As Clear as Crystal - Leading edge Convention centre with NEXUS

Changing for the better: Vietnam’s vibrant capital Hanoi is now a bustling metropolis with many attractions and a new highlight. In an extensive parkland setting the National Convention Centre, NCC, opened its doors in 2006. It is by far the largest and most modern convention centre of its kind in the country. For superb sound and clear speech the National Convention Centre relies on an optical network with many satellites 

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Long, polished limos glide past, helicopters circle overhead and vigilant security guards are everywhere. The atmosphere is electric. High ranking visitors, among them Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush, have assembled at the NCC for the APEC Summit, held in Vietnam for the first time in November 2006. This was an event of enormous importance for Vietnam, which had recently received the immensely significant confirmation of its admission to the World Trade Organisation. Therefore, hosting the Summit offered a unique opportunity to showcase the country’s rapidly growing economy to the entire world.

Lofty Aspirations – Not Only for Audio

Vietnam has set itself ambitious goals. In 2010 the capital, Hanoi, is to achieve the status of a modern industrialised town. This vision is being pursued vigorously and using high-tech means. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the newly built NCC was designed and constructed according to the most demanding international standards and with the participation of many foreign companies. The architects, the site managers, air-conditioning suppliers and the construction engineers came from Germany and with STAGETEC also the digital audio networking supplier.
The specification required the installation of an integrated and reliable system providing not only the necessary flexibility but also outstanding audio quality and a high degree of redundancy. The NEXUS with its flexible audio-network topology is perfectly suited to fulfilling these requirements.

A Demanding Network

The classical virtues of the NEXUS make it the ideal solution for a convention-centre environment. In the NEXUS system, communication between units is based entirely on optical fibres. Therefore a NEXUS network simply eliminates the problems inherent with copper wiring. For example, interference or signal deterioration on long cable runs. The modular architecture of the optical network is particularly installation friendly; allowing for significant manpower savings when compared with copper-based speaker and microphone networks. At the NCC, just four thin fibres handle the duplex transmission of 128 audio channels including control data and even provide cabling redundancy!
Another decisive argument for the NEXUS was the converters on the TrueMatch boards, which offer 28-bit resolution and a dynamic range of 153 dB for unsurpassed audio quality. Altogether a total of 64 XMAD TrueMatch microphone-input boards are available at the NCC.

The Heart of the System

Each of the most important rooms such as the Plenary Hall, the Banqueting Hall, the International Conference Room and other meeting rooms is equipped with a dedicated NEXUS Base Device. This provides convenient connectivity to the audio network. The distributed Base Device locations enable, for example, audio signals produced on the Plenary Hall stage to be fed locally into the NEXUS and routed over a MADI interface to a third-party console for mix down.
NEXUS also feeds the sound-reinforcement systems, so it acts as the core of the entire audio system. Moreover, the NEXUS DSP modules also handle tasks such as summing, equalising, delay, and gain control in each sound reinforcement area of the NCC. In order to be able to react even more flexibly to the specific requirements of an event, the NCC network also includes two extra portable NEXUS racks.
In total, the NCC digital audio network comprises around 700 sources and 700 destinations that are made available by 13 Base Devices and two NEXUS STAR routers. The installation is based on a star topology, with the two interlinked NEXUS STARs at its heart and the Base Devices acting as satellites.

Network Security

For redundancy and reliability, each Base Device includes two opticalinterface boards that run signals in parallel to the NEXUS STARs in the main control room. If an optical line fails, the signals can be routed via the second connection. The probability of both optical cables or both interface boards failing at the same time is negligible. Each Base Device and STAR is also equipped with a redundant power supply. All of this avoids any single point of failure and makes the overall audio network at the NCC very secure.
The NEXUS internal monitoring program provides still greater security. When a component on the network fails, a notification is submitted immediately. Incidentally, these notifications, as well as all other messages and prompts on the NCC NEXUS, are displayed in the local characters and language, Vietnamese. This is a small but very useful detail, making it easier for local operators to use the new technology.

A Flexible Solution

The NCC NEXUS system is administered and controlled by a computer located in the main machine room. However, in such a large and extensive installation, it may be more convenient to access the audio network locally, that is, inside a meeting hall. This applies particularly to the metering window. Whenever signals are being modified the metering window should be visible. On NEXUS networks, it is possible to hook up a PC running the NEXUS control software to any node on the network, even if there are other computers already active in the system. At the NCC, this feature is exploited and now up to four extra NEXUS control computers can be put online in the various halls. To avoid unauthorised access, these NEXUS satellites are password protected with restricted user rights. This highly flexible solution is ideal, especially when considering the fact that the NCC is used for such a wide variety of applications.

All’s Well That Ends Well

The final construction stages of big projects like the NCC are often the most critical, due to the immense time pressure. The companies involved have to compete to complete their respective installations. A dusty and dirty construction site is certainly not an ideal environment for the installation and testing of optical fibres! However, all the audio network lines were carefully cleaned and put through their paces before commissioning.
After all, the APEC Summit, which took place at the same time as the formal opening of the convention centre, had to go off without any hitches. In the end, the acid test was passed. Thanks to the ideal technology for the job and excellent STAGETEC audio fidelity, the Summit in the ‘City Between the Rivers’ was a complete success.

The NCC in Brief

In an overall area of 60,000 m², the NCC in Hanoi accommodates a conference room with 3,500 seats, a 1,000-seat banqueting hall, two conference rooms for high profile visitors, and several smaller conference rooms with 100 to 200 seats each. Apart from meeting rooms there are facilities for seminars, working and exhibition spaces, a press centre, and other service facilities.
Meinhard von Gerkan and Nikolaus Goetze from Hamburg based gmp architects created an overall complex embedded into rambling parkland with thematic and symbolic allusions to Vietnamese tradition and culture. Several hotels and a museum complete this architectural ensemble.
The evocative Convention Centre roof is modelled on a wave and accompanies the visitor on their way through the foyer. Access via the helipad on the rooftop is however, reserved for prominent guests.