Audio, Digital Signage, Installations, Video

Happy Money: Modern Corporate AV Technologies Unite

Advanced technical and eye-catching AV communications at Happy Money’s corporate campus.

It might seem like an odd time to use the word “happy” as an adjective, but, if you’re reluctant to use that descriptor, then you haven’t yet seen the new office space for Happy Money. The southern California fintech enterprise works to connect borrowers with financial institutions in pursuit of helping customers get rid of credit-card debt—what the startup calls “sad money.” In conceiving the space, planners had an almost-joyous vision of AV as a critical component of intuitive, yet high-functioning, technology that can scale as the company grows.

Reflecting on his early meetings with the company, Todd Elrod, Account Manager at the Los Angeles CA office of AV integrator Spinitar, recalled, “They wanted two things: a lot of video clearly visible throughout the new office space, and [for] the place to feel very high tech.” How those early meetings came about seems like a series of happy accidents. Elrod had heard the company was seeking a new headquarters and, accordingly, sought out the broker for the space, who told him about the company’s desire for lots of AV systems. Then, the owner of Spinitar learned that a friend who is a Technical Director at a large university in the area went to the same church as Happy Money’s IT director. Thus, a serendipitous connection happened.

“We did a rough sketch of my recommendations based on our first few meetings,” Elrod remarked. That became the basis for Spinitar’s more detailed winning bid for the project. Spinitar was awarded the project in August 2019, and it completed the project in March 2020. With a large budget dedicated just to the project’s AV elements, it was quite a win.

Happy Money, valued at $495 million, has announced alliances with the three major credit unions and other financial companies to provide debt-elimination loans to consumers, according to Forbes. The startup has facilitated $1 billion in debt-elimination loans since its founding in 2009. Not surprisingly, the company wanted happiness expressed—both visually and aurally— throughout its new, 70,000-square-foot suite of offices, meeting rooms and other tech spaces in Tustin CA, a city in Orange County. “They really wanted this space to be as tech-forward as possible, with modern technology visible in most areas; they didn’t want the blinking lights just to be in the tech closet,” Elrod said. “So, every room [and] every huddle space has at least a 55-inch [Samsung] video display. There are digital-signage displays everywhere. And even the all-hands meeting room has LED stage-type lighting that can change colors.” The team is happy, and they want the world to know it.

Happy Money’s reception area bespeaks not only the company’s joy-infused attitude—notice the prominent logo placement—but also its commitment to investing in integrated AV technology

Rooms To Grow

Happy Money’s offices include two main conference rooms, one of which is divisible; 19 huddle rooms; three training rooms; a large all-hands space for group meetings; and a game room. The aesthetic is clean, modern and brilliantly white, with eye-catching splashes of pastel colors on couches and other furniture. And, although the video screens and the speakers are clearly visible, the cables and wiring aren’t. (One of the guiding dictums of the project was to keep the spaces streamlined and uncluttered.) That was accomplished by using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth throughout. And, where cables had to be seen, they were painted white.

The AV in Happy Money is deeply entrenched with the building’s IT infrastructure, Chris Spangler, Spinitar’s Systems Designer on the project, explained. “With the newer AV technology products and systems, many more AV devices communicate over IT infrastructure, so we have to do considerably more coordination with the client’s IT department for things like networkswitch management for opening and bridging AV and IT networks.”

He continued, “For instance, the Crestron AirMedia system requires Wi-Fi to operate, so it has to have access to both the managed AV network as well as the client’s wireless network.”

Spangler said that, typically, once all cabling is run and port management has been tested and established, he updates the network lists and hands them over to the client’s IT department. That process applied to the Happy Money project, as well.

Audio is distributed, including wirelessly via a Sonos system that pumps music throughout the offices and hallways. Biamp/Cambridge QT-100 and QT-600 sound masking, which is deployed in conference rooms and other meeting spaces, is used as much to achieve a uniform ambient experience as to protect the privacy of conversations.

The larger of the two main conference rooms, known as the Movement Experience Center, has a pair of 2×2 videowalls, each composed of four Samsung 55-inch LED displays. A conference table can be split to make the entire room divisible into two discrete sections, each with its own videowall and Vaddio RoboSHOT 30 camera systems. The smaller conference room holds its own, boasting an 82-inch Samsung display and a Vaddio RoboSHOT30. That one is far less formal, furnished with beanbag couches and chairs. Users are within voice reach of the Shure MXA910 ceiling microphone array, and content input into the rooms’ screens is via Crestron’s AirMedia wireless system. Meanwhile, videoconferencing is accessed through a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and an Intel NUC computer.

“The challenge here was making the room a true conference room, but without a traditional table. Because where would you put the BYOD [bring-your-own-device] ports and power plugs otherwise?” Elrod asked rhetorically. “The wireless access to the video and audio is what makes it work.”

The large conference room is videoconferencing ready, with unobtrusive integrated technology that doesn’t hamper the comfortable, casual aesthetic.

4×4 Large Videowall

The all-hands meeting room, rimmed with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, had its own challenges—namely, making its 4×4 large videowall, composed of 16 Samsung 55-inch displays, crisply viewable in a high-ambient-light environment. Spinitar asked that Happy Money have the windows tinted; meanwhile, the integrator ordered anti-glare overlays for the displays. In the end, that combination resolved the issue.

The room also has a slight incline at one end, creating a raked seating area, something that could have presented a problem for complete audio coverage. The solution was four JBL CBT 70J columnar loudspeakers, which provide line-arraytype coverage of the space vertically. Given the room’s large windows, acoustics could also have been an issue; however, according to Elrod, a Biamp TesiraFORTÉ DSP unit allowed a technician to tune the room permanently.

The 19 huddle rooms use Crestron Mercury tabletop units as their videoconferencing platforms, connecting with the Crestron DigitalMedia and AirMedia systems used throughout the installation.

“These are almost completely wireless rooms,” Elrod observed. “They use the Mercury unit to access the microphones and cameras, a NUC for video, and AirMedia and BYOD to move content into the displays.” Three training rooms are similarly equipped.

And no tech company would be complete without a game room. Happy Money’s has an 82-inch Samsung display for workers to wind down after a busy day with a round of “Fortnite.” However, there is also a very analog ping-pong table in the room, as well as HDMI wallplates from Crestron and Liberty AV Solutions to connect laptops.

The office’s three training rooms are essentially the same as the conference rooms, but they use Crestron Huddly GO cameras that are designed specifically for conferencing applications. These mixed-frame cameras, which incorporate an ultrawide viewing angle, combine the Crestron Mercury tabletop conference system with Zoom Rooms software to create a complete, collaboration-enabled videoconferencing solution. They are, however, natively USB 3.0 devices. According to Spangler, the team first tried to update the cameras through firmware to function with USB 2.0 extenders, but the solution wasn’t satisfactory. Instead, Spinitar pulled all-new active USB cables, which could provide the training rooms with the HD video resolution desired.

The larger of the two main conference rooms, known as the Movement Experience Center, has a pair of 2×2 videowalls, each composed of four
Samsung 55-inch displays.

A Similar Challenge

A similar challenge occurred as regards the Movement Experience Center and the Executive Conference Room. “Even though USB 2.0 extenders should have been sufficient with the Vaddio cameras in these spaces, we weren’t getting the result that we wanted,” Spangler admitted. “By deciding to go with the USB 3.0 extenders, it quadrupled the original cost, but it was necessary to achieve the higher resolution we were looking for in those spaces.” He continued, “Getting certain devices paired with the right cabling or extender to achieve the synchronization and image quality we wanted was one of the basic challenges of the entire project, since almost every space had a camera.”

The minimalist look and the relatively open layout of the offices often meant there were no walls on which to hang video displays, despite the office’s digital-signage-heavy integration. In several instances, Spinitar resolved that challenge by attaching piping to the building’s I-beams and other structural elements. “Sometimes, we could just install a Chief mount; other times, we had to head to Home Depot and pick up some pipes,” Elrod recalled.

A 4×4 videowall was planned for the all-hands room, but its inner wall wasn’t structurally robust enough to attach a mount and screens to directly. Instead, Spinitar’s integration team had to consult with Orange County codes inspectors and attach the assembly to the outer wall of the building. In addition, Spinitar worked with rp Visual Solutions to develop some custom mounting solutions. “As clients want their office spaces to be more and more unique, we’ve had to become more creative about how and where AV components can be installed,” Elrod observed.

Nick Singleton served as Project Manager for Spinitar on the Happy Money job. He came to the AV industry last year, following 25 years in the food-service management industry. According to Singleton, the experience translates remarkably well to AV integration, with its diverse array of offerings and its tight deadlines. In the vein of more prosaic obstacles, the integration team had to contend with USB-extender challenges to provide the picture quality necessary for the client. “There were many extenders that needed to be installed to all the conference-room endpoints in this project,” Singleton remarked. “We saw the problem begin in the smaller huddle rooms. We’d install the extender and everything looked fine, but, as we moved on, we’d find ourselves coming back to one of the rooms we’d already worked on to find the camera video was not synchronizing.”

Ultimately, it took three rounds, using different brands and models of extender, before the team found the right product— one that maintained proper synchronization and produced the high-resolution image quality required for each room of the project. “It slowed us down a bit in the beginning, but, in the end, it all worked out,” Singleton affirmed. Citing the diversity of the systems, he noted that not every extender model was optimal for each individual aspect of the project.

The soundmasking systems, used here to create a neutral ambience to help keep office noise from interfering with others in the call centers (and vice versa), represented a major element of the AV installation. Because many of the spaces in the office complex have an open-ceiling design, the emitters of the Biamp/Cambridge QT-600 and QT-100 systems required mounting solutions that were more complex.

“The emitters are similar to 70V speakers in that they can daisy-chain together; however, they use an Ethernet cable in place of a traditional speaker cable,” Spangler explained. “There are hundreds of both 70V pendant speakers and emitters in this system. Since they are all daisy-chained on their respective cables, if there’s one bad termination or cable, that entire part of the system can go down. Thankfully, when we tested the system, there were zero errors. So, that’s a testament to our field installers, who were working on a very tight schedule.”

Recognizing the trend toward small-group meeting spaces, Happy Money offers its employees huddle-room environments equipped for videoconferencing and more.

COVID-19 Enters The Picture

The Happy Money project was close to finishing when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis descended on the US. Spangler recalled the moment that the offices emptied, as employees were asked to work from home. “They nearly wiped out two Apple Stores,” he joked, citing workers being given Mac laptops and sent to work remotely. Spinitar’s technicians remained onsite, finishing the project; naturally, they hewed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines by wearing masks and maintaining social distance. (In addition, several Happy Money executives used the new offices at times during March and April, also observing CDC guidelines.)

The videoconferencing and other collaboration platforms met those executives’ needs, as well as those of the rest of the team, from the start of the pandemic, Spangler affirmed. Fewer employees being onsite helped the project’s coda go more smoothly. However, between the pandemic and various change orders, some overlapping of trade workers onsite occurred; this resulted in the discovery of some accidental product damages. “It’s something that happens on complex jobsites where a lot of different trades are trying to get their work done at the same time,” Spangler said diplomatically.

Spangler cited the all-hands space, in particular: There, an entirely new physical substructure, including low-voltage infrastructure, had to be put into the space to accommodate its new videowall. That meant drywall workers, painters and electricians competing for space with AV technicians. “[Several displays] were damaged when we were all working 10-hour days during the last few weeks of the project,” he recalled. Spangler noted that the AV industry is especially vulnerable to such incidents because, often, it has to wait to do much of its work until other trades are close to finishing, or have completed, theirs. “It can be a delicate situation, and sometimes you just have to absorb some of that with the end goal of getting the project done right,” he opined.

Setting aside the temporary challenges that COVID-19 has caused businesses across the globe, Happy Money’s management team was pleased that it opted for advanced collaboration and conferencing systems. “They realized right away that working remotely was going to be the way everyone was going to have to work for now, and they were pleased [to be] ahead of that curve with the conferencing technology they ordered,” Spangler concluded.

ABRIDGED EQUIPMENT

ALL-HANDS MEETING ROOM

1 Biamp TesiraFORTÉ AI digital audio server
1 Crestron DM-NVX-351 DM NVX 4K60 4:4:4 HDR network AV encoder/decoder w/downmixing
1 Crestron HD-TX-101-C-1G-E-W-T DM Lite HDMI-over-CatX wallplate transmitter (white, textured)
1 Crestron TSW-1060-W-S 10.1″ touchscreen (white, smooth)
4 JBL CBT 70J-1-WH Constant Beamwidth Technology 2-way line-array columns w/asymmetrical vertical coves (white)
4 JBL CBT 70JE-1-WH extensions for CBT 70J-1-WH (white)
1 Laird PWRCN20-AB-25 Neutrik powerCON locking 3-pole 20-amp type A to type B power cable (25′)
1 Laird PWRCN-ACIN-15 Neutrik powerCON locking 3-pole 15-amp type A to AC wall-plug power cable (15′)
1 Luxul AGS-1024 24-port gigabit switch
4 Martin by HARMAN RUSH PAR 2 RGBW Zoom static RGBW wash luminaires w/zoom controls
1 Middle Atlantic C5D-SRSR12 rotating sliding rail system for C5 AV credenza rack
1 Middle Atlantic PD-715SC-NS slim power strip (7 outlets, 15A)
1 Middle Atlantic PD-915R rackmount power (9 outlets, 15A, basic surge)
3 Monoprice Select Series DisplayPort 1.2 cables (15′)
12 Monoprice 3.5mm stereo plug/plug M/M cables (6′, black)
8 Monoprice Flexboot Cat6 Ethernet patch cables (snagless RJ45, stranded, 550MHz, UTP, pure bare copper wire, 24AWG, 75′, black)
1 QSC PLD4.3 power amp w/DSP
1 QSC TouchMix-8 8-channel compact digital mixer
18 Samsung UH55F-E extreme-narrow-bezel videowall displays

CONFERENCE

1 Biamp TesiraFORTÉ DAN VT fixed I/O DSP
1 Blackmagic Design Web Presenter compact desktop device
1 Chief LTM1U large Fusion micro-adjustable tilt wall mount
1 Crestron AM-200 AirMedia presentation system
1 Crestron DMPS3-4K-150-C 3-Series 4K DigitalMedia presentation system
1 Crestron DM-RMC-4KZ-100-C DigitalMedia 8G+ 4K60 4:4:4 HDR receiver and room controller
1 Crestron SAROS SB-200-P-B Saros sound bar (powered, black)
1 Crestron TSW-1060-FMKT-BBI back box for TSW-1060-W-S flush-mount kit
1 Crestron TSW-1060-W-S 10.1″ touchscreen (white, smooth)
1 Furman Sound PL-PLUSC 15A power conditioner w/lights, voltmeter
1 Liberty AV Solutions/Intelix INT-USB3.1CX USB 3.1 high-performance/backward-compatible extender set
1 Luxul AMS-1816P 18-port gigabit switch
1 Middle Atlantic PTRK-21 23″x46″ (DxH) PTRK Series rack
1 Middle Atlantic PTRK-RR21 heavy-gauge 10-32 threaded rack rails (sold as a pair)
1 Samsung QE82R 82″-class 4K ultra-HD smart commercial LED display
1 Vaddio RoboSHOT 30E USB HD PTZ camera

HUDDLE ROOM

19 Chief LTM1U large Fusion micro-adjustable tilt wall mounts
19 Crestron CCS-UC-1-AV W/PS Crestron Mercury tabletop UC videoconference systems w/basic cameras
23 Crestron HD-EXT-USB-2000-C 4K HDMI and USB over HDBaseT extenders
2 Huddly HUDIQ1 IQ AI-powered camera kits
19 Samsung QB65R 65″-class HDR 4K ultra-HD commercial smart LED displays

MDF

1 Biamp TesiraFORTÉ AVB AI digital audio server
1 Biamp/Cambridge Qt 100 soundmasking generator
1 Biamp/Cambridge Qt 600 multi-zone soundmasking generator
1 Biamp/Cambridge RM-QT rackmount kit
4 BrightSign HD1024 expanded I/O players
1 Crestron DMF-CI-8 DigitalMedia card chassis (8 slots)
1 Crestron DM-NVX-D30C DM NVX 4K60 4:4:4 HDR network AV decoder card
7 Crestron DM-NVX-E30C DM NVX 4K60 4:4:4 HDR network AV encoder cards
1 Crestron PRO3 3-Series control system
1 Crestron TSW-1060-RMK-2 rackmount kit for TSW-1060-W-S
1 Crestron TSW-1060-W-S 10.1″ touchscreen (white, smooth)
1 Crown DCi 4|300 4-channel, 300W @ 4Ω analog power amp (70V/100V)
1 Crown DCi 8|300 8-channel, 300W @ 4Ω analog power amp (70V/100V)
1 Furman Sound PL-PLUSC 15A power conditioner w/lights, voltmeter
1 Luxul XMS-5248P 52-port gigabit PoE+ L2/L3 managed switch
1 Middle Atlantic MRK-4431-AV 31″x83-1/8″ (DxH) MRK Series rack
4 Sonos Connect wireless receiver components for streaming music

MOVEMENT EXPERIENCE CENTER

1 Audinate Dante AVIO 2×2 USB I/O adapter for Dante audio network
1 Biamp TesiraFORTÉ DAN VT fixed I/O DSP
2 Chief CMA110W 8″ ceiling plates (white)
2 Chief CMA115W 6″ ceiling plates (white)
3 Chief CMS0305W 3′ to 5′ adjustable extension columns (white)
1 Chief CMS0608W 6′ to 8′ adjustable extension column (white)
2 Chief RPAU RPA universal and custom ceiling-projector mounts
2 Crestron AM-200 AirMedia presentation systems
2 Crestron AMP-1200-70 single-channel modular power amps (200W, 70V)
1 Crestron DMPS3-4K-350-C 3-Series 4K DigitalMedia presentation system
2 Crestron DM-RMC-4KZ-100-C DigitalMedia 8G+ 4K60 4:4:4 HDR receivers and room controllers
2 Crestron DM-TX-4K-100-C-1G-W-T wallplate 4K DigitalMedia 8G+ transmitters (white, textured)
1 Crestron PW-5430DUS high-efficiency power pack
12 Crestron SAROS PD6T-W-T-EACH Saros 6.5″ 2-way pendant speakers (white, textured, single)
2 Crestron TSW-1060-FMKT-BBI back boxes for TSW-1060 flush-mount kits
2 Crestron TSW-1060-W-S 10.1″ touchscreens (white, smooth)
3 Crestron USB-EXT-2 USB-over-twisted-pair extenders
1 Furman Sound PL-PLUSC 15A power conditioner w/lights, voltmeter
2 Liberty AV Solutions/Intelix INT-USB3.1CX USB 3.1 high-performance/ backward-compatible extender sets
1 Luxul AMS-2624P 26-port/24 PoE+ gigabit managed switch
1 Middle Atlantic PD-715SC-NS slim power strip (7 outlets, 15A)
1 Middle Atlantic PTRK-21 23″x46″ (DxH) PTRK Series rack
1 Middle Atlantic PTRK-RR21 heavy-gauge 10-32 threaded rack rails (sold as a pair)
8 Samsung UH55F-E extreme-narrow-bezel videowall displays
2 Shure MXA910W ceiling array mics
2 Vaddio RoboSHOT 30E USB HD PTZ cameras

OPEN OFFICE

3 Chief CMA110W 8″ ceiling plates (white)
2 Chief CMS0608W 6′ to 8′ adjustable extension columns (white)
11 Chief LTM1U large Fusion micro-adjustable tilt wall mounts
3 Chief RLC1 large FIT single ceiling mounts
13 Crestron DM-NVX-351 DM NVX 4K60 4:4:4 HDR network AV encoders/decoders w/downmixing
125 Crestron SAROS PD6T-W-T-EACH Saros 6.5″ 2-way pendant speakers (white, textured, single)
14 Samsung QB65R 65″-class HDR 4K ultra-HD commercial smart LED displays

Abridged list is condensed and edited from information supplied by Spinitar.

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