Touring Barco’s Corporate HQ
On September 28th I was honored to host the broadcast of the 20th Annual AV Magazine AV Awards. After that Friday I figured hanging around in Europe for a few more days would be a good idea; get some culture, see the sights, grab a pint or two at an English pub, take a train through the English Channel. You know, normal tourist stuff.
After contacting a few of the people I know at Barco to make sure it would be alright to stop in I grabbed a train from St. Pancras station in London. An hour and a half later I found myself in a little French town on the France and Belgium border. A short car ride later and there I was in Kortrijk. This sleepy burg is the world headquarters of Barco.
Upon arriving at the corporate campus you get the sense of just how big Barco, the company, really is. The building is massive and beautiful. As you walk into the space the atrium gives the sense of openness. It is highlighted by a couple of Barco displays showcasing their LED technology by showing off various pitches.
I was lead through various experiences with the help of Inge Govaerts and Lisebet Soenens from the barco team. We began at the entertainment experience. This room highlights not only Barco’s large format projectors but also projection mapping technology. This may seem elementary for someone within the audiovisual industry but for a visiting potential client the mapping shows off the angles and curves that are possible. The entire system was powered by Medialon, the show control platform Barco purchased two years ago.
The command and control center showed off a simulated highway command room. Simulated because they are not allowed to show live camera feed in public in Belgium. The display highlighted Barco’s ability to send content from a local workstation up to a large display system. The room also contained an extensive desktop system. To call this a simple KVM switch would be doing it a disservice. This system took the PC and transported the video as well as mouse and keyboard control down a network cable. It then was smart enough to realize the user had multiple displays controlling multiple computers.
Of course, Barco makes projectors and they have their own movie theatre. In plush dark seats, the cinema room showcases three various Barco cinema projectors. The room includes an impressive surround sound system, 3D system, and a conferencing system that allows the company to do product launches. In fact, the theatre was used as the stage for the launch of Unisee last year.
One aspect of Barco that I did not know much about was their medical display division. In this room, a carousel platform transformed the room from operating theatre to a diagnosis center to a research facility. The high contrast and consistent color is important for medical teams to diagnose disease. The displays also offer consistent color off axis for multiple medical staff to view the same information at once.
After the tour of experiences we took a tour of the factory floor called “The Engine”. For a company like Barco, The Engine is not only appropriate but also a nice tribute to the engines that drive the various displays. It is much like a typical high-tech AV factory except for the brightness. The large windows allow for plenty of natural light in for the workers.
Finally, I was able to meet up with Barco CEO, Jan De Witte. De Witte was a wonder to talk with for a few minutes about the industry, Barco, and some of their up and coming products. He also is pretty adept at taking a selfie.
This facility is two years old but it looks and feels brand new. Barco is still consolidating their disparate other campuses into this sprawling facility. The company has plenty of conference rooms, displays, research and development, and ClickShares of course throughout the building. If you get the chance to be in southern Belgium, or even Europe, and you have the time, I’d suggest stopping by the small hamlet of Kortrijk and visiting the Barco global headquarters.
Tim Albright is the founder of AVNation and is the driving force behind the AVNation network. He carries the InfoComm CTS, a B.S. from Greenville College and is pursuing an M.S. in Mass Communications from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. When not steering the AVNation ship, Tim has spent his career designing systems for churches both large and small, Fortune 500 companies, and education facilities.