Next time you are driving south on the N1 remember to glance to your left as you pass under Beyers Naude Avenue. You will see an imposing structure rising up from the banks of the Fairland Spruit like a giant ocean liner. If you think that First National Bank’s Fairlands Campus is spectacular, then you will be totally blown away by the Da Vinci boardroom contained within that elegant exterior.

The Da Vinci boardroom was not part of the architects’ original design, but in late 2013 the need for a multi-functional boardroom arose, and another space was converted into a boardroom. FNB Online gave Paul Lowther, CEO of Lowther Communications, the commission to handle the AV side of the project; in particular the control and distribution of multiple sources of Video and Audio with Teleconferencing. “Part of the brief was to provide for both analogue and digital inputs to the seated delegates,’ says Paul “so we provided simple to operate flip-top access points for laptops’. Paul’s engineers integrated a push-button into each of the flip-tops; these push-buttons control and toggle between various functions and inputs, simply by holding them in for longer or shorter periods. The desk mount flip-tops offer HDMI, VGA, dual LAN and dual 15Amp power points.

The perfectly square room and table design, with seating for 26 people, posed its own challenges regarding the placement of a screen. So Paul and his team – relying on over 22 years of experience in the AV industry – took the unusual step of installing a 65-inch display along each of the four walls. “This way everyone can stay facing forward, everyone gets a good view of the presentation and no-one gets a crick in his neck’ says Paul.

Paul’s team also had to provide teleconferencing and audio recording services, and chose to use the Clearone Interact Pro Processors with an integrated telephone hybrid. This system perfectly managed all the audio requirements and was extremely easy to set up. It also ensures that no echo or voice feedback would be experienced by the delegates.

To complement and control all the AV signals and processing, the team included a mix of Crestron Control Processors (the CP3), combined with the Kramer Electronics range of signal processing and distribution equipment. Kramer HDMI to Cat6 converters were used to simplify cable reticulation between the equipment rack and the display screens.

One of the technical requirements was that all signals to the screens had to be HD, so the team used the Kramer Scaler VP435, with the added bonus that it also managed all the HDMI digital signalling and handshaking protocols to obtain standardised output resolution.

The accompanying picture shows that the Da Vinci boardroom is a beautifully appointed venue, but the true measure of its usefulness is how users experience it. Lowther Communications need not fear – the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Paul glows when he recalls: “It was reported to me that Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of FNB Online, is absolutely delighted’.

Lowther Communications have since been commissioned to fully upgrade WesBank’s executive boardroom (which is in the same building) from analogue to digital standard. Like Leonardo da Vinci, Paul will have to draw on his powers of design and imagination to top himself.