Processing and Control for Professional AV Installations

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Symetrix Enables the Call of the Wild at Omaha Zoo

Omaha, NE:

Named the “world’s best zoo” by TripAdvisor in 2014, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is Nebraska’s biggest paid-attendance attraction. Exhibits include one of the world’s largest indoor rainforest exhibits, the world’s largest indoor desert (housed in the world’s largest glazed geodesic dome), the largest cat complex in North America, and the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp. The zoo offers a wealth of educational programs and day camps and is deeply involved in research and conservation. Founded in 1894, it offers up-to-date facilities and A/V technologies, including networked video displays and digital signage, extensive sound effects, and more.

“All audio processing and management for the zoo’s systems is done with Symetrix DSP,” offers Tim Burkhart of Omaha systems integrators Midwest Sound and Lighting, which designed and installed the A/V systems. “We use a few older Symetrix DSPs but mostly we use Radius 12×8 processors to manage aquarium and zoo sound effects, audio for the conference rooms, and a lot more. Some systems are distributed throughout the zoo via their network, so there are Symetrix processors all over the place.”

Above all, the zoo requires bulletproof reliability. “The systems have to work every day,” Burkhart agrees. “We’ve put a lot Symetrix DSPs into churches, schools, and so on, and they have always been absolutely reliable. That’s a big reason we chose Symetrix exclusively for the Henry Doorly Zoo.”

The Alaskan Adventure exhibit is a splash grounds for kids that features computer-controlled sprays and spouts and more than 75 bronze sculptures. In addition to simulating visual water effects made by whales, salmon, sea lions, and the like, it offers associated sounds, delivered in sync with the water effects using Symetrix Radius DSPs and an AMX control system.

Symetrix DSP enables a better visitor experience throughout the zoo, Burkhart explains. “The zoo has a lot of education programs in different areas. Let’s say a zookeeper is talking about the elephants, using a wireless mic. When he talks, the background music is ducked in that zone of speakers, so you only hear the zookeeper. The music comes back up when the zookeeper finishes. Nobody has to push buttons or think about the controls; we’ve automated everything we can, so people just interact normally, and the system works.”

Symetrix DSP was key to all of this. “The logic capabilities and the many modules for the Symetrix DSP made it easy to set up; it didn’t take long,” insists Burkhart. “With most other DSPs, you wouldn’t have those modules, or they wouldn’t be as capable of doing what we needed. We have not found anything we wanted to do that was impossible with the Radius.”

In addition to audio processing, Symetrix DSPs handle time-based event and energy management, switching things off and on according to the daily schedule. Indeed, versatility is one of the Radius’ attractions for Burkhart. “We take advantage of the many Symetrix modules to do an assortment of things, while providing easy-to-use controls for the customer. We can manage components that are thousands of feet away from each other, and we can distribute audio over the network using Dante.”

Burkhart greatly appreciates the Radius’ combination of deep features and ease of programming. “The Radius is so simple to program,” he concludes, “if I can dream it up, I can probably make it happen.”