system itself, without being shown which buttons to press.” He noted that the programming conformed to the oft-quoted industry standard, “It shouldn’t take you more than three touches of the panel to get where you’re going.”

To provide the most flexibility in routing signals from any source to any display device, a combination of reliable high-performance switchers and matrix switchers via Extron were required to transport and distribute various video and computer signals. Robust signal transmission and scalability are at the heart of this system. For example, if CNSI has a large event in the main auditorium, it must be possible to send the feed to other locations in the building, such as the seminar rooms.

Suo further summarized the collaboration and distribution technologies’ design aspects. They include the ability to do hi-def multipoint videoconferencing using Tandberg. There’s the capability to scale the system for future building distribution, along with scalable hardware and software to accommodate further collaborative software. And, there’s the ability to implement Access Grid technology and stream events live via Windows Media and QuickTime.

“Most of the collaboration involves showing PowerPoint scientific data to each other,” he said. “They’re going to start using Access Grid, which is an open-source, multipoint collaboration video tool we get via It lets you videoconference with 20 sites free. It’s like chatting within a chat window. [For example,] you could have live onscreen sites from Japan, Santa Barbara and USC,” as illustrated in the accompanying graphic, “Infrastructure for Distribution.”
Archival functions include hi-def via Final Cut Pro and ProRes 422, as well as archival to CD, DVD and MiniDV. The interactive tablet PC and whiteboard connects to the control room computer via VNC.

Live Surgery, Production, Distribution

When the auditorium first opened, there was a rather spectacular use of videoconferencing via the Tandberg 6000 MXP codec. “Right off the bat, we viewed live surgery on the screen,” said Suo. “We connected through Ohio Supercomputer to four or five sites. With the hi-def signal, it was the first time we saw such clarity in terms of actually seeing blood vessels and the instruments the surgeon was using, up close. I’ve never seen videoconferencing with that high quality. That was through the latest H.323 hi-def codec.”

Related, and having had the experience of supplying AV for a lot of events, both on and off location, Suo wanted production and distribution capabilities in the new auditorium. “I wanted the ability to record and distribute [events], either right away or archive them for future post-production use. And, with the system I built here, we could do that.”

In the control room, viewing is done on 24-inch LCD computer monitors to accommodate hi-def signals coming into the system. They’re mounted on Speed Rail with a T-bar across the room’s large window. An editing interface was vital for production and distribution aspects. “All four theater Sony cameras, along with a computer source, come into the Panasonic switcher/mixer, so we can switch between those sources and do a production on the fly. Then the mixer gets fed to the Aja HDSDI editing interface. It seems like we waited forever and just got the unit [in February]. It’s really popular.

“HDSDI is a current buzz term. Basically, the Aja splits my video signal and digitizes it over FireWire to my Mac Pro-8 core. We’re running Final Cut Pro and we’re able to capture in 1080i at 60 frames, basically using the Apple ProRes 422 codec. There’s a big savings of hard drive space using that codec.” A Windows Media Server sends their video out to the rest of the world over a web stream.

Conference Rooms

There are also two executive conference rooms across the lobby from the auditorium used for
overflow, according to Suo. “We also wanted to use the rooms for an important meeting that we could broadcast into the auditorium.” Although he opted for small, unobtrusive cameras in the theater, he didn’t specify any cameras or ceiling microphones in the conference rooms. “I was afraid there would be some privacy issues. You don’t want cameras or mics in a really important meeting. Instead, I just put a bulkhead in the room in the rack, which had an HDSDI connection from one of the panels.”

As a result, there were panel connections for HDSDI, as well as microphone and other audio inputs on the panel that terminated in the auditorium’s AV control room. “So, if we wanted to set up a camera on a tripod and a simple mic, just hook them up to the bulkhead.” Extron ceiling speakers and a pair of Panasonic XGA projectors round out the equipment in the conference rooms.

Summarizing other support equipment in the install, AV playback devices include Blu-ray, DVD and VHS. A Listen Technologies system is for the hearing impaired. Computer systems were all owner-furnished.

In closing, Suo emphasized, “I think the key factor is that this is a very advanced, collaborative space. We’re trying to implement off-the-shelf AV gear so we can have a very advanced platform for teaching, for research and discovering new things through each other and the colleagues in nanoscience.”



1 Aja IO HD HDSDI editing interface
1 Alesis M1 ACTIVE 620 6"/100W reference monitor (pair)
1 AMX NI-4100 Netlinx integrated controller
2 AMX NXC-COM2 dual com port card
1 AMX NXT-1200VG-RGB 12" Modero VG Series tabletop touchpanel w/RGB
1 AMX MVP-8400 8.4" Modero viewpoint touchpanel
1 AMX NXA-WAP250G 802.11b/g wireless access point
1 AMX MVP-TDS tabletop/tilt docking station
1 AMX NI-700 Netlinx integrated controller
1 Ashly Audio LX-308B mixer
1 Ashly Audio MX2066 in mic mixer
2 Chief RPA-075 projection ceiling mounts
2 Chief RPA-U inverted ceiling mounts
2 Crown CDI 2000 450W power amps
1 Extron CrossPoint Plus 3232HV
1 Extron USP 405 transcoder, scan converter, scaler
1 Extron VSC 500 scan converter
3 Extron 8-input scaling switchers
9 Extron MTP RL 15HD A twisted pair transmitters/receivers
2 Extron P/2 DA2xi distribution amps
4 Extron video scalers
1 Extron HDSDI-ACR 100 digital to analog converter
2 Extron HPA 502 2-channel audio amp
4 Extron S126CT ceiling-mount speakers (Conference Room)
5 Extron VTT001 twisted-pair transmitters
2 Extron MLC 226 IP Enhanced MediaLink Controllers w/IP Link
16 JBL Control 26DT speakers
2 JBL LSR6328P 8" studio monitors
1 JBL LSR6312SP 12" powered subwoofer
1 JVC SRDVM700US DVD mini DV hard disk
1 Listen Technologies LT-800-072 stationary FM transmitter
1 Listen Technologies LA-117 dipole antenna
6 Listen Technologies LR-400-072 receivers
1 Lutron GRAFIK-eye interface
1 Mackie ONYX-32-4 32-channel 4-buss audio mixer
1 Marantz TU 1500RDP AM/FM stereo RDS tuner
1 Middle Atlantic ERK-4425 44-space deep standalone rack
4 Middle Atlantic ERK-1825 18-space equipment racks
1 NTI UNIMUX-4X8-U KVM switch
2 Panasonic PT-D7700U DLP projectors w/zoom lens
2 Panasonic PT-F100NTU 3200 lumen XGA projectors (Conference Room)
1 Panasonic AV-HS300 HD switcher/mixer
1 Pioneer BDP-HD1 Blu-ray player
1 Pioneer DVD-V8000 DVD player
1 RGB Spectrum MediaWall 2000 processor
3 Samsung DVD-V9650 DVD/VHS players
4 Samsung 244T-Silver 24" preview monitor
6 Shure SM58 mics
2 Shure SLX24/SM58 wireless mic systems w/HH mic
2 Shure SLX4 wireless receivers
2 Shure SLX1 transmitters
2 Shure WL51B cardioid lavalier mics
1 Shure UA844 antenna dist. system
4 Shure EZB/O omni ceiling mics
4 Sony EVI-HD1HD PTZ cameras
1 Symetrix 8X8DSP expandable signal processing
2 Symetrix Breakin12 SymNet expansion boxes
1 Symetrix BREAKOUT12 output DA expander/12 line out
1 Tandberg 113540 6000 MXP base
1 Tandberg 113827NPP portable 6000 MXP natural pres
1 Tandberg 1138573 portable 6000 MXP 2MBPS/6MBPS
1 TASCAM CD-RW901SL CD recorder
1 Westlake Cat5e 96-port patchpanel

List is edited from information supplied by Avidex Systems, Inc.


Avidex AV
Avidex AV, headquartered in Bellevue WA, is a leading provider of audio and video solutions. Its qualified staff provides full design, installation, integration, training and support services for a wide range of products and systems tailored to the customer’s application. Avidex now covers the west coast, with offices from Southern California to Bellevue WA. The people at Avidex have the background and the knowledge to provide customers with the best possible experience in acquiring professional video and audio products, systems and support solutions.
Information technologies are rapidly changing the audiovisual landscape. As these evolving technologies offer new and powerful capabilities for the customer’s business, they can count on Avidex to present knowledgeable solutions that incorporate the latest in presentation and communication options.

For additional information, go to

Dawn Allcot is a freelance writer specializing in the audiovisual and health and fitness industries.

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