Console Design Reduces Control Center Crunch

Where you sit has a big impact
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Where you sit has a big impact
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The control room for the Georgia Systems Operations center uses Winsted consoles and racks.

Innovative designs in control room furniture, consoles, workstations and video racks are improving the way control rooms and emergency response centers work. The right design also helps relieve the ergonomic stress on operators or dispatchers, who often pull long shifts during a public safety crisis.

Gone are the days when a dispatcher sat at a wooden desk, handling calls on a rotary phone like an image from the Andy Griffith TV show, with well-meaning Deputy Barney Fife fumbling the handset. Desks and workstations now are sleek, adjustable and color coordinated, and some new ones can change to either a standing or sitting position.

New video rack designs help improve control room sight lines and can seamlessly consolidate rows of production devices in equipment rooms. There are also special enclosures that can hide the messy accumulation of cables and connections that power executive suite video display systems.

“In the control room, people are working in an environment that is demanding with lots stuff going on,” said Brent Leimer, marketing manager for rack and console manufacturer Winsted. “Our consoles make it so they can see what needs to be seen, and that they are healthy and do their jobs properly.”

When the Georgia System Operations Corporation―one of the largest electric cooperatives in North America―upgraded its control centers recently, it turned to Minneapolis-based Winsted for outfitting its operation centers.

Like many control rooms, the GSOC centers are blue-ribbon showpiece destinations for all sorts of visitors and dignitaries. Aesthetics have to be melded with ergonomics that make it comfortable for operators to sit at the consoles for 12-hour shifts, monitoring up to 13 video displays at a time.

Winsted got high marks from GSOC for the clean lines and functional operation of the consoles. Winsted’s Adapt-A-Track monitor mounting system played a significant role in locating monitors ergonomically, while preserving sightlines. Adapt-A-Track is mounted in a recess behind the console work surface, making it possible to mount the first monitor on the post significantly lower than other consoles. This makes it possible for operators to look over their own workstation to view the larger monitor wall and end-of-the-room map board.

“It’s very flexible and modular,” Leimer said. “With consolidations, they are putting more operators in the control room, which means that sightline visibility is all the more important.”


Some installations are higher profile than others. ImageVision, of LaGrange, Texas, put in an expansive control center for Texas Governor Rick Perry, which meant a complete overhaul of the governor’s security system.

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ImageVision AgileView console

The project at the Texas Governor’s Mansion included 48-inch Lo-Pro security consoles to support a complex array of video surveillance equipment. The company’s AgileView modular operator consoles housed LCD displays, large, touch-screen plasma monitors, digital video recorders and motion detector cameras, as well as a multitude of other security gear. Below the work surfaces on the security console units are EIA-standard racks, pull-out style equipment trays, file/supply drawer modules and adjustable-height shelves.

ImageVision also supplied security furniture console accessories, such as EIA equipment garages. The consoles are all-steel, which has a longer life than pressed wood laminates, said Debbie Bisbano, ImageVision’s manager of business development.

“AgileView is modular and can be added as the security or control room grows,” Bisbano said. “Our customers love this about us. The wireway management allows wires to be hidden to present a neat appearance and keep all wiring organized.”


Likewise, Communications Engineering Inc., of Newington, Va, has taken on some high-profile projects around the Washington, D.C., area, including work for the Library of Congress. CEI is a full-service systems engineering and implementation company, said the company’s executive vice president and COO John Wesley Nash.



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Equipment racks have gotten deeper and taller than in the past, Nash said, and the industry is feeling the influence of computers with audio systems becoming more IT related. Front-of-the-desk cables and plug ins, popular in the computer world, were unheard of just a few years back in the broadcast industry, which previously mandated that cables be kept to the rear. That has changed as more broadcast devices are either computers themselves or need to be computer-ready, he said.

“We use less custom hardware and are moving toward [systems] that are IT centric,” Nash said.

Another change is the presence of 3D modeling at the project-design phase. Years ago, such models were made from cardboard and assembled on a table top, like a miniature English sculpture garden. As 3D modeling program prices have dropped, it now easier to show a client an accurate digital representation of a future control room before a single piece of laminate has been cut.

“It’s a tremendous advantage,” Nash said. “Often, [customers] won’t understand what it will be like until they have it in front of them, and a rework is an expensive proposal.”


The exponential growth of surveillance video cameras has created a massive logjam in the control room, with many more devices feeding into a fixed number of monitors. Pelco by Schneider Electric, with offices in Clovis, Calif., has developed a solution for the video feed crunch: the Pelco Matrix System.

The Pelco CM6700 Series is a crosspoint matrix switch with the ability to control 16 video inputs and four monitor outputs from one to eight keyboards. Alternatively, the Large Matrix CM9700 series is a full cross-point video matrix switch providing the ability to view and control up to 2,048 cameras and 512 monitors.

Pelco’s MLZ6DT control switcher offers remote camera control with precision motorized zoom, focus and iris function. The MPT9000 series of transmitter/controllers can be used in a variety of applications for controlling pan/tilts and cameras.

The Pelco rack kits are designed to convert desktop equipment to rack mount units for use in standard 19-inch EIA racks or consoles. The company’s Endura system modules provide redundant built-in power supplies and integrated cooling. The RK5200 is a good fit for powering both NET 5300 and NET 5400 Pelco encoders.


Chief, a division of Milestone AV Technologies, specializes in producing equipment boxes that can be built into the wall or ceiling, hiding the unsightly clutter that normally accompanies a video display installation.

“Our storage and enclosure products are designed for AV equipment,” said Jessi Klein, a company associate marketing manager. “For example, we have in-wall storage for flat-panel mounts, above-ceiling storage for projector mounts and rack equipment for AV components.”

The Chief CMS491 conceals AV equipment above a 2 x 2-foot ceiling tile to provide a clean professional look. The drop carriage door improves accessibility and serviceability, as well as provides access to equipment.

The Chief PAC525 simplifies flat panel installation by providing an organized, recessed space for routing excess cables and for attaching surge protectors/power conditioners. The NW1F3628 AV rack has vented bottom and side panels that can consolidate a variety of production equipment.

Evans Consoles, of Calgary, Alberta, just launched the Dispatch III console in response to customer feedback. Dispatch III targets access, comfort and flexibility as its primary features, which include integrated personal storage, customizable slatwall, improved cable management, available dual work surfaces and a pre-wired option. The Dispatch III’s EnviroLinc line offers customizable comfort at the operator’s fingertips: heat, light and fan speed are accessed through the built-in touchscreen.

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Evans C13-0083 console

Evans also provides a convertible workstation that allows the operator to start out in a seated position, but can rise up and convert to a standing desk. The Evans Response workstation, a sit/stand console, uses electric motors to change height, and the optional Unity Monitor Arm provides even more versatility.

“We are pretty unique in that we have served multiple unique segments of the government’s critical infrastructure market for more than 34 years,” said Jason Rowley, the company’s federal solutions manager.


Missouri-based Lowell Manufacturing assembles a range of versatile AV production racks.

The LGR gangable racks are typically specified for sizable, multi-rack installations where they’re placed in a row and bolted together. The open frame designs have multiple openings to ease cable routing, and a pair of side panels can be ordered separately to close each end of a rack assembly. The gangable rack series is engineered for multi-bay applications where routing cable bundles between racks is a priority.

“Lowell racks are designed to be integrator friendly and include PE documents certified to meet such requirements,” said Lowell national sales manager Jeff Garstick. “The PE documents add significant value by typically eliminating the need for an onsite structural engineer approval.”

The LSGR code-compliant, seismic-certified gangable rack is PE certified to meet or exceed the seismic design requirements, and is a favorite for public safety installations in earthquake-prone areas that include agencies such as the California Department of Corrections, Garstick said.

Middle Atlantic Products, part of the Commercial AV division of Legrand North America, recently upgraded its SNE Series security network enclosures, adding seismic certification and other options, a company official said. The new seismic riser bases allow the SNE to be used for raised-floor applications―including under-cabinet cable management. A new rack adapter option allows for threaded and cage-nut rails to coexist in the same rack for hybrid installation needs.

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Middle Atlantic universal mounting drawer

The SNE cabinet was designed for use with the company’s Lever Lock system, which makes cabling and device mounting a snap. It also allows smaller devices to be mounted in otherwise unused spaces.

For the company’s popular new Universal Mounting Drawer, Middle Atlantic did a study of small component mounting-hole patterns across thousands of devices and manufacturers to develop a unique hole pattern that can accommodate almost anything, officials said. The drawer base pops out for integration and clicks back into place for locking and securing into the drawer, while the cable track in the rear expands and contracts with the drawer. The drawer also locks for security of small devices.

In a big security system, the initial focus is almost always on the cameras, monitors, recorders and networks, and those are all important. However, the ergonomics of to control location can make great gear uncomfortable to use for extended shifts.

Putting some thought into the right console and rack systems can play a major role in keeping employees alert and productive.