Heavy-duty Audio Upgrade at Eisemann Center, Part 1

In this edition, SVC contributing editor Bennett Liles talks with assistant technical manager Virgil Justice and audio technician Valerie Clark about a recent sound system upgrade at the Eisemann Cen 2/09/2011 6:56 AM Eastern

Heavy-duty Audio Upgrade at Eisemann Center, Part 1

Feb 9, 2011 11:56 AM, with Bennett Liles

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With a heavy show schedule the Eisemann Center in Richardson, Texas needed to upgrade its facilities and part of the new gear is a wireless mic system from Lectrosonics. Virgil Justice and Valerie Clark will tell us about that and the centers other improvements coming right up on the SVC podcast. Virgil and Valerie thanks for being with me for the SVC podcast and you’re coming to us from the Eisemann Center in Richardson, Texas. That’s a very interesting system upgrade you recently had there, what sort of facility is the Eisemann center?
Valerie: It’s a community based performing arts center that serves the entertainment and special events needs of both the cultural and business client in the entire north Texas region. [Timestamp: 1:1]

OK so you must have a lot of different performers coming in there. How far in advance do you know or can you schedule for what’s coming in and know what you have to set up for?
Virgil: Well we have our own series where we present shows and we try to schedule that out a month, month and a half and then we have our client-based revenue that we try to schedule anywhere…that we try to schedule a month and a half out but sometimes it may be… what would you say Valerie 48 hours? Yeah 48 hours or 49… [1:39]
Valerie: Definitely.
Virgil: So it’s really client-driven timeframe on that. [Timestamp: 1:43]

All right well it’s pretty much living out on the edge as far as setting up and being ready for something. I’ve heard a few things about the Eisemann Centers Presents series. Tell me a little bit about that.
Virgil: We’ve established our series of shows and we present under that branding name—“Eisemann Center Presents.” And we have the Spotlight series which is an eclectic line up of theater, music and dance and that takes place in a larger 1,600-seat venue, the Hill Performance Hall. And we have a really popular series, The Viewpoint Bank Theater Comedy series, in our Bank of America Theater and that’s a smash comedy hits shows, six to eight performances of each production usually and then we have the Family Theater series which is a Sunday matinee productions geared towards children and their families. And our newest addition to our lineup is Jeffery Seigel’s Keyboard Conversations and it’s a Monday Night Concert series with a lively commentary by Jeffery Seigel a internationally acclaimed pianist. [Timestamp: 2:42]

OK so for the Eisemann Center Presents series you’ve got some regular setups and predictable acts coming in so I guess that’s not as big a challenge to be setup and ready.
Virgil: Yeah, the reoccurring ones we do get a pattern to and we know the resources and timeframes. If it’s every Monday…every other Monday night we kind of know what’s its going to be. The stuff that changes like the Theater Comedy series it’ll be a different comedy or it’s not as much standup but a different comedy theater type of show each time so it requires different planning depending on the act or show that’s coming in. And it’s the same with the Spotlight series that’s anywhere from the Oakridge Boys or Al Jarreau to ABBA Mania so it’s all different kinds of acts there too. [Timestamp: 3:33]

And it looks like you’ve gotten some help with the Texas Instruments Foundation Grant. Now what was this grant designed to provide in the helping the Eisemann Center upgrade its facilities?
Valerie: Consistent with the Texas Instrument’s focus on technology, the TI Foundations Grant helped to fund the Eisemann Center’s future arts and technology needs which included a custom designed orchestra shell for the theater, additional interior and exterior signage, sound and lighting system upgrades, audio/visual equipment enhancements and facility system upgrades to enhance patron comfort. [Timestamp: 4:07]

Well that was great in having TI get behind you and bankroll some tech upgrades. So they took your tech gear up to the next level.
Virgil: Correct, yes. Being a technology-based company they were on board with us using it for technology-based reasons. [Timestamp: 4:21]

So now you’re better equipped to operate in the big leagues especially when it comes to having some of the bigger performers come in maybe on short notice.
Virgil: Right. We wanted to be able to be more at a stand by ready position than have to figure out, “Well what equipment don’t we have that we’ll need?” [Timestamp: 4:38]

Yeah and I’m sure that when the grant came up you had some specific ideas on what improvements were needed and exactly where since you’ve got several performing areas there. What areas did you most need to improve to be able to operate in the big leagues?
Virgil: Well a large percent of the grant was ear-marked originally for PA upgrades in the rooms. In the Hill Hall the larger room we wanted to focus on intelligibility and we wanted to get a higher SPL and dynamic range than our original PA was able to handle. We had artists coming in, more concert type artists, that would end up having to supplement with a rented PA or bring in their own off the truck or that kind of thing because the PA that was originally spec’d in the building wasn’t…we didn’t meet rider specifications for a lot of those types of groups so we selected a Meyer system in there and Meyer did the design for us in that room and it’s now a M’elodie stereo line array for the main level of the house with an M2D line array coverage over the balcony for over balcony seating and 700HP subwoofers for the low end and then we have a series of M1D cabinets we can string along the front lip of the stage to provide fill for the pit area when we seat the pit with audience members. [Timestamp: 5:56]

Heavy-duty Audio Upgrade at Eisemann Center, Part 1

Feb 9, 2011 11:56 AM, with Bennett Liles

Well that should help you out a lot when it comes to a rapid response in fine tuning for the different acts…

But for the regular performances in the Eisemann Center Presents series I guess you’ve probably got a specific setup on amps and EQ and stage monitoring and so forth so it’s pretty easy going on those.
Virgil: We have, yeah, we have a galleria so Valerie’s created snapshots where we can bring up more frequently used scenarios and just recall the snapshots for a specific show operator and say, “Here’s what we primarily…the starting point for this PA configuration,” or with or without pit fills—that kind of thing. And then in the 395-seat Bank of America theater we had a similar type of long lecture PA but we needed more of a dance, music and not as much concert but more dynamically friendly PA and we also needed to focus on intelligibility there—we had some intelligibility problems in that room with the original PA. So QSC ILA line array was within our budget means and fit the needs of the room so that…we installed that and we’ve greatly increased coverage and intelligibility in that room. [Timestamp: 7:12]

And I guess one of the main things that gets used by all of the acts is the wireless mic system. So what was the situation on that before the upgrade? What sort of a system did you have in place for the wireless mics?
Valerie: All of our venues have equipment operating in both the 500 and 700 frequency ranges. [Timestamp: 7:29]

And what did you do as far as an upgrade on the wireless system?
Valerie: We decided to go with Lectrosonics digital hybrid wireless system because of the broad spectrum of available frequencies. With minimal equipment purchases in the future should we find ourselves having to select other ranges of operating frequencies any future adjustment in frequencies only would require the purchase of individual modules that easily plug into the rack mounted receivers. [Timestamp: 7:56]

OK the Lectrosonics and obviously there’s some advantages in going with a digital hybrid system like the one Lectrosonics has but it seems like the main problem you had with the previous system was the fact that it was 700MHz and you had to go somewhere.
Virgil: Correct, yeah we needed to get out of that band range so we had to do something and the 1,600-seat Hill Hall being our primary large hall we wanted to outfit that one first with…because of monetary means that was the one to tackle first so we went with the Lectrosonics brand. Like Valerie said, we were real happy with it fitting in with some of the leftover, if you will that we still had and we could integrate that all as one frequency plot, one workable frequency plot amongst both product lines. [Timestamp: 8:43]

And of course it was probably belt packs and hand held’s to pretty much handle anything that comes in.
Valerie: Yes, we selected the UT UT super cardioid for the handheld microphones and then the LMa beltpack transmitter which has a 50 mW RF output along with an M152-Omnidirectional mic element. For the rack-mounted receivers we selected VRM WV which is the wideband modular receiver which covers about a 230 MHz range and then the VRS standard module blocks which have a fixed bandwidth and are well suited to all but the most congested RF environments. [Timestamp: 9:24]

All right, so the grant got you a whole new wireless mic system to deal with performance schedule. What was the timeline on getting all that system up and tuned in and ready to go?
Virgil: Well it was pretty tight, the FCC kept the their deadline rolling so to speak and eventually made that drop dead date and luckily for us we had the TI grant money gifted to us at about the right time to where we just had to go through our city purchasing guidelines to purchase the equipment in the timeframe and then once we got it in our hands Valerie and I spent about a week, I guess it was, installing it. Luckily again, scheduling wise our first client…we got the equipment on a Monday from Lectrosonics and I think we had to have it up and running by that Friday so it was pretty tight but we actually had plenty of time to play with it even before the client came in. It was really fairly simple to set up. You just plugged in, hooked up the antennas and set the two pots on the transmitter to the right coded frequencies and then good to go. [Timestamp: 10:32]

Well it sounds like everything worked out OK and we’ll be talking more about the antenna system in the RF environment in Part Two but I want to thank you both—assistant tech manager Virgil Justice and audio technician Valerie Clark from the Eisemann Center for being here with us on the SVC podcast and we’ll see you again in Part Two.

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