The Belgrade Theater was the first civic theater built after the war and was opened in March 1958 as part of a large-scale redevelopment of the City of Coventry. Now an English Heritage grade II listed building, the Belgrade Theater took its name in recognition for a gift of timber from the Yugoslav city of Belgrade. Holding 866 seats in its two-tier main auditorium, and just under 300 seats in its new studio sized second auditorium, the theater remains one of the largest regional productive theaters in the country.
The theater is also the center of the community, with more than 70,000 visitors each year attending theater productions, school plays, training workshops and corporate events. The site covers five floors and is served by a large parking lot to the rear of the building which is part of the Belgrade Plaza building scheme. "The security of our visitors and staff is a major concern for the theater and we have had surveillance installed since 1987; however the old analog system was somewhat unreliable and the quality of the black and white images meant that actual identification of individuals was almost impossible, especially in areas with low lighting," said Paul Duncombe, Deputy Buildings Manager.
The old system proved difficult to search through in the event of an incident, but with a major US$21 million refurbishment program between 2005 and 2007, Duncombe persuaded management to upgrade and improve the surveillance system. "The refurbishment included a major upgrade to the cabling infrastructure and allowed us to move to an IP-based surveillance solution integrated into the building design."
Following a tendering process the theater chose Active Communications as lead contractor for both the cabling and surveillance solution. "We wanted a surveillance system with better video quality and potential audio as well," Duncombe said. "We also needed a simple-to-use interface that would allow us to view cameras from multiple locations."
Active Communications is a local Coventry-based system integrator established in 1989, by partners Peter Jacobs and Martin Gardner to provide high quality telecommunications and computer network cabling services. Active Communications have developed a strong customer base providing services to small-to-medium enterprises and large multinational companies with economical, reliable and customized solutions that dramatically increases their efficiency and productivity.
After a detailed site survey, the technical team from Active Communications and Duncombe established essential locations for 27 cameras, delivering 39 views for 100-percent coverage of all public areas within the theatre. Using a mixture of single and dual lens Mobotix cameras, the new surveillance system provides megapixel image quality and audio reception fed back to one major location and can be used on other computers by remote access if needed.
Each camera is activated by built-in motion sensors and footage is stored on a centralized rack of NAS units. "We decided to use eight separate 500Gb NAS boxes and have two spares in case of any failures," Duncombe said. "In the event of a NAS box failing, the system will notify us via e-mail and we can quickly replace the drive with only a few minutes delay."
The Theatre was also impressed by Mobotix'S distributed approach to surveillance which reduces network traffic.
Active Communications installed both the new structured cabling and surveillance network on time and within budget and the new system has worked well. "The quality of the images is very good," Duncombe said. "We are able to pick out clear and recognizable faces of anybody within the 20,000 square feet of the public areas."
"Every time a camera is activated, the footage is recorded with a time stamp which makes looking back to find an incident relatively easy," Duncombe said.
The success of the surveillance installation has prompted the theater to plan an additional remote camera at its workshops, "This will be connected to us via DSL and allow us to monitor and record any incident within our workshop" Duncombe said. "The use of the existing DSL link will make this very cost-effective as we can reuse the cost of our storage at the theatre."
Overall, the surveillance installation has been a success, "We now have a system that provides better coverage, better quality images and audio, improved reliability and is much easier to use," Duncombe said. "To date, we have had only one failure of a camera sensor and Active Communications alerted us before we even realized it had happened and were on site next day to replace it."
The Belgrade Theater is now working with Active Communications on a trial to use a Mobotix camera to film performances for archiving, training and potentially streaming to the internet. The solution has been in place now at the Belgrade for almost two years and has performed flawlessly. The low-energy maintenance-free design has also helped it maintain its commitment to achieve a comfortable and pleasant environment while managing its CO2 and making optimum use of energy.