The HBO Equation

By Claire Swedberg | Oct 15, 2006
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Partnership extends contracting reach

Until 2004, HBO’s West Coast office was at the top of a Century City, Calif., high-rise. The office—where decisions were made and original television programs and movies were screened—was due for a change, according to HBO’s director of West Coast facilities, David Greenwood.

HBO intended to relocate and improve its West Coast headquarters, offices and program viewing areas as well as transfer editing facilities. By configuring all of the company’s divisions into one contiguous space, it would conceivably foster improved communication and work flow.

The building would need to allow client interface and approvals from both Los Angeles and New York senior executives and finance groups, meaning the locations needed to be constantly connected, and also, the video and related equipment needed an upgrade.

Electronic systems electrical contractor Direct A/V, Hawthorne, Calif., and National Teleconsultants (NTC), a media facility design company in Glendale, Calif., partnered for the project. Both are specialists in tackling the demands of the entertainment industry. Direct A/V business developer Michael Pecora said none of its work is what one might consider ordinary.

 “Most of what we do is unique, specialized projects that require particular skills. We direct our efforts toward projects that require a background in a variety of specialized disciplines,” he said. 

The HBO cable network selected a 110,000-square-foot space in Santa Monica, Calif., a creative campus environment with adjacent outdoor facilities for business opportunities such as HBO film and television events, client entertainment and private screenings of new films and television productions.

The new space would need some renovation to accommodate HBO, including low-voltage technology suited to the staff’s video-access needs. The $750,000 low-voltage installation project began 18 months before the planned move date.

There were some stringent requirements. There was little time to complete the construction. The objective was to have the HBO staff moved without any down time, and HBO needed to maintain operations while the company was moving.

“The idea was to move locations without missing a beat,” Pecora said. That meant Direct A/V, NTC and the general contractor needed to move fast.

NTC designed the low-voltage portion and Direct A/V installed it, along with other systems.

NTC specializes in media and production clients, which made the HBO project a natural fit.

“One of our roles was to put the media systems requirements in the bricks and mortar (of the facility design)” said John Aalto, NTC senior vice president.

The facility includes cable television, DirecTV and local signals to the offices that aggregate onto two radio frequency cables. NTC designed a sound and video system to allow touch-screen LCD panels to present a variety of HBO programs, which Direct A/V installed in the reception area. Direct A/V also installed a striking, blue LED “zipper sign” in the reception area with scrolling HBO messages, extending from ceiling to floor.

Most of the HBO programs are viewed in offices and conference rooms and, therefore, an infrastructure was designed that supported equipment for these purposes. Conference rooms featured button microphones on the tables, speakers in the ceiling tiles, large-screen displays, DVD, VHS, videoconferencing, and a combination of technologies. All told, the building would include 11 conference rooms, with varying degrees of sophistication. Each has its own purpose, with an HBO team assigned to it.

“All the conference rooms tend to have the same equipment, the same playback devices,” Greenwood said, “but some are more technical than others.”

The hall corridors include flat-screen displays showing HBO programming. The new facility also includes a new 29-seat screening room for 35 mm film presentations and video with full cinema surround sound.

All around, the system installation was a winner. Direct A/V and NTC shared the L.A. Chapter NECA Award of Excellence for low-voltage systems valued at more than $500,000. The project was completed at $200,000 under the overall budget.

In partnership, Direct A/V and NTC met their goal of increasing communication within the HBO staff offices with core modifications that provide a unique and highly creative environment.           

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at [email protected].



Direct A/V—Low-voltage electrical contractor

HLW International— Architects

InnerSpace Constructors Inc.—General contractor

National TeleConsultants—Low-voltage
systems designer


Allen Avionics—Audio ground loop isolation transformer

AMX—Remote control system

Crown—Microphones, mount jacks

Direct A/V—cable, rack assembly material

Extron—VGA to RGB converter, source switcher

Polycom—Video teleconferencing system

Samsung—DLP displays

Wolfvision—Document cameras

Yamaha—A/V receivers


About The Author

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at [email protected].





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