On the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles has a conversation with Nate Pugh of Total Electronics Contracting in Joplin, Missouri concerning their complete AV installation for Neosho Junior High School including sound for the gymnasium, cafeteria, AV for the library and projection in 48 classrooms. In this edition Nate outlines the gymnasium and cafeteria AV system installations.
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This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Nate Pugh of Total Electronics Contracting. Show notes and product links for this podcast and others are at svconline.com.
A brand new Neosho Junior High School and a clean slate for a complete AV installation. Total Electronics Contracting came in to install gymnasium sound, AV for cafeteria, library, building-wide intercom and classroom projectors. Nate Pugh is ready to give us the whole story next on the SVC Podcast.
Nate, nice of you to take a time out to get with us from Total Electronics Contracting in Joplin, Missouri. The brand new Neosho Junior High School called you in and put all of the school AV systems in your hands with the start of the school year coming up. Your outfit must have enough experience with school AV that they were confident with doing this with an all-new place.
Yeah. This one was actually a new junior high school for them. They had the old junior high that had 5, 6 and 7, but then the 8 graders were at the high school. They were kind of busting at the seams between those two schools so they had to make a school for the in between. So it was a brand new junior high just to kind of make room. It’s a beautiful building right next to one of their elementary schools so it’s a good location and a pretty full building so far. [Timestamp: 1:28]
Yeah and the obvious advantage to that would be that you don’t have to go in and first take out some old gear that somebody else put in and maybe even get in on the planning stages of it. Did they involve you at that stage or did Total Electronics Contracting come in after the building was completely finished?
We were pretty lucky as far as that goes. We’ve worked with this particular school district for years now. And so we’ve worked with them on anything from AV that I handled to access control or any life safety systems such as fire alarms, like I said access control, emergency notification. We also take care of their IT as well as far as data networking and structured wiring. And so they invited us on the planning side of it, so we had to sit down with the engineers and architects and with the school district and we got to help design it from the ground up. So it really made it a simplified process, so to speak, to be there from the very beginning. [Timestamp: 2:19]
A tremendous advantage. So what was the general scope of the job here? It looks like you did just about everything; the gym, cafeteria, library, the school intercom system. Your guys did it all.
We did. We kind of expanded as time went on. We were called in originally to do just the main AV meeting projectors and audio in the gymnasium and the cafeteria. Same in the library. And then we installed all the projectors and smart boards in the classrooms as well. We kind of got called in later – we installed intercoms for the school and pretty much every other school in the district in the past. They wanted to change things up a little bit and did more of the phone-based system this time. So we just pretty much did the backbone wiring for powered horns, powered speakers and tied into another provider’s phone system. But otherwise, we pretty much covered everything as far as audio and video goes throughout the building. [Timestamp: 3:07]
A very big project on a tight deadline to get it done by school time and these things are all about pacing. Sometimes you have one contractor going too fast and another not fast enough and they overlap. Was there any construction still going on while you were installing the AV things or did you not have anybody in your way?
It was kind of a combination of the two. Part of it, the gymnasium itself, was actually a FEMA structure; a precast concrete structure for a community storm shelter. And so that was the first part to go up. And before they started working on floors or anything on the ground level we had to get up there pretty early. They wanted us to have our speakers in place, wire in place, projector mounts in place. So we had to get up there pretty early in the process and put our speakers in, wrap those up very well in bags and cover everything, protect everything just to keep up with the pace of the project. [Timestamp: 3:59]
And what did you go with for speakers in the gymnasium? That can always be a little tricky for voice clarity and reverberation.
It was. We ended up using the Community speakers in the gymnasium; their IP-8 and IS-6 series with a couple of little R.15’s for some downfills. So we had a couple of speakers in there that were all covered and luckily nothing was damaged during construction. The baggies kept residue from paint, from the stain of the gym floor, from sanding, everything off of it so we were pretty happy to get to the end of the project and everything was in good working order without any mishaps.[Timestamp: 4:35]
Well, that’s lucky. Not all of that is always under your control. And I think you drove the speakers with Ashly amps?
I did, yes. We used three of your NX series amps and used some of the 4000’s for the fill speakers, the 8000’s for the mains and the 1.52’s for the subs. So we had to have that many speakers in there – only two mains with subs and four fills so we were able to get away with just amplifiers in there. [Timestamp: 5:02]
And the gym speakers are probably up high and away from trouble and any finger poking but the amps might be a different story so where did you put those? Did they make a place for you on that?
Yeah. The architect did a really good job having a small – actually, it’s a pretty good-sized closet probably 10x8 or so for some of their gear; for volleyball games and such, the ladders for the referees and such can go in this closet, ball containers, stuff like that. We had a pretty good sized corner for us to have our rack in there. Everything is well-protected, locked up, so everything is nice and safe in there. So it kind of gave us some peace of mind knowing that people couldn’t get in there and it was in a safe spot for us. [Timestamp: 5:40]
Well, maybe you had some peace of mind on that but I’m sure the people with the school who were responsible for the gym, I don’t know how much peace of mind they had knowing that there’s construction and AV installation happening on top of their brand new gymnasium floor. How antsy did they get about that?
They were a little antsy. Luckily we were able to get in early with lifts before the floor stuff was actually down. But unfortunately, like most AV jobs, nothing ever goes 100 percent as planned the first time around. So after everything was installed, of course we had some issues with some video extenders that just needed to be reset or checked terminations. We had to get up to a few projectors after the fact, but the general contractor and the school were both very understanding and were very accommodating as long as we were able to protect the floor, lay down some plywood – no-skid, nice and soft so we wouldn’t scratch the floor – we were able to get in there with some single-man lifts at least. So nothing too heavy. We don’t want to damage the wood. But everything worked out in the long run. We just had to go up there, I think, one more time after the final install, which we had to be very careful, too, because it was probably the prettiest gym floor I’ve seen at a school around here ever. The guy did a great job on it so we were very careful to keep that intact. [Timestamp: 6:51]
Yeah, just a minor mishap could cause considerable damage and complete havoc in the schedule. Now, where do they control the gym sound system? I would think that it would have to be flexible to accommodate all kinds of different events and seating arrangements.
Yeah. What they wanted to do is it’s kind of a multipurpose room. There’s bleachers on both sides of the gym. One is the home side, one is the more of the visitors’ side – a much smaller area. And both ends also had bleachers. And if they do band performances or choir or anything like that it will actually be on the gym floor so it will be closer to the shorter bleachers. So the speakers are actually on that end. They wanted those facing in towards the home side. So we have speakers on that end facing the home bleachers and we put a backstage floor pocket in there. And then they wanted some video inputs on the backside of the gym where the audience would be, so we have AMX input plates on the other side of the gym for VGA and HTMI and also AMX control panels on either side behind some locked covers. That way the people that need to get in there can and the kids with their fingers cannot. [Laughs] Just to keep it safe for everybody. [Timestamp: 7:55]
That’s always a good idea since especially in a school you don’t know who might be the temporary sound operator. So they use this sound system for basketball, school assemblies, maybe stuff like science fairs. It would need to be able to reconfigure fairly quickly and most likely to use a mic from anywhere.
Yes. They do use it quite a bit. In fact one of our last days working there they were having an 8 grade – basically a dodgeball session going on. They had the whole school in there at the end of the day just playing dodgeball. They had some Shure wireless mics in there so that way the principal was able to walk around with the Shure wireless mic and make announcements. And we also had an input plate near the control room for iPads to plug in, anything like that. There wasn’t really a good place to put any kind of Bluetooth receiver for them that wouldn’t be in harm’s way or where they couldn’t access it well so they just were able to plug in RCA or 3.5 into the wall and so that way it’s pretty flexible. On the controllers themselves we had to make it easy to use, but also give them all the features they wanted. So we have mutes and volumes for all the mic inputs. We actually had a secondary page on there as well for some monitor sends to the Ace floor pocket for performances to go to some power JBL monitors. So we had to have quite a bit kind of packed into a small seven-inch screen but still make it easy to use and easy to get around. [Timestamp: 9:13]
Ease of use would have to be paramount when you don’t know who’s going to be pushing the buttons.
If there are kids assigned to it, they’re probably going to be gone by the time they learn how everything works. But one of the more interesting sounding things to me on this was the cafeteria. Not one of the first places that might come to mind on a big AV installation so what was involved in that?
Yeah, for the cafeteria they pretty much modeled all their AV needs based off their old junior high. The other junior high had projection and speakers kind of set up in the exact same way in the gym and they really liked that. But they also had kind of an overflow in their cafeteria with a projector and screen in there as well so we were able to model that and move the whole thing to the new building for them. So in the cafeteria we had a daylight electric projection screen. We used an Epson projector in there as its own dedicated AMX input plate and another AMX control panel in the cafeteria. That way they can turn the projector on and off, lower the screen as they need to. They have Shure wireless mics out there. We also gave them a local RCA and XLR input plate if they needed to put any auxiliary devices through there. The speakers in there were a little bit different for us. We worked with the architect and engineer pretty closely and they did different types of ceiling clouds; multiple ceiling clouds with different kinds of pendant lights. So there’s quite a bit of real estate taken up in each ceiling tile or each cloud as it was. And originally we were going to have 2x2 ceiling tiles for the intercom system plus probably six-and-a-half inch ceiling speakers for our PA in there. And they were just worried it was going to be too cluttered and take up too much real estate. And so we were actually able to use some Velcom powered speakers with dual voice coils that actually worked really well for us. So the primary coil was just used for any audio going through that room and then the secondary tap was used just if there ever is an announcement or a page that we can use the same speakers and have to take out less of their ceiling tiles for them. So it worked out pretty well. [Timestamp: 11:05]
Sounds like it. That size a job is not an easy thing to coordinate. I know you were glad to get all of that work but it had to have presented its share of problems. I can see how extensive experience in school AV was essential this case. It’s Nate Pugh with Total Electronics Contracting in Joplin, Missouri and the complete AV installation for the brand new Neosho Junior High School. Thanks for the story, Nate. We’ll have to get together on some of your future school projects.
We’ll get more into the control and wireless mic systems next week.
This was a great talk with Nate Pugh from Total Electronics Contracting. Next week Nate is going to tell us about the AMX control, Symetrix DSP, microphone systems and classroom projectors they put in for the new Neosho Junior High School. We’ll see you then on the next SVC Podcast.