National Videogame Arcade

Designed with the joint aims of recruiting talent into programming/game design and establishing museum of games technology, the UK National Videogame Arcade (NVA) is a unique educational and entertainment resource.

Central to the project is a highly versatile, yet simple to use, technical infrastructure. To provide it, system designer/installer Rob Harris used a selection of Yamaha’s Commercial Installation Solutions systems.

National Videogame Arcade Created as a part of CQ Connect, a European Regional Development Fund-funded programme, the NVA is located close to Nottingham city centre and is backed by the Nottingham Trent University, City Council and Confetti Institute of Creative Technology. It features four floors of playable galleries and a warren of rooms and corridors, as well as a cinema, café and lecture/event space covering more than 3,000m2.

‘It’s a complicated building, basically in two halves with a courtyard in the middle, with each having a variety of different spaces and corridors,’ Harris explains. ‘We needed a system that would effectively route any audio to any room or combination of rooms, but one of the fundamental remits of the design was that the whole system had to be controllable by non-technical users. I was familiar with Yamaha’s DME series digital mixing engines and, having looked at the CIS series, realised they were the only products capable of delivering what was needed.’

National Videogame Arcade

At the heart of the system are a pair of Dante-networked MTX5-D matrix mixers, two redundant network switches, two XMV4280-D and two XMV 8280-D power amplifiers, which drive in excess of 70 Yamaha loudspeakers. Among there are VXC ceiling models, VS4, VS6, VXS5 and VXS8 full-range speaker, plus a selection of VXS10ST subs, all in a mixture of 70V, 100V, 8Ω and 4Ω configurations. Straightforward system control comes from six wall-mounted DCP4V4S wall-mount units, with three PA2030 power amplifiers driving systems in breakout teaching spaces. The system also integrates with existing A/V technology.

The versatility of the Yamaha equipment meant that Harris could devise and install a complex system to satisfy the venue’s requirements, but make the whole thing very easy to control: ‘The combination of the MTX5-Ds and XMV amplifiers is so much better than anything else available, it’s on a different level,’ Harris says. ‘Everything is so configurable – which not only delivered the required flexibility, but also meant we could successfully deliver full system control via the rotary and pushbutton controls of the DCP4V4S units.’

The first requirement was for the two sides of building to be able to run independently, connected by a redundant Dante ‘bus’. Alongside this, the YDIF I/O is used for internal system bussing and routing. This means that different levels of background music can be running in each zone, without affecting the overall system volume setting. At the same time, the system is tied into the building’s fire alarm system, which has to sound at a preset volume in all areas,

National Videogame Arcade In addition to the 100V line ceiling speakers installed throughout for the main system, many of the rooms feature mic/line inputs and pairs of 8Ω VXS loudspeakers for ‘more heavyweight stuff when needed’. Any input source in the building was also required to be able to access any of the loudspeakers in any other area, or combination of areas.

‘The physical inputs in each area are almost like stage ties in a venue,’ Harris explains. ‘To achieve this, the system has a lot of analogue patching deeply integrated with the digital network. For example, a presentation can be done in one area using the local inputs and its 8Ω loudspeakers, but the audio can be also routed anywhere, if required.

‘Another example is that the local panel in the café allows a microphone to be plugged in to make an announcement and have a local iPod for background music. And that announcement and/or music can be routed to anywhere else in the entire complex. There is also an announcement mic in reception thatcan address the entire building – we used every single ducker in the system to achieve that. The whole remit was to be super-flexible, with the ability to quickly patch anything in.’

This was complicated by the need for any requirement to be easily managed by non-technical members of staff – or even visitors: ‘The system has so many different uses that a huge amount of processing is needed. People think that pressing a button on one of the DCP4V4S wall units is just switching a microphone on and off, but it’s also causing the system to set compressors, EQ, gain levels, inputs, outputs and so on. And that’s all going on behind the scenes, without anybody being aware of it. Nearly all the available sends, Dante channels and DSP are being used. The system is also fully redundant and has facilities like automated, scheduled overnight amplifier shutdowns and switchovers.

National Videogame Arcade ‘It is also configured so that I can do most of the technical support remotely. I have secure access and, on one occasion, configured the system for an event on my iPhone while sat in the pub.’

Although all the system’s DSP and routing is done in the background, the educational remit of the NVA has meant that all the technical infrastructure and wiring is deliberately kept in the open. Dubbed the Axonic Cascade, the wiring is colour coded for its different uses and visitors are encouraged to observe it, likening its routes to nerves in the human body.

‘The technical systems – power, audio, video, fire alarm, networking and so on are the lifeblood of the building,’ Harris says. ‘Having it all visible means we can explain how it works in a relatable way to visitors, helping them to understand the principles of networks and programming.’

The flexibility of the CIS equipment means that the system has potential for expansion, which is expected in due course. But for now, the NVA is content with what the installation makes possible. ‘The audio system is one of the things we’re proudest of about the building,’ confirms NVA co-founder, Iain Simons. ‘Rob and Yamaha Commercial Audio Europe – plus around five miles of cabling – have delivered something remarkable.’

‘It’s a very unusual system and I think it’s probably doing more in terms of processing and routing than any installation in any other venue I’ve been involved with. I’m really happy with how versatile and easy to use it is,’ Harris closes. ‘We have teenagers who have never used a sound system before running events from small wall panels. Importantly, it also sounds great – the speakers are really well voiced. And, despite the complexity, it has worked flawlessly from day one. As you’d expect from Yamaha, it’s really reliable.’


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