svc Blogcast
Baldwinsville High School Gets Yamaha AFC from AVL Designs - Pt 1
Monday, January 15, 2018 - 19:26
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Seth Waltz of AVL Designs. Show notes and product links for this podcast and others are at svconline.com.

Physical acoustic treatment, hanging curtains, installing reflective clouds and carpet used to be the only way to change the acoustics of a performing space. The Baldwinsville High School auditorium needed an adjustable acoustic environment. Seth Waltz and AVL Designs came in with Yamaha’s Active Field Control and he’s here to tell us about how Yamaha AFC works. That’s up next on the SVC Podcast.

Hi Seth. We haven’t talked since you were here before, telling us about AVL Designs’ Glenns Falls Civic Center project a while back.

It’s good to talk to you.

AVL Designs is in Pennfield, New York and we’ve got a high school auditorium renovation which doesn’t sound like that big a deal until you look at the electronic approach to acoustics that you applied here. So many types of events happen in there that a physical acoustic treatment approach would have been a bare compromise at best but Yamaha’s Active Field Control sounds to me like it provides a dial-up acoustical environment.

Exactly.

Is this sort of project typical for AVL Designs?

We’ve actually been using AFC for probably about eight years. We’ve got 22 systems currently that we’ve designed that are installed and operating. We’ve got a bunch of other ones in design. And it’s been continually improving; the software and algorithms they’re using just keep getting better. But it lets us give a space really variable acoustics over the whole frequency range, which you can’t get with curtains and other methods that people have used over the years to try to vary the acoustics. And this school does 53, typically, concerts and events a year. All of them are performances. They’re either music productions, plays – all sorts of high-end stuff – and it’s a very aggressive music program. They really wanted to have the right acoustics for every style of music. [Timestamp: 2:09]

Of course, I looked at your Web site and there seems to be a lot of this but what other types of projects does AVL Designs do?

Well, our company, we do acoustics. Obviously we do electronic acoustics, audio, video, lighting, stage rigging. And a lot of it is theater, but we also work in sports venues, broadcast studios, convention centers. Just about any kind of performance venue that requires specialty equipment. [Timestamp: 2:35]

It looks like Baldwinsville High School had a number of challenges not just in sound but in lighting and sightlines. What did they want to accomplish with the renovation of this auditorium?

They wanted a true performing arts center, but we were stuck with a footprint and roof height in an existing part of the building that could not increase. So we had to look at some kind of innovative ways to get lighting, catwalks and everything else we needed in the room. And because of the sightlines we ended up with bleacher seating, which acoustically creates some real problems for music. You end up with not enough air in the room. So the maximum reverb time we get out of the space physically was limited. And they do orchestra and they do operatic things in there, so that was one of the biggest challenges was to try to do something about the room acoustics within the physical shell. And so we chose a black box design; no ceilings. The roof deck of the room is the ceiling. There’s some tuned absorbers and things hiding up in that black cavity that you can’t really see. Some of the wall panels are acoustical. Some of them are hard. So there’s a lot of things in the room that are used to tweak the room itself, but then the AFC was planned in from the basis of design to let us move that reverb time around and change the characteristics of the room at will. [Timestamp: 3:55]

Interesting to say the least when you have to take a place that you not may have had complete physical control over and make it sound right for any type of thing they want to do. I know that AVL Designs is very familiar with Yamaha’s Active Field Control so how did that system help this venue to get where they wanted it to be.

Well, we actually did get to design the entire interior of the room. We picked the seats, the acoustic character of the seats, the walls. So all of those things – we were stuck within the existing envelope, but everything was gutted so we started with nothing at the beginning. So the key thing was tuning it so that it had a particular response so that when the AFC takes over it can do the things it can do because there are limits to how far you can extend certain frequencies. There’s a whole bunch of things that have to be taken into account. Mechanical noise has to be extremely low, so we worked with a mechanical engineer to get that under control. A lot of preliminary things you have to do to get AFC to work, but then it’s able to do – literally, if you close your eyes you can sit in this room and as you run through presets you can hear the room get larger. You can hear bass extension that wasn’t there before. You can hear surround sound kind of effects where sidewalls are bringing more energy than they were with the system off, which simulates a much more expensive room with a lot of fancy stuff we really didn’t have in the space. So it’s kind of like way beyond a surround system because of everything it’s able to do. It has so many capabilities, including we’ve got it wired so they can use it for sound effects out of individual speakers within the room. So they can do all sorts of special occasion sound effects through the system as well. [Timestamp: 5:40]

In reading about Active Field Control I could describe it as a two-way sound system where you have not only sound originating onstage and going out the speakers as a final destination but then you have the sound going back from the house as real time acoustic data to be used in control.  

The algorithm is basically a group of microphones that are placed over the stage and another group that are placed out in the house in front of the stage that pick up all the energy and a particular distance that is worked out in design based on the reverb time of the room. And then that’s run through software that simulates all these impulse responses that aren’t really in the room. So you can literally make the room larger and all sorts of things with it. But it’s not like a reverb unit like you use in the studio, but it has that sound quality. But because of the dozens and dozens of speakers placed all throughout the room that are individually processed you can literally move the walls away or the ceiling away with these electronic tools and kind of steer the way the room behaves for the particular type of performance you’re doing. [Timestamp: 6:44]

Yeah, I can imagine that’s a very special experience being able to just close your eyes and hear the whole building apparently changing shape and changing size.

Yeah. The first time we heard this Yamaha had it in their piano studio in New York City, which has about a 12-foot drop ceiling. And they had a string quartet in there and a grand piano, and I literally – you had to close your eyes because you knew you weren’t hearing the room you were sitting in. And that was the early iteration of the system, and it was so good that it really made you feel like you were in about a 400-500 seat room – not in a room with a drop ceiling that seats about 50. And that was the really early version which had some edge to the sound. It’s like if you slapped your hand on something you’d hear some reverb tail that wasn’t natural, but that’s all gone now. This thing has come so far that it’s fooling professional classical musicians in a number of venues we’ve used it in. [Timestamp: 7:39]

There’s nothing like actually having the system out on the market and being installed in a lot of different situations. No two venues are going to be exactly alike. So how many different settings do you have on this one? How would you set it up differently for say, a presenter at a school assembly or for a musical group?

Well, we’ve got one setting that’s called Voice Lift, which does just additional early reflections. It raises the natural sound of a person on stage by almost as much as six decibels in the seating area. And this is without using the sound system that’s in the room. There’s also a sound system in the room. But this is the acoustic electronic system. In a lot of the venues we’ve done a person can give a lecture on stage, if they have a decent voice, without using a microphone. They can just stand up there and present and most people have no problem hearing them. Part of that is because the mechanical noise is well-controlled. Then when we go to a music mode, we will increase the reverb time of the room. We’ll change the base extension of the room and base ratio, depending on the style of music. We also have on stage in the stage rigging an electronic shell for the stage so that they don’t have to have those big, physical wood shelves that most stages have to bounce sound back to the musicians. That’s controlled. So there’s a half a dozen presets for the seating area and a half a dozen presets for the stage, which have been combined down and controlled through a Crestron system where you select the style of music and you select is the stage active or not, so you have some options depending on what you’re doing. But it’s really – it’s literally going from sounding like a lecture hall to sounding like a concert hall over a variety of settings for different styles of music. [Timestamp: 9:20]

And of course, playing around with it and going through all the settings after it’s installed is the fun part. But that’s after all the heavy lifting and everything is done.

Exactly.

What was involved in connecting all of the wiring and components for this system?

Well, one of the things that’s unusual, I think we’ve got something in the neighborhood of 84 loudspeakers in the room. I don’t remember off the top of my head, but it’s a large number. I know there’s like 16 on stage plus subwoofers and there’s a ton of them out in the seating area. Every single one is a home run. There’s no parallels. Every unit is driven by its own processing, its own amplifier, so it’s just a mile of wire. And they all have to be at particular heights relative to the seats going up to the seating area because it’s shallower. We had to use more loudspeakers in the back to get the coverage so you don’t have any hotspots. You don’t feel like there’s something over your head. So it’s just a lot of physical installation and the contractors who did it, It’s a lot of rigging, a lot of writing, and kind of a configuration they’re not used to because it’s like a distributed sound system. It does loudspeakers off of one amplifier channel. On this one is a dozen amplifier channels. [Timestamp: 10:27]

Well, this complex a system is not something where you call up the local PA guys and say, “put in one of these.” The experience AVL Designs has with Yamaha’s AFC has been extremely valuable. This place would have some kind of stage monitoring. Are the acoustics onstage separately adjustable from those in the house?

Yep. The stage system, you can have it on early reflection so that the actors on stage hear themselves better in a play, for example. Even though they may be wearing head mics that are going through the PA, this lets them hear themselves without floor wedges or side fill monitors on stage. They’re all there too, but that’s a whole other system. You can completely adjust the two separately so depending on how the operator wants to run an event they can do some pretty special things without having to do traditional sound reinforcement techniques for everything. [Timestamp: 11:15]

You got all this in and working right but was there any kind of a tight timeline on having it all in and ready to be tested?

This was a big project because the room was gutted. It was actually under construction for, I think, a total of 18 months. Most of this work got done in the last two months because all the conduit and the rigging hardware was installed as the building was going together, but they couldn’t actually get the electronics in until the room was clean. So the contractors that did this work were doing most of their work the last two months before the building opened. This system was tuned and ready to go four weeks before opening. Some of the other systems literally got online two days before opening. So this one we had a little leeway, which was good. [Timestamp: 11:59]

I would imagine, with the experience you have on these things. How many of the AFC systems did you say you’ve installed so far?

We’ve got 22 that are installed and we’ve got probably another dozen that are out – either have been bid or are in design right now. So we’ve had quite a history with them. Our oldest one is eight years old and we do keep track of them. We’ve never had a failure, but we’ve had one that had to have software reloaded because there was a power outage in the building that damaged the power supply. But these things have been incredibly robust. But the other thing is – I can’t name names. We’ve had professional artists in a lot of these rooms that we have heard back from their sound engineers that they loved the acoustics of the room and they had no idea the system was in there. And these were kind of plain Jane looking rooms that these things were in and people just go, “Wow, I love the acoustics in this room. I don’t know what it is, but it just sounds so good.” [Timestamp: 12:52]

Sounds like all you really need is a button on the controller that just says, “Love this room” and you just push that to work for any situation.

Yeah. Well, and the thing that’s interesting is if you’re in one of these rooms and you turn it off at any point, the room doesn’t sound bad because we’ve tuned the room to be neutral and not have any weird aberrations like echoes or anything strange. But when it shuts down it’s disappointing. It’s like you just lose this musicality that is there. And we could design a room physically – and we’ve done it. We’ve designed recital halls that have that physical acoustic condition that sounds like that. But when a room is that live and it has that much bass, don’t ever put a rock-and-roll band on stage, don’t put a brass ensemble on stage, because the room is going to be too much. The beauty with this is you can have this orchestra play with all the subtly and all this nuance and then when you’re doing the talent show with a rock-and-roll band you turn it to one of the really low presets where it’s barely doing anything and it’s just so much better to be in that room for that use. [Timestamp: 13:51]

It’s got to be fun running the system through everything it can do and especially demoing this thing for people who have never heard it before. So, next week we’ll get into some more specific things about it, where things are located and how they’re controlled. I’ve had a great time getting more into Active Field Control. It’s Seth Waltz from AVL Designs in Pennfield, New York and the Baldwinsville High School auditorium renovation, a much more involved project than it might sound like initially. Thanks for giving us a look at it Seth.

Thank you.

Yeah I can imagine that’s a very special experience being able to just close your eyes and hear the whole building changing shape and changing size.

Great talking with Seth Waltz. We’ve got all the show notes and product links on the Sound & Video Contractor Magazine web site at svconline.com. On next week’s show Seth will give us the details on exactly what went into putting the Yamaha AFC in place and adjusting it to perfection so be back with us for that on the next SVC Podcast.

Advent Outfits Stanford Home of Champions Pt 2
Monday, January 8, 2018 - 13:01
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with John Downie of Advent. Show notes and product links for this podcast and others are at svconline.com.

The new Home of Champions isn’t just a place. It was designed by Advent to be an experience. From the sixty foot PixelFLEX wrap-around video display to the interactive book tables, visitors are immersed in the Stanford athletic programs. John Downie, Vice President of Digital Experience at Advent is back to finish up on how sound, lighting and video were created.  Right here on the SVC Podcast.

John, it’s good to have you back with us again this week on the SVC Podcast from Advent in Nashville. Vice President of Digital Experience and this is a really digital experience we’ve been talking about at the new Stanford Home of Champions. Video displays, books you can lay on a table top and they come to life with more stories. The thing that amazes me when I see this is where you came from on it. How did you get started on turning a basketball gym and athletics offices into such a revolutionary visual experience?

Well, really, the starting point was transforming the original basketball court space into the space that is there today. And that took our design team many months of planning and development, obviously with close association with the client. And then each to plan out what exactly was going to be in the space. I think I’ve spoken last week about this process of story mining and understanding what the individual stories are going to be. We used that as a platform, as a foundation to inform that physical design of a space. So that was our springboard to understand what the client’s needs were, what the stories were that we wanted to tell in the space. Then we moved into conceptualizing exactly what the design of the space was going to be with those foundation stories in place. And then once we worked with that conceptual design process and agreed with the client the boundaries of the scope, we move into our production design. And that’s when we start to become more diversified and separated in our individualized approach. From a digital experience perspective that meant actually planning out exactly what the interactives were going to do. So we worked closely with the design team to create some of those individual elements such as the LED board, the touch table, some of those 4K beautiful storytelling portrait-mounted screens that bring to life the individual athletes. So those are high concepts at that point in time and then we have to turn them into reality. So that forks into the functional mechanical reality of running cabling and running conduit and creating all of the plans for that and specifying hardware. And then the software and technical reality of building that user experience that takes that idea and actually builds a functional and workable tool. Folks here at Advent have those capabilities and have that expertise on their digital experience team. We just plow forward from that point and work closely with our GC partners and our A/V integrator partners, such as PixelFLEX on the board, and we start to document those approaches and work through all the individual problems that we come up against as we start to merge the physical world of construction with the realities of building digital-based user experience. [Timestamp: 3:29]

Since we’re talking today a little more about the real getting your hands dirty aspect of the project, how were the PixelFLEX display sections mounted? I know that you had the San Francisco building codes to deal with because the place has to withstand the possible shaking it could eventually get, so how did you mount those things?

Yes, that’s a great question, Bennett. So obviously we’re talking about a very long board and it’s very heavy in an active earthquake area. So one of the first things to do was work with the GC to make sure that there was adequate support for the board and there’s a floor of steel between the first and second floors obviously that forms the floor pan – that is a perimeter around the central area that the Home of Champions is in. We were able to leverage the existing floor steel to put in some kind of bracing and we were able to affix to that bracing with three bolted fixtures of ¾-inch plywood on this kind of soffit area that defines the space between the two floors onto which the board is mounted. And then each of the individual cabinets for the board are, in turn, kind of through bolted – into that backup ply. So it’s a very straightforward approach, but obviously the specification of fixings and the specification of sheer loads of those fixings was very important and needed to be approved in order to meet the building codes as well. And there were also some aircraft cable safety restraints on various parts of the board where there were traffic areas too. So if there was a sheer event the boards would be captured if they happened to fall, even though that was a very unlikely event. [Timestamp: 5:08]

Well, no matter how futuristic this place looks, it’s reassuring to know that it all had to start with just hacking into some good old plywood and doing the normal things behind the scenes to get it put together. It must have taken awhile. What was your timeframe on getting the whole thing done and working? Did you have to work around other people on this or did you have the whole place to yourself?

Yeah, so no, we had to work around other people. So we worked very closely with the general contractor because he was responsible for the structural fit-out of the space. And then we actually suffered some compression on the back end of that. It’s always inevitable in a complex construction project because Advent generally, even though we’re informed and part of the process from Day 1, our work really starts when the core structure is complete. We’ll start to get in and mount our AV once that’s finished. Due to the time constraints on this project we weren’t able to that, so we really started to work and parallel with the GC who was still doing some significant construction work. So we had to take all the precautions to make sure that the work was planned out correctly so we weren’t tripping over each other, so that there was protection against dust and the possible ingress into our equipment of other things. There’s a lot of steel work, which in this space we were mindful of – metal filings and drilling swarf coming into things potentially, and sheetrock dust, which we all know is potentially deadly to AV equipment. So yeah, there was a lot of planning to make sure that everything was orchestrated and able to be well planned out so we were all able to meet the end date that was given to us. [Timestamp: 6:41]

Well, I know that Advent is no stranger to handling projects like this. That’s where your expertise is. So how was your experience from previous projects applied to this one? Is there anything special that you brought to it?

That’s a great question, Bennett. We’ve been in the business of creating experiences that move people since 1999 and we’ve seen our business change. Historically we were more of an exhibit, exhibition-style company so we would just come in and put things on the floor and mountings on the wall. And our business has changed significantly over the last five years especially. We’ve seen more of these large-scale capital projects where we’re part design/architect almost and we are working very closely with the GC on a very large fit-out. So that’s equipped us with a special and somewhat unique process to approach these kinds of projects where we’re able to identify where the potential pitfalls are going to be way back in the process to maximize our efficiency as we move through that project. Specifically on the Home of Champions, all of the expertise we have in identifying cable runs and potential conflicts when it comes to power locations and especially all the hidden structure of a building and a space allows us to effectively mount heavy equipment or equipment that is somewhat cumbersome. Things like large-format touchscreens, for example. You may think you just hang that on the wall. But when a user in touching those, if it’s not properly mounted either to the correct substraight or the mounting isn’t in the right areas, the screen is going to wobble. We have two 70-inch 4K screens in the Home of Champions and they’re incredibly heavy, but a user can touch all of those areas. So we knew from the outset that we had to specify adequate blocking in a much larger area than if that was just going to be a regularized passive video screen because users are going to be touching it and interacting with it and we didn’t want that wobble. We wanted to be able to maintain the high-end user experience. And then thinking again about the LED panel, for example, we know how these things are going to react to the potential movement of a building and exactly how we’re going to need to run conduit and run power to that. So our experience in other projects let to us being able to make decisive decisions early on in the stage to make sure that we were able to meet the deadline. [Timestamp: 9:08]

Sometimes it’s difficult in this visual an environment to imagine exactly how it’s going to look when it’s real. You do all the work and spend all of the time on it and then the visitors may wind up with the room lights reflecting into their faces from the video screens so how did you get the brightness of the main video display and the ambient light in the room to work together?

We do a lot of preliminary work in virtualized 3D models to understand how, especially these large format AV displays are going to have an interplay with the environment and the lighting and the reflection across all elements of the space. So we approach the problem solving of that. We talked earlier on about our expertise in other projects. This is an area that we spent a lot of time and made a lot of investment is to create toolsets that would allow us to virtualize the space to understand how the nuance of light reflection is going to potentially create a negative impact on the user experience. So before we get into the space we actually turn things on. We know that we place monitors or screens or lighting in the correct areas and minimize those negative highlights and interplays of sound and color. So I talked about the 70-inch monitors that we have with the large 4K videos on them. They are mounted directly opposite the large LED ribbon board. So had we not taken that into account and we hadn’t changed the positioning of those on the vertical, you would be able to see this large reflective band of light from the LED board. So we were able to identify that as a solution. In the virtual study we were able to change the position of the board and the screens ever so slightly. We were able to angle the screens completely undetected by the user. It means that we don’t get those highlights and reflections. And then lastly, using the great controls on the PixelFLEX boards, you were talked earlier about brightness. We were able to just very easily dial down the brightness to a level that was acceptable for the space. We run the board at about 60 percent of its standard luminosity; 100 percent would just be too bright for the space. So we knew that we’d have to lower the level. We had done some studies at PixelFLEX’s headquarters beforehand and then when we got to the space we knew that we were able to achieve what we wanted to achieve due to that forward planning and also the virtual studies that we’d undertaken. [Timestamp: 11:30]

So it’s all done, you fired it up for the first time on the demo so what was the reaction when it all came to life?

Well, the first time we fired it up it didn’t work, Bennett, because the graphics card that was in our playback unit had a catastrophic hardware failure. So that was – yeah, I say all of this planning, but you can never plan for the completely unexpected. So yeah, the very first time we spiked it up we got a very strange picture and myself and actually another engineer spent a very frantic 24 hours trying to make it work. And we realized that GPU was actually broken in our playback unit. So after we fixed that, we rushed in another GPU, we spiked it up and the client came in and we showed them. They were just bowled over. They really liked the LED board and what it did for the space. They immediately started to identify ways in which they could utilize it in the future as well, so this is not an install-and-run for us and for the client. They saw the future potential for this as a really important, integral part and central part of the space. So we, from the outset, started talking about the ways in which we could utilize it moving forward beyond those initial templates that we had created for it. [Timestamp: 12:36]

Even as experienced as the people at Advent are with doing this type of project, I’m sure that you learned a few things here so what are you going to take from here into future projects?

Yeah, that’s a great question. We always do a period of reflection and what we learned after a project and if we were doing it again what could we have done better? The board is curved as it wraps around the corners of the building. We curved that and we would have approached that differently from just a construction perspective. It was very hard to get the panels of the board aligned correctly. We achieved it, but it just took a lot of time. So this was a new build within and existing building. You can measure and plan, but when you start demoing things, and as you said they were ripping sheetrock off the walls then you’re really able to understand what’s behind it. So our measurements were slightly incorrect because we were working off as-built drawings and the reality was slightly different. So that gave us some problems with the curvature of the screen that we had to work around. So one of things we identified was probably doing more in-depth surveying and cutting some inspection holes in plasterboard to understand what was behind something rather than making an assumption. And then bringing backup GPU’s to the site. As I mentioned earlier along we had that problem with our primary GPU’s, so ensuring we’ve got adequate backups available. [Timestamp: 13:52]

That was certainly a good lesson.

It was a great lesson. We always do have backups, but we never had one of these GPU’s break so we didn’t have one and in adventury we didn’t think we needed it. So just yeah, making sure we’ve got adequate backups. We applied a lot of previous expertise to this project and it really paid off in our ability to deliver a great product on time. And a lot of the things that we learned we actually outside of the AV and the digital experience space. So yeah, I was very thankful that our learning list was fairly small on this project. [Timestamp: 14:23]

A totally immersive place and the more I read and saw about it the more interesting it got on how this all got put together and you’ve done a great job of telling us about that. It’s John Downie, Vice President of Digital Experience at Advent. The project is the Stanford Home of Champions showcasing their legendary athletics program. Thanks for taking time out to give us a look at how it got done.

Not at all, Bennett. Thank you for inviting me back. I really appreciate it. Yeah, if anybody’s in Palo Alto, do go and see it. It’s a wonderful space with wonderful history and stories in it.

Thanks for joining us today with John Downie of Advent. We’ve got links and notes on this conversation at the website of Sound and Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Be back here with us again next week for the SVC Podcast.

Advent Outfits Stanford Home of Champions Pt1
Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - 10:50
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with John Downie of Advent. Show notes and product links for this podcast and others are at svconline.com.

Stanford University’s athletics program is legendary, having won an astounding array of trophies but they wanted to go beyond the trophy cases and show much more. Advent was called in to outfit their new Home of Champions with a unique AV system. Advent Vice President of Digital Experience John Downie has the story on how it all came about. Coming up on the SVC Podcast.

John it’s a real treat to have you with us today from Advent to tell us the story of this amazing place that Stanford calls its new Home of Champions. Vice President of Digital Experience with Advent, you were right in the middle of this whole operation and it looks like your company was the right one to call for creating an absolutely magical environment.

Thank you very much. Good to be here, and thanks for inviting me on. So Advent has been around in its current form since 1999 when our current CEO one of the founders, John Robinson, bought the company. And we are effectively in the business of designing and creating experiences that move people. So we do that by realizing spaces and environments and weaving together kind of static exhibits with forms, with digital technology. But really just kind of creating moments of excitement and engagement with people to move them, to kind of have memorable brand experiences. We do this really through two main business verticals. One is for college and academic facilities in the U.S.; the academic and athletic side of those universities and institutions. And then secondly the pro sports teams. Those are really the two main verticals of operation that Advent currently are engaged in. [Timestamp: 1:56]

And I believe you also have the more broad title of Creative Technologist. Now, that’s really a very special-sounding job. What sort of experience and background does that require? That doesn’t sound like something you would see in the want ads.

[Laughs] Well, yeah. You hit on one of the challenges for us in the recruitment space. We talk about this role of the creative technologist because really a lot of what we do on the digital experience side – again that is a term that we apply a lot to what we do; the experience that something lends through a digital filter – is really taking all of the tenets and the ideas of existing AV and weaving that in with really high-end, cutting-edge, computer-based approaches to create these experiences. So we’re not just technologists. We’re not just coders and software engineers in the traditional sense. We create technologically-based experiences and that’s where the concept of a creative technologist comes from. We look for people with Swiss army knife backgrounds, for want of a better expression, who have got a lot of varied experience in a number of different disciplines. So my own discipline, for example – so my own background is I was a copywriter for a long time. I was a graphic designer for a long time. And when the Web started to become a thing I worked for a number of agencies in Europe. And so my background is graphic design; the semantics of traditional design combined with the sensibilities of a modern approach of digital backed up with a number of other experiences and the physical installation of high-end AV that allows us to create a lot of the high-end digital experiences that we’re able to do today. So for example, one of the projects that we recently completed is this very large searching projector – projection-mapping scenario onto a 40’ x 40’ model for the new L.A. Rams stadium that had been built in Inglewood, in Los Angeles, and that requires just a number of different kind of approaches from the software up to how are you going to fix these projectors into a building that is in an active seismic area? All of these disciplines have to be able to meet the challenges that are presented to us; feed into the concept of a creative technologist is. I gave you a very long answer there, but I hope that helps your audience to understand what we do in a little more detail. [Timestamp: 4:23]

Oh no, that’s fine. That probably requires some explanation. The specific project that I found so interesting is the new Stanford Home of Champions. This is a unique place and it obviously required a lot of imagination to come up with so how did Advent come into this? Had you worked with Stanford before or done previous athletic themed environments?

Firstly, thank you for your kind words on that project, which is really a flagship project for us. We have a very wide coverage nationally within the U.S. and the west coast is an area that we have worked in before. And when Stanford were looking to really reimagine what their hall of champions was going to be they really came to us to consult on what that could be. The program at Stanford, as we know, is incredibly storied. They have a very prestigious program. They wanted to tell the stories of the athletes and the programs that lead to the success of winning trophies and national championships. They have hundreds and hundreds of trophies that are available to them, but they didn’t want to just tell those individual stories of the trophies. They wanted to tell the back story, the wider story, of the program and its roots and the history and the stories of success that led to those achievements. So really they wanted an experience. They wanted a multi-stranded, deep experience that was rich in its storytelling, which is the area in which we excel. So they came to us within the context of knowing that some of our existing relationships our work there and yeah, we embarked on a multi-year program to realize what ended up becoming the Home of Champions. [Timestamp: 5:58]

And so how did you want to take them beyond a building full of trophy cases? I’m sure they have plenty of those and what you would normally think of finding in such a place is that’s what you’re going to see is just endless cases full of trophies but in this new Home of Champions you really don’t see that but you do see just about everything else.

You do, and thank you for picking up on that. That was a very meaningful approach was we didn’t want to just put lots of trophies on shelves. And that was actually a direction that came out from the process that we applied that we refer to as story mining, which is a trademark process that had been applied. That is an interview-based process where we interview varies key members of the programs or the brand or the organization that we’re working with. We really start to understand what the human stories are that sit underneath the individual successes, but are very easy to identify. What are the strands of humanity and story that really sit underneath each of those elements of the program that are more public? And as part of that process we really realized that it was about the athlete. It was about the coaching staff. It was the human story rather than the singular story of the trophy. The story of the trophy, the story of the individual win, it’s above that human story so we wanted to tell that story in the space. And I think you see that when you walk in. One of the first things you see are the faces of the individual athletes. We have a number of individual touchpoints within the space that allow visitors to really engage with individual stories from current athletes up to recognized alumni from a number of different athletic disciplines. So yeah, it’s really a program rooted in the human stories of the success of the program rather than the objectified results of that kind of success lends through trophies. [Timestamp: 7:42]

Well, I think the centerpiece of this whole thing is that huge video display that wraps around about half of the room. That’s a PixelFLEX system so how did you choose PixelFLEX for the display technology on this? I know they’re right there with you in Nashville so I would guess that you’ve done some things with them before as well.

We have. We’ve worked with PixelFLEX a few times and found them to be great folks to work with. They are in our backyard and it behoove us to work with someone who was accessible to us, who was close to us geographically for both testing and design purposes. But outside of that they have a great product and they’re a great bunch of guys and we value and leveraged their engineering teams to design this video board that, as you said, is really the centerpiece of the space, to some extent. I think there were a number of centerpieces, but from an AV perspective that really is the centerpiece. And the space really is multimodal, is something that we call it. It can be a reflective, quiet, almost museum-like space but it can also be a space for events. You can go from a very quiet, subtle and reflective atmosphere to something that is needing more energy. On game day when the team run through the space or after game day when they’ve had a great win, we wanted to amp up the space and the board allows us to do that. The board allows us to reflect each of those various modes so we can have text transition that’s a roll of honor of the inducted Hall of Fame athletes or we can run full-motion video on the board and turn up the sound system that is cleverly embedded in the board technology on either side and really create some adrenaline in the space as well. So that was the key part of the aesthetic design from the design team’s background as well that we were able to change the modality of the space. And working with PixelFLEX we were able to achieve that and create the visual look of the board that we were looking for. [Timestamp: 9:25]

I read that this space was originally just a basketball gym kind of surrounded by athletics offices but you took this place quite a way from there.

We did, yeah. So it’s always a fun thing to look back on what the space was and you’re right. It was maple-floored basketball court surrounded by offices and these glass walls at the very end. So it was a very high-vaulted ceiling, probably two-and-a-half to three stories at the apex of the roof. So when Stanford had identified this was the space that we wanted to move into yeah, we got to work designing a new space. And part of that was creating this mezzanine level; so splitting up that large vertical volume into actually two levels and that gave us the ability to create this wonderful staircase as a physical focal point to the space when you walk in. And also to create more floor space to house the individual exhibits. And then underneath that mezzanine we created this very quiet sacrosanct area almost where the Hall of Fame interactive is located that allows users to interact with a tabletop that tells the story of letter winners all the way through to those inducted Hall of Fame members. But yeah, it’s a complete transformation from what was there before. We’re very proud of the work and they’re very happy that Stanford were a great partner in that regard and we were able to express that collaborative vision. [Timestamp: 10:46]

And this huge video display largely dominates the space so how do you use it? What can be seen on it?

Going back to that part of it being multimodal, from a technology perspective the system runs on our proprietary interactive digital signage framework. One of the things that I think sets Advent apart is just our approach to digital and why we leverage third party applications for some of our more straightforward signage. Our internal capability as creative technologists allows us to create these wonderful, rich, immersive multithread experiences and part of the technical output of that is the platform that we’ve honed over many years and invested in significantly. So going back to that point of it being multimodal, we created a number of templates linked to our content management system that allow the athletic staff to manage a number of different types of content. So there are about 13 templates at the moment that are joined into a schedule so they can schedule content throughout the day or week or month ahead of time. And those templates range from a ticker board that runs through a number of names of those inducted Hall of Fame members through to coaching staff recognition and star athletes as well, recognition of those guys. And there are individual recruitment boards for each individual sport within the program as well that really pull out the highlighted statistics and new stories and current team rosters for each of the sports within Stanford’s athletics program. And they really form a canvas for the coaching staff to talk, walk a potential recruit through the success of a program, the history and heritage of a program. And then we have, like I said, we’ve got templates for a full-motion video to create more richness and energy within the space. And then free-form messaging that allows the coaching staff or the athletic staff to create messaging; maybe after game day congratulating various teams. When they’re welcoming groups of people to the space, maybe having a corporate event, the messaging channel allows them to welcome in that corporate visitor or that partner. So yeah, a number of different types of content are enabled through that board by our content management system. [Timestamp: 12:55]

Any athletics program is constantly evolving and renewing itself so you had to create a content management system that makes it easy for them to update and keep current.

Yeah, absolutely. That’s one of the key approaches that Advent takes is, as you said, the constant evolution of an athletics program – athletes in and out throughout, successes that need to be highlighted through the year and through the season, coaching staff movements, etc. And our framework is actually built with the simple tenet of allowing straightforward updates of any information above and beyond just a standard signage app. A lot of what we do is we allow the creation of dynamic, full-motion videos. We’ll take maybe a name that is held in the content management system and we’ll, in real time, create action effects almost like you’d see on ESPN and sports networks when they’re taking statistics and they’re creating live CGI around them. That’s what our platform does. The input to the platform from a data perspective is just a standard securitized web-based interface. I’ve actually been with the curation staff and we’ve been changing data on the boards through our phones and through our iPads. It’s as simple as that. Form an interface perspective there’s no special software needed. The interface is a standard web browser, so a lot of flexibility and power albeit delivered in a very simple, straightforward manner that allows a number of different team members to contribute to the evolving content story within the space and especially on that board. [Timestamp: 14:25]

Well, it’s certainly not just a space but as you said, an experience and a unique one. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before and it was fantastic hearing about what went into making it such a visual and engaging place. John Downie, Vice President of Digital Experience with Advent in Nashville and the new Stanford Home of Champions. Thanks so much for telling us about it.

Not at all. Thank you for allowing me to talk about this wonderful project. I appreciate it.

Enjoyed our conversation with John Downie of Advent. We’ve got some show notes and product links on the Sound & Video Contractor Magazine web site at svconline.com. Next week John will tell us about the technical side of the construction and how the AV system was made extra strong for San Francisco building codes. Stay tuned for all of that, next week.

Solsound & Danley Outfit New Lighthouse Church
Monday, December 25, 2017 - 12:11
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Art Reiger of Solsound. Show notes and product links for this one other SVC podcasts are at svconline.com.

It’s always a big thrill for a church to open a big new building and one of the main concerns is getting the video and sound to work perfectly from the very beginning. The Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland got their new 74,000 square foot home and they relied on Art Reiger and Solsound to make sure everything went right. Art is back to finish up his story on how Solsound did exactly that.

Art, it’s good to have you back with us on the SVC Podcast, from Solsound in Galesville, Maryland to finish up on the Lighthouse Church and the work you did for them recently. Growing church, had to find a bigger building and when they did, Solsound came out and equipped it with a new Danley sound system. Not the first work you’ve done for Lighthouse Church and what bigger compliment can you have than being called back to do more work for them?

We were grateful for that, Bennett.

Last week we talked about the Danley system. In addition to that you actually brought part of their old sound system. I think that was an Allen & Heath mixer. Where did you locate that? That’s always a critical thing when they want to get a handle on keeping the sound right.

Yeah, that’s true. Well, often with church projects wherever you can save a few bucks and implement other things, most churches are all over that. And to some extent we’re all over that as well if they have the right things that will implement with their new systems. They did bring in the existing Allen & Heath system, actually the one we had provided for them years ago, and still working great. It’s a GLD mixing surface and an AR2412 stage box. We also supplied an additional AR84 stage box for them to go with the system. So the GLD80 surface and the AR84 were both front of house, and that is straight back from the center stage against the back wall. You know, as sound guys we sure love to be smack down in the middle of the sanctuary where it’s best for us to hear and being against a back wall obviously has a few acoustical challenges. But in the big picture of wanting to fill the seats with the folks they’d like to be there, the production booth ended up in the back. The amp rack, though, did end up backstage and that’s where the AR2412 is housed as well. [Timestamp: 2:42]

Okay. I noticed on the picture I saw that the seating doesn’t elevate toward the back. It’s all flat and one level.

That’s correct. It’s a flat surface. It’s basically an old, or preowned, warehouse facility so you can envision that you’ll kind of know what it looks like on the inside. [Timestamp: 3:00]

Yeah, if the mixing crew was out in the middle of that then they’d be blocking the view of the stage from a lot of seats for sure.

That’s true. That’s true.

So what are we talking about as far as the cable runs from the amps to the speakers? You’ve got a distributed system so it must have been pretty interesting running the cable.

Yeah. Interesting is a bit of an understatement. We originally had spec’d metal conduit from the amp rack for every speaker location, but as often as with budgeting cuts needed to be made in places and so there was a significant amount of conduit taken out of the proposal. What we did get is some home runs from an area up by the stage in the ceiling back to the amp racks, but all the other cabling was run through the trussing up in the air, zip-tied in at different angles, etc. Since we didn’t have the conduit we were trying to use the angled steel judiciously as kind of an RF block, at least on a couple sides of the cable. And then we tried also to run like things together, so speaker cables all joined in one area and kind of bundled more toward the front. DMX all kind of bundled went to the front. We tried to keep all the CAT-5 and CAT-6 stuff for the power conditioning and the projectors in a little bit different area. And we were a little concerned, frankly, how that was all going to work out with no conduit, but we fired everything up and there wasn’t a lick of noise in any of the audio. The projection all looked great and none of the DMX color changing or any of that had any ramifications on anything. So we were pretty grateful. The farthest speaker run that we had, I’m guessing it was probably about 150 feet or a little more from the amp rack in the back to the farthest go-to speaker. So the amp rack that is stage left behind a cinderblock wall – so you can kind of take a guess on all the cable runs as to where they ended up, what the lengths were. [Timestamp: 5:11]

Well, it’s a big place and installing a distributed system would be a challenge but at least you apparently didn’t have to move bolted pews. Those chairs can get out of the way. That probably made things a lot easier.

Oh, my goodness yes. The chairs were one of the last things to come in so up until the point they did we were able to roll through there with a scissor lift pretty easily and take care of not only the cable runs but do all the speaker installation, all the lighting installation, and we had time to tie it up and make it really look cosmetically very nice.

So how long did it take you to get all of that in and ready to ring out and make sure that everything worked right?

[Laughs] It’s all kind of a blur, but I think it was about three months start to finish. It would have been a little quicker, but as anybody who’s in the construction industry or installation part of the industry knows things – I heard a pastor joke once that there’s two things for sure on an installation. It’s going to take longer than you thought and it’s going to cost more than you planned. So due to circumstances beyond our control, it did take a little longer, although I would say we came in on budget and it did not cost a dime more. So not so bad. [Timestamp: 6:27]

And we mentioned in Part 1 the Vivtek projectors and Da-Lite screens. How do you get the video signal up to those projectors? Is it an HDBaseT run or something?

Yeah, it was HDBaseT and we shielded CAT-6 cable and ran it right from the front of house booth right to the projector and came out great. [Timestamp: 6:47]

Those Da-Lite screens are very prominent and when they light up that has to be a fantastic display on both sides of the stage.

Yeah. It looked really great. We were a little bit concerned going in that we wouldn’t have enough brightness on the screen so we did a couple of things. We upgraded the projectors from 8K’s to 12’s. And with the changes in pricing in laser technology we had originally spec’d in 8K lasers, but being a little concerned that they wouldn’t be bright enough we went to lamp-based 12K. And then also put screens in that had a little bit more gain to them as well. And so the result of that was even with all the lights on full go including the front lighting of the stage that gets right up to the edge of the screens, it looked pretty impressive when we fired those things up. There was just more wows coming out of the people than we’ve heard in quite a while on something like that. So it was great and everybody was thrilled. [Timestamp: 7:51]

And you’ve got Elation LED lighting and I guess the only real trick with that was to keep those off the screens.

Yeah. We kind of did them in the seating area zones. And so we did do a little positioning and a little diffusion in those to take the beaminess out of fixtures. So we kind of had to watch that a little bit. And used a couple of different kinds of diffusion in there to get all the zones to blend nicely and that took a little bit of playing around with. But once we had landed on the right solution it came out wonderful. [Timestamp: 8:26]

Always a big moment when everything is connected and adjusted and the testing is ready to go. How did all of that go? Sounds like it all worked okay.

Yeah, it went great. We had a bit of a luxury in that once we got all the audio in we were able to spend several days just kind of tweaking and tuning and listening and checking our speaker positions. I know we had everything spot on on these models, but you always want to kind of do a walk around; kind of listen at different kinds of programs through, particularly the kind of program that the customer plans on reproducing in the room. And with the help of the Danley guys, their DSP guys – well, first the platform is very easy to program and very easy to work with, which was really nice. Second, as many manufacturers do they have some kind of tweaked presets for their different cabinets which help you make a lot of progress on your system tuning up front to where once you set your relative amp levels to blend your zones and all that there wasn’t a whole lot more tweaking we had to do in terms of different box EQ’s and that kind of thing. It all came together really quick and it was nice. It was nice. [Timestamp: 9:44]

I know the next time they need anything they’ll be calling Solsound but in addition to that what else do you have coming up?

Since that we’ve completed several church installation projects local to the DC/Baltimore, Maryland area. We just finished a project just in the last week. It’s another Danley project with an Allen & Heath GLD console and ME1 personal monitor mixers. And we have two more projects that we just started this week. One is another church down in Washington, DC, a beautiful, traditional Presbyterian Church – all stone and big walnut beams on the inside. Just a big pipe organ. Beautiful place. And so we’ll be working in that one for a couple of weeks. And then also we’ll be starting a restaurant project in Columbia, Maryland next week as well supplying all audio for their restaurants, all their security cameras, their in-house telephone system, quite a few displays and everything that goes with all that. [Timestamp: 10:55]

That would have to keep it interesting not just doing churches but other types of projects and some church production, too. When they walk in to their new bigger place and the sound and video all comes up it’s got to really be a thrill. And you get to see their reaction to all of your work. Good to hear about the project. It’s Art Reiger from Solsound in Galesville, Maryland and the new and bigger Lighthouse Church in nearby Glen Burnie. Good of you to tell us about it and how you got it all done.

We’re grateful for the opportunity, Bennett. Thanks so much.

It was great having Art Reiger from Solsound on the show with us. We’ve got all the show notes and product links on the Sound & Video Contractor Magazine web site at svconline.com. More stories are coming up so be back with us again next week for the SVC Podcast.

Solsound & Danley Outfit New Lighthouse Church
Monday, December 18, 2017 - 10:35
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Art Reiger of Solsound. Show notes and product links for this one and other SVC podcasts are at svconline.com.

The Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland outgrew its old location and moved into a bigger building. To outfit the AV system they called in an old friend. Art Reiger of Solsound in nearby Galesville designed a distributed sound system, installed stage boxes and mixed some of the existing gear with the new Danley system. He’s here to tell us how they got it all done. That’s all right here on the SVC Podcast.

Art, thanks for joining us on the SVC Podcast from Solsound in Galesville, Maryland. Great to have you here to tell us about the Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie and how you completely outfitted their new home. Solsound has been around for quite a while and you’re certainly not newcomers to the Lighthouse Church. I think you’ve done quite a bit of previous work for them.

That’s true. First, thank you for the opportunity to be on with you, Bennett. Yeah, we’ve been working with Lighthouse Church about 8-10 years, and I connected with them through word of mouth. They were looking for a person to come in and assess their current sound system and give them some suggestions on possible upgrades and how to get them from where they were down the road nicely into the future. So we began working in, at the time, their current facility which is also in Glen Burnie, Maryland. And we did a little tuning of their existing system and then got them into an Allen & Heath GLD80 system. And that started their trek in upgrading their technology. That went on for oh, a few years. We kind of helped them out a little bit here and there. And then the next round they did a community outreach for Easter two years ago at the Baltimore Convention Center and we provided all the sound, the lighting, the projection, the camera crew for that event which seated a little over 4,000 people and went wonderfully. And then the time came for them to move into their current facility. Our name came up again, which we were very thankful for, and one thing led to another and we were on the project. [Timestamp: 2:41]

And it’s great for a church and an AV outfit to have a long running relationship because on those, when some work is needed, they all know what to expect from each other.

That’s very true.

Now, does Solsound specialize in church AV or do you have other types of projects?

Our main work is churches, for sure, but through word of mouth people found out what we do and so along the way a lot of folks who needed AV in their 9:00 to 5:00 jobs as it were referred us to do other things. So we’ve done some government facilities. We’ve done some corporate facilities, we’ve done a swimming pool complex, and actually a friend’s funeral home as well. So we’ve had our hands in a few things along the way.  [Timestamp: 3:31]

Well, that’s a pretty wide selection of projects.

[Laughs] It is.

As long as you don’t get them confused.

Yeah. For sure.

So I believe Lighthouse Church has a lot going on. They’ve expanded to a few satellite campuses and it sounds as if they have the same problem as a lot of other churches where the congregation is growing beyond their physical capacity on the meeting space. They moved into a new 74,000 square foot building. Does the church sanctuary take up all of that space or is some of the building used for other things?

Some is used for other things. I’m going to shoot from the hip a little bit here and say that the sanctuary probably takes up 50 percent of the new facility. The rest is they have a really dynamic program for their kids which is wonderful. So they have quite a few classrooms and then a dedicated youth hall toward the back of the facility. Then they also have moved all their offices over to there so that takes up a little space. And then because they’re a real relational community church they dedicated a significant area for coming and going and congregating such that they put displays and speakers out in those areas to pipe the program out to those areas and also provided kind of a coffee bar, if you will, at one end of the front area just for people to kind of meet and hang out and again build relationships. So some of what we did covered those areas as well. [Timestamp: 5:13]

In one image I’ve seen of it the place looks like it could have a lot of hard surfaces on the floors, the ceiling and maybe the walls, too. What does it sound like in there? Is it reverberant or does it sound quite a bit different empty than when the whole congregation is in there?

Right when we started, oh my, it was reverberant. Yeah, cement floors, drywall walls and an open-corrugated steel ceiling. So it doesn’t take much imagination to understand what that sounded like going in. So the thing that helps kind of harangue that reverberation back into an acceptable level were (1) using a distributed system instead of a common line array approach that would have really energized that room way too much; (2) the church had a guy that goes to their church, a real nice guy, that has an acoustical paneling business – or that’s part of his business. So he teamed up with the church and provided a nice amount of covering on the back and two side walls with acoustical panels. Then also they put, I’m going to guess, 1,100 chairs in place and also some runners in the aisles. So between all those pieces it brought what sounded like an airplane hangar into a nice-sounding room. And they’re a contemporary church, so it’s not like a rock-and-roll-type church that we’ve had before and have as customers. So they don’t drive the room so hard that the reverberation is out of control. [Timestamp: 6:52]

You designed the sound system for the whole place and you went with Danley speakers and amps. Had you spoken with the Danley people previously about this project?

We did. The church approached us two years ago right before InfoComm. And I’d heard Danley speakers before a little bit, and I have a fellow integrator out our way that has done a lot of Danley projects in our area. And so we had actually travelled to InfoComm together and he said you’ve really got to go listen to these speakers. So I did and was really blown out of the water by the clarity. It was just, man, hard to describe. So of course that’s intriguing, but the next thing that really started pulling me that direction was I got to speak with Tom Danley. I got to speak with some of the principal guys in the company who were all, first, extremely approachable. Second, it was infectious, their enthusiasm. Not only for audio, but just for doing the right thing for their customers and their dealers and contractors. And that whole experience led into a couple of phone calls right after InfoComm and I got the same response from their designers. All their DSP guys were so welcoming and wanting to help and excited about being involved in the project. You know, we’re kind of a small business. They just welcomed us right in – hey, how can we help you? And between all those pieces of the pie it pretty firmly sealed up Danley being the right solution for their project. [Timestamp: 8:36]

So Danley speakers and amps and I think you’ve got some Elation LED lighting fixtures in there, too. The subs, I think they’re the TH118’s, can put out some serious vibration. Did you have to do anything to isolate the lighting instruments from being shaken around too much?

Well, we sure thought that would be a good idea because the whole down lighting in the sanctuary and stage lighting is all LED and they were all fastened through strut or rated hardware up into the trussing of the room. And so with the amount of low end that the Danley subs were providing, and we certainly thought we might want to take some precautions there. So we weren’t so concerned about the mid-high delay boxes or the out-fill boxes, but we were kind of concerned about the subs in the SH96 up front. So yeas, we did isolate those. [Timestamp: 9:33]

Okay, and I think you included the DNA 5k4C amplifiers with built-in DSP.

Mm-hmm.

Yeah, since you were using the Danley speaker system and I think I saw that you had Vivitek projectors in there. Looks like two fairly big projection screens, one on each side of the stage.

That’s correct. We did two 12K DLP-based projectors and interfaced them through HDBaseT. They run the same program on both screens so we provided an Atlona HDBaseT DA at front of house, and so they dump their Mac output right into that and it goes off to the projectors and looks fabulous. [Timestamp: 10:13]

I’m sure that when that place is full and the projection comes up, from the size of those screens, that’s got to be a real attention-getter.

Yeah. I think you termed that really well. The days that we were finishing the positioning and tuning of that system every person that came through the door you could verbally hear them go, “Wow.” So that’s kind of the result you’re looking for, you know? [Timestamp: 10:36]

No problem seeing those at all. Do they use those just for hymn lyrics or do they use them for IMAG, too?

They started out just doing hymn lyrics and notes for the sermon in that, but they went into IMAG pretty quickly after that as well. [Timestamp: 10:51]

And I saw something on the list here that I don’t think I’ve seen before, the GO2 8CX small Danley speakers included here. Are those a fairly new product?

I’m a little bit of a newbie with Danley so I’m not sure how long they’ve had that box out. But they affectionately call it a go-to because it could serve a lot of purposes. And we used it for the outlying peripheral areas like the entrance – some folks call it a narthex, some folks call it a lobby – in this congregational kind of meeting area outside of the sanctuary is where we used all those. And they covered well. Their clarity is remarkable. And yeah, it just sounded great. [Timestamp: 11:32]

With a congregation that’s growing that fast, it’s got to be something really special for them and that’s a big step for a church to move into a completely new facility and get everything going. Every Sunday it’s all got to work.

That’s very true. That’s very true. You know, we got blessed on the project. It was a real nice work environment. All the construction crews were on board in terms of the team effort, which is not always the case, unfortunately, on construction projects. But it all came together nicely. [Timestamp: 12:02]

Did some of the church members supply the labor on that or was it all just contract?

Well, I would say on this project it was about 50/50. We offered them the opportunity to save themselves some money in different areas through the project and one of them was just some areas of assisting with labor under our direction. And they not only were all over that in terms of the possibility, but they provided us just really great people and it was fun. It was really fun working with their people. We’ve done that in the past with other projects and it’s interesting how it sort of builds ownership, if you will, amongst the ministry members who are going to be operating those systems long after we’re gone. So that ended up working out very well. [Timestamp: 12:48]

And with churches that’s especially difficult when things aren’t clicking well between the contractor and the church staff. Big relief that it all worked there. In Part 2 we’ll get into the sound control and how you put in everything, cable runs and getting sound and video running around the building.

Okay.

Great hearing about this one. Art Reiger from Solsound in Galesville, Maryland and the Lighthouse Church with a new and bigger home completely AV outfitted now. Thanks for being with us.

I appreciate the opportunity, sir. Thank you.

Good having Art Reiger from Solsound with us today. We’ve always got show notes and product links on the Sound & Video Contractor Magazine web site at svconline.com. Be back with us again next week when Art will tell us about the mixer installation, speaker cabling and the projection at the Lighthouse Church on the SVC Podcast.

ESI Design takes eBay's Main Street from Concept to Reality
Sunday, December 10, 2017 - 12:08
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Emily Webster of ESI Design. The show notes and product links for all of the SVC podcasts are at svconline.com.

eBay is all about communication and the new eBay headquarters called Main Street is a sight to behold with innovative communication technology everywhere. The building surrounds a huge interactive video display showing up-to-the-minute developments in the company. ESI Design Senior Designer and AV technologist Emily Webster gives us the story on how it all happened, coming up on the SVC Podcast.

Emily, it’s very good having you on the SVC Podcast from ESI Design to tell us about eBay’s new headquarters building, Main Street, and the design features that you came up with for it. I’m really knocked over when I see the pictures of this place. So what does ESI Design do and how did you get into this project? It looks fascinating.

Well, thanks for having me on, Bennett. ESI Design is an experience design firm. We’ve been working in the industry for over 40 years, and what we like to do is to transform places into experiences. So we have worked with a number of different brands and organizations and cultural institutions, and we really try to fundamentally change how people connect with each other. So we’re often going in to look at a different brand or a different organization and figure out what’s really interesting about that brand? What can we lift up and elevate and show to the rest of the world that people will really engage with? So trying to figure out what’s the most interesting story that a certain brand or organization or institution wants to tell about themselves. [Timestamp: 1:50]

Well, you certainly had your work cut out for you on eBay because that company is all about connecting. That’s really the culture of the company. Not only connecting with clients but the communication between the eBay people. How does your design reflect that culture of the company?

Yeah, well, and you know, you’re really kind of spot on because I think what we were ultimately trying to do was to create a place that was for the eBay community. When we came to the project, eBay had just recently started the process of separating themselves from the PayPal Company. So until 2015 eBay and PayPal were sister companies, and so what that meant was that eBay could go to PayPal’s campus and use their facilities and their resources to have meetings that brought together thousands of people from their companies. So it was really a way for them to bring their community together and have discussions and meetings and events. So when they separated from PayPal they no longer had access to a space like that, so they were really needing somewhere that their community could come together, and at the same time they wanted to create a new front door for themselves, so to speak – a grand way to welcome visitors and potential clients and vendors and partners. And to do so in a way that was really dynamic and expressed the fact that they are a technology company and working to innovate on a daily basis. So before Main Street they didn’t really have a space that could be both a showcase and a practical space, so it really is reflecting their culture because there’s a lot going on at eBay. There’s buyers and sellers and auctions and bidders and charitable events happening and hack-a-thons, but it all sort of rides on this backbone of technology and they didn’t really have a space that sort of expressed that. So they wanted a very dynamic greeting place/meeting space/community space that could really bring everybody together in a really compelling way. [Timestamp: 3:45]

Well, once you’ve seen this place you’ll never forget it.  

Yeah. I mean, we hope so. And we really designed it to be something that was impressive and something that you could come in and say this is eBay. This is really what we’re all about, but then also really use that space very practically to have meetings. They have thousand-person meetings a couple times a month, so it really needed to work for them as a very practical kind of meeting and gathering space.  [Timestamp: 4:10]

And when you walk in there the main attraction is going to be that huge central interactive display. It’s gigantic and you know, I’d just love to sit there and watch the effect on people and watch how they use it before I even tried it myself. How did you arrive at the design for that main interactive display?

Well, we knew that we wanted to tell a very up-to-the-minute story about what was happening on the eBay platform. And so the multitouch wall is what we call that big surface, tells the story. So it taps into a number of different curated data feeds from the eBay web site to show data about what’s happening on eBay right now. So you can walk up to the wall and tap on an icon and that icon represents a product that’s sold on eBay. And once you tap on the icon it kind of expands into this dashboard view to talk about number of items sold, top buyers, top sellers, the value of those products and then you can tap through all the different business verticals that are sold on the eBay platform, so home and garden, electronics, fashion. So it really tells that product story. It helps to tell the story about the speed at which products are being sold, the value of the products being sold, and really just tries to express this idea that there’s a lot going on at eBay and there’s a lot of opportunity happening on the eBay platform. And there’s just a lot of diversity of products and buyers and sellers. And it’s really also stories still about the people and the people who are using that platform. So we came to that after having a lot of discussions with many different stakeholders at eBay and really interviewing them and talking with them and just figuring out okay, what do you guys think is the most interesting? What is the story that you think that we should be exploring and researching and then trying to lift that up to a place where it could be interesting both to an employee, because the employees come there every single day and they walk through the space every single day. So it needed to be interesting to them over time, but also be sort of digestible and high-level enough that a person, just a random visitor who might be coming in to buy a piece of eBay swag from the store could learn about eBay as well. So it had to be for both the public and the employee. [Timestamp: 6:22]

Well, to go through all of that information in such a complete form up until now you would have to be some sort of a library nerd going through books and spreadsheets and things like that and you actually make drilling down through all that a tremendous and fun experience. That’s got to be revolutionary.

Well, yeah. And to be honest all those spreadsheets and data points and factoids really, you know, we got the spreadsheet that says proof of all the research that it took to get to there. So to make things feel intuitive and look simple, there’s a lot of work that goes in the background to make sure that that really does come across very clearly. [Timestamp: 6:55]

You’ve also got some columns out front with their own displays. What to you show on those?

Yeah. Those are double-sided LED columns. So there’s six of them and they are really kind of quick snapshots into the life at eBay. We new people were going to be coming in through this threshold and walking through there kind of quickly, so we didn’t want that information to be too heavy, take too long to read. So it’s really kind of tidbits about what’s going on. And so there are various moments taking place on those columns. There’s a global moment that talks about the number of products sold globally, so two million handbags sold in the last 24 hours or whatever. Then there’s also a product moment and that relates to actually that big multitouch wall interactive that we were just talking about. So let’s say that on the multitouch wall there is an image of a bag that’s supposed to talk about the fashion vertical. Then there’s a product moment on the columns that says okay, 1,500 hats were sold in the last hour. So it’s really relating to the story on the multitouch wall. Then there’s also a moment that talks about their charitable efforts. There’s a moment that talks about the weather in every single one of eBay’s offices around the world that kind of helps talk about their global impact and their reach. And then there’s also a special message. One of the big ideas for Main Street was that it needed to be very flexible so that it could morph into an appropriate space for another event, whatever the event was that day. And so we wanted to make sure that the content – the text – that you could put on those columns was editable so if the mayor was coming in you could quickly go in that day and write a message to them that would allow that message to be really specific to the event happening that day. So you can customize the content. Just recently we went back and we added to the media schedule and came up with two other moments; one that’s sort of a product explosion moment. So before we were using icons to tell the story about the products sold. Now if there are two million handbags sold we show images of all those handbags, and that’s images that come directly from the eBay web site. And there’s a logo moment that eBay is going through kind of a rebranding with some of the colors they use in their logo and their brand, so we wanted to help tell that story. So some of those moments show up on the columns. [Timestamp: 9:19]

And I would think that this building has so much glass in it that for communicating just between company staff they can almost just look up from their desks and wave and communicate through sign language.

[Laughs] Yeah, well we really wanted it to be a bright, airy space that people wanted to go to. We didn’t want you to have to go into a kind of dark auditorium. Everybody is stuck inside all day anyway so we wanted to make sure you were getting these kind of beautiful vistas out to the spaces around you and really feeling like it was a refreshing space to enter into and hang out in. [Timestamp: 9:50]

Now, have you had other projects that sort of led you up to this, I mean that you got the ideas from and maybe combined some of them on this one?

You know, I mean eBay was definitely a unique one and every time we work on a project we really do make sure that it’s appropriate for whatever the client is. But we always kind of take the same approach. What is the audience we’re trying to talk to? What is the story we want to tell? And how do we want people to experience that in an immersive way? So it’s a new kind of output. It’s a new idea, but the thinking and the logic that got us to this approach is very much a similar process to what we’ve gone through before. Now this building, it’s an actual building that we designed. We designed everything in the building from the sun shades outside to the software interactive to the data API was everything – was all designed by ESI. And we sometimes are working within a building on an exhibit or whatever, but this one the entire building was designed by us. [Timestamp: 10:49]

We’ve talked a lot about how it looks but I would think that with all of the glass in this building that the acoustics could be something of a challenge.

Yeah, it really, you know, it was a challenge. And what we’ve done in the space is that there’s a panelized façade wall and on the interior some of those panels are acoustic panels. And actually we did have to change some of the design. On the inside in the main hall there’s a second level mezzanine that has a glass railing and we wanted it to be straight at first, but after we did the acoustic study we made that mezzanine railing pointed so it kind of came out at an angle into the room which allowed – helped with sort of bouncing sound around in a different way. It didn’t create the kind of echo chamber. But we definitely study all those things before we’re building them. We’ll work with acousticians when we need to, to make sure that we’re picking the right materials and finishes that won’t create an issue. [Timestamp: 11:43]

I’m sure it was an interesting job getting it to look that good and sound right at the same time. You’ve got this one to point to now and so what sort of projects does ESI Design have coming up?

We’re doing a lot of really interesting work right now. We are always trying to weave the physical and the digital together, and we can do that for a lot of different industries. We’re working on the Statue of Liberty museum and a number of really immersive exhibits are going into that to help tell the story about how the statue was made and the process that it’s evolved through over the years. We have worked on a number of buildings and continue to collaborate with Beacon Capital Partners, who is a commercial developer and they buy properties all over the United States that we help to refresh and give a little makeover to to help them become more enticing properties to lease and sell. And we will be very soon unveiling a new video art installation in a shopping mall in Chicago. So a lot of different projects across a lot of different spectrums, but all of this idea of just really an immersive and dynamic space. [Timestamp: 12:50]

Well, turning ESI Design loose on the Statue of Liberty. That’s something to think about. It’s been fun listening to this one. The more I saw on it the more I wanted to know just what went on behind the scenes and how you came to this. It was nice of you to give us a look behind the curtain on this one. Emily Webster, Senior Designer and AV Technologist with ESI Design and their design project for eBay’s Main Street. Thanks for getting with us on it.

Thank you, Bennett.

And good of you to join us for the story on ESI Design’s eBay Main Street project. As always, show notes and links for the podcasts are on the Sound & Video Contractor Magazine web site at svconline.com. Get right back here with us next week for the SVC Podcast.

Diversified, Float4, RealMotion & ESI Design Transform eBay's Main Street
Saturday, December 2, 2017 - 10:47
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Adam Lopez of Diversified along with Alex Simionescu and Sevan Dalkien of Float4. Show notes and product links for this one other SVC podcasts are at svconline.com.

eBay’s new Main Street is the entry to their campus. Float4 had the creative concept of engaging visitors and eBay workers with the company while Diversified provided installation. Adam Lopez of Diversified is here with Alex Simionescu and Sevan Dalkien of Float4. They’re going to tell us about how it all came together. That’s coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Guys, I’m glad we could all get together for this one. Let’s go with Adam Lopez at Diversified first. Adam is this project at eBay’s Main Street typical of the things that Diversified does or was this a very special situation? What sort of projects do you do?

Adam: We truly do diverse audio/video projects and have many offerings. eBay is a typical enterprise-type client and the Main Street project is within our wheelhouse, so what we do deliver to other enterprise clients. The type of project we do, we have specialty teams around the country that really tackle projects of all sizes and types in the market ranging from financial to corporate, higher education, healthcare, and then of course enterprise. I belong to the AVE division, which is our Advanced Visual Environments. And we focus on opportunities within the enterprise including immersive experience and unified communication solutions. [Timestamp: 01:51]

A lot going on at Diversified and an incredibly ambitious one here. I can see how not just the installation but the programming and the application itself were a very tall order. Those were Float4 so Alex, tell us about Float4 and how you came together with Diversified to take on this project.

Alex: Absolutely. So Float4 is a company that was founded about nine years ago. We mainly deal with immersive environments that have a lot of interactive elements in them. We don’t work on a specific shape, size or color, but what we really do is look at where people are, what message needs to be delivered and what the physical space is, and look at how we can use interactive technologies to bring all those things together. In this case, one of the things that brought us together with Diversified and eBay and also ESI Design who  was in charge of doing a lot of design elements within the space. And they’re really the catalyst that brought us into the project. [Timestamp: 02:53]

That’s where the concept all started but for Diversified I’d like to get a little more into the physical installation itself. Adam, what was the physical foundation for this AV install? You’ve got some interesting columns with LED displays on them and of course the main screen that’s something like a 165-inch video wall.

Adam: Yeah, the eBay installation was extremely coordinated between trades, being the architect, structural engineer, and building GC. The main iconic LED display in the Main Street Hall spans 45 feet wide by 12 foot high in a five-screen, 2.5 millimeter configuration. What was amazing is this display floats in front of a glass wall with zero mullion around it. The LED goes right to the edge. Our engineers worked really closely with the architect and engineers to build a steel, load-bearing structure that suspended the thing four feet away from the wall and 10 foot in elevation above the stage. And the outcome was amazing; the LED floating in front of glass with redwood trees behind it. The columns you mentioned, those were 1.6 millimeter LED columns and we took a lot of care in designing and mocking up these columns. We actually got one of the steel beams from the general contractor into our shop and we physically built the LED columns. They are treated with glass on the front for a retail-type environment. We have perforated steel housing that goes around the sides to create the air flow that we need. And then this was all custom fabricated with an aircraft cable system that actually lowers LED’s so we can provide service to that after installation. The physical installation was very custom and quite exciting the way it turned out. [Timestamp: 4:47]

This was a very high profile project with a lot of time and money invested in it so Alex at Float4, what did eBay want to accomplish with the huge new Main Street display?

Alex: I think first and foremost is make a statement. eBay is a company that in today’s day and age is considered one of the pioneers of online transactions. So if you look at the space and you look at the content that’s displayed on there, it’s very, very much data driven and it’s something that is primarily used to show the quantity of transactions that go through the eBay web site. So how many people at any given moment are able to exchange their goods thanks to the services that they have. Actually, one of the things that I really like about the space is it has some of the first items that were sold on eBay. Honestly, I think one of them was a laser pointer and they got it back from the person who ended up having it so many years after. But also from an architectural standpoint I think what really sets it apart is how the digital media is integrated – and I think Adam described it really, really well – within the architectural elements that distinguish the space. This is no longer about a screen that is hung to a wall. It’s about digital media being applied as a material to the space and then being dynamic and, in this case, very, very interactive. So that’s how I would summarize it. [Timestamp: 6:16]

And Adam, after everything was connected, the whole operation was hooked up what was done to add the control programming to this and really bring it to life?

Adam: The entire system is built around an AMX control system. This is a eBay standard so they wanted to apply standards to their audio/visual environment. And the AMX control system then ties into the CMS servers that are generating real-time data that are coming from the Float4 RealMotion software. We have a series of sensors, cameras around LED columns and the multi-touch Planar video walls, which interact with the lobby’s environment. So all the data that Float4 is processing is turned into generative content. That keeps that content fresh within the entire lobby and in their ambient modes, as they call them, it’s not static and the content is very engaging. [Timestamp: 7:11]

And when you first see this and it’s mighty hard to miss when you first walk in, how is it operated by the viewer? It looks like you can really get into this and it must be as fun as it is informative.

Alex: Absolutely. I think that’s one of the things – and you notice it a little bit on the video, a lot more when you’re there in person – but one of the approaches that we use in these types of environments is to layer different types of interactions. So in this space, for example, you have a motion-sensing device that will detect the user’s silhouettes before they’re within arm’s length of the wall. And so that’s the first thing that we use to kind of break the ice with an interactive experience that people, you know, there’s no way they can get it wrong. It’s not something that’s complicated. There’s no manuals needed. And in a context where people aren’t necessarily aware that it’s an interactive experience it’s a great way to ease them into that experience. The second phase is through touch, and as Adam mentioned the Planar video wall that supports multi-touch capability so more than one person can interact with it. And that also goes for the motion sensing part. So on that end once you’re within arm’s reach then you’re able to touch one of the many articles that’s generated by our system and then you have an interface that appears, that allows you to navigate through different categories of products and see the quantity of products that were sold in that specific category at a given time or over a given period. So it’s a progressive experience. It’s something that starts with something more playful, but then becomes a lot more informational. [Timestamp: 8:46]

Yeah it looks like that in the video. Now, I understand that the RealMotion platform has three main parts. Sevan, can you tell us about those?

Sevan: Essentially, this project was a much more complex project because it had to be a collaborative effort between many companies and tons of people had to work with this. And I think one of the challenges of projects such as this one was to create a visually-compelling experience that was fun and that people would quickly understand how to interact with the digital content, and in the way that was also respecting and accurate to eBay’s vision. So how to translate eBay’s vision into an engaging digital experience. In order to accomplish that you need to have a platform, which is in our case, it’s a hardware and software platform which really has been designed from the ground up. We’ve been working on this solution for about more than five years now from our beginning background. And the idea is to provide the necessary infrastructure to be able to generate content in real time. So as opposed to simple and more traditional video playback, the platform really allows data or visuals to be played in a more dynamic way where things will react and adapt to the source of inputs. As Alex and Adam mentioned, these inputs can be sensors, cameras, touch screens, or in our case also live data that was coming straight from eBay’s database. So we were able live to adapt the content to users all around the world were actually engaging in transactions on eBay’s web site and visualize those transactions in a much more fun and engaging through a particle system that would mimic the various categories of eBay’s products so people would be able to click on those and dive in deeper into the whole world of eBay. Our product is composed of three main elements. The first is the hardware. So the media server that is usually powering the displays, communicating with the various sensors and eBay’s database of course. The second part is the software that really allowed the creative designers to program or script all the behaviors of the particle system, the images of the background – all that has been customized and thought by ESI team up in New York. And the third aspect is an operational aspect. The thing is these projects need to run for as long as they can. They’re meant to be on screens for 24/7 so the system needs to be extremely reliable and stable in that sense. So for us it was important to offer a third element in our product, which is the real admin tool which really allows our clients, our sales and diversifier, to actually monitor the project, see how everything is going on correctly in accordance to specifications for the hardware and software and all the communicational aspects. So all these three elements ensure that a project such as the one at eBay not only was technically challenging, but also engaging on the creative side, but also maintainable from an operational aspect to the 24/7 experience. [Timestamp: 12:08]

That sounds like it would have taken a lot of time to get right and a lot of experimentation to make sure it all comes together. Adam, your people had to make sure the nuts and bolts of this got done right. What kind of a time window were you working with on with all this?

Adam: Really from core, shell and steel to the first day of business was about one year. But I do know that ESI and eBay were working on that well before that – probably a year before that. So it was probably about a two year process from concept to completion. [Timestamp: 12:39]

Well, a huge investment and as I said before, a very high profile project. It’s all done now, so tell us what Diversified has coming up.

Currently right now, Diversified has over a thousand projects happening around the globe and so it would take too long to name them all, but we have some very exciting projects in all our verticals. Probably the largest project out here on the west coast for the AVE group is coming near completion. It will be one of the most sophisticated theaters in the world for one of the largest enterprises in the world. Unfortunately we can’t reveal who that customer is now, but once it hits the streets it will definitely be in the news and the trades and we’re really excited about it. [Timestamp: 13:26]

We’ll certainly be watching for it and Alex, what’s coming up next for Float4?

Alex: Well, we’re working very hard to have thousands of projects all over the world, but we do have some very interesting ones right now. Actually some of them are with Diversified. And we don’t get to stay this enough, but we really, really enjoy working with them because once you get a good team together you can see how you can reproduce success over and over and over. So right now we’re working on a project in Chicago. We have one here in Montreal, and on some earlier stages of projects in the Middle East as well. So from the Montreal shop, we try to spread as much as we can all around the world. [Timestamp: 14:05]

Keeping everybody going full blast. It was great of you all to get with us and give us a look at all sides of this. Once you’ve seen the images and the video it really invites you to know more about what goes on behind the scenes and how it all works. Adam from Diversified, Alex and Sevan from Float4, thanks to all of you for giving us a look at it.

Alex: Thank you very much.

Sevan: Thank you.

Adam: Thank you very much.

It was great having Adam, Alex and Sevan with us on the SVC Podcast from Diversified and Float4. As always, we’ve got show notes and product links on the Sound & Video Contractor Magazine web site at svconline.com. Get back with us again next week for the SVC Podcast.

American Prohibition Museum Comes to Life with A/V Binloop HD Pt2
Monday, November 27, 2017 - 13:17
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Attraction Designer Ryan McCurdy. We’ve got show notes and product links for this interview and other SVC podcasts at svconline.com.

The American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia immerses visitors in an incredible lighting, video and sound experience. Live actors mix with AV effects and playback to intensify the effects. Attraction Designer Ryan McCurdy is back to finish his story on how he equipped the whole thing and brought it to life, all right here on the SVC Podcast.

Ryan it’s good to have you back with us and Historic Tours of America’s new Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia. You rigged the whole thing out as you’ve done with some previous historic exhibits and it’s fascinating how you mix AV machinery with live actors. How do you project such convincing video images in such a small space?

Good question. A very good question. And it was a long process of dialogue about how we were going to do this. And so we have what are called prestige effects. It’s the word I sort of coined. It’s the effects that the patrons are most likely to stop and fixate on. They’re actually all being fed by a Binloop HD from Alcorn McBride. But we realized that all of the effects actually could convincingly work in high-def 4K monitors rather than projectors. So while there are some projectors in the space – in fact, the very first thing you see after you walk into the museum is a Panasonic PTRZ-670 that is projecting a huge montage of Prohibition Era images onto a wall. We do use that for archival footage. We have another place where we’re projecting what was called “The Death of John Barleycorn,” which was a fake funeral staged when prohibition was enacted. But then for our prestige effect, which are the film sequences that we filmed specifically for the museum, we have the talking portraits, which I think we talked about in Part 1, and we have a moonshiner character. And there was a lot of discussion about whether we should use a Musion Eyeliner type system and do a hologram, whether we should do a standard projection against a blank surface. And then ultimately we realized that we didn’t have the depth to either do Musion or do a straight projector. We also didn’t want to deal with the noise and we didn’t want to deal with the fact that we wanted possibly smoke in the environment, and sort of it’s an outside environment which has been really lovingly detailed by the art department headed by Monte Triz. So we didn’t want to shut down any opportunities for water effects or mist effects, so what we basically have done – and I think it looks and feels very, very great – is we’re using a high end Samsung ED75E, which is one of their 4K 75-inch monitors. And it is embedded and inset into a huge backdrop that was hand painted by Monte Triz and his team. And then what we did is shot the moonshiner against a green screen, replaced the green screen painstakingly, the film departments and our post-production teams from Media Merge in Alabama and R.J. Temple, Jr. was one of our post-production sound team workers. They worked to replace the green screen with an actual representation of what the mural from the backdrop is. And then the monitor itself is framed between two real trees that have been inserted into the space so it really looks like he just happens to exist between this – in this one little area of the backdrop. And he interacts with his environment. He reaches up and turns on a practical lamp, turns it off. He reaches down and picks things up that look like they could be from the table right in front of him. It’s these crafty little integrations of real world interaction, as well as the live sound and the live lights, that I think convince most people that he is there in a way that I think we would have always fought with a projection. And the thing I was most worried about projection-wise, which we do run into in our final theater where we’re screening a very, very traditional theater-type film, is how much glare is still visible overhead just from the dust and noise of people moving through the space. And we have, instead of that beam of light we’re trying to control, we have this incredibly crisp, perfectly high-def 4K image of a figure who I believe is 5’10” and is actually, I think, 5’8” or 5’9” in real life. So we’ve almost got this complete representation of a life-sized human. [Timestamp: 4:51]

And you had to wire all of this up so that it’s easy to maintain but out of sight. You’re working with digital video of course, so how far from the displays is the playback hardware?

The good thing is, is that because it’s a linear museum we are using the spaces in such a way that they sort of do a serpentine path. So if you think about it in terms of if you were to walk straight across a room, that would be a pretty inefficient use of space. So what we do is we’ve built false walls and false exits that take the audience down one long corridor and then curve to come all the way back across the room on another corridor. So as a result, the furthest that we have to run any length of cable is about 60 feet. And a lot of the prestige effects and things that stop the patrons in their tracks, they’re all within about 25-30 feet of the central. In fact, it was a clever idea of the art department that the technological center, the home base, is actually made to look like the moonshiner’s wooden shack. But inside of this fauxed-out wooden shack that has a beaten up front door with a false doorknob on it, what’s actually inside there is the museum manager’s office and a lot of equipment. [Timestamp: 6:05]

Well, it least it’s secure and close at hand if anything happens. I would think that it’s fascinating getting all of this connected and then rehearsing the actors and the AV playback to get them working together.

It was. It was. And I was there, like I said, from the very beginning and as a result I got to be there about once or twice a month for almost a year and a half. And it was kind of fascinating. It was amazing to watch actors. My background is theater and so I bring a very specific theatrical approach to my attraction design. It was great to see them in there when it was still bare walls, and some of the walls weren’t even done yet and there was tape laid out on the floor. To see them use their imagination to work on their scenes, to work on their attractions, and then to watch it build up around them just like they had prepared for, it was great. But it is kind of a rare joy to be able to take over a space when it is gutted from its previous tenant as an attraction designer because so often I’m being called in to finish something that has the art direction or the set design already done. So we were really able to map out those runs for the cables, figure out exactly where the technology could sit and the art department was able to build concealers and platforms and structures. So the technology is integrated into the design rather than being a post-production-only concept. [Timestamp: 7:24]

After you’ve had some people come through this exhibit do you ever make changes or tweaks to it based on their experience?

Absolutely. We started bringing groups through in about April of this year. At first it was just the staff members of Historic Tours of America getting these private tours for them and their families. And immediately started to think about the length of videos, think about the level of the sound playback because there’s 19 monitors and video sequences. There’s probably 17 discreet uses of sound throughout the museum. And yeah, as soon as groups came back to use with their opinion we tried to do, again, another theatrical technique where you take the responses from your audience. You take their very emotional response – this is how I felt, this was too loud – and then you write out the technical list of that and how that’s going to be addressed from a purely technical standpoint. [Timestamp: 8:16]

With the sound part of it you’d have to be careful to isolate the sound so that it’s not bleeding through and connecting with visitors who are watching something else. Choice and positioning of the speakers would have to be carefully selected so what did you use there?

We used JBL speakers. We used a number of different manufacturers of sort of new generation of isolated speakers. We’re way past the days of having to stand under a sound cone in a museum. Those are now built into walls and built into ceilings. We’ve got some that are connected to monitors, some that are directly above the audience. You hit the nail on the head. It’s always that – especially in theater, but also in museums and the like – the question: how much to you want the audience to feel like they are experiencing an environment, but then what’s the reality of how much you have to be controlling and minimizing the spillover. Which is another thing we ran into. Some of these rooms are heavily theatricalized and we have a Source Four rigs that are changing during the day and have queues and have looks and gobos. And then we have rooms that are traditionally museum lit and the idea is always what is the transition for the audience from a room that is fully theatricalized and fully set-designed into a room that is more about the objects of the time and the reader rails that give you all the information of what you’re experiencing? [Timestamp: 9:39]

And you’ve got to making lighting work for this. That would definitely be a mood setter in the exhibit.

And one of the rooms that I think received the most amount of work from myself and from Media Merge’s postproduction was the moonshiner’s shack, which has a very specific look. And you’re coming into it from a traditional museum-lit room and as soon as you leave it you’re going back into a museum-lit room. So it’s this big question of how do you immediately create an environment? And Source Four jr. and Source Four Mini is really the reason they’re the industry standards. Because they’re so effective at throwing a large amount of light in a small amount of space. And so it’s kind of great. Downstairs in our big, big open space that you immediately come into – and I’m very proud of the fact that the first thing you see is a place called McCurdy’s Tavern, which since my name is Ryan McCurdy you can derive whether or not that has anything to do with me. But that room has a huge vaulted ceiling and a big, open space. We’re using Source Four seniors with a lot of color work and a lot of beam disposal. And then in the moonshiner’s space, which has a very low ceiling ad is a very tight, small room, we’re using Source Four Minis and a couple of practical lamps to give the sense that this is a live rendition of this person’s world that you’re seeing interact with you on the projection. [Timestamp: 11:06]

It looks like a fantastic place. The next time I’m in Savannah I’ve got to go through and see how it all looks and sounds. So this one is finished and tuned up so what have you got coming up next?

Actually I’m headed down to Savannah next week. Their Perkins & Sons Chandlery was the first thing I built there about a decade ago, and we’re about to install a brand new effect in there. It’s a haunted history ship’s chandlery and without giving too much away since they’re very proud of their creativity copyright down there, we’re going to install something for a climactic moment of the tour that’s going to spook people in a way they’ve never experienced in there. And so I’m buying a lot of pneumatic cylinidars and a bunch of new sound compression speakers and speakers that turn anything into an audible surface. So I’ll leave you to think what that might be and who might be coming out from the behind the walls. And then in my other career I’m an actor/musician in new York and just this closed a really successful show off Broadway and gearing up for some Broadway labs in the next couple of months. So it’s sort of my dual life and I’ve loved living it for the last 10 years. [Timestamp: 12:14]

Got plenty going on. Attraction Designer Ryan McCurdy doing this one for Historic Tours of America and the American Prohibition Museum in old Savannah, a must-see when you’re there. Fun hearing about it and I’d love to rig my house up with something like this. That would be a great project.

Absolutely. And the first thing I did when I got home after the museum opened is I bought a brand new Amazon Echo and got a bunch of smart lights. It gave me just enough impetus to get my entire house smart-enabled. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun to do and I’ll pop over and do yours if you want it, Bennett. [Timestamp: 12:47]

Really got me going now on how I could rig up everything around here. Thanks for telling us about it.

Great. Have a great day.

Great to have you here for the SVC Podcast with Ryan McCurdy and the American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia. Check out the show notes and product links. They’re all right here at svconline.com. Be back with us next week for the SVC Podcast.

American Prohibition Museum Comes to Life with A/V Binloop HD Pt2
Monday, November 27, 2017 - 13:09
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Attraction Designer Ryan McCurdy. We’ve got show notes and product links for this interview and other SVC podcasts at svconline.com.

The American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia immerses visitors in an incredible lighting, video and sound experience. Live actors mix with AV effects and playback to intensify the effects. Attraction Designer Ryan McCurdy is back to finish his story on how he equipped the whole thing and brought it to life, all right here on the SVC Podcast.

Ryan it’s good to have you back with us and Historic Tours of America’s new Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia. You rigged the whole thing out as you’ve done with some previous historic exhibits and it’s fascinating how you mix AV machinery with live actors. How do you project such convincing video images in such a small space?

Good question. A very good question. And it was a long process of dialogue about how we were going to do this. And so we have what are called prestige effects. It’s the word I sort of coined. It’s the effects that the patrons are most likely to stop and fixate on. They’re actually all being fed by a Binloop HD from Alcorn McBride. But we realized that all of the effects actually could convincingly work in high-def 4K monitors rather than projectors. So while there are some projectors in the space – in fact, the very first thing you see after you walk into the museum is a Panasonic PTRZ-670 that is projecting a huge montage of Prohibition Era images onto a wall. We do use that for archival footage. We have another place where we’re projecting what was called “The Death of John Barleycorn,” which was a fake funeral staged when prohibition was enacted. But then for our prestige effect, which are the film sequences that we filmed specifically for the museum, we have the talking portraits, which I think we talked about in Part 1, and we have a moonshiner character. And there was a lot of discussion about whether we should use a Musion Eyeliner type system and do a hologram, whether we should do a standard projection against a blank surface. And then ultimately we realized that we didn’t have the depth to either do Musion or do a straight projector. We also didn’t want to deal with the noise and we didn’t want to deal with the fact that we wanted possibly smoke in the environment, and sort of it’s an outside environment which has been really lovingly detailed by the art department headed by Monte Triz. So we didn’t want to shut down any opportunities for water effects or mist effects, so what we basically have done – and I think it looks and feels very, very great – is we’re using a high end Samsung ED75E, which is one of their 4K 75-inch monitors. And it is embedded and inset into a huge backdrop that was hand painted by Monte Triz and his team. And then what we did is shot the moonshiner against a green screen, replaced the green screen painstakingly, the film departments and our post-production teams from Media Merge in Alabama and R.J. Temple, Jr. was one of our post-production sound team workers. They worked to replace the green screen with an actual representation of what the mural from the backdrop is. And then the monitor itself is framed between two real trees that have been inserted into the space so it really looks like he just happens to exist between this – in this one little area of the backdrop. And he interacts with his environment. He reaches up and turns on a practical lamp, turns it off. He reaches down and picks things up that look like they could be from the table right in front of him. It’s these crafty little integrations of real world interaction, as well as the live sound and the live lights, that I think convince most people that he is there in a way that I think we would have always fought with a projection. And the thing I was most worried about projection-wise, which we do run into in our final theater where we’re screening a very, very traditional theater-type film, is how much glare is still visible overhead just from the dust and noise of people moving through the space. And we have, instead of that beam of light we’re trying to control, we have this incredibly crisp, perfectly high-def 4K image of a figure who I believe is 5’10” and is actually, I think, 5’8” or 5’9” in real life. So we’ve almost got this complete representation of a life-sized human. [Timestamp: 4:51]

And you had to wire all of this up so that it’s easy to maintain but out of sight. You’re working with digital video of course, so how far from the displays is the playback hardware?

The good thing is, is that because it’s a linear museum we are using the spaces in such a way that they sort of do a serpentine path. So if you think about it in terms of if you were to walk straight across a room, that would be a pretty inefficient use of space. So what we do is we’ve built false walls and false exits that take the audience down one long corridor and then curve to come all the way back across the room on another corridor. So as a result, the furthest that we have to run any length of cable is about 60 feet. And a lot of the prestige effects and things that stop the patrons in their tracks, they’re all within about 25-30 feet of the central. In fact, it was a clever idea of the art department that the technological center, the home base, is actually made to look like the moonshiner’s wooden shack. But inside of this fauxed-out wooden shack that has a beaten up front door with a false doorknob on it, what’s actually inside there is the museum manager’s office and a lot of equipment. [Timestamp: 6:05]

Well, it least it’s secure and close at hand if anything happens. I would think that it’s fascinating getting all of this connected and then rehearsing the actors and the AV playback to get them working together.

It was. It was. And I was there, like I said, from the very beginning and as a result I got to be there about once or twice a month for almost a year and a half. And it was kind of fascinating. It was amazing to watch actors. My background is theater and so I bring a very specific theatrical approach to my attraction design. It was great to see them in there when it was still bare walls, and some of the walls weren’t even done yet and there was tape laid out on the floor. To see them use their imagination to work on their scenes, to work on their attractions, and then to watch it build up around them just like they had prepared for, it was great. But it is kind of a rare joy to be able to take over a space when it is gutted from its previous tenant as an attraction designer because so often I’m being called in to finish something that has the art direction or the set design already done. So we were really able to map out those runs for the cables, figure out exactly where the technology could sit and the art department was able to build concealers and platforms and structures. So the technology is integrated into the design rather than being a post-production-only concept. [Timestamp: 7:24]

After you’ve had some people come through this exhibit do you ever make changes or tweaks to it based on their experience?

Absolutely. We started bringing groups through in about April of this year. At first it was just the staff members of Historic Tours of America getting these private tours for them and their families. And immediately started to think about the length of videos, think about the level of the sound playback because there’s 19 monitors and video sequences. There’s probably 17 discreet uses of sound throughout the museum. And yeah, as soon as groups came back to use with their opinion we tried to do, again, another theatrical technique where you take the responses from your audience. You take their very emotional response – this is how I felt, this was too loud – and then you write out the technical list of that and how that’s going to be addressed from a purely technical standpoint. [Timestamp: 8:16]

With the sound part of it you’d have to be careful to isolate the sound so that it’s not bleeding through and connecting with visitors who are watching something else. Choice and positioning of the speakers would have to be carefully selected so what did you use there?

We used JBL speakers. We used a number of different manufacturers of sort of new generation of isolated speakers. We’re way past the days of having to stand under a sound cone in a museum. Those are now built into walls and built into ceilings. We’ve got some that are connected to monitors, some that are directly above the audience. You hit the nail on the head. It’s always that – especially in theater, but also in museums and the like – the question: how much to you want the audience to feel like they are experiencing an environment, but then what’s the reality of how much you have to be controlling and minimizing the spillover. Which is another thing we ran into. Some of these rooms are heavily theatricalized and we have a Source Four rigs that are changing during the day and have queues and have looks and gobos. And then we have rooms that are traditionally museum lit and the idea is always what is the transition for the audience from a room that is fully theatricalized and fully set-designed into a room that is more about the objects of the time and the reader rails that give you all the information of what you’re experiencing? [Timestamp: 9:39]

And you’ve got to making lighting work for this. That would definitely be a mood setter in the exhibit.

And one of the rooms that I think received the most amount of work from myself and from Media Merge’s postproduction was the moonshiner’s shack, which has a very specific look. And you’re coming into it from a traditional museum-lit room and as soon as you leave it you’re going back into a museum-lit room. So it’s this big question of how do you immediately create an environment? And Source Four jr. and Source Four Mini is really the reason they’re the industry standards. Because they’re so effective at throwing a large amount of light in a small amount of space. And so it’s kind of great. Downstairs in our big, big open space that you immediately come into – and I’m very proud of the fact that the first thing you see is a place called McCurdy’s Tavern, which since my name is Ryan McCurdy you can derive whether or not that has anything to do with me. But that room has a huge vaulted ceiling and a big, open space. We’re using Source Four seniors with a lot of color work and a lot of beam disposal. And then in the moonshiner’s space, which has a very low ceiling ad is a very tight, small room, we’re using Source Four Minis and a couple of practical lamps to give the sense that this is a live rendition of this person’s world that you’re seeing interact with you on the projection. [Timestamp: 11:06]

It looks like a fantastic place. The next time I’m in Savannah I’ve got to go through and see how it all looks and sounds. So this one is finished and tuned up so what have you got coming up next?

Actually I’m headed down to Savannah next week. Their Perkins & Sons Chandlery was the first thing I built there about a decade ago, and we’re about to install a brand new effect in there. It’s a haunted history ship’s chandlery and without giving too much away since they’re very proud of their creativity copyright down there, we’re going to install something for a climactic moment of the tour that’s going to spook people in a way they’ve never experienced in there. And so I’m buying a lot of pneumatic cylinidars and a bunch of new sound compression speakers and speakers that turn anything into an audible surface. So I’ll leave you to think what that might be and who might be coming out from the behind the walls. And then in my other career I’m an actor/musician in new York and just this closed a really successful show off Broadway and gearing up for some Broadway labs in the next couple of months. So it’s sort of my dual life and I’ve loved living it for the last 10 years. [Timestamp: 12:14]

Got plenty going on. Attraction Designer Ryan McCurdy doing this one for Historic Tours of America and the American Prohibition Museum in old Savannah, a must-see when you’re there. Fun hearing about it and I’d love to rig my house up with something like this. That would be a great project.

Absolutely. And the first thing I did when I got home after the museum opened is I bought a brand new Amazon Echo and got a bunch of smart lights. It gave me just enough impetus to get my entire house smart-enabled. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun to do and I’ll pop over and do yours if you want it, Bennett. [Timestamp: 12:47]

Really got me going now on how I could rig up everything around here. Thanks for telling us about it.

Great. Have a great day.

Great to have you here for the SVC Podcast with Ryan McCurdy and the American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia. Check out the show notes and product links. They’re all right here at svconline.com. Be back with us next week for the SVC Podcast.

American Prohibition Museum Comes to Life with A/V Binloop HD Pt1
Saturday, November 18, 2017 - 09:55
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Attraction Designer Ryan McCurdy. We’ve got show notes and product links for this interview and other SVC podcasts at svconline.com.

Prohibition was an incredibly interesting time in American history and the emotionally charged 18th Amendment carried a lot of unintended consequences. Now, there’s a museum in Savannah, Georgia dedicated to that exciting period and Attraction Designer Ryan McCurdy is going to tell us how it all works with the Alcorn McBride Binloop HD and other AV gear. That’s right up ahead on the SVC Podcast.

Good to have you getting with us for this one, Ryan. Independent attraction designer, this time working on the American Prohibition Museum down in Savannah. I wouldn’t have immediately thought of that but now that I’ve gone to the web site and checked it out, it gets more interesting every time I look at it. You put this place together for Historic Tours of America so tell us about them first.

Absolutely. And I would count on them to come up with the idea of doing something like the Prohibition Museum, which at first blush it sounds like something that you wouldn’t think about filling an entire museum with. But it’s a great idea. It’s been really well executed. Historic Tours is a specialty tourism company. They operate in a number of American cities. They actually have six cities that they are primarily in. They work on trollies. They have museums. They have experiential. They have specialty ghost tours in all of these cities. The ones up and down the east coast and the ones that I’ve worked in specifically are Boston, Key West, St. Augustine and Savannah. They also have a D.C. location and a San Diego location and they’re a great company. I’ve been a contractor for them off and on for about nine years. [Timestamp: 2:03]

Certainly no shortage of history in Savannah, Georgia. I’ve been there many times. And this turns out to be such an interesting topic. At first I thought a law that was passed and then it was undone, but it had such a range of unintended consequences. So how did it the museum for this happen? Did Historic Tours come to you and say we’ve got this Prohibition museum idea and we want you to set it all up?

Well, actually I think it was originally the president, Ed Swift III, who had this idea. It’s always been an interesting period of American History to him, and he was very familiar with these unintended consequences which include the federal penal system, it includes the way income tax became a necessary part of American life. All of these things that this 13-year swath from 1920 to 1933, this very seemingly lost in time 13 years, has affected everything that’s happened into the 21st century. So yes, I actually just luckily happened to be at the original summit of the designers and presidential team. I was in Savannah on other business and they didn’t have any full plans at that point. They said do you want to come to this empty space that may have just been purchased for something and hear what they’re thinking about? So I got to sit in a roundtable, and actually they had just bought the space and it was gutted, so we didn’t even have chairs. The group of about 14 of us sat in a circle, crossed our legs and started talking about what has now become one of the jewels of their museum empire. [Timestamp: 3:33]

And it’s located in a prime spot right in the heart of the historic downtown area on the City Market. Great place to see a lot of a very eventful past and there are already a lot of tour stops just near there so it’s a great location.

Oh, it’s perfect for them. In fact, for years and year the trolley has been stopping at what is called City Market and it happens to be that the stop was now about 100 feet from the entrance to the museum. And Savannah’s square footage can be hard because there’s not a lot of the downtown district. So for them to be able to have the second floor across a number of first floor buildings and restaurants has been very beneficial. And their major thing, because they operate in a lot of smaller southern cities, their big mission – the art department and the executive department – is to make square footage count, which is sort of where I came in. They had 7,000 ideas and just barely 7,000 square feet. So the question was how do we put all of this into our space? [Timestamp: 4:33]

So take us into this place. I believe there are 13 galleries involved in it so what have you got to see when you get in there?

Absolutely. I think one of the genius ideas at the very beginning was that this was always planned to be a linear museum that you get history from right about 1920 to 1933, the beginning and the end of prohibition, and to use the square footage we have in a logical way. You are on one path the entire time, but you are not being rushed to experience any of the galleries at any particular speed so you can encounter the history in the way that it interests you. And we find there’s a lot of people who are particularly interested in the legalities from the very beginning, so they’ll stay in the first several galleries. And there’s people that are much more interested, as I can appreciate, in our working and completely operable speakeasy, which is towards the back end of the museum. And you see a lot of people, especially as the museum has taken on more public knowledge, people that are moving through the history at the beginning to get to the drinking part at the end. But what’s great about historic tours is even though the speakeasy is fully functional, has its own menu, has its own incredible mixology staff, it’s very historic as well. And the history comes first, that’s the way the speakeasy is laid out, the way it’s been designed; the reader rails and the staff’s knowledge of their own time period. [Timestamp: 5:57]

I would think that one of the more challenging aspects of this would be that you’ve got AV machinery, speakers, video playing and you’ve got live actors, who might like to ad lib sometimes, mixed with media playbacks that don’t change or adapt to what the actors are doing.

Of course, yes. And the museum manager, whose name is Kayla Black, spearheaded the team that developed all this for the actors. Obviously the video is finite. All of the video loops, some of it is 45 seconds looping, some of it is six or seven minutes looping. I think the longest looping video that we have in the space is about nine-and-a-half minutes. And so what she did, rather than write scripts for the actors that they’re going to repeat 700 times a day, is she compiled dossiers of the history of the period for them – characters they could be, people that were likely to have fought different things during the time. And so every actor spends their different days at the museum in a number of different characters at different points of the history of the museum, which encourages their fresh interactions with the audiences every day. It also gives them, instead of seven or eight lines, it gives them pages and pages of material that they’ve memorized like a traditional tour guide would. And they’re being able to channel that information and put it into the actor perspective, which I think is really the only way to efficiently mix technology and actors. I’ve seen museums that have mixed them far less efficiently and I think this really great idea at the center of the museum is giving them a novelization of their own history and then asking them to memorize and be prepared to use it as it interest them. [Timestamp: 7:37]

You used the Alcorn-McBride Binloop HD as sort of the heart of the system and I think you’ve used that on a number of projects before.

I have. In fact, the first thing I did with Historic Tours is still using, you know, we’ve switched out the V4 at the center of that first exhibition I think twice in – I think it’s actually coming up on a decade of operation. But if I’m not mistaken it is still the original DMX machine in that exhibition. So yes, Alcorn-McBride has proven – I’ve been using them, like I said, for about a decade – the pieces work, the customer service is excellent. And then I think what is most important to me is that the length of operation is very long. They don’t burn out. They don’t misfire. They don’t boot up wrong. They’re just these rock-solid machines. And we really needed that for Prohibition Museum because every guest is being fed an extraordinary amount of visual content and we knew it needed to be something that it would turn on every morning and be completely rock solid. [Timestamp: 8:40]

And as the actors interact with video playback, what sort of surfaces are these videos projected onto? You don’t have a lot of room for people to get back and look at the whole thing.

No, and that’s actually been – that was another thing that’s been developed extensively at Historic Tours. It’s the third time we’ve done it in a museum for Historic Tours of America. It was first done in St. Augustine at the Oldest Store, which I think we did a podcast about over half a decade ago now. It was then done in Boston at the Tea Party Ships and Museum. And it’s this concept of the talking portrait, which I think is a really clever idea. But unlike the Harry Potter use of the talking portrait, which is purely as a visual gag, this is a communicative device and the actors have memorized and are able to speak back to it. But instead of a projection it’s a monitor embedded into a wall that’s been fauxed out. It has a crackle finish on top and then a frame that goes around that which usually distorts the size of the monitor a little bit so that it tricks the audience into thinking that what they’re looking at is actually an antique frame. And the great thing about the Prohibition Museum is it’s actually two monitors that speak to themselves and also speak to a live actor. One of them is oval; one of them is square – very different sizes, but the eye lines are complete between them. So we didn’t have to project, which was great. We used Samsung monitors with boot-up ready technology using basically straight runs of HDMI from the equipment central and they are being frame locked by the Alcorn-McBride software and hardware. As a result they are probably running 250-300 times a day. [Timestamp: 10:22]

And when people walk in, the machinery has to know where and the system has to detect that the museum visitors have arrived and are all in place so how are the sound and video playback triggered?

Right. They actually are triggered by a foot pedal which the actor has control over. It’s the one part of the museum where people are gathered up into a slightly larger group until they’re released to go forward. And it’s right at 1920 when people are still arguing, and so the portraits are actually two figures of the time arguing about the pros and cons of prohibition. So the actor is able to stop the group, gather them up in front of this wall of portraits, and then triggers the sequence, which also allows the actor the opportunity to know when their dialogue comes in. And it’s actually very similar to the way that the portraits are used in Boston where it’s another dialogue between the portraits that the actor triggers. Every other place in the museum that we use video it’s on a stylized loop, but this is the one part where they are frozen until they are called upon. They’re triggered from the floor and then they go back into a ready mode, which is also frozen until they’re used again. [Timestamp: 11:28]

Attraction Designer Ryan McCurdy good to be talking to you again. It’s been a long time. The American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia. A fascinating idea for an interesting historical era that got me more interested the more I read on it. In Part 2 next week we’ll get more into the tech details of lighting, sound and video on this. Ryan, thanks for being with us and we’ll see you again next week.

Great. Looking forward to it. Thank you so much, Bennett.

Good having you with us for the SVC Podcast with Ryan McCurdy. We’ve always got plenty of show notes and product links at svconline.com. Next week Ryan will get into more technical detail on the inner mechanics of the American Prohibition Museum so get back with us for the next SVC Podcast.

Diamond Support Services Brings Laser Projection to Calvary Lutheran Church Pt2
Monday, November 13, 2017 - 17:33
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Steve Diamond of Diamond Support Services. Show notes and product links for this podcasts others are at svconline.com.

Even in a traditional church, things have to evolve and at Calvary Lutheran Church in Grants Pass, Oregon their old projection and sound systems were difficult to use. Diamond Support Services put in two new projectors, hung screens and revamped the sound system. Steve Diamond is back to finish up with their sound system upgrade. Next up on the SVC Podcast.  

Steve, good to have you back and we were talking last week about the Calvary Lutheran Church and the effect that the new Eiki EK-810U projectors had on the congregation there. Let’s go to the screens though. What was behind the selection of the Crystal Screens display surfaces?

Well, you know, as I told you last time we spoke that three of the walls are window walls, basically. They’re glass – predominantly glass – and we had a tremendous amount of horizontal light that we’re dealing with that has to be overcome to give a good picture. Crystal Screens is one of only just a couple of companies using a new screen material that rejects ambient light and really gives you a clear picture from the projector, but gets rid of all that horizontal light that’s coming into the room. And we went with what is called their Reflect 3.0, that’s a +3 gain, with a 70-degree viewing angle. We went with two of those screens which covered the room beautifully. But by going with the Reflect 3.0 we were able to really get a great picture without the horizontal light really coming into play. [Timestamp: 1:47]

And rather than mounted on the wall, I believe the screens are suspended. How long did it take you to get those up and oriented the right way?

It was about two guys and two hours. We took the frame – the velvet-covered frame that came with the screens – and we used a tap and die set to make holes through the aluminum frame. And then we were able to use wire rope to suspend those from the ceiling at exactly the right angles. That’s how we mounted the screens rather than a wall-type mount or a pull-down or any of that. They’re fixed-frame screens. [Timestamp: 2:19]

Those screens had to have a huge effect on the brightness and the clarity of those projectors in that ambient light. I’m sure the church crew was impressed.

Unbelievable. When we turned on those projectors and we put a picture through it, the people who were there from the church were kind of helping and hanging out and watching gasped. It was such a great picture. And I will say this. Crystal Screens basically manufactured these screens for us – custom – because up to that point they hadn’t done large screens. The screens were limited to about a 6x8 and these are a little larger than that, so they had to figure out how to put these pieces together of the screen material so that it would work. And they did a horizontal seam. We have 134-inch diagonal picture that we were shooting onto that screen, so it had to be that big to do that, and they successfully made the seam; brought the pieces together. We tensioned the screen onsite and then mounted it as I’ve described. [Timestamp: 3:21]

And I think you also made some modifications to the sound system including relocating the front of house mixer.

About a year and a half, two years ago I put in an Allen & Heath GLD digital console for them. And the reason that I went with the digital console is that previously they had an analog console, but their congregation didn’t really know how to operate a control board. There was nobody there who was technically-minded and there was no tech in charge of it. So by going with the digital console, I could do a lot of the setting up of the console for them and then they could use a recall button to recall different scenes that I had set up for them. [Timestamp: 3:59]

Yeah, I’ve always thought that digital boards are great for churches.

They are great for churches. They really are. Churches have volunteer staffs, most of them, and they have different levels of ability. And the digital control board allows the person who is the best tech to do a lot of the programming and the setup. And then you have a volunteer come in who has less skills and they can go through and look at the scenes created by the one who knows, move it to their area of the console and hit recall and they’re up and operating. And it sets a baseline for the church so that their sound quality is more consistent over time. With the analog board, if you have a guy that knows what he’s doing and by the time it gets to the end of the service things have moved quite a bit, the next guy who comes in as a volunteer, they don’t know what they’re doing. They start making changes. They start moving stuff around. And there were a lot of times pastors would come to me and say, “Steve, would you come down, tune our system and reset our console because what we’re getting now is not very good.” And I’d go down there and I would set everything up and I’d stay with them through a Sunday service and everybody would go, “Wow, it sounds great. We’re really happy.” And the pastor would go to the tech people of the church and say, “Don’t touch anything that Steve set. Leave it alone. Don’t move anything.” I said, “Pastor, it doesn’t work like that. Sound, it flexes and moves. It breathes. You can’t just set something and expect it to be right every service.” [Timestamp: 5:25]

There are a lot of aspects to getting that right and keeping it set up right but you can’t just string barbed wire around the thing. So what type of wireless mics did you install for the church?

We installed Shure QLX-D digital microphones. They are a very high-quality mic, very good-sounding mic. Very, very, very low opportunity for interference using those digital microphones. And they don’t have a lot of wiring in their church because they were a very traditional church when the building was built, and they had a microphone from the lectern and one microphone over by the side and that’s about it. So I was able to get a CAT-5 cable pulled around and put in a digital stage box so they could take some of the instruments that they’re using now, which they weren’t using when they started the church, and give them a place to connect to the control board via that. But in wireless mics they really didn’t have a lot of mics. So we have 12 channels of QLX-E wireless there, eight of which are for their side mic singers, and we have DPA headset cardioid microphones for their singers going to belt packs. And then we have several hand-helds, including one that is now being used from the lectern because the wiring was very, very old and not in good shape and it was just easier to go wireless. [Timestamp: 6:42]

And what else did you do on the sound system before that was wrapped up?

Well, we’re in the process of right now planning their speaker change out. The speakers they have were produced by Apogee back in the mid 90’s and they were good speakers. And when I sat with them several years ago, we started walking through what the priorities were. And because the Apogee speaker was actually a very good speaker when it was made – I wasn’t crazy about the hang or some of the other aspects of it – but it’s a good speaker. So I said let’s keep these speakers and let’s go step by step and over the course of time we will figure everything out and bring you up to date. One of the things we just did, I was there when we moved the console and all the stuff that went along with that. I turned on the system and started tuning it and thinking man, it doesn’t sound very good over here. When their console was up at the front of the church you couldn’t hear the speakers so it didn’t matter, but when I moved the board back I went, “What is this?” And I went back and found that they had two speakers, one for each half of the room, basically, and the amplifier had only one working channel. So I called another church down there in Grants Pass that I have a relationship with and I said, “Do you have a spare amp I could borrow?” And they said yes, we do. So I went over and got their amp, hooked it up, and all of a sudden they’re going, “Oh, my goodness. That’s why we couldn’t hear.” And all of a sudden the sound was decent. So we just recently put in a new PowerSoft four-channel amplifier. PowerSoft is a one rack space/one rack unit amplifier that puts out absolutely fantastic sound. And the reason I went with that is in my planning for this future speaker replacement, that amp will actually drive all of the speakers that we’re going to put in the room. So that’s what we’ve done as far as the amplifiers are concerned. Now as far as the antennas for mic receivers, we put in a couple of antenna combiners for all of their microphones so they don’t have the porcupine back there with all the antennas sticking up. It’s one set of antennas and it feeds through different combining networks to feed all of the microphone receivers. [Timestamp: 8:46]

Yeah, make it work better, too without all those antennas reflecting off of each other. So what’s coming up next for Diamond Support Services? You got any other projects coming down the line?

Well, I head to Singapore this week to meet with a couple of churches in Singapore. And we’re also working with a church in Hawaii that is in the process of building a new building and we’re doing all the sound, lighting, video and acoustics for that as well. My background is in acoustics – it’s a big part of what I do. I have my certificates, if you will, in acoustics and audio engineering, but the guys that work with me are video specialists, lighting specialists, etc. So we can handle a pretty good-sized facility with the team we have. [Timestamp: 9:25]

You never know exactly what you’re going to get on the acoustics when you walk into a place. For the other things you can look at specs, schematics and equipment lists but the acoustics are a little more experimental and subjective. Thanks for giving us the details on this one. It’s Steve Diamond with Diamond Support Services and the Calvary Lutheran Church in Grants Pass, Oregon. Lots of system improvements and maybe they’ll get some of the younger folks in now.

Yes. Let’s hope so.

Thanks for listening in for the SVC Podcast with Steve Diamond of Diamond Support Services. The show notes and product links are all right here at svconline.com. Get with us again next week here on the SVC Podcast.

Diamond Support Services Brings Laser Projection to Calvary Lutheran Church
Monday, November 6, 2017 - 18:14
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Steve Diamond of Diamond Support Services. Show notes and product links for this one other SVC podcasts are at svconline.com.

The Calvary Lutheran Church in Grants Pass, Oregon wanted to expand its congregation to include younger members and one way to do that was to install two large projection screens with hymn lyrics and other visual items. They called in Diamond Support Services for the installation and Steve Diamond is here to tell us how it all went. That’s coming up right now on the SVC Podcast.

Steve, thanks for joining us from Diamond Support Services in Junction City, Oregon. And we’re going to be talking about the Calvary Lutheran Church nearby in Grants Pass. They wanted to get more into big screen video. And that church has an older congregation?

 

They are an older congregation, there’s no question about it, but they are striving to draw younger families and youth into the church. And part of their reason for installing the video is to give them technology that younger families and youth are used to so that they can do more to draw them. And that’s what they’re trying to do. [Timestamp: 1:21]

 

And when those churches call Diamond Support Services, what are they looking for? What do you mainly do for them?

 

Our mission is to serve the body of Christ. I have been in the audio field since 1973, so I’ve got a few years under my belt. I had a company here in Oregon that did national and international work for many years and last fall I sold my percentage in the company. And the new company that purchased the company that we had had a different vision. They only wanted to serve mega churches and work with budgets that were fairly large. My heart has always been to serve the smaller and medium-sized churches and so we parted company the beginning of December of last year. And in January I started Diamond Support Services to continue to serve the smaller and mid-sized churches. We do large churches, too, don’t get me wrong. But my focus is definitely small and mid-sized because they tend to be the ones that really need some guidance and some help with honesty. And you have quite a few dealers out there who their main focus is sales, and my main focus is serving the church. So I tend to give them good deals, but more than that I give them solid advice and really take into account their budgets. I try not to exceed their budgets, but I am a realist with them. And I also tend to move them towards wise stewardship decisions where they’re spending the money once and spending it wisely. Not necessarily buying cheap. It may be expensive, but it’s something that will last them a decade or two. And I feel that is a much better value than selling them something they fight with and then five years later they replace it because they’re too tired of fighting with it. [Timestamp: 3:07]

 

And what was it that they wanted to accomplish by installing the new projection system? You mentioned the younger crowd. Were they just trying to blend the congregation better and get into a little more sophisticated video system?

 

They’re trying to blend the church better. They have a good contingent of seniors and they’re trying to draw in those families and the youth. They’re trying to get a little younger in their technology as a way of being attractive to the younger generations. Previously, they used a small projector that was just sitting on a cart and they would pull down a screen and put the words and sermon notes and that kind of thing on the screen, and the seniors couldn’t see it very well. The room has three glass walls. The rear wall and the two side walls are predominantly glass and there’s a tremendous amount of horizontal light that comes into the room through all that glass. So that was one of the challenges about getting them to a good solution where the seniors could read the words clearly and see clearly and the youth would come in and go, “Wow, they have cool video.” [Timestamp: 4:12]

 

Yeah, I can see why they why they would find that to be more engaging.

 

Yeah. So that’s kind of what we were up against. The video they had was terribly washed out and really did not function well. It was just kind of a stop gap measure on their part. I’ve been working with them for close to a year and a half to find a video solution that would work for them in that space. And one of the things when we started, it was like gee, this is expensive. Yes, you need a high-power projector to overcome some of this light, but you still have issues with all that horizontal light coming in. And we investigated motorized, drop-down shades that would cover some of the glass. We talked about curtains being pulled over the glass and all that kind of stuff. But most of the people in the church were very taken by the architectural aspects of the building and didn’t want to block out all the natural light that was coming into the room. So those solutions we kind of worked through and they weren’t 100 percent sold on it. We did mock-up of screens and showed them where the screens would hang, that kind of thing, but they weren’t really taken by the aesthetic at that point in time. [Timestamp: 5:20]

 

So you installed a couple of Eiki 810U projectors I think. What was the attraction of those particular ones?

 

Yes, we did put in Eiki 810U’s. The attraction was two-fold. First of all, it’s an 8,000-lumen projector and 8,000 lumens is pretty good power at a reasonable price as far as the ability to cut through the existing light and space. And the second aspect is that it was a dual laser, and that in itself has a couple of benefits. But the dual laser has a blue laser and a red laser, so color rendition is extremely true and extremely natural-looking. Plus it has an extremely high contrast ratio in those projectors. You’re looking at about 100,000 to 1 contrast ratio. And of course the contrast ratio means that the blacks are blacker and the whites are whiter. And when you look at a standard incandescent-style bulb projector you’re talking contrast ratio is typically in the 3,000 to 1, maybe 5,000 to 1 area as opposed to 100,000 to 1. So contrast was really important, especially for the seniors in that congregation to be able to see writing clearly. [Timestamp: 6:30]

I can see that with the ambient light level how the contrast ratio would be a very big factor. Now I know that you probably didn’t have to do the whole thing by yourself so who helped out on the installation?

I have a couple of guys that I work with regularly. One – my lead is Enoch Howell, who is a certified technology specialist, CTS-D. There’s only about 2,000 of them in the world and he’s one of them. So he’s a tremendous asset as far as our company being able to pull off this kind of thing. I did the design and the specification of the equipment. He did the installation, the tuning in and the actual hands-on work. I was there, mind you, working, but he did the bulk of directing that and he’s just absolutely terrific at it. [Timestamp: 7:20]

So you got together and put in these EK-810U projectors. I looked through the specs on these and there’s a liquid cooling feature for the optics. How does that work?

 

[Laughs] That’s a good question. I would think that is a closely-guarded secret. I don’t know the specific engineering regarding, but I will say this. The cooling aspect negates the need for filters in the projector. It is a sealed light unit. It has a 20,000 hour guarantee on it. It doesn’t require filters being changed or even being cleaned, so the maintenance is extremely low. And for an older congregation, having less maintenance is a big deal. [Timestamp: 8:00]

 

Yeah, I can imagine.

 

 So just having it be less maintenance was big. A 20,000 hour guarantee is great, and you know, when we looked at the price of the projector everybody went, “Oh, that’s expensive.” Well, not really when you consider that if you want a really good picture you would have to replace the bulb every year or two and a good OEM bulb is $400.00-$500.00 a pop. And if you replace that, let’s say every two years instead of one, over the course of 10 years you’re doing several thousand dollars just in bulbs. So when you add that to the price of the reasonably high-power projector that gets you in that 8,000 lumen area the cost is not very much different to go with the laser. Better contrast ratio, better picture, truer colors. We had just stunning results when we put that in. [Timestamp: 8:49]

 

And from where do you control these projectors? What do you use, serial or LAN, how do you do that?

 

Everything is set in their little booth at the back corner of the room. Not my favorite place to put a booth, but that’s where it is. It is definitely a wired LAN. They use an iMac through an ATEN matrix and the wired LAN gives us a very good IP control and allows us to remote in, if necessary, to help them. That’s a big deal. [Timestamp: 9:18]

 

That would be a giant thing for them not to have to wait for you to get down there to the church to do something or check something that you could do remotely.

 

Right. When you say “get down there to the church,” it’s 200 miles away.

 

That’s a mighty long trek anyway.

 

Yeah. So getting down there is like gee, is there another way we can pull this off without me hopping in the car and driving?

 

At least you can look at some diagnostics and see if there’s something that’s about to go bad or not working right on those.

 

We also set it up that the projector would notify us if something goes wrong. So we know sometimes before they do if there’s a problem. We haven’t had any so far so everything is good, but that is something we definitely looked at in setting up the IP control. [Timestamp: 10:01]

 

And how do you get the video signal up to the projectors? Is it HDBaseT or how do you handle the video signal?

 

We are doing HDBaseT and we use an ATEN, four-in/four-out matrix so that they can hook up their computer and they can hook up a DVD player and whatever. And that gives us the ability to get the signal right up to the projectors. [Timestamp: 10:21]

                                                                                                             

Sounds like the easiest way to get all the sources up there and once you do, what’s the actual throw distance from the projectors to the screens?

 

There are two screens, two projectors. From each projector it’s a 57-foot throw to the screen. So long-throw lenses were specified along with the projectors. The projectors basically don’t come with a lens; you specify the lens. [Timestamp: 10:42]

 

Sounds like an installation that had a significant impact on the whole personality of the church and their congregation. Next week we’ll get more into how you did the church’s sound system. Thanks for getting with us on it, Steve. It’s Steve Diamond of Diamond Support Services in Junction City, Oregon and the Calvary Lutheran Church projection display upgrade. Thanks Steve, for getting with us.

Sure, and talk to you next week.

Nice to have you with us for the SVC Podcast with Steve Diamond. Show notes and product links for this one and others can always be found at svconline.com. Next week Steve will tell us about the Crystal Screens display surfaces installed for the Calvary Lutheran Church. That’s on the next SVC Podcast.

Masque Sound Upgrades Baltimore Center Stage Head Theater Pt2
Monday, October 30, 2017 - 09:48
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Matt Peskie of Masque Sound. Show notes and product links for this and other SVC podcasts are at svconline.com.

Baltimore Center Stage has a newly renovated facility and a brand new sound setup in their Head Theater featuring Symetrix control, d&b Audiotechnik speakers and a DiGiCo mixer. They’ve got remote control all over the building installed by Masque Sound. Matt Peskie is back to finish up his story on how the whole project was finished. That’s coming up on the SVC Podcast.

Matt Peskie with Masque Sound in East Rutherford, New Jersey, thanks for getting back with us and we were talking last week about the Baltimore Center Stage whole building renovation including the Pearlstone Theater, the Head Theater and a sound system that extends control to locations everywhere. Matt, take us through what you did when you first got into the Head Theater.

Well, I guess the big thing with the Head initially was getting all the infrastructure laid out, which was part-and-parcel brought to us from the consultant, Charcoalblue. Once all that infrastructure was put in place then that really allows Amy, who is the audio head down there, and whoever is the visiting system designer is to lay out what they’re going to specifically put in for the show. Charcoalblue, I guess I should reface this with the kind of work on two different contracts when they do a project, at least in our past experience with them. The first contract would be the page program infrastructure and then along with a performance infrastructure. And then the second contract would actually be the fit out of all the equipment that would utilize that infrastructure and kind of give yourself a functional system. So I would say now they’re allowed – that infrastructure is there. Amy and whatever system designer comes in the place has the opportunity to take their plethora of d&b speakers, which they’ve got a multitude of different models, and pick and choose where to locate those for that specific show. So I think we talked about previously, Bennett, giving them the blank canvas and they can kind of paint as they choose. [Timestamp: 2:22]

A versatile system is certainly the bottom line on this one and I think it was the SymVue control panels. Is that what you put in there?

Yeah. That’s the touchscreen – well, not touchscreen per se, but the interactive control screen for Symetrix DSP. So basically in this scenario we gave them, I believe it’s around six different user pages to access different parts of the system in order to make changes be it a level control or be it routing control. I know we touched base that there’s a large Dante network put in place. So all of the speakers, say for example, in the lobby when you first come into the building, every speaker has essentially a level control handle that you can access through SymVue as well as you can choose what’s routed to that speaker. So you could choose to take the simple analog input, which there’s another selector further upstream that chooses what that analog input is, whether it’s the Head program or the Pearlstone program. Then we also put in a Dante input as well. So somebody could simply go onto the network with their computer using a virtual soundcard and choose to route that signal to a multitude of speakers or to just one speaker. In the lobby they’ve got three displays next to each other, each with a speaker. So they essentially could have a different program playing on every one of those speakers. [Timestamp: 3:45]

You deal with a lot of creative personalities in the theater business and this system allows them on the technical side to do whatever they come up with and channel that creativity through the whole system.

Yeah. From both the video and audio side, absolutely.

I also read about some portable stage manager cubes in the Head Theater. How did you set up and equip those?

Yeah, those are nice. They’ve got the Symetrix contact closure module inside of each one of them and they’ve got an arc controller. So it basically gives the stage manager the ability to use a custom LED panel that we put on the front of the rack and they can choose one of eight different zones where their page is going to go. So they can page either the Head house or the Pearlstone house or Head dressing rooms, Pearlstone dressing rooms, the lobby specifically, an all-page. So it kind of gives them the ultimate flexibility. And like I said we gave them a real nice custom LED touch panel. The buttons on the front, I believe they’re EAO buttons, so obviously you push them, they light up. It looks really nice. [Timestamp: 4:50]

And all of the available sound sources can be selected for monitoring all over the building in the various offices and dressing rooms. They can pull up sound from anywhere.

Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And that’s convenient as well. There’s kind of three different volume control scenarios throughout the facility. They’ve got some of the Symetrix ARC-2 remotes, which are in the production manager offices and a couple of the rehearsal rooms where they’ve got like even or eight different choices. They can choose from for a source and then kind of the more traditional volume control, locations. Used the Atlas AT35 PA, so it’s got the priority relay at the volume control in itself. So they can use – they either choose the Head backstage or the Pearlstone backstage. And then in some of the more traditional offices they can just choose the program from each of the locations. So very easy to be in any office or any dressing room and monitor what’s happening in either one of the theaters. [Timestamp: 5:48]

And I would think they would really like the live video feeds from the stage so anybody backstage can see what’s going on out front.

Yeah. Yep, they’ve got video feeds throughout most of the dressing rooms, I believe. And I think they do a lot of stuff over their data network as well. [Timestamp: 6:02]

You chose Symetrix for the central control component. Was there a special reason for that or do you use that quite a bit?

We use it quite a bit and yeah, we’ve had nothing but great experience with their products. The SymVue pages, like I said, they’re very presentable. You can really lay them out to be very user-friendly and functional. And yeah, we’ve had nothing but good experience with their stuff. [Timestamp: 6:25]

This control and monitoring wiring is run all over the place so when you were installing all of it did you have to test it in stages or just put the whole thing together and then run it through and see how it all worked.

We do a little bit of both, actually. If we have some wires run, especially there was a lot of free air wire run on this project. There was a lot of wires specifically in the page program system. That was run free air so it’s not in conduit. Typically, in those situations we would try to test that cable before the ceiling gets closed just to verify that the cable didn’t get cut by another trade. But most of the other panels, like your typical kind of AV panel that’s got audio, coax, data, etc., that we would test once it’s terminated. And this is kind of one of those projects where we did a lot of terminations out in the field prior to everything totally terminated in the Head end. So it’s kind of wait until the Head end is terminated. Okay, we can go through and test these panels. Great, let’s test them. And then we kind of would sweep through after a panel was complete, with the exception of fiber, then we would do the fiber connection. So once that fiber was terminated and the panels closed and tested, no one is going back into the panel to possibly disturb the fiber terminations. [Timestamp: 7:41]

And once you got everything in and tested okay, how did the first production go with it?

It went really well, yeah. I think they’re on like number three or number four in the two different theaters now. So yeah, we’ve got nothing but good feedback from – and actually a couple of the shows have come through Masque here, that they’ve pulled some consoles and whatnot to send down there. So yeah, we’ve got nothing but great feedback. [Timestamp: 8:02]

And not only did the show work fine, you also got the craftsmanship award for that project. So what have you got coming down the line at Masque Sound?

We’ve got some exciting stuff. The Manhattan Class Company Theater, we’re in there working on that. That’s scheduled to open this coming year. And we just wrapped up a project at Fordham High School in the Bronx, which is a Bette Midler Foundation project which redo’s theaters and auditoriums in schools throughout the five boroughs. So we’re always happy to help out on that end of things. And yeah, lots of stuff coming up I’m sure this fall into next year. [Timestamp: 8:38]

Well it was certainly good to hear that everything worked fine. This was an especially challenging and far-ranging project not only due to the technical complexity and just the physical scope of it but also because of the versatility of it for the users. So it was great having you here to tell us about it. Matt Peskie from Masque Sound and the big renovation of Baltimore’s Center Stage, a project that rated a special craftsmanship award. Thanks for giving us the story on it.

Thanks, Bennett.

Thanks for joining us for Matt Peskie, Masque Sound and the Baltimore Center Stage Head Theater complete AV system renovation. We’ve got the show notes and product links at svconline.com. Get back with us right here again next week for the SVC Podcast.

Masque Sound Upgrades Baltimore Center Stage Head Theater Pt 1
Saturday, October 28, 2017 - 09:46
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Matt Peskie of Masque Sound. Show notes and product links for this one and other podcasts are at svconline.com.

Baltimore Center Stage had a huge renovation this year and a good part of that included fixes for their Pearlstone Theater and a complete re-do of their Head Theater. They called in Masque Sound for the job and Matt Peskie is here today to tell us what they did and how they got it all done. That’s coming up on the SVC Podcast.

Matt, it’s great to have you with us once again on the SVC Podcast. It’s been a good while since we talked way back about the 54 Below project and now you just finished earlier this year a huge sound system renovation for Baltimore Center Stage, particularly their Head Theater. But before you give us the details on that, if there’s anybody on the AV side of the planet who doesn’t know about Masque Sound, give us a little update.

Well, Masque has been around for, I guess it’s 81 years now. So third generation owned, the Shearing family, doing primarily Broadway stuff for years and years. And we’ve got an install department and we do some performing arts centers, theaters, houses of worship, things of that nature. So I’m in the install department and that’s kind of the rundown, I guess. [Timestamp: 1:29]

And when they have a new project what do you do on it? Do they send you in first to kind of look it over?

It just kind of depends. I mean, we mostly are doing spec work so we’re on the approved bid list for quite a few consultants in the area. So kind of the work comes to us, at least in regards to bidding on the install side – very different from the Broadway side where they’re working with designers and they work with our couple of sales guys and put together an equipment list and bid the project that way. [Timestamp: 1:57]

Baltimore Center Stage had a big renovation that I think involved two theaters and much of the rest of the building. One of those was the Pearlstone and the other was the Head Theater with a complete re-do on that one. I think there were a few complications from the Pearlstone demo but you can tell us about that. What was the larger project that included theater sound system renovations? Was that part of one for the whole place?

It was the whole building that did a renovation with basically everything with the exception of the Pearlstone. The Pearlstone they did some minor work. It wasn’t anything major – major as in the rest of the building. But the rest of the building the Head Theater was a complete gut reno where they took the, it’s about two-and-a-half floors of space and just completely gutted it down to the steel and then redid all the structural steel inside for the catwalk support and everything. So the Head got a total redo and then the building itself, because of the historical landmark, a lot of the office floors, they did as much renovation as they could and really updated them in regards to electrical and data infrastructure and whatnot. So really it’s like walking into a brand new building. I mean the lobby is brand new. Everything really, except for the Pearlstone, which it got some sheetrock work done. It got some new AV stuff done. A little bit here and there, but it didn’t get a full reno like the Head did. [Timestamp: 3:24]

And did they do something in there where they actually ended up taking more of the old AV system out than they had planned?

Yeah. There was some demo that was done. There was kind of a cable pass-through outside in the lobby of the Pearlstone. When they were doing the demo a bunch of stuff got cut and it actually ended up being to the benefit of Amy down there who is the audio head. It actually kind of forced their hand to redo a lot of stuff that they hadn’t planned on redoing. So when a bunch of wires got cut they came to us, the general contractor, Whiting-Turner, and said can you guys address this issue? We said yeah, we’re more than happy to, but there’s a million wires here that it’s going to take us three weeks to just go through and do investigative work. And that kind of got the folks down at Center Stage involved and they went through and pulled out a bunch of old abandoned wires and kind of figured out what they really needed to have put in place of the stuff that got cut. So it actually ultimately was to their benefit that this happened, actually. [Timestamp: 4:20]

Well, at least it’s a good thing that they had to come up with something newer in there, too. So how big is the Head Theater? It’s not a huge place but what’s the seating capacity?

Yeah, I think it’s around – like between 325 and 375, depending on the show. I think they move some seats around and kind of redo some things depending on the show size and kind of how the show lays out. [Timestamp: 4:41]

And then there’s an outfit called Charcoalblue and what role did they play in all of this?

Yeah, they were the consultants. So they’re the ones that work directly with Amy and the folks down at Center Stage to make sure that the system that was being specified met all their needs and requirements. [Timestamp: 4:57]

And what did you do on this? Did you run into anything especially difficult after you started really getting in and behind things?

Yeah. I mean, just the cable runs – there was a lot of long cable runs. I mean, I think it was in the article; it was like 25 miles or something of wires. [Timestamp: 5:11]

Yeah, huge cable runs.

Yeah, some huge cable runs. It really was just ultimately a lot of managing how conduit comes into a room and how that conduit lands onto a wire tray and how it gets to your racks. You know, it’s one thing to deal with maybe 10, 20, 30 conduits coming in, but once you start getting into the 100-plus range it takes a lot of forethought when you’re laying out a room and kind of how stuff is going to sit in the room in order to have it be accessible from ladder tray and from conduit. So that’s probably one of the biggest challenges, and just dealing with, obviously, the building wasn’t completely redone. A lot of the walls and pathways and whatnot were already there, so we’re kind of dealing with some stuff where we can run new runs and some places where we couldn’t – where we had to deal with what was put in place. [Timestamp: 5:57]

One of the main features that you added there were a lot of new control points to allow them to do their things however they want to do them.

Yeah. They have ultimate flexibility, I believe, just in the catwalk in the Head Theater. There, I think, are 11 panels and each panel has 8-12 analog audio tie lines plus 8 data lines, 4 speaker lines, fiber, I think 4-6 coax lines. So really, everything whether you want to hang a speaker in Point A or Point B, there’s at least going to be three panels within 10-15 feet of where you’re going to hang the speaker or put said device. Which is really, that’s what a house like this needs when they have visiting shows coming in and different designers coming in. They have the ability to put devices anywhere within the space and have it easily be accessible. Patch into a patch point, go back to the rack room, patch it down to the console or an amplifier. Very easy. Simple. [Timestamp: 6:57]

And what types of panels did you use? Were they all the same make and model or did you do different ones in various places to give them different capabilities?

Yeah, it’s kind of different in different spots. Everything was custom made per Charcoalblue’s specs. So obviously there’s some projector panels where there’s a couple data lines and a couple fiber lines and maybe a coax line versus a panel that’s on stage that’s going to have probably more analog audio inputs, but it’s still going to have some fiber, still going to have some coax, still going to have some data. So they have all the points there. There is a big Dante system that’s put in place, so there’s different ports throughout the facility that land directly on to the Dante switches. So Amy down there has the ability to wheel in a console and get right onto the Dante network, which is very convenient. [Timestamp: 7:49]

And just gave them, I think one of the articles mentioned, a new canvas for them to use to exercise their own creativity.

I think that’s a good description of it because really, we’re not dictating what you plug into these panels. We’re just providing you the infrastructure and giving you the chance to bring whatever in you’d want to bring in, ultimately. [Timestamp: 8:08]

And who knows how long it may be before the next big renovation there so you had to do some things to future-proof the system and I believe that included some fiber runs.

Yeah, there’s a ton of fiber and it’s all OM4 so it’s all 10 gig a second, which is pretty much the standard for everything that’s going in now. So yeah, I can’t envision them needing any additional infrastructure for quite a while to come. And, of course, they still have plenty of just straight copper infrastructure, be it coax or data lines, and specifically audio, of course. [Timestamp: 8:38]

You may run into a lot of different seating arrangements and this theater looks like a fairly versatile one. Not a huge place as you said, but it looks like it has a wrap-around seating layout so were there any special sound considerations for dealing with that?

Not so much on our end in regards to the infrastructure that we put in. I mean, I think that probably reflects more on specific sound designers that are coming in, but they ultimately have in that balcony and under the balcony they’ve got the ability to do both under-balcony fills as well as surround speakers. So I believe, I want to say under that balcony I think there’s about 30 or so panels that are ultimately flexible, they’re just patch points. So whether they hang a speaker as a surround speaker or as a fill speaker, there’s the patch point there on a simple one-gang panel and power is right next to it. Which is really nice, especially if you’re in this day and age where a lot of manufacturers are making self-powered speakers, but you still have some passive speakers. So you’ve got a speaker line there and you have an audio signal line there along with power so you can put any speaker up that a designer really would like to use.

[Timestamp: 9:47]

And where do they control all of the sound from in this theater?

They’ve got a little mix booth at the back of the house that’s got a load of tie lines that go up to the main rack room. So they’ve got the ability to mix from there and then ultimately if they needed to move the desk they can move it to another spot and just repatch the lines for the DiGiCo system. [Timestamp: 10:08]

And the DiGiCo, I believe that’s an SD10 model.

Yeah. I believe it’s got the theater software, so yeah. And they’ve got one SD rack, a mini rack, and they’ve got a couple of the orange boxes that convert MADI to Dante in order to put everything on the Dante network. [Timestamp: 10:25]

That would save a lot of time I would think because they can set up for different seating arrangements, save it and with a push button have it ready for any show.

Yeah, absolutely. Storing presets is huge and even if it just means if another show comes in and it’s very similar, you can go in advance of that coming in and just go in and make a few little changes and do a “save as” and there you are. [Timestamp: 10:46]

And I believe some congratulations are in order because you won the 2017 Craftsmanship Award from Metropolitan Baltimore’s Building and Congress Exchange so what exactly were they judging on this award?

Oh, thank you. I believe it really was just the ultimate craftsmanship, I guess, and kind of the way we went about our business on the project. I know the general contractor, Whiting-Turner was very pleased with kind of how we went along and did our business from start to finish. And you know, we really take pride in the work we do. And like I’ve said times before in some other past interviews, that I really feel like the end of the project is really where we show our muster and that’s when things get hard at the end. Because usually the easy stuff you get done first, and it’s the hard things that kind of linger around. So it’s executing those things at the end of the project and finishing strong, I think, is really what separates us from other vendors. [Timestamp: 11:42]

Well, it’s certainly nice to get recognition for all of the hard work and I’m sure it was well deserved. In Part 2 we’ll get into more detail on the things you included in the project and exactly how they work. Thanks for getting with us and giving us the story on the Baltimore Center Stage Renovation with the Pearlstone Theater, the Head Theater and exactly how you did everything in there. Matt Peskie from Masque Sound and we’ll see you again next week.

Thanks, Bennett.

Great to have you with us for the SVC Podcast with Matt Peskie. We’ve got show notes and product links for today’s talk at svconline.com. Next week Matt will tell us about the portable stage manager cubes, the building routing and the stage video feeds for Baltimore Center Stage’s Head Theater on the next SVC Podcast.

Paramount Events & MD Audio Upgrade with Powersoft Pt 2
Saturday, October 14, 2017 - 10:59
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Murvin Persaud of MD Audio and Rafael Narine of Paramount Events. Show notes and product links for this and other SVC podcasts are at svconline.com.

Fixed installations are one thing but the gear can really take a beating on the road at outdoor events. Rafael Narine of Paramount Events and Murvin Persaud of MD Audio got together to equip and run the recent ECLIPS Music Festival in Jamaica, New York and they’re both back to tell us how they got it done with Powersoft amps. That’s right now on the SVC Podcast.

Murvin and Rafael, thanks for being back with us for Part 2. Last week we were talking about the Calgary Assembly of God installation and this week we completely switch gears to cover the recent ECLIPS Music Festival. It gets a little more challenging with a big crowd and a huge variety of music acts onstage, right out in the open. Rafael, where was that held? I think it was in Queens, right?

Rafael: Yes, that was held in Queens in a park called Roy Williams Park. That park hosts a lot of large-scale events throughout the year and the entire summer. We’ve done quite a few events in that park over the years. This one in particular was a little special. We were doing it a little differently. We were a little bigger scale-wise; more audio, more lights, more video, more everything. All of that, it’s not unfamiliar to us, so we had no problems pulling it off. [Timestamp: 1:41]

And Murvin, I know they used the Powersoft amps for this but you were transitioning some of your equipment from other amps over to Powersoft to save some power and make your racks run cooler.

Murvin: Yes. Well, Ralph actually started to get into the Powersoft so he’s getting rid of some of the old stuff and replacing with Powersoft amplifiers right now. [Timestamp: 2:00]

So how much advance time did you have to set up for the festival? I would think that an event like that would be pretty tight on the setup time.

Rafael: Yeah. You know what? I made an arrangement with the promoters and the event planner that we need an adequate amount of time to get it done. We started about three days ahead of schedule. The show was on a Sunday, but we started on the Thursday – the morning. The stage came in and we started building. It came in from a company in Pennsylvania, Mountain Stage – a pretty big company. We hauled in about 44 or 46 line arrays in large format EV Xvls and Xvlt. Those are dual 15’s so they’re quite robust. We had to do some serious coverage, about 600-800 feet – that was the throw – so just to give you an idea. [Timestamp: 2:50]

Yeah.

Rafael: And then we had about 46 subs; double 18’s and double 21’s.

And did you do the mixing on that or just do the setup?

Rafael: Well, I handle everything. My company, we did the entire install. We did all of the mixing, except when you had a – some of the acts with their own front-of-house engineer. But for the first 15-20 performances, we did that. No problem. [Timestamp: 3:16]

And how was it doing the front of house mix on this thing with so many different acts onstage even though some of them had their own sound people? I would think that it would get a little dicey just figuring out what they’re going to do next.

Rafael: We had a little sound check before, but when you do this for a living and you understand what to expect, it becomes much easier because we all have an agreement – all the engineers and everyone. It’s a festival and you have to do a festival mix. Meaning it has to be set up in a way that you’ve got to tolerate what the other guy was doing to a certain extent. And keep in mind that you have to let go of what you’re trying to do because there’s another act coming up after you and you have to be able to transition flawlessly or seamlessly without having an issue of oh, now we’ve got to go rebuild the entire mix we had before. So during festivals, unless you have an extra console sitting there for every major act, if you’re using the same console you have to give the chance so the other guy that’s going to come up next to you or after you – so everyone has to be in harmony with what has to get done. [Timestamp: 4:20]

And Murvin, when you’re providing this equipment for the ECLIPS Festival and other events, do you see a lot of people coming in an taking lots more stuff than they need just to have a lot of backup gear just in case?

Murvin: Well, Ralph has about enough to do with whatever he needs to get done. Basically he’s got a lot of headroom to work with. He runs multiple amps. I can’t remember how much exactly, but he can conform. But he had a few racks of Powersoft amplifiers there and some of them actually came from me. [Timestamp: 4:51]

And in addition to setting up the amps Rafael, you have to get the mic signals from the stage to the mixer.

Rafael: We used those Yamaha CL5’s front of house and stage monitor mix, but we networked them together with the Rio stage boxes; 48 channels. And then we had 24 returns from the front of house and the stage, but I had everything run directly to the DiGiCo console and had that run the entire system as far as front fill, delay, side fills, subs. Everything was managed from that mixer. So that alleviated any stress from the front of house engineer trying to control the PA at the same time. So we kind of did it that way to keep to separate because we know what’s going to happen is you’re going to have four or five engineers coming up to the console for their artist and they won’t have the ability to tell them what to do: “Hey, listen. I need more side fills,” or “Hey, I need more front fills.” So we took that away from them. Just focus on your mix and we’ll focus on the PA and that was it. So there was no interruptions in that sense. [Timestamp: 5:54]

At the ECLIPS Festival do they primarily use floor monitors or IEMs?

Rafael: Well, there was a combination of IEMs and floor wedges. We used the D&B M2, I want to say – those were the dual 12’s from d&b – but we didn’t use the Powersoft amps. It actually came with its own amplifiers from d&b, which we had no control over, which was how their monitors were built. But, we did use the Powersoft system on the PA, which was fine. It ran the entire day flawlessly. No issues, nothing shutting down, nothing blown, nothing. So that’s a plus. [Timestamp: 6:27]

I guess that and making sure that all the wireless gear works and there’s no frequency coordination problem.

Rafael: With the wireless situation there’s a lot of issues in certain places, but when you’re out of the Manhattan/Times Square area, it seems to be a lot easier because what happens is in Times Square you have a lot of – you have Broadway. And they have about 20 or so studios; a couple of hundred wireless packs. And the airways are just crowded. Everyone needs a space. So that’s the issue, but in the situation where we were, in the park, it was easy; not much interruption. Yes, the airport is right there, but we were good. We were fine. There was no unexpected issues. You just check it out with your local airways, the regulation, and we were fine. [Timestamp: 7:13]

And Murvin, what have you got coming up right now? Have got some big projects coming up on the equipment side of it for installations or for road gear?

Murvin: Well, I have something in order, some Powersoft amplifiers – and those are not the permanent install ones. Those are touring amps. So waiting for those orders to come through. They’re actually big orders and some of them are for the United States, some are for export. Basically MD Audio does both. We sell in and out of the United States. [Timestamp: 7:45]

And Rafael, for Paramount Events, what have you got looming ahead?

Rafael: Well, I have a few orders I have to make with Murvin because I had a couple of installs come in in the past two weeks. And I told some of the manufacturers of line arrays and such that I’m only using Powersoft amps and if you cannot allow me to do that then I can’t use your product. And now they’re working out ways and means to allow me to do so because I like the amps. I like how they work and they do what I need. And now that these manufacturers are understanding, hey listen, this guy knows what he’s doing. He’s got to get what he needs and we’ve got to do it. You want to make the sales you’ve got to deal with it. And that’s the message I’m giving them. Listen, if you can match these numbers up, fine, but they can’t. So they have to work with me. And Murvin knows. And I tell him some of the stories and I show him some of the emails and some of the discussions about what happens. So when you look at the numbers it’s a no-brainer. Powersoft definitely wins. [Timestamp: 8:40]

I’m sure you were glad to have them at the church for the installation there and then at the ECLIPS Music Festival with everything that was going on. Good of you both to tell us how you worked on these projects and got them done. Murvin Persaud, owner of MD Audio.

Murvin: Well, MD stands for Murvin Danny Persaud. That’s where the MD Audio came from. So some guys know me by my middle name, some know me by my first name, but MD Audio, that’s what it stands for. [Timestamp: 9:03]

Well, that keeps it covered then.

Murvin: Yes. Mm-hmm.

Rafael Narine, CEO of Paramount Events in New York, always busy. And again thank you both for taking time out to tell us about these projects.

Murvin: Thank you.

Rafael: Sure. There will be more along the way. You’ll hear about them.

Sounds good. Looking forward to it.

Glad you made it back with us for Murvin Persaud of MD Audio and Rafael Narine of Paramount Events. All of the show notes and AV gear links for today’s talk are right here on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Let’s get back together again next week for the SVC Podcast.

 

Paramount Events & MD Audio Upgrade with Powersoft Pt 1
Saturday, October 7, 2017 - 14:39
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Murvin Persaud of MD Audio and Rafael Narine of Paramount Events. Show notes and product links for this and other podcasts are at svconline.com.

Amps, speakers and other gear only has a certain lifetime before it wears out and becomes unreliable but new technology stands up to the wear and tear better. Murvin Persaud and Rafael Narine have teamed up their companies to put new technology at the pulpit and on the road. They’re here to tell us about it, coming up on the SVC Podcast.

Murvin and Rafael, it’s good to have you with us on the SVC Podcast from MD Audio and Paramount Events. You teamed up for a couple of projects. The first was the Calgary Assembly of God in Ozone Park, New York, that I think had some urgent problems to be fixed. Before you tell us about that Rafael, tell us about Paramount Events. It sounds like you do quite a bit of just about everything there.

Rafael: Yes. Here at Paramount Events we handle all kinds of events; corporate events, concerts, shows, festivals, meetings, special services, graduations. Everything that really has to do with audio, video, lighting, those kind of deals. And during the slow seasons and off times what we do is, we do a lot of installs and upgrades for churches and schools and try to give them the newest technology to help them achieve what they need to. So that’s pretty much what we do. [Timestamp: 1:41]

And in addition to the nuts and bolts side of it, you have to also do a lot of translating for the non-technical church clients who need to know where their budget is going and why.

Rafael: A lot of times when you use an industry term, whoever is in the industry, they get it. But when you mention something like an equalizer and then you say a 4K plus 6 dB, they’re like, “What does that mean?” You know, they don’t understand what those terms are, but you have to show them and explain to them. And efficiencies, amplifiers, speakers, the way they work, components, a lot of people are not familiar with the terminology. They’re familiar with the stuff they get at home. You plug in a CD player and you turn it on and it works. But they don’t understand what happens behind those knobs and that’s where we come in. How we can integrate technology into what they’re trying to do. [Timestamp: 2:29]

And I know that’s a constant challenge to be able to make clear the benefits of specific sound and video hardware to the people who write the checks. So, Murvin, what’s been going on at MD Audio lately?

Murvin: Well, we’ve been moving a lot of Powersoft amplifiers because a lot of people are trying to get modern equipment. And Powersoft happens to be dominating the market for quite a while. The prices are pretty good. The product is very reliable. And everybody just wants to have a couple of them in their racks, if not may a few dozen. From the small guy to the big guy, now everybody is going after it. [Timestamp: 3:03]

Well, I think in that regard, you made some improvements for Calgary Assembly of God and Rafael, what exactly did your team do for them?

Rafael: What they had was an install that was done years ago. The problem was at the time the budget was – it was significant, but back in the early 2000’s, a significant budget does not mean you get a lot of A-list equipment because technology was at that turning point where it’s all new stuff and everyone knows when the new stuff comes out you pay a premium price for everything. But over the years, the amplifiers, they kind of broke down on themselves and components, they dehydrate. Like for example capacitors. They have something that’s called electrolytic fluid and over time with enough heat, it dries up and then the amplifier becomes inefficient and it burns itself up. So what happens is they start to fail systematically. So we were in talks about doing the upgrades for a few years and eventually they were forced. One night they had a thunderstorm or some sort, and then the next day everything just went out. And there was an emergency repair job. We had to overnight the amp, and we got it done in time for the next service. [Timestamp: 4:14]

I guess that’s always tough when you have a quick fix necessary like that and you’re trying to coordinate shipping, installation work and the church’s schedule. It’s nice when you have the luxury of long-term planning and being able to phase the in the upgrades, but I would think it’s going to be a bigger job to get it right in an emergency.

Rafael: Right. And they have the amps in stock and it wasn’t a problem for them to get it to us fast because I’m friends with Danny for quite a while and I said, “Hey, listen. This is the deal. This is what I’m dealing with and we got to get something done fast.” Danny was exactly what they needed and it fit right in. It took me a couple of hours to get it installed, and after that they heard the difference. And from that point on, it was a no-brainer. Everything from that point, they realized listen, you’ve got to embrace technology. And when I took the old amplifiers out there was a pile almost four feet high with amplifiers versus a single amp that’s only two-space. Then, it’s why haven’t we done this years ago? At the time I explained to them the technology wasn’t quite there as yet and now we start to see that you have the LED fixtures where you can run 13 Lekos and ellipsoidals on a single 20-amp circuit. You told me that 20 years ago I would have laughed at you. “Yeah, sure. Okay.” [Laughs] But now the efficiency is so amazing, you can run an entire PA system on two 20-amp circuits. That’s unheard of. It was an easy sell after they saw the numbers. It made a huge difference. [Timestamp: 5:42]

And Murvin, were you in on that installation or was it equipment support in getting the new amp to Rafael as fast as possible?

Murvin: I supplied equipment for the installation.

And Rafael, I think you’ve had a long history with this church and they keep relying on you so you must be doing something right. This wasn’t your first time around with them.

Rafael: No. We’ve done quite a few other events and installs and repairs and upgrades over the years. And honestly, it’s one of the first churches I attended when I started, so it was dating back in the 90’s. And I used to do a lot of the sound and mixing at all of the private events, the corporate events that they have sometimes, the fundraisers and all of that. I used to be involved in that and then they kind of realized hey, this guy knows what he’s doing and they kind of let me handle a lot of repairs and upgrades and maintenance before Paramount was even in existence. [Timestamp: 6:31]

And Murvin, one of the things about the Powersoft amps that you provide for these projects, some of these places have some very high up-time on the AV gear. Do you think this is more so for churches as opposed to the big event venues or is it the other way around?

Murvin: Well, the big event venues grab a lot more, but there are different classes of Powersoft amps. You’ve got the touring edition and then you have the permanent install edition. So it’s not the same amp you use both in indoor and outdoor. [Timestamp: 6:58]

What was involved on the church installation in getting the old stuff out? Were you able to use the same wiring or did you have to completely start from scratch?

Rafael: As far as the old wiring, they were easy to integrate. The only difference is we were pulling out one set of installs and replacing with just one of the key components – the amp. And that was easy. You didn’t have to rewire, we didn’t have to do anything. Just pretty much unhook the old stuff, reconnect the new stuff and program it all, you know, control the DSD and have all the crossover points, limiters and such in place, and that was pretty much it. Power, we actually had to reduce the amount of power needed in the rack down to a single 20. And they’re looking at it and going, “Wow, all of this.” We removed it all.” [Timestamp: 7:42]

And sometimes in churches especially you never know for sure what you’re going to run into as far as power. I think you’ve gotten into some of these churches and the house voltage isn’t even the right level.

Rafael: You know what? That’s one of the main reasons why the amps went out, the old ones, because they were rated 100-120 volts. The problem is the voltage was actually at 130-plus. So there was no regulation in the entire building. There’s no transformers, there’s nothing. So we don’t know how is it that the volts are over 130. It’s still over 130 and then no one can explain it. I think they have the power company coming in to take a look, but I think it’s happening from the transformers on the streets or something. I don’t know. The Powersoft amps don’t really care. They’ll take from 90 all the way to 260 volts, so I’m not worried about that. [Timestamp: 8:32]

So where have you got the amps located in there? Are they at the position of the front of house mixing or somewhere else?

Rafael: No. There’s a dedicated control room with servers and other equipment. The front of house will have another upgrade going on soon. We’re going to swap out the old Soundcraft K2 and we’re probably going to go with a DiGiCo. I’m not sure yet. [Timestamp: 8:54]

At least with a digital console you can get the trainees back to a starting point after they’ve had their fun with the adjustments but the budget for all but the really big churches is sometimes a little tricky to call on big ticket hardware items. The other point about Powersoft amps where they seem to run a good bit cooler and you can put more of them into a smaller space.

Murvin: Well, Powersoft amps, they run pretty much cooler than the regular amps around. You save on the weight, the rack space. They’re more efficient. The switching power supply in those amps. If you’ve got a little overload, anything over 120, they compensate for that. You don’t have to make a shift on anything on the amp from 110, 240, whatever. This is just plug-and-play.

Rafael: And there’s one more thing you can add to that. The sound quality is phenomenal. It’s like night and day. A lot of people had negative thoughts about switchable power supplies and high frequency, high pass and low passing. They’re kind of skeptical about that. Those are stuff that was going on in the early stages, but in over the years a lot of companies, they realized and they tended to those issues and now you really don’t have a frequency oscillating issue anymore. So that’s done. [Timestamp: 10:04]

And on the Calgary church project, I know it was a hurry-up. How long did it take you to get in and get the amp upgrade done?

Rafael: Of course a few days, because we’re still in the process of doing some more. We had another amp we just realized is actually blown also, so we’re in the process of getting that replaced. So it took a few days, but the original install took quite a few months. We were going from scratch. [Timestamp: 10:27]

Alright, interesting hearing about the new installation at the Calgary Assembly of God and in Part 2 we’re really going to really shift gears and get over to the ECLIPS Music Festival where we’ll talk about that live event.

Rafael: Yep.

Until then, it’s been fun having you guys on. Murvin Persaud of MD Audio and Rafael Narine, CEO of Paramount Events in New York and we’ll see you next week.

Murvin: Thank you.

Rafael: Sounds good.

Glad you made it back with us for Murvin Persaud and Rafael Narine. The show notes and links for today’s talk are on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Get with us when Murvin and Rafael tell us about how they did the ECLIPS Music Festival on the next SVC Podcast.

New Digital Signage at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Pt 2
Saturday, September 9, 2017 - 10:08
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Ryan Cahoy of Rise Vision and Robert Schoneman of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Show notes and product links for this and other SVC podcasts are at svconline.com.

The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, North Carolina has come a long way since their days of DVDs and paper signs in the lobby areas. Special Events and Projects Manager Robert Schoneman and Ryan Cahoy of Rise Vision are back with us to finish the story on how their digital signage evolution was crafted. That’s right here on the SVC Podcast.

Robert Schoneman and Ryan Cahoy thanks for being back on the SVC Podcast for Part 2 and we’ve been talking about the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, North Carolina and the extensive digital signage project completed there. It’s an incredible place and even more interesting is that this whole lobby signage project was done in-house. Robert, you and your team ran the cable, mounted the displays and got it all working. With as much going on there as you have, all of that must have been something of a scheduling challenge.

 

Robert: Yeah, absolutely. There were a number of reasons that drove that decision; financial, scheduling. And also, we wanted to be sure we got exactly what we wanted. We’d been involved in some projects before where what was said and what were done were two different things. And sort of where the disconnect was there is always hard to know. But instead of going through a long iterative design process we really felt like it was best for us just to think it through ourselves to determine exactly what it was we wanted and then to execute on that directly. [Timestamp: 1:53]

 

And if ever anything does need fixing or modification your people can do it because they put it all in.

 

Robert: Absolutely. And we’re a 24/7 operation. Shows happen all the time and these things need to work. We count on them. There is no backup to it. If the displays at the bars don’t work there isn’t another sign that we hang over the front of it that shows what the inventory and pricing is. Those are what there is for patrons to see. So it’s important that these systems be functional and the best way to ensure that we can always have it working is to have done it ourselves. We’re not beholden to somebody else to make updates to a control system or troubleshoot cabling if we can’t figure it out, or to work on something that’s customer built that it’s a one-off. Everything we use is commodity equipment, commodity hardware, commodity software. It’s all readily available in the marketplace if I want to expand it, modify it, change out a component or work on something. There’s nothing to it that’s closed it any way. [Timestamp: 2:51]

 

Your team knows where every wire and connector is so there’s no need to call a contractor in for every little thing. So Ryan, I want to get the bigger picture of this and what a big step it is when you go from all print and DVD playback to a digital signage system like the Blumenthal Center has now. Is this a typical evolution for Rise Display’s clients?

 

Ryan: Absolutely. I mean, the price of technology has come down significantly over the last five to even 10 years. And any organization that’s expending resources on people to update printed posters or run around from screen to screen changing DVD’s or thumb drives, I mean they really realize the benefit of a network once you’ve connected all that signage together. I mean, it’s hard to deny the power of being able to sit down and get your message out or update out at the click of a mouse. [Timestamp: 3:40]

 

It’s one of those things I would think that once you’ve got it in and working, you get used to it and it’s hard to imagine how you were doing it before.

 

Ryan: Yeah. We talk to people all the time that they struggle wrapping their head around what they can do with digital signage. But then once they have it, a whole new set of ideas come flowing and they realize what they were missing. And it really is a powerful tool. [Timestamp: 4:01]

 

And the main project for Rise Vision on this was the interactive kiosk in the Blumenthal Center’s Spirit Square. So describe for us what you did out there in that area.

 

Ryan: Sure. I mean, the objective was to feature local artists on a punch-enabled kiosk so it had to be really visual, easy to navigate, let users watch short videos about each of the featured artists. So the goal was really to keep it simple. Most organizations, when they put in digital signage, they’re tempted to try to do too much with their touch screen. The reality is when a user walks up to a screen, if they’re given too many choices they’re going to get confused and do nothing. And that’s why the screen had to have simple visuals. It had to tell the story with video. And what helped make this project easier than a lot of them we deal is the Blumenthal team had a lot of great media assets for us to work with. [Timestamp: 4:48]

And Robert, what did you have in Spirit Square before? I think you had some local artists painted on those columns and some information about their work before the interactive display was there.

Robert: Yeah. The digital signage is this bigger application – the touch screen application – is sort of an add-on to a project. We had some local artists paint some columns in an atrium space at one of our facilities at Spirit Square and we wanted to provide information about the artists. Not about the people who did the painting, but about the artists the paintings were about. They were about well-known people who were from the Carolinas and we wanted people to have the opportunity to get to learn about them and also to see the art sort of in use, if you will. But we didn’t want to have just little stands with printed pieces of paper in front of the columns. We didn’t want to clutter up the flow of the area, and we didn’t want to have to limit the art that was painted onto the columns in order to create space to put something on the columns. So what was decided was a touch screen interactive kiosk positioned directly adjacent to where all the painted columns are would be the best way to allow the public to learn about the art they’re looking at and that has worked really well. And it just sits there seven days a week running all the time, giving people the opportunity to learn about it at their own pace. So if they only want to learn about one of the columns they only have to. If they want to watch a nice long video about a bunch of them they can certainly do that. If they want to learn about the painters or get their social media information they can do that as well. [Timestamp: 6:21]

Yeah, I think when you have a crowd in there and they see others using the interactive display it gets their attention and they’re curious as to what you can do with it. Ryan, you touched on this last week but describe for us the various steps in the development of the interactive display in Spirit Square.

 

Ryan: We follow the same process for pretty much every project we work with whether it’s passive or interactive. The key is to start with a concept and you take that and you work it into black and white wire frames. Then we move to color renderings and then finally we’ll build the design out in HTML. That iterative process really gives the customer a chance to provide feedback at every step. We want to ensure that we don’t get too far down a path that wastes anybody’s time or money. So the end result is trying to come up with something that’s very easy for the user to interact with but to get to that stage it takes a few rounds of design changes to make sure we capture everything and all the requirements. [Timestamp: 7:14]

 

And Robert, the digital signage project in the lobby area. Has this been a part of a bigger upgrade project there?

 

Robert: Well, we’ve talked about two different things here. We refreshed our lobby space. That was the space with all the LG displays and then the touch screen kiosk was in another facility. The LG displays and all of the concession menus and everything we’ve spoken about, those were part of a refresh we did on the lobby; sort of updating of fixtures, furniture and finishes, if you will. The touch screen kiosk was just an additional freestanding thing that we did at Spirit Square; although that facility had existing digital signage displays. I think there are five or six in that facility already, so this was just another one added on to that. But all three of our campuses are using Rise Vision for all of our digital signage whether it be interactive or passive. [Timestamp: 8:05]

 

Ryan when Rise Vision does one of these I would think that it’s not just installed and you walk away. It must be a continual modernization process with the content and the system itself. On all of your digital signage projects it’s probably never really done.

 

Ryan: Yeah. I mean, it really depends on the application. I mean, there’s applications like financial trading floors or directories or event boards where your design really stays consistent because you always want people to know where to look for that data. For example, if I’m a trader I want to look up and see the Dow Jones. I don’t want to guess where it is in a new design. I just want to know it’s the correct number and always in the same place. But other applications like – that you may find on a college campus or in an employee break room – those you always want fresh contents. You want to continue to evolve and ensure they’re meaningful for the people when they’re passing by day in and day out. In answer to your question, generally speaking yes. Content should evolve and that really means organizations need to properly allocate resources to keep the content relevant. If you look at what Robert and the team at Blumenthal have done with all those displays out there, they’ve had to allocate resources, keep focused on it, because they are mission critical to the environment. [Timestamp: 9:14]

 

We’ve talked now and then for several years about Rise Vision. What have you got coming up in projects that you can tell us about?

 

Ryan: For the last five years we’ve really been focused up on building the functionality of our free platform. We continue to get about 100 installs a day from our web site all around the world. The last six months we’ve been focused on interviewing users and learning what premium offerings our users would want. And we just released an enterprise offering that’s mainly targeted education to help school districts and universities manage a hierarchy of accounts. So for example, IT or marketing can see the entire network. And each department or college has their own account, which is their designs and their displays. We don’t tend to do a lot of big, flashy projects. The vast majority of our users just have a few displays and they’re looking for easy low-cost solutions to display their message. So we’re really focused on giving users plans that range from free all the way up to enterprise so that we can give them the right tools for the job that they’re looking to do. [Timestamp: 10:11]

 

Robert, what have you got coming up at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center? Who have you got coming in there?

 

Robert: Oh, wow. Well, we’re just about to start our 2017-2018 Broadway season, so we’ve got an all-star lineup of shows. We’re also bringing back a number of very popular shows that fans really love in a separate encore series to give people an opportunity to see those shows again. So it’s going to be a big year for us. And this is also our 25th anniversary so the company, the building that bears our name, opened in 1992. So 2017 begins the celebration of our one-year-long 25th anniversary. [Timestamp: 10:46]

 

You’ve got plenty happening there and I know the new digital signage is going to be a central part of it. Thanks to both of you. It’s Robert Schoneman, Special Events and Projects Manager for the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, North Carolina and Ryan Cahoy, Managing Director at Rise Vision in Shawnee, Kansas. A perfect mix of what you both do and it’s been fun hearing about it.

Glad you made it back with us for Robert Schoneman of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and Ryan Cahoy of Rise Vision. All of the show notes and equipment links for today’s talk are on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. We’ll see you again next week for the SVC Podcast.

 

New Digital Signage at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Pt 1
Saturday, September 9, 2017 - 10:01
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Ryan Cahoy of Rise Vision and Robert Schoneman of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. You can find show notes and product links for this one at svconline.com.

The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, North Carolina has transformed their signage using LG Commercial Lite TVs in the Belk Theater lobby and an interactive kiosk in their Spirit Square. The Blumenthal Center’s Robert Schoneman and Ryan Cahoy of Rise Vision are here to give us the story. Coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

Robert and Ryan, great to have you both here. Robert, Special Events and Projects Manager, tell us about the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. I’ve seen some pictures of this place and it really looks fantastic.

 

Robert: Thanks, yeah. We appreciate that. We are, both a facility that bears our name and also a multi-venue operator so in this case we’re talking about the lobby of our Belk Theater, which is one of the three venues that’s in our facility here in Charlotte. [Timestamp: 1:13]

 

And you have had for a while now a substantial digital signage upgrade going on in the theater lobby and that has taken you from using a lot of print sources to a more modern system. So what were the primary goals of this signage upgrade project? What did you want to do with it?

 

Robert: We did. We replaced print signage as well as DVD’s that we were using to show promotional material. So the goal was to make it for the bars and concession areas to have digital signage displays where our staff – the bar staff, the front-line staff – would actually be able to update the available inventory for the bars that day. So as they run out of things or as they change things they would be able to show that in real time on the screens, and for our marketing department to be able to show promotional videos in the lobby without having to burn DVD’s and cart them around to all the various different facilities. And to move to HD; because we were using DVD’s we were in standard def. So the goal in all of that being to improve the customer experience to make it easier for people to see their choices when they’re standing in line for concessions, to give people the opportunity to see other shows that are coming to either the venue that they’re in presently or one of the other facilities that we operate. [Timestamp: 2:27]

 

And as you mentioned, saving tons of time for people trying to burn DVDs and running around changing printed signs. I’ve seen pictures of it and the LG monitors look great the way they were placed and I’m sure the theater visitors are going to get a much better experience out of that. I want to bring Ryan Cahoy in here, Managing Director with Rise Vision in Shawnee, Kansas. Ryan, I’m curious about the relationship here. How long has Rise Vision and the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center been working together? How did Rise Vision get started on this project?

 

Ryan: You know, I believe they’ve been using us since early 2014. And to be honest, at Rise we really didn’t have that much involvement in the initial evaluation, selection and when they started deploying. And the beauty of our system is anyone can create and account and register displays and start building content without any involvement from us. So the most important thing is the do-it-yourself types. People like Robert that roll up their sleeves, start working with the software, seeing what’s possible. So really, all the kudos for deploying this goes to Robert and his team. [Timestamp: 3:26]

 

We’re going to be getting into how they did that and that’s one of the most interesting parts of this whole story. When you see the Blumenthal Center there are windows everywhere. During the day it’s got to be very bright in there so what is the ambient light situation in the theater lobby area? That must have been something of a challenge for your technical team in placing those displays.

 

Robert: There’s quite a wide variety of light environments. We have displays that are set back inside a concession pod where there’s not a huge amount of ambient light, and we have displays that are mounted to a white wall in a lobby that has an entire wall facing out on the street of glass and a glass dome. So the light levels vary quite a bit. [Timestamp: 4:08]

 

I would think that you would have to be very careful in mounting the displays to keep the reflections and viewing angles in mind especially with the difference in night lighting and the change in sun angles during the day.

 

Robert: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, obviously one of the big considerations, especially for what we’re trying to do, was we want to make sure people can see it. We want it to be visible. If you’re standing in line to get something at a concession stand we want to be sure you can see it before you get to the front of the line so you’ve already made your selection. We want you to be able to see our marketing materials while you’re in the lobby without having to be right on top of the display. [Timestamp: 4:41]

And these were all LG Commercial Lite displays which seem to have hit the spot with your team. Did you use a lot of different sizes on those?

Robert: Yeah. The LG displays, the Commercial Lite displays, really hit the sweet spot for us as far as the feature set. We’re using displays in that space from the 47-49 inch range all the way up to, I believe, 60. [Timestamp: 5:01]

 

Your visitors, especially when there’s a big crowd, aren’t going to be standing right in front of each monitor so the viewing angle on these must have been a primary factor in what you finally decided to use.

 

Robert: Yeah, absolutely.

 

Did you go through a long selection process for the displays or did you know pretty much what you wanted from the beginning just by looking at the specs?

 

We had some experience with some other displays from other large manufacturers. And for this application we knew that we needed a specific price point and we needed a specific cabinet appearance, and we needed them to be readily available in different sizes with a common control set. So those requirements on top of just the specification requirements we had really left us with one available choice and that was the LG displays. We never actually demoed any of them, though. It was bought sight-unseen just based on specs. [Timestamp: 5:53]

 

I use them myself and they do work well and I’ve found them to be very dependable. Once you got the monitors up that was only half the battle. Ryan, Rise Vision was called in to help set up in particular the Spirit Square kiosk. Has this project been fairly representative of the way you usually approach things?

 

Ryan: Every project has got a little bit different requirements depending on their content and what they need to do. In this case the initial setup of things for the basic content, like the menu boards and that, was all done by Robert and their team. We weren’t too involved in that. Where we kind of came to the forefront of this project was after a couple of years of using our free platform, the team at Blumenthal came to us with a sketch of what they needed; some interactive content. So they engaged our creative design team to build out an interactive experience for the Spirit Square to honor some local artists. So our creative team, once they got engaged they did a few wire frames and some mockups to capture the design, and then we built all the content out in HTML. So our role was simply to take their vision and then translate that into something that worked well on a touch-interactive screen. [Timestamp: 6:57]

 

That’s a remarkable process when you begin the creative interaction with a client and figure out not only what they say they want but exactly how they want it. You really have to be able to translate the visualization of how all of this is really going to look. Robert, what types of sources are available on those lobby monitors? Do you do promos of upcoming events and that sort of thing?

 

Robert: Yeah, absolutely. All the displays can show any of the players that are showing content, but primarily the displays show concessions menus, a live feed from the theater, or a promotional video loop of upcoming events. [Timestamp: 7:32]

 

How do you do the live feed from the theater? I thought I saw on one of the videos a camera mounted toward the back of the house.

 

Robert: We have a Panasonic HD PTZ camera that we use and that sends an HDSDI signal out, which we convert into our modulated video system and that distributes the signal out into the displays. [Timestamp: 7:55]

 

Do you also send any audio at all on any of the system sources?

 

Robert: We do. We have audio embedded on some of the channels in the QAM modulated system, not all of them. And in some applications we’re de-embedding the audio to peel it off to external speakers or distributed speaker systems. In other cases it’s actually coming out of the speakers in the TV’s. [Timestamp: 8:12]

 

And where is the control point for all of this? I would think everything is arranged in one central secure place and what sort of control system do you use for this?

 

Robert: Yeah. So all the players and the modulators and everything are all in the head end, which is in a room on the other side of the facility. What are we using for control?

 

Right something like Extron, Crestron, AMX, something like that?

 

Robert: We’re actually using a system called Display Express. It’s an innovative product we sort of came about by accident, but the really cool thing about it is it sends the control signals as a channel over the modulated video feed. So there’s a low-frequency channel that’s inserted into the QAM modulated video system and that channel carries the RS-232 control data. And then there’s just a little box you stick behind each display that peels off that channel and converts it from modulated serial, if you will, back to a DB9 RS-232 connection. So the cost of entry there is exceptionally low. It’s very easy to deploy because you don’t have to home-run anything to all of the displays. So we just loop RG-11 or RG-6 to call the display end points and then put the necessary terminations behind them and put these little addressable boxes in and that’s all there is to it. The front and to it exposes itself as a web page so there’s just a rack-mount server machine in our room and you can control it from an iPhone, an iPad, laptop – whatever you want. It has presets to turn the displays on, change the channels, change the volume, do other things. [Timestamp: 9:43]

 

And we’re going to get more into the mechanics of the installation because one of the most interesting things about this to me on the nuts and bolts side of it is the fact that your technical team did all of this in-house.

 

Robert: Absolutely.

 

I know that must have been a big challenge just scheduling it around all of the events and things. We’ll get into more details that next week in Part 2. Ryan, I know Rise Vision did an interactive kiosk in Spirit Square and we’ll talk about how that came along. It’s great having both of you here and I can’t wait to hear more about all this next week.

 

Robert: Thanks.

 

Ryan: Thanks.

Good to have you here today with Robert Schoneman and Ryan Cahoy. Show notes for the podcasts are on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Get back with us next week to hear the rest of the story on the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s digital signage transformation. That’s on the next SVC Podcast.

 

Florida Hospital Church and Klang Stage Monitoring Pt 2
Saturday, August 19, 2017 - 08:07
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Pastor Chad Hess of the Florida Hospital Church and you can find show notes and product links for this one in Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com.

Stage monitoring can be a difficult thing to get everyone in a live music group to agree on but when the Florida Hospital Church put in a new KLANG controlled monitoring system it turned the musicians loose to get creative and mobile. Technical Director Chad Hess is back to finish up on how he AVnew in Orlando got it done. Coming up right now on the SVC Podcast.

Chad, good to have you back with us from Florida Hospital Church in Orlando. You’ve got so many different things there musically. It’s a different setup every week and then you have to strike all of that stuff right back down to a bare building, right?

 

That’s correct. There’s another church that rents from us on Sunday mornings and then we have other events during the week as well. So it’s a very multiuse space, which means we’ve got to keep that stage clear which is another benefit of a wireless monitoring system. It’s less cables I have to strike every week. So that’s been a nice adjustment as well. [Timestamp: 1:18]

 

That is a great thing when it comes to physically laying everything out. I would think that one of the trade-offs might be some coordination required on the RF that might be the tricky part of it.

 

Yes. RF coordination is always a tricky one, but it seems to have worked pretty well. We’ve had to adjust on frequency, but otherwise it’s been pretty good from our initial setup. [Timestamp: 1:40]

 

That’s fairly remarkable for the Orlando area. That place is really cooking in RF anyway.

 

Yes. Now when we replace all of our 600 MHz and we crowd it all in the frequency, that story may change. But we’ll make sure to coordinate that well when we do it. [Timestamp: 1:54]

 

That’s going to be a pretty big job, I would think.

 

Yes.

 

 

We were talking last week about how the musicians went from a corded or wired stage monitoring system to this KLANG controlled wireless IEM setup. What was the Shure part of it?

 

Shure PSM 300 IM’s.

And there’s a way that they can use Amazon Fire tablets to control their monitoring?

Yes. So that was another benefit that I really liked with the KLANG is it can be controlled from $50.00 Amazon Fire tablets. You know, all of your sound boards and stuff, you can have them remotely accessing a mix via iPad or something, but then you’ve got to buy $250.00-$300.00-$500.00 iPads. Well, when you’re buying eight of them that cost savings is quite significant. I mean you can use iPads. You can use phone. You could use any computer, any number of devices, but being able to use the Fire tablets really made that an economical choice. [Timestamp: 2:52]

 

That’s got to fun to work with. Exactly what do they do when they come in to get that all ready to go?

 

The Fire tablet is connected to the KLANG base station, so to speak, for the KLANG. And that just connects via Wi-Fi, and that is how they control their mix. It’s a pretty simple, easy-to-use interface there that they control. And then that all gets fed out into the PSM 300’s that they’re wearing that actually gives them the sound. [Timestamp: 3:21]

 

And how far away are those? What’s the transmission distance on that system?

 

The actual receiver is in our control room probably 80 feet away, but the antenna is right there on the stage. So they’re pretty close to the antenna. [Timestamp: 3:35]

 

I find that on a lot of church wireless systems, the antennas are the most neglected part of it and the way they connect back to the receivers and then the receivers then get all the bad rap when the system doesn’t work right.

 

Yeah.

 

And this is a DANTE system that you have, right?

 

Yes, it is.

 

Okay, so that makes things a little easier.

 

It also saves me all the bus processing on my board. I don’t have to have eight stereo mixes, 16 buses to eat up on my board, which I don’t think I even have. So that’s nice that I can just feed it all through DANTE and keep that processing off of my board. And we already do Dante for a lot of different things. That’s how we send from house to broadcast and multitrack record and stuff like that. So we’re very familiar with DANTE to begin with and that made it a very easy integration. [Timestamp: 4:24]

 

And once you’ve got that down it’s just a matter of plugging in more things.

 

Yeah. This setup of the KLANG system with the DANTE is actually surprisingly easy. [Laughs] Once I figured out what channels I want where and got all that routing sorted out in DANTE, really I turned on the KLANG, I went in and told it how mixes I wanted, and named the channels and everything was working. It was just very simple once you got it all pushed in the right spot, and with the name on it, it was done. It didn’t take a lot of fiddling, which really kind of surprised me. [Laughs]. [Timestamp: 5:01]

 

Yeah, that’s what I hear from just about everybody. Once you’re familiar with it, simplicity of setup and operation seem to be the most attractive things.

 

Yeah.

 

Oh, and I was going to ask you about your mixer. What type of mixer do you use there?

 

Our house mixer is an Allen & Heath iLive. Broadcast is an Allen & Heath GLD.

 

Well, I’m using an Allen & Heath mixer to do this so as far as I’m concerned you can’t go wrong with that.

 

Yeah. Someday soon we’ll upgrade that to a dLive, but right now we’re running on the iLive. [Timestamp: 5:28]

 

One thing that seems to be the same everywhere. The musicians have their own monitoring mixes and when they practice, do the sound levels tend to keep going up?

 

Like their individual levels or their mix?

I would think the whole mix because most likely nobody ever turns anything down.

[Laughs] It’s true. And that’s another piece that I loved with the KLANG is that’s exactly the problem that you tend to run into a lot with musicians when they’re mixing their monitors is oh, I need more of that and then I need more of this and more of this. Pretty soon everything is at 10 and it’s all muddy and fighting each other and you can’t hear anything. But with this one as soon as you moved an input all the way up, if you hit up again it automatically lowers everything else, which is really what needs to happen. If you’re needing more of that and you can’t push it any more, you need to bring other stuff down. But this does that automatically for them so it still makes it very intuitive for them. “I need more of this.” Okay, well then I’ll bring everything else down. [Timestamp: 6:29]

That would seem to save a lot of time and confusion, too.

Other mixers can do that, but not this user-friendly and intuitively.

What kind of physical layout is there to the church?

The capacity of our building is 500. We average about 750-800 between two services.

And you fill all of that space up and then take everything down and store it and you do that every week because there are other things going on there.

Correct, yeah. There’s another church that rents on Sunday and then other groups that are here all during the week. We have people here every day – day and night. [Timestamp: 7:02]

Do they use all of the same equipment that your people use?

Not a lot of the groups use the worship center, although we do have some. The rest of the building is used quite a bit. But any other events that are in the worship center, most of those are like – actually the hospital does their orientations here for new employees and so they use our system, but in a very basic way. They don’t use the monitors, you know, the in-ear monitors because it’s not live music, but they use the soundboard and the projector and light and stuff. We just have simple presets for them that they recall and give them what they need. [Timestamp: 7:37]

And Gil Parente over at AVnew initially set all of this up for you. He suggested the KLANG system.

He’s the one that showed us the KLANG system. And he’s been our integrator for years so he’s installed most of the stuff that’s here in the church – at least all the new stuff.

A lot of good technical contacts come through the church membership and who would better know what’s needed than people who are there all the time?

Exactly. It’s been very beneficial that Gil is both a church member as well as a great integrator. So he knows our needs very, very well and he also knows the marketplace. He knows what’s out there. And so he’s a great one to day hey, I think this is going to be a great fit for you guys. Why don’t you check this out? And so we’ll look at it, we’ll talk about it. [Timestamp: 8:26]

You told us about the mixer. Is that going to be the next tech upgrade for the church? What’s next for upgrades?

Microphones is the first one thanks to the FCC auction. That will be coming up this year and we’re already in the midst of planning all that and doing some demos of capsules to choose that. So that’s the next big one that’s happening. After that would probably be a new mixer. The GLD and broadcast is limited to 48 inputs and we hit that limit a few times a year. So we need more capacity both in-house and broadcast so we’re looking to do some upgrades there. [Timestamp: 9:00]

The RF mic situation is always fluid and it can be tough to sort of chart a course through that with all the changes going on. That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning for you I’m sure.

Yeah. [Laughs] Yeah.

Great hearing about it Chad. Florida Hospital Church and Chad Hess the technical manager with their new KLANG controlled Shure IEM system. Thanks for telling us about that and about your church.

Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Glad you were here with us today with Chad Hess. The show notes and some handy links for this one are on the Sound & Video Contractor Magazine web site at svconline.com. Be back with us again right here next week for the SVC Podcast.

 

Florida Hospital Church and Klang Stage Monitoring Pt 1
Saturday, August 12, 2017 - 11:15
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Pastor Chad Hess of the Florida Hospital Church. And you can find show notes and product links for this one in Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com.

As a church grows so do its technical needs, especially if it has a wide variety of live music. At the Florida Hospital Church they have a little bit of everything and it took a KLANG controlled stage monitoring system to make it work for the musicians. Technical Director Chad Hess is about to tell us how new stage monitoring makes all the difference. Coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Chad it’s good of you to be with us on the SVC Podcast from the Florida Hospital Church. An interesting name and we’ll get into where that name came from but you’re in the Orlando area, right?

 Yes, that’s correct.

 Okay. This sounds like a pretty progressive church. That probably means that you have a lot of live music going on.

 Yes. It’s all live music; a very blended service. We’re not contemporary, we’re not – and even blended is probably not the right word. We just try and strike the whole gamut. All genres are available. So it’s not like we have to have a hymn and we have to have a praise song. It’s okay, this is the topic. What song of whatever genre, whatever style, is going to fit this? And so we’ve had orchestras, we’ve had quartets, we’ve had strings, steel drums – sometimes in the same service. [Laughs] So it’s a variety of stuff. [Timestamp: 1:24]

 

Well, that’s great that you don’t just do it the same way every time and I’m sure it keeps the members tuned in to see what’s coming this time.

Yes.

Of course the name of the church got my attention. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the name Hospital Church. And I know the place has an interesting history so what’s the story on how that name came up?

Sure. So for those not familiar with Florida, Florida Hospital is a huge hospital system here. It has like 20-some hospitals, it’s been here over 100 years. And their main campus is right here in Orlando across the street from our hospital. That’s where our origins start is from the doctors and nurses at the hospital wanting a service on the weekend. And so they would get together and they would have a little service just right there on the porch. Over time that grew and it grew and we grew and now we’re a separate institution, but we’re right across the street. We have a very good relationship with them. We actually broadcast live to six of their campuses on Saturday morning. So that’s a little bit of the history there and why the name is there. [Timestamp: 2:46]

 

Okay. You’ve come a long way then.

 

We have.

I know there are churches that have started in people’s living rooms and ended up with live TV broadcasts. But Orlando is a huge AV market and you have a lot of companies to choose from for help on this monitoring system.

Yes.

AVnew was the one you got with and Gil Parente is the one there who was in charge. How did you come together on this? Did you already know each other?

Yes. I’ve worked with Gil for as long as I’ve been in this role here which is about eight years or so. Originally he was with a different company and he’s actually a church member here as well, but he’s been my integrator. He’s been my go-to guy. Amazing guy who really knows his stuff, has a heart for the churches and what we need and understands the uniqueness that a church can bring and always works to give us the best solution for our needs. And being that he goes here he actually knows our needs very well. So that just makes it even better. [Timestamp: 3:42]

 

Well, you’re the technical director so the best guy for him to get with but that title can mean a lot of different things for different churches. The tech director could be the guy who just pushes the piano back into the corner when they’re done with it. I think your job there is quite a bit more challenging so what does the technical director job there involve?

 

So basically it means I oversee everything technical which would be audio, video, lighting, computers, networking – kind of the whole gamut there. So mostly my job lies with all of the technical equipment for the worship services, the different teams and everything like that, getting it all set up and making sure everything is running smoothly and everything like that. [Timestamp: 4:24]

 

And this particular project was focused on stage monitoring. You’ve got musicians playing all kinds of live music and with, let’s say, artistic temperaments everybody wants it a different way and their own monitor mix and so most of the performers went with an IEM but then some of them haven’t.

 

Our singers still use the front wedges, at least for now. We’ve talked about changing that, but that’s been that way for a while. But the band has been on a form of in-ear monitors for a long time. We’ve done several different systems over the years. Before this we were using Allen & Heath’s ME-1 monitoring system which works very well. It’s a nice system. The problem that the band was running into was they wanted some mobility. They wanted to be able to move around. Not that they move around much when they’re playing, but you walk off and your headphones grab you and pull you back kind of thing. And so they had talked about wanting to go wireless and so we were like well, feeing the ME-1’s into wireless can be done, but that’s kind of a lot of work and a lot more cables. Let’s look at some other options. And so talked with Gil and he said you really ought to check out the KLANG system because it’s a really cool system. If you’re wanting to go wireless that would be a great way to do it. So we kind of checked it out and I really liked what I saw and heard. So talked with our minister of music and he was on board with it, he liked it, and so that’s the direction we went. [Timestamp: 5:51]

 

I would think that probably required a good bit of testing to see how many liked it and probably some more than others. One of the most useful things I think is the 3D monitoring concept where they can have the various sound sources appear to be coming from any direction they like.

 

Yeah. So one of the things that I like with the KLANG is that it does such a great job of separating it and it makes it very intuitive to do so. So even our ME-1’s, they were fully capable of doing a stereo mix, and I would probably count the number of times our musicians ever actually did it, you know? They’re concerned about just turning it up in volume. They’re not thinking oh, let me pan this over here and that might make it better. They’re just I’m just going to run and I’m just going to do volume. So mostly they would even run in mono essentially. Well, first of all we started out with a template that moved them all around so they’re starting from that position of having a wide mix. But the interface, you have to work hard if you want to make it mono. [Laughs] It really kind of pushes you towards separating out those instruments and vocals to put them in different places so you can hear those and have a wider sonic space to work with. [Timestamp: 7:03]

 

 

Yeah the thing that probably took getting used to was the mobility they have now. I would think that for a while you might suddenly stop on stage thinking that was where their ear monitors usually get pulled off by the cable and then remember, you’re free to go wherever you want.

 

Yeah. They love being wireless. They have been very happy about that.

 

Now what else went in with this? Was it Shure mics or just RF components for the new IEM?

 

Well, not Shure mics. The KLANG system is really just the processing. I mean it has the outputs but you need something to feed it into. So we fed those into Shure PSM-300 IEM’s so it’s really the combination of the two forms of the system. [Timestamp: 7:42]

 

Yeah and I was just thinking that before you have a service there, since you have so many people playing such different types of music you would have to have some fairly intensive rehearsals.

 

Yes. We have a practice usually on Thursdays or Fridays and they’ll also come in earlier on Saturday morning. Our services are Saturday morning. But they’ll come in several hours beforehand to do more practice and then we talk through the entire service – the whole team does. So even before practice begins on Thursday or Friday I will have everything all set up. I set up the stage – because we strike the stage every week because it’s a very multi-use building. And so I set up based on whatever it is that week that we’re doing. I have that input list and so we set it all up and I get their monitors placed in there and the tablets are ready and charging and so we just leave those on the charger until they’re ready. But basically they can walk in, plug in and they’re good to go. [Timestamp: 8:40]

 

That sounds like the creativity isn’t just required of the musicians but that it starts with how you decide to physically set up the stage.

 

Yes. Sometimes that requires a lot of creativity. [Laughs]

 

Yes I can imagine, or at least knowing exactly what’s going to happen ahead of time for sure.

 

Yeah.

 

Of course you’ve got more than just stage monitoring to get right. You’ve got projection, too?

 

Sure. Yeah, we have one very large screen up front and the confidence monitors in the back for them to see. And so I get that ready as well, make sure all those slides are ready and songs and backgrounds and everything. [Timestamp: 9:16]

 

And that’s mainly hymn lyrics?

 

Yeah. Motion backgrounds with lyrics over them.

And you do any IMAG? Is it all robotic cameras or do you have some manned cameras?

For our video system, which we don’t do in-house – I mean that’s – we don’t do live IMAG I should say. We just have – that’s just for our broadcast and our stream. But yes, we have an extensive team, eight cameras, three manned, two remote control and a few static cameras. [Timestamp: 9:44]

A lot of stuff to make sure is working right and if it suddenly doesn’t?

That’s when they come running for me.

Yeah, that’s when they come running for you and hopefully those things and any glitches get fixed before they become part of the show.

Yes.

But Chad, thanks for getting with us for Part 1. You’ve got a lot to get lined up for your services and the KLANG stage monitoring has been a great addition to it. We’ve been talking to Chad Hess, technical director at the Florida Hospital Church in Orlando.

Thank you.

Glad you were here with us today with Chad Hess. You can always find show notes and equipment links for the podcasts on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Get back with us again next week hear about how the musicians at the church use Amazon Fire tablets for monitoring control. That’s on the next SVC Podcast.

Drones Have Big Impact on AV Production Pt 2
Saturday, August 5, 2017 - 11:35
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Bob Elliott of Elliott Visuals and you can find all the show notes and equipment links for this podcast on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com.

One of the most exciting and useful new tools for AV production is the drone but controversy and politics also surround them. Bob Elliott of Elliot Visuals, a commercial drone operator in the Washington, D.C. area is back to talk about GPS, learning to fly drones and attending drone meets. That’s right here on the SVC Podcast.

Bob, good to have you back with us from last week on the SVC Podcast from Elliott Visuals in the Washington, D.C. area. Last week we were talking about drones and getting one and what to do, what not to do and their capabilities. Those capabilities are generating new legal aspects almost every day. Do you think the two will ever coincide? I mean, technology never waits on the law, does it?

 

No. The law is always there waiting. It’s incredible. How the drone realm and the legal realm are always shaking hands whether they really want to or not. But I have a legal counsel and I have insurance, so the legal world is very well-adhered to the drone world. [Timestamp: 1:32]

 

Yeah, I would think that there are law firms who are just beginning to have to sort all of this out and represent clients who love drones as well as others who hate them. We’ve seen the way that communications laws had had to evolve so fast to keep up with the technology and of course the FCC actually has its finger on drones, too.

 

It does. There’s a lot of, once again legal, I would say, assistance at this time. I have to carry, in order to be above the law, I carry liability insurance. I carry drone equipment insurance. And you can go anywhere you want to pick up insurance, and one of the places I go to a lot for my clients to put them at ease, I go to Verifly, which is an app you put in your phone and you can just go buy insurance for that hour you fly somewhere where you want to fly. And you buy it and you print it or you show them the phone and it’s all good and off you go making money. It’s a good thing. [Timestamp: 2:33]

 

Wow, now that is an unusual concept but it sort of follows. There is insurance for airplane owners that covers the plane only while it’s on the ground and other policies that begin coverage as soon as you add power for takeoff but I’ve never heard of the type that only covers you as the operator for a specific flight.

 

They do. They most definitely cover you by the flight, by the time, by the hour, what you’re doing. They offer up to $2.5 million of insurance for an hour and it’s very cost effective. It’s $20.00, $30.00, $35.00 depending on what you do, how you do, and how much insurance you want to show for it. As long as you don’t fly above people, knock yourself out. The client is always appreciative that you carry these things. [Timestamp: 3:18]

 

Another thing that I found interesting on the legal aspect of it is that there are different regulations for operating tethered drones than those on free-flying models.

 

A long time ago I used to have a little Cessna RC-controlled plane. It was tethered; I had strings to it. That’s what tethering means. It means that it’s not autonomous. So well, the string broke and my little Cessna gas-powered plane flew away and I never heard from it again – nor anybody else. So tethering brings into certain things – law, the FAA. The FCC is not too concerned, but tethering a drone is usually not smart and a lot of times tethering is to blimps or balloons, which is a whole ‘nother bailiwick. [Timestamp: 4:05]

 

I’m sure all the ins and outs of that have been worked out in the law but there would be obvious limits as to what you can do with a tethered drone. But I can think of a few things where a tethered drone might actually be perfectly suitable without having to deal with some of the regulations.

 

It does. I mean, when you have – and trust me, I’ve seen tethered items. It’s very difficult to tether a drone, but usually when you have a tethered blimp or dirigible the insurance has lessened and FAA is less concerned of fly-aways. But you have to also prove that it’s not going to fly away and you always have to have a back-up tether. If you only have one primary tether that may or may not give you the insurance coverage you need. You need to show that it’s doubly insured with two tethers – two is one, one is none kind of concept. [Timestamp: 4:57]

Drones can certainly be a hobby as well as a commercial application and wherever you have a lot of people interested in the same thing you have get-togethers and drone meets. When drone people have an event, how is the RF coordination done? That must be a big job.

Well, I mean, a lot of the time when I get drone enthusiasts together – I was just up in New York City for another race – and everything is flown on Wi-Fi, which is 2.4 to 5.8 gigahertz, so 32 channels. It has a tendency to make some people’s job a little bit more primary than others, but we all get together, we all race drones, we fly drones. It’s a very distinct community of individuals ranging from two years old to 95 years old. Everybody is very fascinated with how do you get that thing in the air and how do you keep control of it down the track? So signal is very important to drone operators. [Timestamp: 5:57]

Yeah, I guess when you get a whole bunch of these people together they’re pretty strict on when you can have it on and when you have to keep it turned off.

 

Most distinctly, if you’ve ever been to a drone event there’s always somebody who’s not listening – they’re concerned about something else – and they turn on their drone that happens to be on the same channel as somebody else and it falls out of the sky. So multiple times I’ve seen that – drones looking for drones at these events. So be sure that you chime in with the person who’s in charge of frequencies before you turn that thing on. [Timestamp: 6:29]

 

One of the most widely-advertised features that I’ve seen on drones is the ability for it to autonomously go to a specific GPS location if you lose RF communication with it.

 

Not so much the racing drones, but like my drone and some of the DJI drones you can set what they call a home point and the home point is where you are, where you want the drone to land. You can tell it what to do. But it’s important to know that you, the operator, the pilot, has to be able to tell it what to do because it’s just a platform. It doesn’t know where it’s at. It doesn’t know what it’s doing. So I usually have a like a 200-foot ceiling which gets me above most power lines and trees so if I ever lose contact with my drone it’s going to go up to 200 feet and make an L 200 feet to where I tell it home is and it’s been safe so far. [Timestamp: 7:22]

 

So for AV applications as opposed to just having fun with it, what sort of video footage to you usually shoot with your drone?

 

Well, there’s inside and outside footage. Inside footage for AV is typically getting shots on set, maybe doing an intro for a vice president or president of a company or stuff. Those are usually what we call B roll. Very little do we shoot A roll inside of a live venue because there’s way too many concerns about what’s going to happen, especially when everybody taps onto their phone. Or most assuredly if there’s Wi-Fi in the house that’s going to interrupt our signal. So when you fly outside typically you fly GPS, which are positioning satellites above us. [Timestamp: 8:08]

 

 

Last week we talked a little about your particular make and model. What sort of features does that one have that you found especially useful for a drone in the AV realm?

 

What I had in the AV realm was for the most part I could fly inside. And I could put it on ATTI mode, which is attitude mode, so I could fly inside. And you have to be an expert at flying this thing. You can’t just turn it on and think it’s going to do something because it doesn’t know where it’s at. It doesn’t know what ballroom or convention or city. It doesn’t know where it’s at. So a lot of times I would fly inside and get some really dramatic footage. You just have to know that certain drones, depending on your budget, won’t operate very well inside. DJI drones and Autel drones will have forward, ground and sometimes even rear-firing sonar or radar so it knows where the walls are, the floors are, the ceilings are so you can photograph a little bit better inside most assuredly. [Timestamp: 9:09

 

Well, some of these vehicles are getting so fancy that they may be smarter than some of the operators and the learning curve may be a little steep on some of them. Are there major differences between the control devices and how quickly you can learn those?

 

Yeah. Well, I mean I started up with Hubsan drones. They’re quick to learn on. There’s a lot of drones that are in the $50.00-$100.00 range that you can practice on. I wouldn’t practice inside. And you know, when you’re willing to step up to the game and invest some money you get an Autel or DJI, which will range from $1,000.00-$5,000.00 and you work from there. I like my Autel because if for some reason my phone or my laptop or my Kindle or whatever I’m flying it doesn’t work, I can still fly my drone. It’s difficult to do that with the DJI drone because they connect to the phone or the Wi-Fi in the area, which then has a tendency to confuse things, especially inside. [Timestamp: 10:11]

 

And GPS plays a huge role in drone technology and that can be tricky. There are devices out there now that can simulate a GPS signal and commandeer your drone and crash it or just fly it away.

 

GPS, you know I don’t want to harp on the Russians or the Chinese. You know, once you’re dealing with signal and code and 1’s and 0’s, if anybody has any aptitude or the willingness to do something that is a little bit unsavory they will. You can hack into anything. So it’s a predicament for a small percentage, but it’s still out there. I’m not going to say it’s not out there. And Autel has a way of dealing with things, DJI has a way of dealing with things, manufacturers have a way of dealing with things. So we just hope for the most part the GPS will tell you what you’re doing with your drone but Wi-Fi tells your drone what to do. So two different signals, but it’s a whole ‘nother show. [Timestamp: 11:10]

 

So it’s measures and countermeasures as the usual technology leapfrog game.

 

Most assuredly. The police – and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world – they will either shoot a Wi-Fi signal at your drone, they’re shoot a net at your drone. France has birds of prey that attack drones, so that’s a biological. Go ahead and figure that one out. So if you’re above board and you’re doing things correctly, you’re the least likely to be intercepted by countermeasures. If you’re just being a yahoo flying around getting crazy footage you’re more susceptible to the law enforcement agency putting the kibosh on you. [Timestamp: 11:56]

 

We’re still discovering more uses for drones in the AV world and elsewhere. Always fun talking about these things. Bob Elliott of Elliott Visuals in the Washington, DC area and thanks for lending us your expertise on them, Bob.

I appreciate the opportunity to try to enlighten people into the new and developing technology of drones. [Timestamp: 12:15]

Thanks for being with us and with Bob Elliott of Elliott Visuals on the podcast. Show notes and more drone links are on the Sound and Video Contractor Magazine website at svconline.com. Get back with us again next week for the SVC Podcast.

 

Drones Have Big Impact on AV Production Pt 1
Saturday, July 29, 2017 - 10:01
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Bob Elliott of Elliott Visuals and you can find show notes and equipment links for this one on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com.

Drones. Once a weapon, then a toy and now a commercial tool in AV production. Their capabilities and their uses are growing all the time and the legal, commercial and social aspects to them are getting more complex. Bob Elliott of Elliott Visuals in Maryland is going to give us the latest word on where we are with cameras, batteries and flying time with drones for AV. Coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Bob I appreciate your getting with us for the SVC Podcast so we can talk about one of the most interesting new AV tools and that of course, is drones. Your outfit, Elliott Visuals, is in Olney, Maryland and that’s about twenty miles north of Washington.

 

Yes. Olney, Maryland is about 20-22 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, yes.

 

A neighborhood where they get pretty nervous about drones, I think.

 

Everybody gets nervous about drones, but particularly people at our capital so they’re very nervous. [Timestamp: 1:21]

 

And among those who use drones quite a bit in your area is Elliott Visuals so tell us about that.

 

So Elliott Visuals, elliottvisuals.com, we’ve been around since 1988. And I’ve gone from a sole proprietor to an S corp. and now I’m an LLC because that just makes taxes easier.

 

Yeah, I understand that one and you’re using drones all the time.

 

I practice flying whenever I can. So on my days off I take off from places I’m supposed to take off from with my drone and I practice. [Timestamp: 1:59]

 

I think this has gotten to be such a big thing that there are a lot of people in the drones’ game right now, not just the big guys.

 

There are a lot of people. Many drone operators aren’t licensed by the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and it has a tendency to make us not look so smart sometimes.

Yeah, plenty of opportunities for the bad drone operators to make it all look bad. So what type of drone, the make and model, do you use and have your money and time invested in?

I fly an Autel. It’s one that is manufactured here in the United States. DJI, and I actually don’t even know what DJI stands for. They’re out of China and they probably make about 85 percent of the world’s drones out of China. [Timestamp: 2:50]

 

Well, these days that isn’t really surprising. There are a lot of people getting into it, not necessarily commercially but just for the fun of it but the commercial aspects to drones are, you might say, just taking off.

 

It is taking off. It’s sort of the – I equate it to the car versus the horse and buggy. Everybody is kind of looking at it and trying to define the rules of engagement and it changes every day. Trust me on that one. [Timestamp: 3:15]

 

Yeah, I’m sure the regulations are in a severe state of flux right now as far as the FAA trying to handle or not handle them as much as they can. The drones run all the way from those tiny hand-sized ones all the way to the ones made by Hollywood film companies and they come up with some pretty fancy machines.

 

They do. You get the little, small drones. You can buy anything on Amazon, of course. You go to Hollywood and they will usually build their own drone out of carbon fiber and it takes weeks and months to build and lots of batteries and lots of motors and propellers. And usually they have FAA certification to fly and they tell them what they’re shooting and filming and off they go. But they’re actually the vast minority. The vast majority are anywhere between $100.00 and $500.00 drones – that’s for propellers and the motor – and people just buy them and go flying. [Timestamp: 4:13]

 

And among the many and still growing uses for drones is AV camera platforms so if you’re going to invest in one of these things with that idea in mind, what do you look for as far as specs? I guess power and weight lifting capability would be one of them.

 

Well, you know, when you’re – AV, when you’re dealing with indoor venues, a lot of times FAA isn’t concerned but of course the FCC, which is signal, is very concerned. You can fly inside, but then you have to deal with production companies and producers and clients and sometimes they really don’t like things flying over their heads that they don’t understand. So I think it’s pretty much up to the remote pilot to convince the powers that be inside of a ballroom or convention center that what they’re about to do is safe and never fly over a crowd. It’s always before doors – it’s like a photographer. Just clear the way, let me get some shots, and then you can open the doors. [Timestamp: 5:15]

 

 

One of the many things I’ve seen advertised for drones is the duration of flight time and how long it can operate on one battery charge.

 

Correct. In the drone world typically 20 minutes is the average time a drone will stay airborne. When you’re dealing with outside venues you have to deal with wind and height and all these things, so that takes into concern whether you can get the drone back and all these things. Inside, no wind, no storms – hopefully – so it might have a longer flight time. I usually try to fly between the height of the tallest ladder and the bottom part of the fastest helicopter. [Timestamp: 5:56]

 

That’s probably a good idea for those who use them a lot. You know, one of the tidbits of advice I’ve heard about buying a drone is make sure the first one you buy is a cheap one, at least in the price range of something that you’re willing to lose in the process of learning to fly it.

 

That’s correct. It’s kind of like gambling. Don’t gamble unless you’re willing to lose. So my first two drones were $100.00 and my second drone was $50.00 and I learned on those. I learned real quick about what it can and can’t do. And they both flew away on their own recognizance. I have yet to find them. We call that a fly-away in the drone world. And then I learned by watching and when I purchased my first $1,000.00-plus drone I at least knew how to respect it. [Timestamp: 6:47]

 

Yeah, I would think that’s always a process you have to go through. We talked about flight time and weight lifting. It depends on what you want to use it for and you can use them for so many different things. I guess they’re all electric motors and propeller-driven but within that realm there must be quite a variance on the engines that you can get for these things.

 

Yeah. I mean the propulsion you’re doing with little ones with what they call brushed motors – I’m not an engineer or a physicist, but when you get up towards the larger drone we have what they call brushless motors which last a heck of a long time. Usually those are attached to what we call a LiPo battery. It’s a lithium polymer battery. They have a tendency to give you a lot of energy really quickly but they’re not very stable. They’re rechargeable. They on the Lithium ion type of technology, but got to watch them. Can’t leave them alone. You think Samsung had a deal with them you should watch your batteries if you get a drone. [Timestamp: 7:47]

 

I would figure that being a drone owner would mean learning a lot about batteries and charging pretty quickly. It looks as though when most people think about drones they’re imagining quadcopters and optocopters but there are actually some fixed-wing drones, too.

 

There are. I mean Autel makes one. I go to the drone ranges a lot. There are fixed-wing drones. It’s not a big consideration for AV because a lot of AV takes place inside so flying something with a fixed wing, whether it’s an electric or gas motor may or may not work. But for the most part when people say drone they think of a quadcopter, four propellers or more. They really don’t think about something with an engine with wings that flies around – although those are cool as well. [Timestamp: 8:33]

 

Yeah and if the engine quits at least it’s not going to come crashing straight down at least if you still have an RF connection to the controls.

 

Most assuredly. You see a lot of videos on YouTube about coming down, whether it’s a fixed-wing drone or a quadcopter or optocopter or anything like that, you’ll see a lot of videos about how people get down. Very interesting. [Timestamp: 8:55]

 

A whole lot of POV footage of crashes. Hopefully a lot more than those shot in real planes.

 

[Laughs] I’ll tell you, once again YouTube is a fascinating place to see the footage of what respectable or unrespectable drone operators do with their drones. [Timestamp: 9:13]

 

And there are those who are really upset by them and it’s probably not uncommon to have them shot at or even attacked by birds.

 

I deal with birds and other flying objects all the time whether they’re bees or wasps or hummingbirds or birds. They see my flying my orange pumpkin, which us Autel people lovingly call our drone. It’s an attraction. Blue jays and hawks look at this thing and they don’t know what to do with it. So not only do you have to look out for aircraft you have to look out for the biologicals as well. [Timestamp: 9:47]

 

And next week we’re going to talk about drones and drone technology and some of the things that you do when a bunch of drone enthusiasts get together as far as RF coordination and so forth but it’s been fun hearing about this part of it. Bob Elliott of Elliott Visuals in Olney, Maryland and it’ll be great to have you tell us some more about drones.

 

Excellent.

Glad you were here with us today with Bob Elliott. You can always find show notes and equipment links for the podcasts on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Next week Bob will tell us about GPS, learning to fly drones and attending a drone event. That’s on the next SVC Podcast.

 

Hermes Music Does New Stadium Sound with Danley and Midas
Friday, July 21, 2017 - 12:46
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Eddie Zamorano and there are show notes and equipment links for this podcast on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com.

In Texas they love their high school football and when the sound system at Bobby Lackey Stadium in Weslaco started going bad, they called in Hermes Music to install a new system built around Danley speakers and amps. Eddie Zamorano is going to give us the story on how it all went in and got up and running for the Panthers and Wildcats big home games. Coming at you right now on the SVC Podcast.

Eddie thanks very much and it’s great to have you with us on the SVC Podcast.  Coming to us from out there in Pharr, Texas with Hermes Music. Good to have you aboard.

 

Thank you, Mr. Liles. Thank you for having me.

 

This must have been a high profile installation locally for the Weslaco football team but first let’s talk about Hermes Music. That looks like it was a very small outfit that’s grown considerably over the years.

 

Well, it’s actually – it is generally a small outfit. We are primarily an MI pro audio, pro lighting and DJ equipment retailer in south Texas. So that’s really what we do.

 

And we know that there was a high school that was in pretty dire need of a new sound system for the home games at Bobby Lackey Stadium. And is that fairly close by?

 

Well, it’s in Weslaco, Texas. And generally – we’re in the Rio Grande Valley and that’s like – it’s just like an area. I mean all these little towns are interconnected. You know, you just jump on the highway and you’re there in a matter of a couple minutes from one end of the Rio Grande Valley to the other. So it’s a territory here, really. That’s what it is. [Timestamp: 1:43]

 

Okay, and they needed a new scoreboard at the stadium so what was the process they went through in getting that? Did something big happen like a system failure to get them into action on this or how did they get moving on it?

 

Well, actually they still are in the process of finding a scoreboard. And they were looking into sound systems to attach to that system. Generally there’s this one big video screen/LED screen/scoreboard provider in south Texas; one big dealer that does that, a big national corporation. But they went to a game at another town and another venue and they heard the sound system that had just been installed a couple weeks before by that same company and they were like they not pleased with what they heard. So they were – once they heard that they were thinking we need to find something better, you know? Particularly Weslaco ISD, they have an outstanding video production group inside of the school district itself. They run all their ads on their screen that they currently have and they do a lot of productions with that including a pre-game – an ESPN-style pregame before the actual game. They service two high schools – Weslaco High School and Weslaco East High School – and then they do a post-game for about 30 minutes after the game. It streams out over the internet, but they also play it over the screen and the audio comes out over the scoreboard there in the stadium. [Timestamp: 3:03]

 

And so that’s all produced in-house by the high schools?

 

Yes, sir, it is in-house. It is in-house. And I’m telling you that for a south Texas school district running that kind of an outfit, it is top-notch. [Timestamp: 3:15]

 

Wow, that must be a great experience for the kids when they get to help out and learn about all of this stuff from the ground up.

 

They do. They actually do.

And this new sound system had Danley speakers. So how are they arranged on it? What’s the general design of the new system that you put in?

We went through a process. We had to do several demos with them. We did the J1. We did a J1 with a BC415. And finally when they had a catastrophic failure in the audio system there we did one last demo with them with a pair of J3’s and some BC218’s; actually a pair of those. And in the end that’s the system that they stuck with, I mean just because they got to try that thing first-hand. And last minute, you know, just something to finish the football season. And that’s what they decided they wanted. [Timestamp: 4:00]

 

Well, that’s great that they were able to demo it and decide by the sound it actually produces instead of having to rely just on promotion.

 

Sure. Yeah, the system sold itself. I mean Danley makes an outstanding product. I mean it’s unbelievable with the quality of sound. Sometimes the appearance may seem a little unorthodox to some people, but the thing is the product is outstanding. [Timestamp: 4:19]

 

And I think you used the Danley DNA 20k4 Pro amplifiers and those are four-channel units?

 

Yes, sir, they’re 4 channels. The thing is that we had to use one DNA 20k per Jericho – for J3. And then we used one more DNA 20k for the two BC218 cabinets.

 

Okay, and so each of those actually needs a four-channel amp.

 

Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Especially with the way that the system is configured and the way they would set all the components up and everything inside of there. I mean, you need one of those amps and believe me, those amps they do all the work. They handle all the processing. They’re worth every penny. They really are. [Timestamp: 4:56]

 

And it looks like you didn’t have to do a lot of balancing and tweaking on this setup because you had some Danley presets all ready to go.

 

Yes. That’s the ease of using their software. They’re using a new software now that’s called System Engineer and that – I mean that software itself, you get into your DNA amps whether it’s any one of the DNA series and all you do is you load up presets that they’ve already configured for you and it’s real easy to set that up. The only thing with that install was that there was a little bit more involved because these are actually the 20k4 Pro Dante amplifiers. I’m actually running Dante signal from the press box all the way to the scoreboard. [Timestamp: 5:33]

 

Oh, and that’s what I wanted to ask you about in how you’re getting the audio from the amplifiers all the way to the scoreboard. So do you have the amps up there in the press box somewhere?

 

No, I don’t actually. What I did was I ran fiber optics. Over 700 feet of fiber optics from the top of the press box to the scoreboard itself. And I’ve used a couple of Cisco switchers and ran that through that fiber – yeah, it was about 700 feet of fiber cable – and did the conversion through those Cisco switchers. And then I ran that Dante signal through that. [Timestamp: 6:05]

 

Oh yeah, the fiber link really makes better sense for stadiums and big venues where you need to cover a lot of distance and you don’t have to worry with grounding issues if the scoreboard is getting its power from somewhere else.

 

It does. Exactly. No problems with that. The main thing about that is when you’re configuring those systems, especially with Dante, using that software, if you follow the instructions that Audinate uses with them it’s just – it makes life so simple setting these systems up. And I mean you run everything, even the configuration. I control the configuration amps from the press box. The user-recommended setup for the Dante amplifier, running their star configuration, it’s so easy to set up. I mean they practically just work on their own. I mean you’ve just got a couple of little things that you use with that Dante controller, you know, software controller, and I mean these things are ready to go. [Timestamp: 6:53]

 

And so what did you use for the mixer that you’ve got up there in the press box? I think it was a Midas M32R?

 

That’s correct, sir. It’s a Midas M32R with an X-Dante out card. It goes out from there into the switch and then the switch runs out to the scoreboard. Now out at the scoreboard we did use a climate-controlled, weatherproofed box. We set all the amplifiers in there and the router and everything. It’s very well-protected. It’s got an AC unit because things get really hot down here in south Texas, so it’s got an AC in it to help keep things cool in there and the system is protected. [Timestamp: 7:27]

 

Okay, so you’ve got the amplifiers at the scoreboard?

 

Yes, sir.

 

And you’re feeding the audio from the control area so you don’t have to deal with a long speaker run.

 

Right. Exactly. And the only other thing I did with that was I actually – we ran a long analog, you know, just insulated a mic cable all the way from the press box down to the same station there as an analog backup. [Timestamp: 7:49]

 

Yeah, always good to have some good old copper just in case.

 

You’re right. Exactly.

 

And so the Midas M32R, I’ve seen a couple of those and it looks to me like one of the advantages of that one would be having a lot of very versatile mixing power in a very small space.

 

Yes, sir. Yes, sir. It really makes the job easier for us especially in that situation because the live sound feed, everything is going into that mixer from the scoreboard and everything else that’s going on in that facility. Our engineers actually set up matrixes to run out to their video feeds as well, so I mean it’s all tied into that whole system there. [Timestamp: 8:22]

 

Okay, and I would think that the video control and audio control are co-located right there in the press box.

 

Yes, sir, they are. It’s right next door in the press box and I’m telling you, they run a top-notch video and audio production up there. [Timestamp: 8:34]

 

Yeah, great experience working on something like that in-house and not having to worry about getting a contract crew together every time they want to do anything. So with the former sound system out of action, how long did it take to get all of this in there?

 

Well, it took us longer than we would have liked. The main reason being is the Danley speakers are a little bigger. It wasn’t exactly what was in there before. I won’t mention what was in there before because they actually do make a great product, it’s just that I believe it was more user error on their part that actually led to that catastrophic failure. So that’s where we jumped in. It took us a couple of months to get in there only because the engineers in the school district, they’re contract engineers that just want to make sure everything is put in there right and we cover all our bases, especially with safety. The scoreboard is actually on the football field at that stadium so you have to be careful with these because there’s people walking around and it is an old structure as well. So it took us a little longer just to get the approvals from the engineers, but once we got that then we got ourselves going. It took us a couple of weeks just to get it up. [Timestamp: 9:36]

 

And I know that in Texas they are VERY serious about their high school football.

 

Yes, sir, they are. And, you know, it’s a production. I mean when you go to those games – I’ve actually been in the actual games – they run everything on that scoreboard. They have advertising. That’s crucial to maintaining what goes on in the stadium as well. I mean using their video capabilities they involved a lot of the people in the audience with some of their activities that are going on on the field during the breaks in the game or anything else that’s going on. [Timestamp: 10:01]

 

So since you had the presets to put in I guess it didn’t take very long to get the whole sound system tweaked and tested.

 

Honestly, it took me maybe a couple of hours maximum especially with the ease-of-use with the Danley amplifiers or this Dante. Dante, to me, is like I’m sold on that stuff. I mean, it’s really good. It’s easy to use. I haven’t had any problems with failure yet, so I mean and I haven’t gotten that call yet, so it works well. It works very, very well. [Timestamp: 10:29]

 

And the first time it was used, was that on a big home football game?

 

Well, actually they used it for an area track meet. The area track meets here, there’s certain levels in UIL, which is the group that runs all that competitive high school activity here in Texas. And the area track meet, it’s a local group of – I think it’s everybody in our region, in our area here in the Rio Grande Valley that showed up to that. It was totally intelligible. Everything that was going on, you could hear everything that was happening. And then the next event they had after that was the East-West All-Star game and honestly, there were no complaints. They used to have complaints before with the old system as it was getting ready to fail. You couldn’t hear anything. Things were unintelligible. It was just one thing after another with that system. So they really needed something bad. [Timestamp: 11:14]

 

Wow. So I’m sure after it was tested and you knew it was going to work there would still have to be a little pressure once you’ve got that big crowd out there expecting to hear good, clear sound.

 

Right, right. And that audio system is crucial to their advertising as well, so it will be important to really see it once they get their first football game series starting up this fall. We’ll get to see the degree of how they’ll be able to have their events and I’m sure people are going to be happy to hear in that stadium. [Timestamp: 11:40]

 

And with Hermes Music, are you more into sales or installation or a little of both?

 

We’re getting into the integration here with the AV integration here with us, especially the pro audio. I’ve done several projects here using a lot of Danley product. I’ve been able to demo a lot of the Danley product to some of the school districts down here. They get to see and they get to hear first-hand how these products work and I’m telling you they sell themselves. I mean, it’s just the way they work and the way they’re engineered, designed, it’s just optimum audio. [Timestamp: 12:10]

 

So, have you guys got some more installation projects coming up?

 

I do, actually. We’re getting ready to do some – schoolboard room, there’s a couple of smaller football stadiums and practice facilities in McAllen that we’re working on. I just finished one; I’m about to the other one once they get the facility done, and I’m still working that. People need to get out and hear these systems so they understand how good of a quality Danley is. [Timestamp: 12:34]

 

I know they’re glad to have their new sound system and it’s going to make a big difference at sports events where they really get into their high school sports, especially football out there.

 

Yes, sir.

 

It was great hearing about how you pulled all of this off without a hitch and everything that went on with it. It’s Eddie Zamorano with Hermes Music in Pharr, Texas and the total sound renovation at Bobby Lackey Stadium in Weslaco, Texas. Thanks for telling us about it, Eddie.

 

Thank you, sir. I appreciate you for having us on.

Glad you were here with us today with Eddie Zamorano. You can always find show notes and equipment links for the podcasts on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Get back with us again next week for the SVC Podcast.

 

CCI Solutions Brings New Sound to Calvary Community Church PT 2
Saturday, July 15, 2017 - 11:03
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Duke DeJong of CCI Solutions. Show notes and equipment links for the podcast are ready on the magazine website at svconline.com.

Calvary Community Church in Sumner, Washington saved their resources for years and were finally ready to get a new sound system. For that, they went back to an old friend. CCI Solutions was brought in to upgrade and modernize a sound setup that they had installed many years before. Duke DeJong is here to finish the story on how they got it right again. Next up on the SVC Podcast.

Duke, thanks for getting back with us for Part 2 here on the SVC Podcast. CCI Solutions came into the Calvary Community Church in nearby Sumner and revamped and modernized the sound system you originally did for them years before. A somewhat easier job getting the old speaker system out since you had put it all in. But the complicating factor on church installs usually seems to be the quick timeframe.

 

One of the challenges we always have in working with churches is Sunday is always coming soon, so with a project like this we’ve always got to get things done between Sundays. On a larger project it always definitely makes it interesting. This project, however, with it being primarily a PA upgrade, we were able to roll in Monday morning. And fortunately, pulling the old speakers out, especially as large as they were, gravity takes pretty good care of that. Once we detached from the ceiling they come down pretty fast. [Laughs] So it’s – yeah, it all went really fast and we were able to replace a handful of very, very large refrigerator-sized speakers that were put in gosh, 15-plus years ago, and replaced it with a couple of ARCS WIFO arrays. And so installation super-smooth, super-easy and making that deadline, in fact we were ready to rock at rehearsal at the end of the week. [Timestamp: 2:13]

 

Not frequently the case and I guess you would have to deal with a real tight timeframe by applying a few more crew people to the job. But they had made a lot of visual changes to the services since you put the previous audio system in.

 

Yeah. They’ve grown a lot over the years and they’ve done a lot of work themselves and been putting in new projectors and some various screens. They’re a very creative church so they do a lot of creative elements both with lighting and projection. So definitely making the speaker system a smaller footprint was a big win visually, but the biggest win by far was the clarity and the consistency through the room now that the PA can bring. And so now the audio quality matches or exceeds what they’re trying to do visually, which is just fantastic. [Timestamp: 2:57]

 

And since they are a very progressive church I would think that they do a lot more things in there than just a regular Sunday service.

 

Yeah, absolutely. They’ll fill the room up round tables and do conference-type and training events on a regular basis. It’s always fun to see churches really maximize usage of their building. Sometimes you’ll get a church that will build a big, nice building and there’s only people in there once or twice a week. These guys run hard and serve their community well and they really use that facility pretty well. [Timestamp: 3:25]

 

And I think they’re doing video as well in there.

 

Yeah. Not only there, but they have some campuses in other parts of town and so video is both a key part of their presentation as well as how they deliver content to other sites. [Timestamp: 3:38]

 

To make sure all of that works every time I would think that they control all of the video and sound from the same place if the architecture allows that.

 

Yeah, I mean they’ve got a pretty simple operation. They’ve got a front-of-house booth in the back of the room and they run pretty lean and mean. But they’re doing some really great work and like I said, they’ve got an updated audio system now that will keep up with them, which is fantastic. [Timestamp: 4:00]

 

The changes over the years in video and lighting and projection probably didn’t make any basic changes to the power system. Looks like you probably knew what you were getting into there as far as power.

Yeah. Fortunately we didn’t have to mess with a whole lot there on the electrical side. I mean the reality is the ARCS WIFO system that we put in was really probably just a little bit more power efficient than what we had in there before. So from really most aspects this was probably one of the easier projects we’ll do most years. You know, all the infrastructure is pretty solidly in place and we took down double the weight we put back up. So it was one of the smooth ones. It was nice to have. [Timestamp: 4:38]

 

It could have been a lot worse and I’m sure that sometime you get into one where there are ground loops and power issues between lights and sound. Maybe some home-brew systems that have been installed by volunteers and I’m sure you’ve run into your share of those.

 

We definitely have. Fortunately we’ve got a pretty significant legacy of having really great infrastructure and designing great infrastructure. And so the good news is most of the time when the budget allows and the church listens to us, because of our infrastructure designs we don’t run into too many of those problems until somebody does something interesting. And fortunately with this one that was the case. This was a church that we got to build many, many years ago and between tech power and good infrastructure again, everything pretty clean. [Timestamp: 5:25]

 

Well, everything must have worked pretty well with the first sound system because by this time there was probably a higher level of competition for their business and they came back to CCI Solutions again so that’s got to say something.

 

Yeah. It’s always a joy when somebody we worked with 15-20 years ago comes back to us and says it’s time to upgrade. I mean we’d love them to come back in 7-10 years, but even at 15-20 if they come back and say man, it’s time to upgrade and you’re our guys it’s an honor because it tells us that we served well last time and they know that we’ll continue to serve them well and we’ve built a good relationship with them over the time. [Timestamp: 5:57]

 

So you got it all hooked up. How did you go through and tune it to that specific building? That must have been the fun part.

 

Sure. The project lead for the project, Mark Pearson, has handled a lot of our larger projects over the course of the last 15 years and he ran this one. L-Acoustics is one of those speakers that seems like it’s always pretty easy to tune so we can usually roll in there with a smart setup and once we get all the timing dialed in between the subs and the mains and any fills if there are any – and there weren’t in this one – but once we get all the timing set up it seems like we usually don’t have to do a lot to it. Maybe just a few minor things to kind of tame some room acoustical topics, but he was able to come in and spend an afternoon and really get it sounding great before rehearsal. [Timestamp: 6:45]

 

The contractor comes in and gets everything to a certain level where it’s technically good with no dead spots and things. The congregation though, doesn’t know about all of that but they know what they like. So how was it when you unleashed this new system on the church people?

 

Yeah, Mark was there and the response just was fantastic. I mean people who had, you know, their seat – their seat because they’ve got their own seat [Laughs] – could hear clearly, could hear speech clearly; could understand and didn’t have to strain to hear. Everything was just so much warmer and had more fullness to it. It’s always fun when there’s a dramatic change one, because nobody ever questions spending the money when there’s a dramatic change so everybody feels good about it. But it’s always fun to be in a room when all of a sudden there’s just extreme clarity and warmth and fullness. And regardless of what you’re doing, whether it’s a church service or a concert of whatever, you just see people really engaged because of how good it sounds and feels. It always makes this job a lot more fun when we get to see that. [Timestamp: 7:48]

 

As you mentioned at the beginning of Part 1, it’s all about communication and it’s a very basic aim of churches and having a new sound system like this moves them to a new level on that communication goal. Thanks for telling us about this one how it all worked. This is Duke DeJong from CCI Solutions in Olympia, Washington and the completely new sound setup for Calvary Community Church. Great hearing about it, Duke.

 

Thank you.

Great having you with us for SVC Podcast. There are some show notes and equipment links for this one on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine and that’s at svconline.com. Next week, get back here with us again for the next SVC Podcast.

 

 

 

 

CCI Solutions Brings New Sound to Calvary Community Church Pt 1
Friday, July 7, 2017 - 12:34
Bennett Liles

This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Duke DeJong of CCI Solutions. You can find show notes and equipment links for the podcast on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com.

It’s an interesting experience when an AV contractor is called back to a church to upgrade an audio system that they installed, fifteen years before. CCI Solutions was called back to Calvary Community Church in Sumner, Washington to modernize and upgrade that system and Duke DeJong is here to give us the story. Right here on the SVC Podcast.

Alright, Duke. It’s good to have you back with us on the SVC Podcast. It’s been a little bit. Haven’t talked in a while.

 

Yeah, thanks for having me. I always have fun talking with you.

 

We’ve got the Calvary Community Church in Sumner, Washington to talk about which was an interesting retrofit for your guys. But since it’s been a while since we talked, tell us about what’s been going on at CCI Solutions.

 

Well, funny enough a lot of Calvary churches. This is one of somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 different Calvary churches we’re working with right now, so trying to keep them all straight has been fun. But we just continue to help churches all over the country with audio, video, lighting and acoustics and try to help them really connect well with people. And as you know, a lot of churches are struggling with old systems or poor acoustics and churches, their primary role is to communicate with people. So we have a lot of work to do with churches all over the place trying to help them communicate well with people in the room. [Timestamp: 1:44]

 

I know that can be a pretty tall order sometimes, particularly at smaller churches with growing needs and limited budgets. Do you find that churches have unique problems that tend to be the same ones over and over?

 

There definitely is a lot of consistency. We can pretty quickly walk into a room and tell kind of when it was built with most denominations because they ended up using the same architect who created a lot of the same problems. But you know, I think the biggest challenge as a whole with churches in general is they’re always really trying to fight the stewardship concept of how do we maximize every dollar we’re spending and how do we be extremely efficient? And all of those things inherently are good things. It’s just one of those things where they always have such high expectations and want so much, but the budget often isn’t quite there when it’s all based on donations. And always finding solutions that deliver good results at a very fair and reasonable price point is kind of the name of the game for us. [Timestamp: 2:40]

 

And this one wasn’t a brand new sanctuary where you might even get in on the building plans at the very beginning. You had to take out the old system first but I think in that part of it you had a little bit of an ace up your sleeve.

 

You know, a lot of times when we do a retrofit we kind of have to allow for a little bit of time for discovery to find out what don’t we know as we start to get in there. With these guys, though, we had a distinct advantage because 15 years ago or so their PA was put in by us. So they were overdue for an upgrade, but the same guy who was our project manager at the time and one of our lead installers at the time were able to work on this project again. And so the unknown was not a big topic for us this time because we knew what we were into and we already kind of knew what challenges we were running into walking in. So all in all yeah, it’s a church that’s grown a lot over the last decade or two. It’s a church that’s definitely changed its style and its approach to how they communicate with people. And their services definitely have more of a rock worship type of feel, they’ve got some really dynamic speaking, and their needs have changed dramatically from where they were 15 years ago. So it was time. It was time to bring in a system that would really hang in there with the performances, really the content they were throwing at it, and cover the room with not just good clarity but also warmth and fullness all the way down to the sub frequencies so they could really rock that room when they want to. [Timestamp: 4:06]

 

Of course it’s not every day that you take out your own old system but that for me would bring up the issue of how, as a contractor, how well you’ve documented everything especially after that much time has passed.

 

Sure. Yeah, I mean, you know, what’s always entertaining for us, especially up in the northwest where our office is headquartered, we’ll have churches 20 years ago that we worked on reach out to us and somewhere out in a warehouse we have boxes of all those files and documentation. We’ve tried to be good over the years of scanning some of the old stuff in, but some of that we just never got to and it’s still out there in a box. So fortunately out of our 41-year history we’ve got a pretty good history of documentation and as-builts, and a very poor history of cleaning out the closets. So we still own most of that stuff. Can’t always find it quickly, but we usually find it eventually. And even the older projects, we’ve got that stuff around. [Timestamp: 5:05]

 

Well, that place plays a number of roles during the week and has during the whole life of the building. Even though you probably knew the acoustics in there, was that place a converted gymnasium?

Yeah. Basically when they built it, it was really the – kind of the ultimate multipurpose room. I mean, even today they use it for many different functions. I mean they’ll use it for everything from kind of a conference center to, of course, their weekend worship. I don’t believe they’re using it much for sports any more, but when they built it, it was everything. I mean it was their weekend service gathering space. It was a gym during the week. It was conference center. It was – I mean it was everything. So it’s definitely still got that gym look and feel to it – in fact, I believe some of the baskets are still up – but I don’t think it’s been used that way much anymore. [Timestamp: 5:52]

 

Well who knows? With that progressive a church they might even work those into the services somehow.

 

Well, you can only hope. I mean, that would just be fun for me.

 

I looked at a video of this place. They don’t appear to use a podium like a more traditional church. They have mikes moving around and you never know where they might be.

 

And they’ve got some really great pastors on staff, very dynamic communicators. And because they are a multi-venue church, so they’ve got sites in different parts of the Seattle area. Video is really important to them, so I think their staff tends to be good about staying up on the stage, but I bet you during some of these events where they’re not video casting these things out they’re down on the floor walking amongst the people. [Timestamp: 6:30]

 

And for this I think you used the L-Acoustics ARCS WIFO speaker system and their scalable directivity must have helped get things right for the new setup.

 

It did. You know, for us we love the L-Acoustics product. There’s just a warmth and a clarity to those and just such great balance that we know that any customer who gets with an L-Acoustics system is going to be happy with how it sounds. So from there it’s just a matter of what’s going to cover their room and provide for us a plus or minus three decibel coverage throughout the entire seating space. And what the ARCS WIFO system allows us to do from front to back coverage wise is just fantastic. I mean, we are consistently able to throw those speakers into rooms that are 500-1,000 seats and really, really get just fantastic coverage from top to bottom. I mean they sound really great side to side with the box already, but any time you have any kind of array that top to bottom coverage definitely can kind of go sideways, especially as you get farther back in the room. And the way the Wide and the Focus boxes work together it just really gives us great coverage top to bottom. [Timestamp: 7:40]

 

It was a good while back when you put the original system in and I noticed that they have a lot of projection around the stage in there. Was that something they had in there then or has all of that been added since the original sound system was put in?

 

Oh no, that’s definitely something that’s been new in the last few years. The great news is 15 years ago speaker systems were much, much larger in general than they are today. And so the speakers that we took out of there were very large. In fact, they’ve been very affectionately named by our team “the refrigerators.” I think they were all roughly the size of a refrigerator each. But those were a custom-built cabinet that we used to make a couple of decades ago. And so really we were able to take down some very, very large boxes and replace them with these ARCS WIFO arrays. And so really, if anything, we’ve actually cut their footprint down, which is making their lighting and projection be able to work easier in that space. [Timestamp: 8:37]

 

Yeah, I’m sure they like having a sound system that better accommodates the visual elements and sometimes the contractor has to get a little creative in where they have to locate the amps and control. Had things changed on where you could locate the amp rack and that stuff?

 

No. I mean, fortunately with this one we already had a pre-set amp rack backstage and really it was just a matter of updating the equipment in it. Taking out the old stuff and putting in the new L-Acoustics amplifiers and the Symetrix DSP. And so by and large this one was a pretty easy one as far as implementation goes. We had a great design. Everything looked good on paper. We actually own a small demo rig for the ARCS WIFO and we were able to bring that out and let the church team get in front of it and listen to it. And they just fell in love with it and within a few months we had the new rig in and everybody has been really happy. [Timestamp: 9:30]

 

It doesn’t always go that way, but I’m glad it did with this one and next week we’ll get into more detail on how you actually did this and what came when. Thanks for getting with us and giving us the opening story on this project. It’s Duke DeJong from CCI Solutions in Olympia, Washington. Calvary Community Church was the project in, I believe it was in Sumner, right?

 

Yeah, Sumner, Washington.

 

Okay. And they’ve got a better sound system that your guys managed to get in there and slip in between Sundays. We’ll get more into this next week but thanks for being with us today.

 

Thank you.

Glad to have you along with us for the SVC Podcast. You can find show notes and equipment links for this one on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Next week, Duke will tell us about finishing up the installation and tuning it for perfect sound. Be back with us for that on the next SVC Podcast.

 

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