The Forum Theatre - University of Hertfordshire: Case study

AV Awards finalist 2023After a competitive tendering process, GVAV were appointed to lead an LED revolution across the University of Hertfordshire including several new state-of-the-art teaching spaces. This is the second of a three-part series of case studies centred around LED integration in signature spaces at the University.


Crestron AVoIP

NEC LED video wall

TOP-TEC lectern

Peerless brackets

Tripleplay players

WolfVision Visualiser

AVer PTZ cameras

JBL speakers

QSC amplifiers

Shure mics

Audio visual case study

The Forum, University of Hertfordshire​​​​​​​

Built in 2009 as a purpose-built social and entertainment facility, The Forum Building has been a central hub for students at the University of Hertfordshire for over a decade, with the main auditorium, the largest space within the building, serving as the main entertainment venue designed to host concerts and events for up to 1,000 people. As part of a major regeneration project in the Forum, the University sought to repurpose the auditorium to bring an flagship, innovative 250-seat teaching space to the building.​​​​​​​

To do

Meeting requirements

This ambitious redevelopment was driven by a need to fulfil a long-standing request from the faculty for a state-of-the-art lecture theatre that could effectively display 4K media. Existing facilities on campus lacked the capability to support high-quality visuals and advanced audio visual technology required across many of the creative arts courses. The plans would also make the new space the biggest lecture theatre at the University, bringing new teaching and commercial opportunities alongside the social facilities in the building.

Working closely with key players including other contractors, the client, end users, PSCo, and consultant Hewshott, GVAV put together a strategy to deliver a scalable and flexible total audio visual solution for their flagship space.

It was also imperative to be pragmatic as logistical challenges presented themselves on this project, drawing on a wealth of experience in order to problem solve to efficiently meet the needs of the University.

The standout feature of the Forum Theatre is the NEC 1.5mm pixel pitch 9-meter 4K LED wall supported by a custom-designed metal framework and cladding. At the time of install, this monumental display was the largest of its kind in UK higher education, providing stunning ultra-HD visuals that can be seen clearly by the entirety of the room.

The decision to opt for LED in the Forum as part of a wider rollout across the University signals a shift towards adopting this emerging technology as a viable alternative to projection. 

Leading the way with LED

Whilst projection remains the industry standard and most cost-effective display option for the majority of lecture theatre projects, there were a lot of reasons why LED made sense in this space.

Firstly, location-specific logistical challenges relating to the installation, as well as blending and ventilation of projectors meant that the traditional option became an impractical solution. A change of approach was needed to fill the wall with such a large display.

As the pros and cons of different display options were assessed, it became clear that LED was the most cost-effective solution for the showpiece lecture theatre. Product lifecycle was a top consideration in the planning stage from not only a budgetary perspective, but also to satisfy the client’s requirement to their own sustainability commitments. LED technology is known for its superb longevity, and it was estimated that this option would gain up to a decade of extra use compared with traditional projection.

A full analysis document was prepared by consultant Hewshott, who concluded that LED was the most cost-effective solution for this project. As well as benefitting from a reduction in overall costs through bulb or product replacement, LED is a cleaner solution in terms of waste and carbon output, an essential consideration for the future facing the climate emergency.

An immersive display

A Sharp/NEC solution was chosen to form the display. The modular nature of the display means that it can be pieced together to form any size or aspect ratio.

The flexibility in this solution was beneficial for the requisite scale of the display and given that the display can be running every day of the year for up to 10 hours a day, it was also important that a low-maintenance system was selected for this installation.

Virtually any part of the LED wall can be swapped out with ease in the unlikely event of failure, reducing repair time, costs and wasted learning time.

The display is powered by a Coriomaster 2 with eight 4K outputs, providing exceptional visual quality and presentation flexibility. A variation of display layouts are possible across the LED wall, allowing the potential to show teaching content from multiple input sources simultaneously including through integrated cameras, visualisers, the room’s PC, and wirelessly or wired from users’ own devices.

A familiar control system

A sophisticated Crestron AV over IP (AVoIP) control solution was installed in the lecture theatre, allowing seamless sharing of content from multiple devices within the room. This comprehensive system enables staff to control audio and video inputs, lighting and 4K lecture capture through user-friendly control panels. The integration of the AVoIP system ensures efficient management of multimedia resources in the theatre.

university of hertfordshire LED wall

In all, 19 Crestron NVX-363 AVoIP devices facilitate seven separate inputs to the Coriomaster video processor, including four from the TOP-TEC teaching lectern and three from the equipment rack. The AVoIP technology also serves as the backbone data delivery system for AVer cameras and twin 43” comfort monitors positioned at the front of the stage.

Additionally, 10 NEC 43” displays, mounted on Peerless bracketry, are strategically placed across two floors, utilising Tripleplay digital players for comprehensive signage management. A Solstice Pod GEN 3 Wireless Presentation system allows wireless content sharing from various devices. Two edge-blended WolfVision VZ3 NEO visualisers capture high-quality visuals from the teaching desk, while two Aver PTZ330N cameras provide video capture for live presentations, hybrid teaching and recording.

​​​​​​​Sukh Basi, GVAV​​​​​​​“The University of Hertfordshire are always at the forefront of the AV trends in education. This project definitely showcases that.”

Sukh Basi

Sales Director, GVAV

The audio system consists of four JBL CBT1000 speakers powered by QSC 8-channel Dante amplifiers, delivering immersive sound throughout the theatre. Two Shure wireless handheld and lapel microphones, connected to a quad charging base and a 4-channel Shure wireless ceiling receiver ensure reliable and clear audio transmission. A Sennheiser Mobile Connect 2 wireless hearing assist system was also installed.

A 10-inch Crestron touch panel with a bespoke-designed GUI is integrated to control the entire audio visual system. This panel interfaces with a QSC Core 110F audio DSP and a Crestron CP4n control processor, providing comprehensive control over the AV equipment and ensuring seamless operation. From one central panel, the University’s teaching staff can control audio, video, lighting and lecture capture in 4K.

To do

New facilities, new opportunities

While the regeneration of The Forum represented a significant initial investment by the University, the new facility will help bring in new business opportunities. Additional practical uses for the 250-seat space have opened up for external companies and local communities, such as guest lectures, presentations, film screenings and conferences.

According to Adam Harvey, Solution Architect for AV & Digital Media at the University, the improved spaces are also helping the University market themselves more effectively to prospective new students. The University’s ability to attract top talent is an integral key to their success in a competitive market, and their new showcase high-spec facilities help give them a cutting edge over their rivals.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​“Feedback on the LED installations has been really good, the display is incredible. There are some people who are already designing content for the full width of the screen, which is excellent. We are now doing hybrid teaching and having that number of pixels to use is just giving us real benefit.”

Adam Harvey

Solution Architect for AV & Digital Media at the University of Hertfordshire

Aside from the obvious ‘wow’ factor, existing students are already benefitting from the practical implications of these new installations, with the University’s creative courses now able to display their ultra-HD 4K productions in the intended full definition.

A complete solution

Combined with the comprehensive Crestron NVX AVoIP solution and the expansive LED wall, The Forum auditorium has transformed from a dated nightlife venue into the University's flagship teaching facility.

The flexibility of the display input options to the Forum LED wall means that the space can be used for a variety of purposes and has allowed the University to emerge from the COVID pandemic with dynamic, accessible hybrid teaching spaces.

This installation in The Forum Theatre offers a total solution including immersive visuals, advanced content sharing capabilities, and streamlined control of the AV system. This has resulted in it becoming the most in-demand teaching space for the faculty, demonstrating the success of the project and proving the need for more of these spaces in future and another successful audio visual solution delivered by GVAV into the Higher Education space.