Buford, GA—July 2018… The song lyrics notwithstanding, nobody involved in the AV systems project at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands had time to spend wasting away. This is a tale of hard work and technological derring do in which Gainesville, Georgia, systems integrators dB Integrations and network AV solutions company Visionary Solutions overcame great challenges at the lakeside entertainment complex.
“We were introduced to the project on April 4,” recalls dB Integrations sales consultant Jason Block, “and the grand opening was May 5. I developed a design within two days. But when we went back on site, we saw construction for additional bars and other facilities we hadn’t known about, and there have been a variety of change orders since. Yet come May 5, Margaritaville had audio and video. I have never seen a crew work as efficiently and amazingly as our eight-man install team. In addition to making products that are crucial to the system, Visionary Solutions provided support that made them heroes.”
Margaritaville at Lanier Islands includes restaurants, tiki bars, and walk-up food and drink concessions, all with a Jimmy Buffett-inspired “Margaritaville” theme, along with boat rentals, cruises, water sports, and more. The new AV system serves the entire water park, including the pool, restaurants, and bars.
The park was equipped with OM2 network fiber before dB Integrations joined the project. “I had originally planned to use a 10 Gb network but OM2 can support multimode 10 Gb for only 30 yards, and my point-to-point switches, where we’re jumping fiber-to-fiber, have to be much further apart,” Block explains. “There wasn’t time or budget to pull new fiber, so we had to go with a 1 Gb network. The Visionary Solutions encoders and decoders can handle 4K video at under 1GbE per stream; from there we just needed to account for the number of simultaneous streams across the uplinks between switches.”
The LandShark Bar and Grill, an important attraction, is equipped with 14 TV displays indoors, plus a large LED wall on the outside face. The new Paradise Beach Cantina has one TV display, and the new Beach Bar—an open-air bar with a wooden roof—features two pole mounted displays. The larger Tiki Bar boasts eight TV displays. Margaritaville’s wave pool already had an LED wall but it wasn’t working until dB Integrations’ video engineer reprogrammed it.
Across the lake are powerful Danley Sound Labs speakers and a huge 30 x 40-foot Jumbotron LED wall, which had been the only working display before the recent project. The lake also offers a floating stage that’s linked to the audio network.
To feed the video displays, dB Integrations installed 27 Visionary Solutions PacketAV® D4100 switch matrix-routable decoders with Power over Ethernet (PoE). Each display has a D4100 decoder, except the Tiki Bar’s eight TVs, which are served by four D4100s paired with Kramer one-to-two HDMI distribution amps.
Video sources connect to the network using 11 Visionary Solutions Duet encoders with PoE, which also incorporate Dante/AES67 audio. Sources include seven DirecTV boxes, a BrightSign digital signage player that plays custom Margaritaville “lifestyle” videos, and a hot-rodded Windows PC that hosts a playlist-driven media player the staff calls “Screenplay.” Screenplay delivers a customized playlist that includes Jimmy Buffett music and similar music by other artists, combined with video content that complements the music. Screenplay is the main AV source for the water park but the network can deliver video and audio from any source to any destination.
Block designed the network around a QSC Q-SYS Core 110f DSP. “The beauty is that natively, Q-SYS utilizes the AES67 protocol over the network, and the Visionary Solutions Duet encoders can extract audio from the HDMI stream and put it directly into Q-LAN via AES67,” he enthuses. “That allows us to get synchronized audio distribution entry and video distribution entry on one Duet encoder. It’s fantastic integration.”
Another advantage is Visionary Solutions’ integration with Q-SYS Designer software. “You can access the system with a computer but the client mostly accesses it using hardware touch panels,” notes Block. “Visionary Solutions has developed plug-ins for Q-SYS Designer that allow you to manipulate their devices within the Q-SYS environment, so I could enable end users to route video from any source to any display using the touch panels. It’s a lifesaving and beautiful plug-in.”
Block was sold on Visionary Solutions encoders and decoders but he was floored by the company’s service and support. “When we first talked about this system, the Visionary Solutions folks asked about the network, the infrastructure, switches, and so on,” he relates. “They not only recommended the switches, they had us send the switches to them, and they preconfigured the whole system for their encoders and decoders and the Q-SYS Core. They laid the groundwork for our network configuration so it was mostly ready when we got on site. They came through like gangbusters. I was amazed.”
That was just the warmup act. “One Saturday, I got a call from Lanier,” Block recollects. “Nothing was working, audio or video, across the entire park. The way our network works, our master switch is on the other side of the park from our main AV rack, including the Q-SYS Core. Everything relies on the fiber that connects the master switch and the main AV rack. It turned out construction guys were digging and cut that fiber. I called Visionary Solutions, and they logged in and modified the network setup so we could have LandShark up and running over the weekend. When the fiber was fixed, they rebuilt the regular configuration. It was incredible support. I’ve been in the industry for 18 years, and this was a first. The client was already very happy with the system but this went above and beyond. Visionary Solutions saved the day.”