Article by Rakibul Upwork
ONBOARD chats with Jürgen Schepers, Technical Sales Manager at Home & Marine about the changing face of technology and the future of AV and IT system integration onboard superyachts
Where do you currently see the biggest changes in AV technology? Surely the shift to network-based systems is the biggest change. All system backbones are based on a network architecture today. Every engineer needs a good understanding of network topologies and that is where we put a lot of effort into training. Also, connectivity becomes more and more important onboard yachts. Owners and guests expect the same connection quality and network speeds as they experience at home or in their office. Going along with that, we see a shift from onboard sources to streaming content. Movie libraries such as Kaleidescape are still a valid, reliable source for entertainment, but the demand for access to services like Netflix or Spotify is increasing.
Connectivity and network performance will also become increasingly important with the rise of the first 8k content, that will probably be available via gaming consoles or streaming services.
How does Home & Marine deal with these changes in current refit requests?
For entertainment, a lot of boats are now changing their Full-HD video systems and analog audio distributions to fully networked solutions. We usually base our entertainment infrastructure on a Crestron NVX video distribution and a DANTE audio distribution based on the NextGenTec SDM (software defined matrix). Our network is mostly an enterprise-grade Cisco network, that is designed in a non-blocking architecture, so all uplinks have enough capacity to pass through the streams. If possible, we survey the boats in advance to make sure there are no factors such as cabling that impact the performance. Any existing documentation can help to determine and eliminate possible risks as early as possible.
We understand that these upgrades can mean a huge change in the systems for a lot of crews, and we help the crew to understand the impact but also the benefits and they are huge! Instead of having long signal chains, we create Point-to-Point IPbased connections that are much faster, reliable and of a higher quality. The owner will instantly recognise the improvement after the refit.
For communication systems, we try to work a mix of options consisting out of Shoreconnection-Box, WiFi Bridge, Fleetbroadband, 4G/5G and VSAT for the Owner. We ensure a sufficient amount is available at all times.
The production facility features a dedicated area to test and commission event systems
We are also offering Wifi and GSM surveys that help us identify the weak spots of coverage onboard. Based on the resulting heatmaps, we can make recommendations to the crew about how to increase the performance.
Watching a movie outside under the stars is a wonderful experience. What is your approach on outdoor cinemas?
Two key factors for the video part are the brightness of the projector and the position of the screen, since it determines the impact of the wind. A flattering movie screen and a low-contrast picture are worst cases if you want to enjoy the latest blockbuster. An integrated screen and projector are always preferable to keep set-up and calibration times to a bare minimum, but we also worked out various mobile options. In terms of audio, we also determine if it is possible to integrate speakers in the structure. If that is not the case, we will foresee a dedicated mobile speaker system that connects to integrated, IP-rated speaker connections points.
The new production facility of Home & Marine in Uplengen, Northern Germany, could easily park a Boeing 747 inside
We also started a successful collaboration with C-Seed, who provide large foldable LED-Screens, especially developed for superyacht outdoor cinemas which solves these problems and also reduces the time for setting the cinema up to a few minutes.
Do these points also apply to outdoor audio?
Outdoor areas are often large, open areas with a higher sound dispersion and higher noise floors. We consider this by increasing the density of speakers and using higherpowered speakers. Especially designed speakers for the marine environment such as those by James Loudspeaker help to generate the needed dB Levels and resist the salty sea air environment. We also calibrate each outdoor area for the required scenarios, from background music to event.
Owners and guests expect the same connection quality and network speeds as they experience at home or in their office.
What is your advice for a stunning event or party experience?
We often see a challenge for the crew if a high-profile artist or DJ is booked for a party on board. Setting up a mobile sound system, mixing desks, microphones and a mobile light or even rigging system is a challenging task and a discipline on its own. In early 2020, Home & Marine went into a close partnership with ProTones, a specialised event company that is planning and providing technology for small concerts up to the largest festivals in Europe with world class artists. We are now able to offer the perfect solutions for our clients that cover all interfaces between the onboard technology and the mobile event system.
During a refit or a newbuild, we can ensure that all necessary connection points will be anticipated so that the event system blends seamlessly in the AV backbone.
A variety of exciting scenarios can be realised—from live streaming a dedicated performance by a famous artist to producing and video recording an onboard event can be created—and we are happy to help turning these ideas into reality.