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Heavy-duty Audio Upgrade at Eisemann Center, Part 2

In this edition, SVC contributing editor Bennett Liles continues his chat with assistant technical manager Virgil Justice and audio technician Valerie Clark on the technical improvements recently mad 2/23/2011 9:23 AM Eastern

Heavy-duty Audio Upgrade at Eisemann Center, Part 2

Feb 23, 2011 2:23 PM, with Bennett Liles




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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

With a grant from Texas Instruments the Eisemann Center in Richardson, Texas got a tech make-over that allows the venue to handle top name performers and a heavy local schedule. Virgil Justice and Valerie Clark are here to wrap up their talk about the upgrades that have taken the center into the big leagues. That’s coming up next on the SVC podcast.
All right, Virgil Justice and Valerie Clark from the Eisemann Center in Richardson, Texas welcome back for Part Two on the SVC podcast.

Virgil: Thank you.

We were talking before about the Lectrosonics wireless mic system that you put in with the grant from Texas Instruments. You’ve got all these regular performances as part of the Eisemann Center Presents Series but then you’ve also got a lot of big acts coming in sometimes on fairly short notice. You’ve got a wireless mic system now with a lot of capability. How active an RF environment do you have in the neighborhood around the Eisemann Center?
Valerie: Well, we’re in what is known as a telecom corridor, many telecom and communication companies' corporate headquarters and technical facilities moved into the area in the 1980’s and 90’s. Texas Instruments, for example, is just down the road. So that being said, we were built with RF traffic in mind somewhat because it was a mission from the beginning to put a technological performing arts venue amongst top IT and telecom company neighbors. The answer was concrete—we’re fortified with 18in. concrete walls in each venue and there are hallways and rooms around the perimeter of the building that are encased in more than 18in. wall concrete. RF traffic has actually decreased for us since we opened. Many of the telecom industry leaders that were around us initially have moved and now we have neighbors like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bank of America, Samsung—to name a few. But we are suburb of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, the 5th largest TV and radio market in the US so there is RF everywhere all the time. [Timestamp: 2:23]

Well it sounds like you sure got the potential for RF issues to come up in that area. How did Lectrosonics help out with the frequency coordination?
Virgil: One big goal we had was for all three of our venues in our building to frequency coordinate amongst the three of the them so if we did have interference on a show or rehearsal or something we could at least start with a good trouble shooting point of knowing that it was probably coming from an outside source not a conflict from within our own three rooms. So that we wanted to weed out from the project goal starting point and the Hill Hall being the Lectrosonic system turned out to have the greatest flexibility for us with the plug in modules. We didn’t want to limit our future expansion by purchasing a product that would only fit with our older equipment that would eventually be phased out. So with the plug in modules even if we have to later change frequency bands for the Lectrosonics it’s a fairly minimal cost to us. [Timestamp: 3:18]

And in Part One we were talking about all of the different performing acts that you have come through there and sometimes needing a lot of wireless microphones to accommodate those performers. How did you work out the RF assignments between the old equipment and the new gear?
Virgil: Well Carl Winkler at Lectrosonics helped us out with the original frequency plot and we provided some of the…we provided the names, makes and models of the equipment we already had that we were phasing into some of the…to the other rooms and of course he knew the Lectrosonics equipment that were implementing in the Hill and he helped us create the original frequency plot that would work between all three rooms and so our internal policy stand point is we just keep those rooms on those frequencies and when an act comes in we offer them working frequencies that we already know from time and the FCC coordination work well within our area. So it’s worked out really well for us thus far. [Timestamp: 4:17]

Where did you decide to locate the receivers on the mic system?
Valerie: For the Lectrosonics both receivers are located at our FOH mixing position which is basically located on the middle aisle of the audience floor and slightly off to the house left side. [Timestamp: 4:31]

OK. What about the antennaes?
Valerie: One antenna is located at the FOH position pointed directly at the stage. The other one is mounted on the wall backstage at stage right. [Timestamp: 4:42]

OK. Did you have to shift the position of those around to tweak the system in or did it pretty much go as you planned from the beginning?
Valerie: It pretty much went as we thought it would. We haven’t had to move them. The antenna at FOH allows us to have an unobstructed receiving antenna within line of sight when the orchestra shell is in as well as the corporate events we have that have audience Q and A or a wandering interviewer within the house. Coverage from stage to every house aisle entrance including the four entrances to the mezzanine is very good with no RF dropouts. [Timestamp: 5:15]

All right and that’s a coax line. What was the model on that, the ALP500? It’s a LPDA antenna.
Virgil: Correct, yeah. We use RGA going from the antennas to the receiver. [Timestamp: 5:28]


Heavy-duty Audio Upgrade at Eisemann Center, Part 2

Feb 23, 2011 2:23 PM, with Bennett Liles




OK, low-loss and it doesn’t have to get moved around. With the Lectrosonic system, one of the best things about it seems to be the software. How does that work for you? What sort of features does it have?
Valerie: Well the software is designed to simply set up and enable continuous monitoring during operation of the system. A summary of each receiver system is displayed with real time indications for essential levels and settings on each installed receiver module and you can basically right click anywhere on the receiver pane and bring up a popup menu that allows you to alter the settings, add or delete a receiver, start a walk test recorder or even perform a spectrum scan. The spectrum scanner allows us to find clear operating frequencies should we experience any interference. We haven’t yet but it’s nice to know we can do that. And also if we have touring road companies we can use it to determine the best frequencies for them to operate in without changing or using our own existing frequency assignment. [Timestamp: 6:24]

Yeah obviously one of the main reasons that so many wireless mic companies have incorporated that feature into the system it’s great to be able to just instantly spectrum scan without having to use a bunch of outboard equipment and just do it right there in the system. So what else have you got in the PA? What kind of a main house mixer are you using?
Virgil: We have a Crest X8 analog console 56-channel and it’s still crankin. [Timestamp: 6:48]

And how far from the stage is that?
Virgil: It’s about 65-70ft. line-of-sight but cabling-wise it takes us about 125ft. to get there. [Timestamp: 6:57]

And how do you do your stage monitoring and all that? I would think that monitoring would be one part of it that would have to be pretty flexible to deal with the wide variety of performers at the Eisemann center.
Virgil: Yeah, correct. Concurrently we’re on a house normal situation. We’re mixing back monitors from the board at FOH and then we have QSC amplifiers driving Tannoy concentric 12in. monitors and that’s what we do for a good 75 percent of our clients but on the writer specific shows that need a separate monitor mix on stage we arrange that through either their equipment or we’ll rent it—cross rent something. That’s one of our next goals is to get a more of a more capable on stage monitoring mix. [Timestamp: 7:41]

Yeah that can be the source of a lot of pleasure or pain for the performers. What sort of tech crew do you have there? Is it just the two of you or do you have others helping out?
Virgil: Well we have three other people on our staff and we break off into essentially departments like lighting and we have staging—staging/decking fly man—that’s one person and then we have a video technician and each person will get assigned to a client for a period of time over the duration of their show and oversee our stagehand crew which we hire in locally through a company who provides our labor for the shows. And they interface with—if the show brings in their own crew to run specific areas of the show like light board, sound board, deck hands or fly man and that kind of thing, they implement or interface with them and either work alongside them or at some cases work for those show crew people. So those are all numbers of bodies that we have to figure out before the actual show gets in to make sure we have enough people in place for each particular client or each particular type of show. [Timestamp: 8:53]

Do you do any video recording of these shows?
Virgil: No not yet we have the city of Richardson, who were a city of Richardson facility, has a television station and they come out and record many of our performances—almost 98 percent of our presenting series, Eisemann Center Presents, they record as well as some client shows they’ll record. [Timestamp: 9:17]

What do they do for audio? Do they take a split off the mics or do you feed them out of an aux on the board?
Virgil: We feed them off of a matrix off the FOH board or we can give them a feed off of our…with the hearing assist feed which is a room…a mixture of the room microphone mixed with the signal coming off the board and they have a…actually they have a Lectrosonics wireless…camera setup where they can send a mono signal from our board wirelessly to their camera anywhere in the house. [Timestamp: 9:47]

Well how’s it been so far as far as the feedback from performers and everything? Has all the tech stuff seemed to fall into place or have you been making some tweaks as you go?
Valerie: We really haven’t had any complaints or problems with the system. All of the equipment performs very well and the operators…they just simply had to get used to it, if nothing else to figure out how the batteries came out of the transmitters and otherwise it’s been performing very well. [Timestamp: 10:14]

Well it’s certainly not a bad thing when you have to get accustomed to using better stuff than you had.
Virgil: Yeah.

Virgil Justice and Valerie Clark of the Eisemann Center it’s been great having you here to talk about the Lectrosonic’s digital wireless mic system upgrade and it sounds like a very interesting place to work. It’s been fun thanks for being here.


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