Treating the Crowden Music Center with Meyer Sound Constellation System, Part 1

The Crowden Music Center needed a performance space that could sound right for just about any type of music, and when they decided on a Meyer Sound Constellation system, Meyer called in AV integratio 2/07/2013 9:06 AM Eastern

Treating the Crowden Music Center with Meyer Sound Constellation System, Part 1

Feb 7, 2013 2:06 PM, With Bennett Liles

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Part 1

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The Crowden Music Center needed a performance space that could sound right for just about any type of music, and when they decided on a Meyer Sound Constellation system, Meyer called in AV integration company BugID for the job. Matt Lavine and Paul Lomolino are ready to tell us about the project, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Matt and Paul, thanks for taking time to be with us here on the SVC Podcast from San Francisco and the AV integration company called Bug ID. I think that’s the way you say it. That’s a very interesting name. Matt, how did you come up with that name, Bug ID? Is that the way you pronounce it?

Matt: That’s correct. It’s bug eyed. We get bug-eyed trying to figure out these systems that we design and build. That’s kind of how the name came about. It’s not the most corporate name, but it’s a name that sticks. [Timestamp: 1:13]

Yeah, it really does. And once you’ve heard that one it’s kind of hard to forget. So tell me a little about Bug ID. What do you guys do there? What kind of projects do you take on?
Matt: Well, we’re a design/build system integrator, so we take on projects in screening rooms, auditoriums, conference rooms, boardrooms, editorial and sound studios, so all commercial projects. We really specialize in doing a lot of sound studios and screening rooms. I would say that’s where we shine. And then we got into corporate AV because a lot of our broadcast clients were needing conference rooms and boardrooms, so we kind of picked that niche up and we’ve been keeping really busy doing that as well. [Timestamp:1:52]

Now tell me about this project here. This was the Crowden Music Center. What’s the official name of the performance space that you took on?

Matt: The Crowden Music School, and then it’s the Jacqueline and Peter Hoefer Auditorium. I hope I pronounced that last name correctly. [Timestamp: 2:07]

And it’s not a huge space, but from the picture I saw, it appears to have a very high ceiling in there, and it looks like a hard floor—so some challenges there—but you guys went in and went to work on it. What sort of performances do they have in there? It looks like the space is pretty wide open so they can have just about anything.

Matt: Well, it’s a music school, so they have a lot of different musical performances. It could be solo shows or full orchestra. The Oakland Symphony Orchestra actually rehearses there from time to time as well. So there’s a stage and then they also have added more to the stage as well, and that can come and go depending on the type of performance. [Timestamp: 2:45]

Yeah, it looks like a very versatile place. So you would have to be ready for just about anything. So what did the Crowden Music Center want to accomplish with this project when they called you in? What did they want you to do?

Matt: Well, we worked closely with Meyer Sound, who was the equipment supplier and designer for the project. And instead of gutting the whole auditorium and putting in all brand-new acoustics—it was an old building. It was trying to work with the existing structure, put in some acoustic treatments in there, but creating a new system for rehearsals and performance done by speakers and microphones. [Timestamp: 3:23]

Treating the Crowden Music Center with Meyer Sound Constellation System, Part 1

Feb 7, 2013 2:06 PM, With Bennett Liles

Okay, that was the system that was put in, a Constellation system.

Matt: That’s correct. So it was a Constellation system, which you can really make that room sound like Carnegie Hall if you wanted to and with the push of a button. [Timestamp: 3:35]

Really interesting the way they do that. I mean you can almost dial up any acoustic environment you want.

Matt: Mm-hmm, yes.

Why was the Meyer Sound Constellation system chosen for this? Was it a challenging acoustic environment or was it because they had so many different kinds of performances?

Matt: I think different performance and acts, but also Meyer has a good relationship with the people at Crowden as well. And it was located in Berkeley where Meyer is headquartered, so I think it was a good research place for Meyer to work in as well, being right down the street from the factory. So it was kind of a good fit all the way around, having a local company that designs these kinds of systems be able to put it in and being it was a school, I know Meyer definitely helped with the financial part of it. [Timestamp: 4:17]

And the Meyer people came in, they did a lot with this. They surveyed the acoustics and what all did they do on this one?

Matt: Well, in the Constellation system, the Meyer acoustician would come in and analyze the space, and then they would take it back to their office and they model the room and figure out all the different speakers and mic placement and really figure out how the room’s going to perform with speakers and mics in different locations throughout the space. So the Meyer acousticians really analyzed every aspect of that room. [Timestamp: 4:49]

And they know their own equipment and what its capabilities are and exactly what to put where.

Matt: That’s correct.

But when it came to the muscle work and bringing it into reality, they called you in. Now Paul was there. Any particular part of this project that was the most difficult or challenging part of it?

Paul: Yeah. I would say a couple of factors with any Meyer system, and particular venues like this, is getting the speakers and microphones placed per their design accurately. They can tell if the mics are an inch off of placement, it affects the whole functioning of the system. There’s so much analyzation going on in a system like that, so placing the speakers and mics super critically in position. And also just the sheer volume of cabling in a typical Meyer system; we didn’t have any conduit or any false ceilings to hide cabling, so everything had to be very neatly dressed and concealed, you know, on rafters and beams where we could. So those are kind of the big challenges with the Meyer installations, just the sheer quantity of elements and cabling. [Timestamp: 5:55]

Right. You’re not just talking about speakers and amps with this system, you’re actually installing a lot of mics in there, too. Paul: Exactly, yeah, and some of the speakers are self-powered, typically, and a lot of them are remotely powered to the equipment room, so you use specialized cabling for those purposes. [Timestamp: 6:12]

So did you have to start from scratch or was there anything already in there that you could use, any existing wiring for speakers or mics, or did you just go from zero on all that?

Paul: It was definitely from the ground up. They had an old PA system, which was being retired as this one was being brought on. So yeah, it was starting from scratch. [Timestamp: 6:33]

And a lot of their speakers are self-powered; the only drawback on that being that you have to get the power up there to them. Were there any sort of electrical modifications or isolation issues that you had to deal with to, say, keep it out of the lighting power?

Matt: Yeah. We had isolated grounds run that were separate from the lighting system and the house system, so we installed an isolated ground bar that was strictly for the Constellation system. All our power was clean power, nothing else was tied to it. [Timestamp: 7:00]

They have so many different things going on in there, and as you pointed out, the placement of the components is so critical. It must be kind of wild when you actually hear it for the first time and hear how versatile it can really be.

Matt: Yeah. I think when you finally hear one of these systems turned on, it’s interesting because you can actually walk into the space and not really know the acoustics are being affected electronically. And then you turn off the system and then you just really hear the room on its own and it’s a completely different space. And you just cannot tell, you know. To me, you’re transported to a whole different venue when you deal with these different presets. It’s quite amazing. [Timestamp: 7:39]

Lots of calculation involved, and the Meyer people are experts in making all that happen, but when you actually hear it for the first time, you sort of forget about all the calculations. I’ve heard a couple of these systems before and what they can do with making one venue sound like a half a dozen different places is really wild. Matt and Paul, thanks for taking time out to give us a picture of this, and in part two we’ll get into what it was like working on the timeline, where the processors were installed, and testing it all. It was BugID with the Crowden Music Center and we’ll be seeing you guys then.

Paul: Thanks a lot.

Matt: Thanks so much. [Timestamp: 8:18]

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