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Hoffman Pro Systems Renovates Sound System at Garland Theater Pt 2

Show 142, Part 2

SVC Podcast – Show Notes – Show 142-2:

In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles wraps up his talk with David Lewis of Hoffman Pro Systems in Spokane, Washington regarding their sound system upgrade at the historic Garland Theater. David discusses the AP20 DSP and the challenges of the tight timeline on getting the theater back up and running after the installation. With the theater’s varied clients, live sound capability was also needed.

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From Sound & Video Contractor Magazine, this is the SVC Podcast with David Lewis. Show notes for the podcast are available on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at

The Garland Theater in Spokane, Washington is the site of many events and the demands on its old sound system were relentless. Hoffman Pro Systems was called to in to make a substantial upgrade and they had to do it fast. Owners couldn’t afford to have the venue down for long. David Lewis is back to finish up his account of how they got it done right and on time. That’s up next on the SVC Podcast.

David, thanks for being back with us for Part 2 on the SVC Podcast from Hoffman Pro Systems in Spokane, Washington. We were talking last week about the Garland Theater in Spokane. You had a big job upgrading the sound system in this old theater. We didn’t talk about the projector. I think they already had a projector in there. Was that a Christie unit they had?

Yes. Basically, the owners did this in three to four phases, and once they had reviewed where they wanted to go with the theater the Christie was one of the first things they put in. Hoffman didn’t do that; another cinema projection company here in the Northwest did that for them. But that was kind of the catalyst when they saw how – what they could start doing, and they got comments from their patrons that man, what a difference that thing made. And doing movies all-digital, that was kind of the push to say okay, what else do we want to do? Well, one was the sound system and then just the interior of the theater; all-new seating, all-new carpets. Walls were completely repainted. The interior entryway was redone. They have a food court where you can get more than just popcorn and soda pop as well as a little bar in the corner where you can actually get drinks for things, like when they show the Super Bowl or basketball games and things like that. So they reach out to their community a lot and people really enjoy it there and have a great time. [Timestamp: 2:16]

Well, if they already had great projection this new sound system really got the audio end of things up to that level. Since there are live events there I know changes would have to be made at the control point. You’ve got a small crew so it’s got to be easy to change things in the setup. Are there some presets they can recall to go between movies and live events?

Test. The Datasat AP20 handles that for us up front because it has the touch screen capability to jump between setting for the 7.1, 5.1 from the projector unit. And then they still have a DVD/Blu-ray for custom showings of small movies and even television announcements. They have an off-air capability and then we left an HDMI input for – a computer input – for the live presentations where somebody wants to do a Power Point presentation. So that’s all handled by the Datasat by pushbutton. Then along with the Soundcraft, if you go to the live setting, you have the Soundcraft control of the audio as far as a wireless mic and a couple of inputs for the computer, as well, for playback. [Timestamp: 3:27]

Okay, so no problem handling anything they come up with. How are the acoustics in that place? In a theater they’re supposed to be good but things deteriorate over that much time. Was any acoustic treatment needed or is that something that’s still on the list of things to do?

That would be down the road. I would love to do some, although I have to say with the new seats and the new carpets, it certainly has calmed things down. But the walls and the ceiling are kind of a crete – a spread out crete over brick. So everything in there, if you go up and knock on the wall or feel a wall, it feels like concrete, including the ceiling. So there can get to be some pretty good rolls back and forth and wave problem between the two parallel walls. So the depth and the varying height in the room do help to kind of break that up. That was another reason I think in really going to the CBT70’s for site fills or – site fills, my live side comes out – surround sounds in the rear fills is that the asymmetrical pattern on those, we could point them down and keep them in the seating area and try to keep some of the reflection from bouncing between walls along with the left-center-right’s on the front. Again, that was part of choosing to put the subs in to a cardioid pattern; not so much wanting a power alley up the center, but to get things pointed forward and stop the roll from behind the screen. It’s a pretty good-sized stage behind that screen and it’s just a big empty cavern right now. So anything that goes back there bounces around and eventually comes back through the screen. The great thing was is the only request I’ve had since we got the system up and running from patrons is can we turn the subs down a little bit. Well, we can always turn things down. It gets to be difficult when they want you to turn things up sometimes. [Timestamp: 5:18]

A much easier problem. I think you added a subwoofer in there to extend to bottom end and that seems to have done the trick. We talked a little about this in Part 1 but you only had a couple of days to get this done.

Yeah. The speakers, they got everything going and when they finally got the seating tore out and changed and the carpets were going in, they contacted me and said okay, we made our decision. This is what we want to do. We want to run with the proposal that you put together. I said okay. So this is April and I said when does it have to be running? “Well, we’re going to celebrate our 70th anniversary and we’d like to have to up and everything completed by June 6.” And it was like, really? Okay. So we got the contracts going, got stuff ordered. Harman was helpful in contacting them and saying I’m up against a timeline here. They got us the speakers. Well, the speakers we could go in and put in in mornings or when the theater was closed, and just kind of change them out. And so we got all the speakers in place. Did it sound funny? I’m sure it did because we were running with the old rack and we just balanced it best we could every day to keep them running for their projection time or their cinema time. And then the weekend before their celebration, that Sunday night they closed down at midnight after the last showing and we had Monday and Tuesday until 4:00 to get the system back up and running. [Timestamp: 6:51]

Okay, so not much time and much to do. And you always wonder if you’re going to hit some major snag that causes everything to back up.

Yeah. That was the great thing about the presets from JBL and Crown. That didn’t happen – the Datasat, when we contacted Datasat – because they had the previous version of the AP20, which was the something-6, the DTS6. And the guys down there, Mike and Mike, walked me through it and I chose to actually fly down to Simi Valley and spend a day with them, and they trained me on the new AP20 so I could just put it in, get them on the phone and have an idea of what I was dealing with before. Being a house of worship design company and doing that for many years, this has been a great project for me. A lot of fun, but also having to learn some of these cinema projects that I haven’t dealt with before. It was interesting and turned into a great project. [Timestamp: 7:49]

And they’ve only got a crew of what, three or four people there?

Yeah. Kathy is the owner. She’s there, has a handle on it. Tana is their general manager. She’s there most of the time. And then beyond that, like you say, there’s about a crew of four to six depending on the day. There’s a couple of those people that are the real projection folks who go up and start the movies and everything. As part of this, the Do-Re-Mi can talk to the AP20, so we’ve put in some signal feed there so when they actually start, the Do-Re-Mi sends out “this is the 7.1” so the AP20 automatically switches to 7.1 So the projectionists are pretty able to make that happen. If it doesn’t happen, they can see it on the screen right there and all they have to do is go over and tap the button and it will change to 7.1 or 5.1 or whatever they want. [Timestamp: 8:42

With all of the complicated stuff happening automatically behind the scenes and that’s just the way it should be. So what’s coming up next for Hoffman Pro Systems? What have you got in the pipeline?

We’ve just finished the Garland. We just finished a hotel install here in town. We’re back to a lot of service calls. I think heading into the holiday season a lot of contacts from churches, houses of worship, getting ready. The choir is “We need this” or “We want to upgrade our system.” So a lot of those calls right now as well as some new designs on the board. It hopefully will keep us busy through the recent months here. [Timestamp: 9:17]

I always love to hear stories about these old theaters, instead of being torn down or paved over, they’re restored to great picture and great sound and being a great place for people to go. I saw all the pictures on that and it was truly a fantastic job you did there. David Lewis from Hoffman Pro Systems in Spokane with the AV renovation of the Garland Theater. Thanks for telling us about it.

Thank you.

Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with David Lewis. Show notes are available on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at Be back with us next week for the next SVC Podcast.

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