The Saskatoon Police Service needed state-of-the-art audio and video for its new headquarters, and thanks to the tech-savvy folks at Matrix Video Communications' Saskatoon office, they pulled it off - in spades.
Unlike many of its other projects, however, Matrix wasn't involved from day one. "From our point, it was a 'bid on a design' build," said Matrix' Bill Redekop, who coordinated the project with the SPS. "We didn't design and build, we were just bidding on the products that were needed from their perspective."
"There's lots of audiovisual companies that bid," Saskatoon Police Staff Sergeant Susan Grant said, "but…when we heard (Matrix) got the contract, we were happy because we worked with them before on our old headquarters building. We knew the people and had a good working relationship already, so we were pretty ecstatic that they won the tender."
Then the hard work began. "It was a very interesting job," Redekop said, noting it included "about 40 smaller meeting rooms which had…multiple inputs going to a single monitor from a single location on a table. We put in Sony IP cameras for all the surveillance parts - and two cameras in each interview room."
"There's a lot of audiovisual equipment (here)," said Grant, "from your typical classroom area to a parade room where…we roll out our roll call kind of thing and tell the guys what's happening - and we have an operational meeting every month (that's) which requires a lot of A/V." Grant said they needed three screens running simultaneously, web-enabled to offer access to such online features as Google Maps "to identify problem areas in Saskatoon as it's happening, not waiting six months," she said. "You need to make sure that all the people at the meeting are really up to date on what's happening so they can make plans to solve problems or put resources into certain areas."
Matrix also equipped the Service's interview rooms, which needed a specific camera that could hook into their FTR (For the Record) recording system. "This is where interrogations go on, or interviews with witnesses or victims, that type of thing," Grant said. "It's important because if that interview goes to court - it could be about a murder or something - so it's super important to make sure it doesn't fail in the middle of an interview because there will be consequences, long reaching consequences potentially. Matrix helped us in a big way there."
The four story building also includes executive areas on the top floor and an executive boardroom where Matrix installed a complete Crestron control system. "We integrated a number of five tabletop cable cubby locations with audio and videoconferencing," Redekop said. "It's pretty elaborate, with a single 65-inch monitor and drop-down electric projection screen for larger presentations. We also installed ceiling speakers." Redekop said there are some 10 other rooms that use a variety of Crestron control systems, operated generally by either wall-mounted five inch or 7-inch touch panels.
Redekop praised Matrix' lead installer/technician, Dwayne Moore, who he said has over 20 years experience in audio/video integration. "He was key in the installation, commissioning and ongoing support," he said, noting that. "with the Crestron programming, was able to create an easy to operate interface for the equipment."
Working with the general contractor meant all the trades had to work together, with Matrix coming in near the end. That could have been a logistical nightmare, but Matrix was ready for it. "We like to be the last people in because we want a clean environment," Redekop said. "So after the cables were pulled, it was just a matter of making sure we coordinated with the rest of the trades - and obviously the owner, the city, had timelines too." Since Matrix brings up the rear, however, they got pushed to meet the timeline needed, but "we were able to do what we said we would, within their budget and they seem to be happy with that. At the end of the day, I think they got what they wanted."
To project liaison Grant, the A/V was only a tiny part in the grand scheme, but she the Service's IT people had to work closely with Matrix. And while some of the work was straightforward, some was anything but. "We have a fitness room with some TV's and stuff in there and an FM system that helps you listen to the TV's on your iPod," Grant said, "but the signal wasn't reaching the centre of the building very well. There's so much steel in this building that trying to get an FM signal to work properly is kind of difficult." She said Matrix is working to fix that, noting that "Matrix is really good at customer service. You can call them up and say you can't get something to work and they're here that day or the next day. They are really good that way."
Knowing now what she didn't know at the project's beginning, Staff Sergeant Grant said that, at least when it comes to working with Matrix, she wouldn't change a thing. "The product's great, the service was great, it's easy to use," she said. "I'm sure when they speak to the IT guys they speak IT language, but when they speak to me they know I'm not really fluent in that and explained things really, really well. It's been great."