Staying Traditional at St. Joseph Cathedral, Part 2

Cathedrals are built to sound big, but the pastor’s message has to be heard clearly. 1/19/2012 6:46 AM Eastern

Staying Traditional at St. Joseph Cathedral, Part 2

Jan 19, 2012 11:46 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Cathedrals are built to sound big, but the pastor’s message has to be heard clearly. Peter Borchard is here to wrap up his talk on how MuSonics made the careful balance between lofty reverberation and speech intelligibility at the St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Peter, thanks for being back for Part 2 on the SVC Podcast and we were talking about a huge sound system and acoustic treatment job at St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls, S.D. and of course reverberation and speech intelligibility is the big thing on this. You wanted to give them clear speech capability while maintaining that big lofty, reverberant sound the place was actually designed to provide. One of the first things that you got into on this was dealing with the church staff and getting a feel for what they want and how much they know. How specific were they in telling you exactly what they wanted?

Peter Borchard: They don’t have any real technical people around. There isn’t the audio guy and there isn’t the video guy. The diocese had to have some people, and we didn’t deal with them as much as the guy who did the video design, Roger Wiley. There was never any notion of, “Oh yeah, well they can mix this or they can take care of that,” and we had to make it so it was push the button for “on” and go and use it with some notion toward future options and that was as, we mentioned last time, the ability for the Lectrosonics Aspen series to be able to be controlled with a, literally, an Apple iPad 2. We felt comfortable with that. The wireless system is also quite expandable right now. That was six bodypack mics and two handhelds, so we have two mainframes, but we still have four extra slots for additional channels if they should need that. [Timestamp: 2:25]

Right, the Lectrosonics VRM Venue series. And I think those were the Lectrosonics LMA digital hybrid beltpacks?

Yep, the belt packs are LMAs and then the handheld’s are the UT with the VMO. I usually go for an omni capsule. [That sounds] counter-productive, but most people they would tend to on some people try and lip lock the thing and others want to hold it down in their waist so we wasn’t charging around with a low frequency and proximity affect and that sort of thing. Plus some people like to talk in the side and some people like to talk in the front so this is usually the safest thing. You find a good level and then just say, “Look if it’s not loud enough, make them hold it closer; and if it’s too loud, hold it further away.” And that seems to work pretty well. There’s no absolutes with that and there’s none enough dynamic control in anything that can take screaming lip lock versus them talking moderately at waist level. [Timestamp: 3:21]

Well, the Venue Series has one real ace card in its bag and that is that they can really pack a lot of receivers into a small area, I mean one rack space and you’ve got, I think, as many as six receivers.

Yeah, it’s a only a one rack unit thing, and it takes six channels worth. Once you have those, if you say you need an extra channel, it’s just not that expensive for another VRS input module. So it’s very nice and the way it handles antennas is very good too. You don’t need a separate splitter. [Timestamp: 3:49]

Did you guys run into any tricky situations running cable and mounting speakers and all that?

Oh yes, yeah, yeah. The equipment all fits not that far from the apse, the forward end of the church, but the conduit was pretty circuitous. I think we ended up with nearly 200ft. or maybe even a little over 200ft. from the antennas to the receivers. So we used one of in line power antenna, which is also a splitter thing at the UFM 230 and those did the trick; we had plenty of signal. [Timestamp: 4:21]

Huge job doing all that.

That’s why it’s grand that the owner of the company that we did it was onsite. He could make those decisions and lots of things. [Timestamp: 4:29]

How long did all that take from the first concept to the first time you rang the system out and actually tested it?

Over a year, mainly because of the renovation, but I would say they were onsite on a regular basis—well, increasingly as time went on; first they pulled all the cable. [I] couldn’t even mount the speakers or anything like that until the painting was finished. It was an [overall OK] time. I often thought that Jeff Engen had brought a hammock and put it up some place and stayed there all the time. That’s quite a run; it’s a 40—almost 50 miles actually. [Timestamp: 5:03]

Staying Traditional at St. Joseph Cathedral, Part 2

Jan 19, 2012 11:46 AM, With Bennett Liles

Well, when you fired it up and tried the system out for the first time, how did it do?

Well, it did very well because he’d already had it up and running. I had asked him, specifically, to get things running as soon as possible even before anything was adjusted just to get that burn in time, which we all know is a time when problems show up. So he had it up in a long time and the other thing I did, which was a really good idea, one of the line items in the equipment list was two days of Renkus-Heinz factory speakers coming out of commissioning [that] Jeff set up. So we had two computers running—two laptops, one in middle aisle about halfway back in the nave and had the cabling all setup to the internal wiring. So one computer could talk to the Lectrosonics and the other one talked to a Ethernet hub, which in turn talked to all six speakers and their setup using SysTune and all that was—that was worth its weight in gold. We spent two full days pretty much: The first one especially. getting everything zeroed in and the beams set on the speakers. It was fairly tricky because we had to transition them between the front set and then the ones in the nave. If that’s not done very carefully, you get dead spots and problems with timing. The setup they used was just—I would have spent weeks trying to do that. Timestamp: 6:27]

Where did you put all the receiver mainframes for the wireless mics?

There was a “AV room,” as I say, in the building behind—it’s all attached, but it’s behind—the main cathedral and near their day chapel, and we had two 72in. racks in there and also the Vaddio video stuff setup. The little room’s dedicated for it. It hadn’t been planned that way before the renovation, the big renovation project. So that worked out pretty well. [Timestamp: 6:57]

So that can be a challenging environment not just for the acoustics but also for the RF.

Yes indeed, yeah. That was the main thing is even though it was probably, from where the wireless antennas are way up in the apse of the church all the way from there to the equipment was only 50ft. by a straight line, but the conduit wasn’t quite as cooperative as that so it ended up being a pretty long run. So we had no problems with this stuff at all and it worked out just fine. [Timestamp: 7:26]

Lots of hard, reflective surfaces.

Yeah, yeah. You know, the old rule of thumb is it’s got to be line of sight, but in the end, from that vantage point was that the antennas split quite widely probably about 15ft. apart up in the rounded apse area. You can get all the way out the front doors of the cathedral. [Timestamp: 7:45]

Well, I know they liked that.

Yeah, they definitely did because the Catholic Church has a fairly elaborate Easter vigil thing they call sometimes there’s the vigil fire out front. The service always starts out there and then proceeds into the church from that point. [Timestamp: 8:03]

So what’s coming up next for MuSonics? What have you got in the bag ready to unleash on the next client?

Yes, right. Several things, actually. We have a number, and this is the way it almost always works for us even though we have [been in business] a long time, but Dennis finally built a website about two years ago. But, for instance, we have now two active and one more pending with the same architect, with Duncan G. Stroik, with new projects around the country. So there’s quite a bit, plus we’re working on the First Baptist Church in Washington D.C.; a new church in Naples, Fla., that involves another project in Las Angeles. It’s quite a few, but there’s about eight active or semi active projects funny because of the economy things tend to go forward and then stop for fundraising and then they could just literally disappear for a year or even two years, we’ve had, and then come back. [Timestamp: 8:55]

Well, I appreciate your giving us the details on this thing. This was really a fascinating installation with enough problems to certainly make it interesting and I’m glad you took the time out to tell us about it. It’s Peter Borchard of MuSonics and the St. Joseph Cathedral sound and acoustics installation in Sioux Falls, S.D. Nice job and thanks for being with us, Peter.

Glad to do it. Thanks so much.

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