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On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles finishes his conversation with Jordan Lytle of Akustiks about the complete sound system upgrade they designed for the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Center in Oklahoma City. Jordan details the Optocore ring network that connects that extends from both DiGiCo consoles to the PA system. He also describes the installation and testing of the Shure Axient RF micropohone system.
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This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Jordan Lytle of Akustiks. We’ve got show notes and product links for this and other podcasts at svconline.com. Just go to Podcasts at the top of the page.
Technology marches on and at the Oklahoma City Civic Center it was leaving their sound operation ever harder to serve modern musical performances. It was time to upgrade the whole operation and Akustiks of South Norwalk, Connecticut came in with a total system design. Akustiks Project Manager Jordan Lytle is back to give us the rest of the story on the SVC Podcast.
Jordan, good to have you back with us on the SVC Podcast from Akustiks in South Norwalk, Connecticut. We were talking about the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall project at the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Center. Akustiks designed the whole sound system renovation and put in a hearing loop, DiGiCo mixers and a d&b audiotechnik speaker system. Among all of those things what was the most difficult and challenging aspect to the project?
Yeah, hi Bennett. Really the most challenging aspect of this job has been the timeline and the schedule, and we always knew that going in and it’s proven to be just as difficult as we thought it would be. It’s always hard when doing a renovation of a venue when they want to continue to operate and hold events and performances during that renovation. Now as the consultant, it’s a little less challenging for me than the guys actually in the field doing the work because they’re the ones having to work the late hours and work around all of their schedules to try to get this done. And with that, it was a huge undertaking and the city knew it and they set a really aggressive timeline and schedule and it’s been challenging for everyone to try and meet that. [Timestamp: 1:59]
They have some other venues in that building. Were they able to sort of work things around and maybe get events into some of the other rooms while the project was going on? That would be a lot going on to try and maintain a production schedule.
There’s some stuff they tried to work around, but it’s really challenging because that room is, like we said previously, 2,200-2,300 seats and they don’t have anything near that size in the rest of the building. They have the Freede Little Theater, which is just a few hundred seats, and some events spaces and rehearsal halls, but nothing that the symphony could go in or any other Broadway tours or anything like that. So you know, most of that schedule was all set ahead of time and years in the making and you just have to kind of work around it. [Timestamp: 2:44]
Yeah, most of those other rooms, by the time they could pack a symphony orchestra into it, there would be no room left for the audience.
Yeah, that’s right. The audience and the symphony.
Now, there was one thing and you mentioned this when we talked before, that you wanted to make it rider-friendly and that’s versatility. One of the most versatile aspects is to have everything go everywhere and be able to connect sound sources to destinations without running patch cables around. So tell me about the Optocore fiber network. Did you have to run all the fiber or was there any already there?
No, there was no fiber at all before, so it’s all new fiber. And one of the things we really wanted to do is the way that DiGiCo uses what’s called the Optocore fiber network and Optocore employs a ring network topology, which means that you have to connect every device to each other through a ring – basic daisy chaining. Well, that can get complicated in installations when you have lots of different locations where they might want to put the console or put different IO racks and things like that. And so we knew that can get kind of complicated and the rate at which they do events in there and fast turnover, we try to make this as simple as possible. So we ended up putting in a piece by a company called BroaMan, which is a sister company of Optocore. They make something called a Route 66. It can become a video router and just kind of a different kind of fiber router. But they have a particular version that’s specific to Optocore. And so what it does it you have all these fiber nodes around the room that are just connected to that router and as soon as you plug in a DiGiCo device it recognizes it and it creates that ring for you so you really don’t do any patching at all. You just plug in a stage box and it shows up on your console. [Timestamp: 4:39]
And I think that’s connected through… what did you have in there? The SD Nano Racks.
Yeah. So they have two SD Nano Racks, two SD Mini Racks, and two SD racks and then two consoles with the ability to add more racks or consoles if they want to. [Timestamp: 4:56]
And I don’t know how much the symphony would use them but the Shure Axient digital wireless mic system. Did you specify that or was it existing equipment?
Yeah, that’s something we specified. It was originally specified as a UHF-R system from Shure. We got a release during the middle of the installation that Shure was going to be discontinuing that so we contacted everyone and let them know and ended up replacing that with the Shure Axient digital system. And that’s the first time we’ve used that system on a project and so far it’s worked flawlessly. [Timestamp: 5:28]
For the RF mics did you have to install a new antenna system to work with those?
Yeah. So we were already installing a new antenna system so that ended up being okay switching out to that because we didn’t have to make too many changes. The only changes we had to make is those receivers all have AES and analog output as well as Dante and so we ended up putting a Nano Rack in there with AES cards instead of analog, which ended up sounding a lot nicer. [Timestamp: 5:56]
It’s always a little dicey installing a new wireless mic system these days with all of the spectrum changes that have been going on and to stay one jump ahead of that.
Yeah, that’s true. And typically on installations we kind of encourage them to only buy as much as they really need for that exact reason and to try and budget renting anything for really large events. So there’s just 10 channels of wireless mics and anything really large they would rent. And that’s kind of the direction we’ve been going lately because it’s hard to make such a big investment and then a year or two from now learn that that spectrum has been sold off. [Timestamp: 6:30]
Yeah, and that’s happened to a lot of people.
The Oklahoma City Civic Center has, I think, six performance spaces all in fairly close proximity. Any RF coordination have to be done between those or does the big room have most of the wireless gear?
Yeah, the big room uses most of the gear. The other places just have maybe a couple of channels and then everything else is rented or brought in for a production. So it’s generally coordinated internally per production. [Timestamp: 6:58]
So RF mics, new speaker system, new mixers, a fiber distribution network, all of that stuff going in plus the hearing loop. Once you had it all in place, how much of a process was getting it all ready to use?
It’s been an ongoing and a long process and we’ll continue to go down there a couple more times. The way that we typically do things is the contractor does all their testing and provides us with a report that says everything is good and connected. And then we’ll go down there and do our own testing and configuration. We actually do all the programming. That’s one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that we redid the backstage and lobby systems as well and we used a QSC Q-SYS system. So used their Core 510 as the DSP processor for those backstage and lobby systems as well as paging from the theater to the backstage and lobby. And then used another 510 kind of as a headend matrix for the main speaker system. [Timestamp: 8:00]
OK, maintaining the versatility.
Yeah, exactly. So having something in there that anyone can connect to, anyone that comes through, so that he has a pretty simple and easy-to-use matrix that he can reroute things however the production wants to. [Timestamp: 8:18]
I think you mentioned it last week. Matt Anderson is the A1 at the Civic Center Music Hall and you worked with him on this. The whole system got its first big debut with The School of Rock. How did that show turn out? Any changes made afterward?
Actually before that, the first major event, things are still kind of in the works of getting tweaked and finished so we had to go down there and kind of get enough of the system working – especially getting the loop system working before that first event which proved to be kind of challenging. And there ended up being a few little hiccups, but all that got worked out and everyone’s been really happy with how things sound down there. [Timestamp: 8:53]
Ongoing and a lot to coordinate. So now that you have that pretty well nailed down with only a few more things to do, what else is coming up for Akustiks?
Yeah, a couple of big things that we’re working on right now that are kind of in construction, right here in New York City is something called The Shed. It’s kind of a large cultural arts center with this really large retractable, big structure essentially on train rails that can roll out over a plaza to do events and concerts and theater and anything you can think of artistically to do in kind of this enclosed outdoor space. And it also has a couple of large galleries and a theater and it’s a really huge undertaking. So that’s in construction right now and I think that’ll be opening up in 2019. And another project I’m working on is down in Auburn University. It’s basically building a performing arts center to serve the community. So the university will use it, but they’ll also bring in outside acts and things like that just for the community down there. [Timestamp: 10:02]
Auburn is a really high powered place and the people down there love their entertainment and their big shows.
And they are building a lot. There’s just a ton of construction going on down there.
OK, sounds like you got it all under control and you’re ready to take on some more. It’s Jordan Lytle with Akustiks in South Norwalk, Connecticut. The project is at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall and the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Center. Wish you luck on the next projects coming up Jordan and it was nice to have you with us.
All right. Thanks, Bennett.
Great talking with Jordan Lytle on the comprehensive sound upgrade for the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall designed by Akustiks. Be back here with us next week as we go inside another AV installation project on the SVC Podcast.