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U Hawaii Takes Videoconferencing HD To Support Distance Ed Systemwide

The University of Hawaii has upgraded its videoconferencing setup for high-definition production across all of its campuses. The system, which encompasses three universities, seven community colleges, and five education centers spread across multiple islands, reported the new set of hardware will specifically enhance the distance learning experience for U Hawaii's 60,000 students, about 12 percent of whom participate in interactive telepresence classes at local campuses.

U Hawaii invested in Panasonic gear for the upgrade.

"Because of the geographical constraints of our island state, distance learning is a high priority for the university," said Royd Liu, video operations manager for Academic Technologies. "With the Panasonic HE50 series, we have moved into the forefront of HD telepresence delivery in education."

Information Technology Services' investment the following:

  • 17 AW-HE50S HD integrated pan/tilt/zoom cameras with HD/SD-SDI outputs, which can be controlled remotely;
  • Six AW-HS50N sub-compact live switchers with built-in MultiViewers;
  • Six AW-RP50 remote camera controllers;
  • 94 professional-caliber displays for classrooms, control rooms and production work, including six 65-inch, 38 58-inch, and 11 50-inch plasma displays, 32 47-inch LCD displays, and seven 17-inch LCD production monitors

U Hawaii uses a Polycom RealPresence videoconferencing system.

According to Liu, one consideration during the evaluation of vendor options was system compactness. At the same time, the equipment needed to have "broadcast production quality--a must as we also use the equipment to produce live cable shows that air on the university's statewide public access channel."

The Panasonic switcher impressed Liu with its small size and its affordable cost. The HS50N weighs just over four pounds and includes a viewing program to display multiple camera images. "With features like downstream keyer (DSK), an aux bus, transitions, and a very attractive price point, the HS50N seemed ideal. Offering the switcher along with the HE50S camera, which has pan/tilt/zoom and full HD image quality, and the RP50 controller, Panasonic was able to provide one complete solution for us when we had thought we would have to deal with three discrete manufacturers."

The gear has been deployed in four production studios on the Mānoa campus, each outfitted with three HE50S cameras and six displays. An HS50 switcher, RP50 controller, and LH1710 production monitor reside in an adjacent control room. Three additional studios have been set up at Maui College, which can originate and receive instruction.

"We have freed up space in our classrooms and effectively reduced our carbon footprint statewide," Liu noted. "With the HS50N's MultiViewer, which allows us to view up to 10 images on a single display, we now need only one monitor per control room, which realizes impressive savings in terms of equipment requirements and power consumption."

The choice of professional displays instead of large format televisions, Liu added, addressed two concerns. "In our 30-foot by 40-foot classrooms we needed pristine-quality viewing for all the students, which the displays' wide off-axis viewing angles provide. Moreover, we're running the displays up to 10 hours a day, six days a week, and required rugged, dependable performance. It was clear that Panasonic met our rigorous requirements at the most affordable price."

Editor's note: This article has been modified since its original publication to correct a factual error related to the specific brand of certain equipment in use at U Hawaii. [Last updated July 12, 2012 at 9:22 p.m.] --David Nagel


About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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