EASE Modeling for a Multipurpose Venue, Part 2

North Carolina’s Elon University needed a complete sound system upgrade for its revered Whitley Auditorium. 2/28/2012 5:49 AM Eastern

EASE Modeling for a Multipurpose Venue, Part 2

Feb 28, 2012 10:49 AM, With Bennett Liles

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North Carolina’s Elon University needed a complete sound system upgrade for its revered Whitley Auditorium, and they called in Audio & Light to handle the job with speakers from DAS Audio. Jim Hoyle is back to wrap up his talk about the project and how the university operates the new system, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC:Jim, thanks for being back with us for part 2 on the SVC Podcast and the complete sound system upgrade at Elon University’s Whitley Auditorium. Last time we talked about how you got the DAS Variant Series speaker array installed and checked out and how you managed to arrange the time to do that between events. On this one, I wanted to get more into the rest of the sound system in there and how they operate it. So what sorts of other gear do they use in the sound system in Whitley Auditorium?

Well, besides the Variant speaker array, they have a Sound Craft FX 16 console. It’s just a small format console mounted in a rolling case that is usually sitting on the lip of the balcony so an operator can be in the room and experience the sound as the audience would. There is also a position in a booth where the rolling rack can be moved into a booth and the console be plugged in there and it’s behind glass and removed and it’s very rarely used there. In addition to the FX 16 speaker processors, we use the DAS digital processor to control the system it is the DSP 2060 A. [Timestamp: 1:54]

What do they have as far as mics? I know they have some events in there that have to mic’d for sure.

Yes, the microphone collection in that room is very basic; there’s a Shure SM57s, Shure S58s, but the university has lots of microphones spread out all over campus that they have access to and some wireless broad too. There was Shure SLX wireless systems, handheld, and lavaliers. [Timestamp: 2:17]

OK and the Shure SLX is a very popular item. We use it on our university campus, too.


I wouldn’t think that you would have a whole lot of RF issues in that kind of place.

No, but there is a lot of wireless on campus, so we have to be very careful about frequencies. We keep a list of all the frequencies we’re using on campus and we make sure that we’re not stepping on any toes. [Timestamp: 2:36]

I think we went over this in Part 1 a little bit. When we got to how the speaker enclosures are powered you were saying something about having some power installed up there for those things.


Did you have any sort of power or grounding issues to work out up there on those?

No, all the power for the sound system is pulled off one panel, which was in the tech booth in the rear of the balcony and from there it’s an easy pull up into the attic space and down to where the array hangs. It was very easy to get power in and out of the booth and everywhere we needed it so no there were no grounding issues. It all worked all very well. [Timestamp: 3:10]

And how are you controlling the power up there? Controlling it remotely I assume.

Yes, there’s a middle Atlantic AC relay system. So one button turns the entire system on and off in the proper order. [Timestamp: 3:22]

OK and the mobile mixer that I guess can be placed just about anywhere they want it. How do they do the job of cabling that? Is that something that’s permanently in place or do they sort of roll something out to connect it to the amps up above?

Yes, all of the mic lines and signal lines from the stage run from the stage to the booth and at the booth they split. And from there there’s a mass connector in the booth and then there’s a split and another mass connector mounted on the face of the balcony wall where the mixer can be plugged in there as well. [Timestamp: 3:52]


So there’s a mass connector on the end of a short snake coming out of the console that can plug in either in the booth or at the front of the balcony, but most of the time, it stays at the front of the balcony. [Timestamp: 4:03]

EASE Modeling for a Multipurpose Venue, Part 2

Feb 28, 2012 10:49 AM, With Bennett Liles

And where is the sound booth in there located?

It’s at the rear of the balcony at the top and behind glass, not ideal. [Timestamp: 4:09]

Yeah, that would probably be a good thing for recording. In some cases that might work better than others, but because this place has so many different uses I guess you could go from a one to a 10 as far as the degree of difficulty in being able to monitor things in there.

Absolutely, and I don’t know the entire history of this room. I would imagine it was built in the 20s and that would have originally been a projection type booth and now it’s used more for storage than anything. [Timestamp: 4:32]

So, how do they operate this? Do they have a particular person on staff who is the audio specialist there or is it completely automated? How do they do that?

Well, now there is no automation in this system. It’s all fully manual. Elon has technical staff, full-time people that take care of events on campus and there are several—I’m not sure how many are in the department but four or five people—there that are available to run sound and organize events. And occasionally they’ll hire us as an outside company to come in when they get busy and have more than they can do at once. We go in and send a sound and tech over to run the show for them. [Timestamp: 5:05]

OK, well, I’m sure they were very interested in this installation and seeing what you were doing in there.

Oh yes, yeah, they worked very closely with us and they were in on every decision. [Timestamp: 5:14]

Once you’ve decided what you had to do in there were there any concerns expressed on behalf of the staff there about altering the appearance of the room or the audio levels or anything like that?

Absolutely, aesthetically the room is beautiful and is very well cared for and it’s a source of pride for Elon and they really were concerned about putting a large speaker array up. One is there’s a seal on the upstage proscenia wall behind the stage and they certainly didn’t want the seal covered by anything and there was a lot of concern about how it would look on an elevation. I drew in where the cluster would fit to scale so everybody could get an idea of how it would work and it just so happened that the ideal height of the cluster allowed the seal to be visible below it from anywhere in the room while seated. So that worked out nice. [Timestamp: 6:00]

Yeah, you have to kind of get your mind wrapped around what their priorities are before you get started moving things and running cable and poking holes in places.

Right, and of course they were very concerned with the holes we were going to have to drill in the ceiling because it is an old plaster ceiling and that’s a little scary for us too because you make one little mistake and you have a huge chunk missing. [Timestamp: 6:20]

And from the looks of it on their website, they have so many different pages on there that mention Whitley Auditorium. It’s been here a long time, something like since 1924 I think.

Is that right? Yeah somewhere in the 20’s.

Yeah, and they use it for so many different things, that place is a big part of the university so I can see why there would be some initial concerns when people come in and put up scaffolding and start hanging things from the ceiling. They would definitely want to stay on top of what you’re doing.


So when you got it all in there and fired up and you did the first test, how did it go and when you used it in the first real event?

Surprisingly well. The first day we set it up, of course, we had our data from EASE and we used Smart to check the room and equalize the system and we spent about half the day testing and getting levels right from upstairs to downstairs. Since we had three zones in the cluster we were able to do some shading with how much volume we were sending upstairs as opposed to downstairs and we were able to get the sound pressure level very even upstairs and down, sounds very similar throughout the building—very happy with that. Immediately people from the music department came in that were interested in the project. People from the radio television school came in to see what was going on and everybody was very impressed very quickly with how intelligible it was. They could hear speech everywhere in the room. Previously they really had to struggle to hear. It’s interesting because without amplification, you really have a hard time understanding a person maybe 20ft. away, but we were able to close that distance a lot and everywhere in the room is highly intelligible. So from that standpoint, the testing, it was pretty obvious right away that we had gotten it right. And the first event was a home run. The first event I was involved in; actually I was there for a acappella group that was using it. Previously the acappella group had hired a sound system to come in so that they could have better sound and we assured them that they wouldn’t need to hire a system for this event; they could depend on the installed system and although they were a little skeptical at first, during their sound check they were convinced that it was one of the best sounding shows they’d ever had. So it worked out very, very well. [Timestamp: 8:23]

Well that’s good to hear, so what’s up next for Audio & Light? What kind of projects have you got in the works that you can tell us about?

Well, we have a lot in the works and we’re real excited for the new year; we’re starting it off well. We have a very large corporate project we’re working on. They’re redoing their corporate campus and so I think about six or eight conference rooms and a boardroom and a conference room meeting room. We’re installing a Planar video wall there so that’s an exciting for us. We have a lot more work at Elon University. It looks as if they will be installing a small videowall location and they have a couple more schools that they are getting ready to come on line and open. We have a large hospital project in the works, so we’re quite busy right now. [Timestamp: 9:08]

OK, Jim Hoyle with Audio & Light in Greensboro, N.C., and Elon University’s Whitley Auditorium sound system upgrade. Thanks for taking time on the SVC Podcast to give us the lowdown on the project, Jim.

Well, thank you. I appreciate it.

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