On the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles completes his conversation with Greg Muhr, Mason Evans and Woody Woods of the Portland Art Museum about the installation of a new Meyer Sound LINA system in their Kridel Grand Ballroom. They detail the installation of the lighting system, wireless microphones, external sound feeds and projection for the ballroom.
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Booking ever bigger and more complex events, The Portland Art Museum was looking to upgrade the sound system in its Kridel Grand Ballroom so they did it themselves with a LINA system from Meyer Sound. Now they can handle anything the local community has in mind. Greg Muhr, Mason Evans and Woody Woods are back to wrap up the story next on the SVC Podcast.
Ok, we’re back this week at the Portland Art Museum and thanks Greg, Mason and Woody for being back with us from the Kridel Grand Ballroom with its new Meyer Sound LINA system, an all in-house installation. We talked last week about sound and all of the different events there. Another big part of this, of course, is the lighting. How is all of that controlled in the Kridel Grand Ballroom?
Greg: So we’ve got a Martin M1 console at the front of house that we use to control all of our lighting system. We’re mostly conventional rig all flown in the air and then we’ve got some uplights that are LEDs and a few Source Four PARs that are conventional as well. Most of the system runs over Ether to DMX Art-NET from our front of house to the back of house rack where we distribute everything out. We’ve got five universes in the ballroom and then we can also swag some extra universes up to the truss if we need to, if we’re putting in a moving light rig or something like that for a show. [Timestamp: 1:44]
And I take it that since you installed the whole sound system and got into so much detail on it that you installed all the lighting as well?
Greg: Yeah, we did. We’ve been building this system for the past about 11 years. Since the building was rebuilt we’ve been constantly upgrading the rigging in the ballroom, which has, of course, allowed us to hang more and more lighting. And so over time we’ve built this out. [Timestamp: 2:09]
At first glance it might seem that for lighting a ballroom you just turn most of the lights on or off and that’s pretty much it but it actually has tremendous power to set the mood for the event. You can get at least as creative with it as you can with the sound.
Greg: Easily. Lighting is probably one of our biggest moneymakers as far as the AV systems go. We do a lot of custom lighting for events.
Mason: I think a lot of it has to do with the décor of the room in and of itself being that old Masonic Temple kind of. You’ve seen the pictures online. And I think that it just really opens up a whole new world of what you can do with lighting in a space like that. You know, it’s not your traditional ballroom or grid wall convention setup. The room gives a lot to do with and it makes it really fun to come up with these interesting designs that we can really wow people with.
Woody: I think the grid in there is about 100 x 60 with four cross members all made out of 12 and 20-inch black truss, too. So there’s a pretty significant structure up there to hang from. [Timestamp: 3:14]
And when you install both the lights and the sound you don’t end up with the lighting people cussing the sound guys and all of that back and forth.
Woody: Ah, we still have that, but it’s friendlier. [Laughter]
And at least you have the added incentive to make sure the electrics for the lighting don’t make any noise and you have that worked out right from the beginning. And back on the sound, what do you have for the wireless mic system in the ballroom? I think it’s a Shure mic system?
Woody: Well we have ULXD’s primarily, but we also have some ULX’s as well that we’ve been phasing out. We have, I don’t know, probably a dozen, a dozen and a half units maybe? Primarily six of them live up in the ballroom. And we recharge the rechargeable battery packs and cradles that they sit in, both the transmitters and the bodypacks, so we’re ready to go at any time. It depends, but we primarily use the active antennas because we’re downtown. RF is critical down here, so we use Wireless Workbench to kind of scope them all out and get all our frequencies together. We mostly have very good luck with RF in there.
Mason: We’re actually across the street from a huge concert hall so we’ve got a couple of things to work with. But we’re pretty careful about it and we kind of think our designs through pretty well so we usually don’t end up having any issues on shows with stuff like that.
Greg: One advantage we have is this building is made out of a lot of concrete and some of the ballrooms, especially our lower sunken ballroom, is almost like a ferrite cage. You can’t get cell phone reception in there and stuff, so that works to our advantage with the wireless systems as well. [Timestamp: 4:56]
I know you can get a little creative at least on the antenna system and of course everybody is riding the bucking bronco of the legal side of it. But maybe the RF coordination might have the most potential for causing you trouble on a show, other than people just not using the mics right.
Greg: Right. And we can’t fix that.
Mason: Yeah, can’t do much about that.
Woody: And we’re also in the process. We have all the equipment to set up all these mics through Dante and be able to monitor them on Wireless Workbench. We have a few details still to follow through on that, but that is our ultimate goal is to be able to monitor these all off the same computer, off of Dante, and all the different venues in the museum. [Timestamp: 5:37]
When you have an event going in there do you feed the sound to any other locations in the building or is it all right there in the ballroom?
Woody: We can go downstairs to our sunken ballroom.
Greg & Mason: Fred and Suzanne Fields event ballroom.
Woody: Yeah. So that’s primarily our second-largest ballroom and a lot of events we do use both; maybe a prefunction down there, then move their way upstairs to the dinner/dancing portion upstairs or a silent auction. We have feeds going down there that we source through the compass and then we source that through Sound Web as well to get to other rooms like green rooms, foyers.
Mason: We can get it anywhere we need it.
Mason: The green room feed is pretty cool because a lot of times we’ll have performers where they’re relying on a queue or something like that to know and to head up to the stage. So being able to have that green room feed fed in there is really convenient for anybody who might be relying on a queue or something like that. They can kind of just operate by themselves and kind of know when to go on stage. [Timestamp: 6:38]
It would be the same thing for your people on the tech side of it. How do you handle tech crew communication on a big event where you have a lot of people to get coordinated?
Mason: Typically, if it’s a bigger show – like for the 125 show we’re doing – if we did Esperanza Spalding or something big like that where there’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of components, we’ll usually rent comm. But typically we just operate off radios and earpieces because it is usually a smaller operation and we do run with a pretty tight AV crew. We usually just do radios. So it just depends on the scale of the show and kind of who was on radio – who needs to be on radio for that kind of thing. [Timestamp: 7:15]
Most of what we talked about last week was the installation of the new Meyer Sound LINA system all done in-house. Who got to break that in as the first performer?
Woody: I would think Esperanza Spalding was probably the first act. I think we had one talking head thing prior to that. But we knew we were going to be moving the PA. We put it up for about a week and then moved it to the new location for the 125 show. We knew we were going to do that so we knew we had two times to set it up and tear it down within a week, so that gave us a little leeway to do some playing. But she was the first act and it was very well received. It was flawless. The sound engineer loved it. [Timestamp: 7:58]
And that’s a fairly complex sound setup for cabling. When you put it all in, did you have conduit already in place or did it take some alterations to the building?
Greg: We’ve got conduit running to most places that we need it. When they remodeled this building they did a very good job of installing conduit in the right places. And so we were able to pull out the old cabling and run the new cabling without any issues. [Timestamp: 8:23]
Mason, I would think that conferences would be among the events going on there, too and that could have some detailed mic setups. Do you ever include other locations on things like that?
Mason: We actually end up doing more conference-style stuff outside of that room if there’s a panel kind of thing. It usually ends up in the sunken ballroom for one reason or another.
Woody: Breakouts or something.
Mason: Yeah, breakout rooms and stuff like that. But we definitely do handle the conferences and are pretty familiar with doing that kind of stuff.
Woody: And every one of our breakout rooms is fully contained also with a speaker system, a small little mixer, maybe a wireless. We have a couple of smaller breakout rooms that maybe hold 20-30 people that are used all the time. We can even show video. We have video mixers, switchers. Lighting is generally taken care of dimmers off the wall, but we’ve done additional lighting in other rooms as well. But primarily all the little breakout rooms are self-contained.
Greg: Yeah, and as far as the conference thing goes, there’s a couple of other things we’ve done. We’ll bring in cameras often and we’ll simulcast out of here through the web to remote locations for some clients when they’re doing their big conferences and stuff like that or they’re business meetings. The other thing we’ve done is we’ve also simulcast from the grand ballroom down to the sunken ballroom as an overflow space with both audio and video. [Timestamp: 9:47]
In the pictures I’ve seen I also noticed that you’ve got multiple projectors in the ballroom. How do handle projection? What do you use for that?
Greg: Currently it’s a pretty common setup for us to have three to four projectors going at some of our fundraising auctions and stuff. And so we’ll use our center screen a lot of times just as kind of a banner screen right up above the stage and it will be a really tight aspect ratio with their logo on it or something. And then we’ll have three screens typically around the room, sometimes four, 16 x 19 foot screens hung in the corners or against the back wall, which will be their video content for their auctions and stuff, IMAG, PowerPoint, the teleprompter.
Mason: The great thing about having the versatility with four projectors is that we can kind of nail whatever setup the client is looking for. If they want to do IMAG in the front of the room and then teleprompter in the back we can do that or however kind of setup they want to do it. That’s the beauty of having four projectors in the room is you kind of don’t really have to say no very often.
Greg: Yeah. And you probably saw from our equipment list too we use almost exclusively Roland video mixers or switchers, which have been really solid for us. You can feed it just about any input. There’s no messing around. It just works every time. And so all of our major spaces we’re using a Roland video switch. [Timestamp: 11:12]
With that many things in that many different formats going on it probably doesn’t take long to figure out what works and what doesn’t so it sounds like you’ve got lighting, projection and sound all covered. So what do you have coming up in there pretty soon?
Greg: We’re heading back into our nonprofit galas, fundraising for a lot of the other nonprofits in our area. So Dougy Center is coming in here before long, Dress for Success, CASA for Children, and then we’ve also got a Wild and Free homeschool conference that will be here in a few months. [Timestamp: 11:46]
Well, you’re certainly equipped for all that now and all you have to do is just set it up and as we were talking about before, just have fun with it. It was great having you all on with us. Greg Muhr, Woody Woods, Mason Evans from the Portland Art Museum and the Kridel Grand Ballroom. Nice of you all to tell us about it.
Greg: Yeah, that’s for having us on and giving us the opportunity.
Woody: Thank you very much.
Mason: Thanks so much.
Thanks to Greg Muhr, Mason Evans and Woody Woods for getting with us today from the Kridel Grand Ballroom at the Portland Art Museum. We’ve got the notes and the AV hardware links at svconline.com. Have a look at those and get back with us next week for the SVC Podcast.