Music to the Ears

Security employed at acclaimed Mandolin Brothers Ltd. are advanced systems

MANDOLIN Brothers Ltd. of Staten Island, N.Y., has been memorialized in music by Joni Mitchell, written about in prestigious industry and consumer publications, praised by Sir Paul McCartney of Beatles' fame and frequented by the who's who in the international music industry. As a globally renowned retailer of fine new, used and vintage guitars, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, and electric and acoustic bass fretted instruments, it was only natural the company would look to another distinguished company, Panasonic Security Systems, to replace its 25-year-old video surveillance system.

Stan Jay, president and owner of Mandolin Brothers, said the original video surveillance system was a makeshift combination of components which provided coverage of the main showroom, comprised of five rooms. Four black-and-white cameras were connected to a hand-wired, four-view sequential splitter box, and from there to a VCR for recording and consumer television for monitoring.

One day, Frank DeFina, president of Panasonic System Solutions Co., an avid collector of vintage musical instruments, visited Mandolin Brothers to have one of his guitars serviced and noticed the archaic video surveillance system. DeFina suggested to Jay that perhaps it was time to consider installing a new video surveillance system to protect the collection of valued instruments at the facility and to provide customers with the assurance that they were leaving their prized instruments in a secure location. After a brief discussion as to the merits that new video surveillance technologies could provide, Jay agreed to revamp his system.

"Expanding our showroom by six more rooms required that we extend the system into the new area," Jay said. "The old system was simply too outdated and outmoded, and we concurred with Panasonic's proposal to start anew."

Compared with the previous system, the new, color video surveillance system offers several advantages for a multi-room retail environment, including reviewing activity in any room in full-screen mode.

"One of the major disadvantages of the old system was that it taped in real time, but in sequence, so you would see activity in one area, then three seconds of activity in another, and so on," Jay said. "This was quite frustrating when trying to capture something as malicious as the intentionally amoral act of a miscreant."

Mandolin Brothers provides instruments and repair services to many of the music industry's brightest stars, including Jimmy Buffet, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Diana Krall, Paul Simon, Stephen Stills, and many others. It also deals with non-recording musicians, many of whom visit the store in Staten Island.

An unexpected benefit of the new surveillance system was recently uncovered when a customer put their sunglasses down and then forgot where they put them. As it turned out, the customer had placed the sunglasses in an open guitar case which somebody had subsequently closed.

"We helped a customer retrieve their glasses using the Panasonic video surveillance system, which turned out to offer the unexpected benefit of improving our customer service capabilities," Jay said. "This became a perfect example of 'case closed.'"

Other advantages of the security system cited by Jay are the ease of use and reliability.

"There are fewer steps in setting it up, and the procedures are far less confusing than with the old system," he said. "Anybody on staff can use the new system, while the old one needed to be re-started each morning by a person who had experience doing it. In many instances, even experienced staff members threw up their hands and walked away. The old system also was beset by sporadic intermittencies that we have not encountered with the current system -- only solid, continuous reliability."

The security system installed at Mandolin Brothers Ltd. includes high-performance color CCD surveillance cameras that are digitally multiplexed and recorded. The system provides Mandolin Brothers with the ability to view any combination of cameras throughout the facility while recording full-motion video from all camera inputs on Panasonic's DVR. Now in its second generation, the DVR features dual-compression recording to deliver more than 500 lines of horizontal. In addition to the improved recording performance, the DVR offers a base disk capacity of 250 GB -- expandable to 7.5 Terabytes -- and built-in networking and switching capabilities with individual camera profiling. Additionally, Mandolin Brothers' facility is protected by an advanced intrusion alarm system and interior motion sensors with a redundant back-up.

The need for intense security at Mandolin Brothers becomes quite apparent based on the extreme value of their merchandise and instruments in for repair. One of the most compelling examples of this revolves around Sir Paul McCartney's prized Hofner Violin Bass, now commonly known as a Beatle Bass. Throughout all of the Beatles' recording years, and later with Wings and as a soloist, McCartney had a problem with his legendary bass. After interviewing five international repair shops, Mandolin Brothers was selected as the shop best suited to repair the multi-million dollar instrument. McCartney's head equipment technician brought the bass to New York in its own seat on the Concorde, and stayed with it in the shop, eight hours a day, during the time it was in the shop's care. McCartney is later quoted as saying, "[Mandolin Brothers] put it in tune for the first time in its life."

When asked to compare the quality of the video surveillance system to the standard for which his company has become known, Jay said, "we would rate Panasonic a solid 10. All components are of professional specification and it would not surprise us if they remained, unlike ourselves, in continuous use for another 25 years."


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