Case Study

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SP Controls at Santa Clara University: Providing AV Control over the Decades

Sometimes invisibility is a good thing.

“SP Controls gets no attention at our campus,” says Joel Bennett, a member of the Media Services department at California’s Santa Clara University. The reason: reliability. “Because their products are so reliable, we never hear from our faculty regarding the classroom control systems,” he says. This is good news for the Media Services team: a full‐time staff of only 3 people manages all of the AV and media communications on campus, assisted by about 30 students.

Santa Clara University’s Media Services department has been working with SP Controls since the company’s inception in 1995. “I believe we got some of their very first products,” says Ruth Ellison, who has been with Media Services for almost 30 years. “About 20 years ago, we needed something to manage projectors in classrooms, and SP Controls came out and showed us the SmartPanel system. When we first saw that panel, it seemed to be a match made in heaven; the students loved it too. We could program the panels quickly and do any needed firmware updates. The SmartPanel made the process of providing service to the classes much quicker for the students.”

The world of classroom AV has changed considerably since Ruth first started working in Media Services. She says: “When we first started, everything was analog – reel to reel machines, analog projectors, Beta and VHS players, and so on. At one point, we got the latest technology… luggable computers (you could hardly call them a laptop, they weighed about 30 pounds). They had a screen with 640 x 480 resolution. We’d lay this screen over a projector surface and they’d be able to project what was on the computer. Now, of course, it’s all laptops, HDMI, digital sources and high resolution.”

As the AV system on campus evolved from analog to digital, the Media Services team decided to move from the SmartPanel, which was now a legacy product, to the PixiePro system for new installations. This system is made up of a modular PixiePro wall‐mounted control panel, the Networked Room Controller (NRC) and control pucks for connection to equipment. The systems are managed by SP Controls’ new SmartView Web, which is written in HTML5 and provides browser‐based programming and control. “It’s so easy for us to program and maintain the systems, and once we get our rooms online it’s easy to see what is happening via the NRC,” says Ruth. Joel agrees: “The best feature is being able to provide support from anywhere on campus.”

80 classrooms on campus are now equipped with the PixiePro system. 20 additional classrooms on campus are managed by the smaller PixiePlus system. A handful of rooms still use the SmartPanel.

The Media Services Department says they enjoy working with SP Controls. “Their products are bullet proof,” says Joel. “They require very little maintenance in systems that go back to 2008, and when you do need to contact them, they answer the phone immediately.” Ruth is also pleased with the responsiveness of the company: “We came to them with a challenge on accessibility for control, and they came back with SmartView Web. It’s nice to work with a company that listens to you. If we have concerns they do everything they can to satisfy those issues and address them as quickly as possible. We look forward to dealing with SP Controls for many years to come.”

The PixiePro offers a single wall-mounted access point for projectors, screens, media players, volume and more.