Top-End AV for an Iconic Brand
Mercedes me Melbourne is the seventh such concept store of its kind to be rolled out worldwide and offers guests the opportunity to engage with Mercedes-Benz like never before. Partnering with Melbourne coffee institution St. ALi, the hip venue is designed to go from café and showroom to night spot at the touch of an iPad, and it’s got more than enough tech grunt to do it.
The ‘Mercedes me’ concept is to provide an engaging, creative environment to interact with the brand, without it being a sales-focussed car showroom. Over a large, two story space designed by Melbourne architects Jackson Clement Burrows, visitors can enjoy arguably Australia’s best coffee, browse the history of Mercedes-Benz on the interactive digital touchpoints, attend ‘Meet the Maker’ sessions with local artisans, or simply pick up a book and enjoy‘The Library’ space.
At night however, Mercedes me comes alive as a versatile event space and shines a light on key areas such as Art, Food, Fashion, Sport, Design and Innovation.
There’s a fully DMX controlled lighting system, truss and spare chain motors, and a mighty EAW Avalon nightclub PA, the first of its kind in Australia. There’s patch points everywhere for analogue or Dante audio, and lighting control. The venue can play host to fashion shows, DJs, product launches and more, and is extremely external production friendly.
“Our brief was to be out of the ordinary. Unusual, and technical, but user friendly and seamless,” said Bernie Tan-Hayes, Director at engineering consultancy Point of View.
“We talked to Mercedes-Benz, and looked at the other Mercedes me stores worldwide. Their technical brief outlined elements that appear in the stores, like video walls, and performance criteria for control systems. Beyond that, they were totally open to our ideas.”
One of the more arresting ideas made real by Point of View and integrator Programmed is the ‘garage door’. A functioning roller door, it’s made of eight panels of Gauzy Smartglass, which turn opaque when a current is applied. Dataton’s Watchout activates the glass via DMX and pixel maps content to the panels via an Epson laser projector, which means the panels can look like they’re running eight independent videos, or be used as one big screen, and indeed anything in between. For a Mercedes-Benz product launch, it’s perfect – run the video, big fanfare, the door goes clear and rolls up, and out comes the car.
Roll The Video
Fifteen Samsung screens form a video wall on the ground floor, running content from BrightSign media players, controlled by Datapath FX4 display controllers, and distributed by AMX SVSI on an Allied Telesis network.
“This was our first time using SVSI, but Programmed have a lot of experience with it, so we had no trouble,” continued Bernie. “We think it’s more future-proof and expandable than a traditional matrix, and the client agreed.” The Garage features an interactive display of Mercedes-Benz history, with eighteen model cars mounted in display cases.
“Under each car there’s a button,” said Ry Wilton, site foreman and project manager for Programmed. This activates a video to be played from a PC in the rack, over the network, to a screen and sound bar opposite. The content management is set-up so that the staff can change the models and videos themselves, which they do monthly.”
Stripes Make It Go Faster
Apart from displaying slick content, the screens throughout the space can be put to work as both sales and performance tools.
“Some of the screens used for digital signage also have touch overlays,” Ry continued. “They can run interactive content from Mercedes-Benz that allows you to design and customise your own car. You can design a GT3, and then you can order it – at the push of a button, the screen can mirror to the staff’s iPad and they can get you a quote.
“Upstairs in The Loft, we’ve set up the screens to be used during the ‘Meet the Maker’ weekly sessions. For example, there was a session recently with the Latte Art world champion. The feed from the Panasonic camera mounted in the ceiling was displayed on all the screens so every audience member could see what he was doing.”
What really makes the install at Mercedes me stand out is its capability to work in ‘nightclub mode.’ “It’s got a lot of PA for a coffee shop!” joked Bernie Tan-Hayes. “The brief said it needed to operate as a nightclub, and they were deadly serious. Mercedes-Benz wanted a house system that could run parties and fashion shows.”
In The Club
“I did an initial design at Bernie’s request,” said PAVT’s Ben Clarke. “We decided on an EAW Avalon system because of its high output and small size, and because the look is in keeping with the architecture.
“The system is many distributed boxes as opposed to a smaller number of high powered units. Because we’re not blasting everywhere, the smaller speakers are not turned up as loud, and by the time the sound hits the many reflective surfaces, the acoustic issues aren’t as severe.”
The main PA consists of four EAW Avalon CLUB four mid-high boxes supplemented by two EAW SB2001 subs built into the car platform. Dozens of small EAW DC80 fill boxes cover the rest of the space, accompanied by EAW SB150ZP subwoofers in the loft, and the whole rig is powered by six Powersoft Quatrocanali amplifiers.
Processing for the Avalon is handled by an EAW UX8800, with additional DSP for the rest of the system handled by a QSC Q-SYS 110F. Audio runs on a Dante network, with Attero Tech patchpoints throughout the space. Sennheiser radio mics are supplied for presentations.
Get The Party Started
For lighting, there’s a permanent truss in the roof and six half-ton chain motors ready to rig external production. In addition to the traditional architectural lighting, a variety of fixtures from Philips Selecon, including PL1s, are in the grid. There’s also RCL downlights, an LED fixture with pan and tilt functions, enabling them to be focussed.
When external lighting control patches into the DMX patch points, a DMX priority switcher detects the input and overrides the architectural system. All systems are controlled via an AMX NX-2200 run from the staff’s iPads.
“Programmed made a custom app for the iPad, and it’s beautifully done,” complemented Bernie Tan-Hayes. “The programming of the whole control system, which takes all of these bespoke high-end systems and synchronises their operation via a button push on an iPad, was exceptionally well done. It was down to a good team and a great client.
“These kind of clients don’t come along very often. They really went to great lengths to support the result.”