Audio Outfitting for Urban Outfitters, Part 2

Bennett Liles wraps up his talk with Michael Shoulson of DBS Audio in Coatesville, Pa. about the company’s Meyer sound installation for Urban Outfitters.
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Audio Outfitting for Urban Outfitters, Part 2

Dec 1, 2011 10:01 AM, with Bennett Liles

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Urban Outfitters wanted to mix a modern multi-use space with a heavy industrial setting and they called on DBS Audio to make it all happen. Michael Shoulson is back to wrap up his talk on how he and his team took on concrete floors, exposed glass and steel beams, coming up on the SVC Podcast.
OK, Michael thanks for being back with me for part two on the sound system that you set up in a former naval shipyard steel bending shop with concrete floors, exposed steel beams, and a lot of different activities going on at the same time in the same general area. And this was the Urban Outfitters job. They were the client on this one. We didn’t talk about this in part one, but where is the control point on the sound system on this and how many different zones of activity do you have on it?

We had to set it up—the zoning and control—in a couple of different ways. As far as the actual rack, it is in an equipment room in their design area, but for actual control of the system, we have three touchpanels. Each one of them has a line input—left and right—if they want to plug in an iPod or bring in a DJ or something. There’s an XLR input if we’re bringing in a console for a larger show because they still occasionally will have bands as part of the event that might be going on in there. [Timestamp: 1:44]

OK and those are Crestron touchpanels, right?

Those are Crestron touchpanels. In addition to the three Crestron touchpanels, we also have a couple of iPads that the client can use to control the system with the iPad interface. [Timestamp: 2:00]

I can see how it would be valuable in that environment to be able to stay mobile and have sound control wherever you go.

Yeah, because of the size of the space, you are looking at being able to control the system across hundreds of thousands of square feet and that was definitely an issue for them and to have the flexibility of standing in an audience and making control changes. [Timestamp: 2:19]

And when you first went in there to sort of assess the situation acoustically, did you use any software application to get the acoustical imprint of this place?

We’ve been doing live shows in Building 543 since they opened it several years ago. I mean we had a very strong background in working there. As far as designing the actual system, we plotted the whole thing on Mac—Meyer’s prediction software and we had help from Meyer Sound on that. Brian Boley was our point on that—he’s one of Meyer’s system designers. [Timestamp: 2:55]

Well, then you probably had a pretty good handle on this place having the experience of bringing temporary sound systems in there a good many times before.

Yes, definitely.

With so many different types of activity in close proximity in there, was there any problem with acoustical isolation between the different things going on at the same time?

It’s set up so that the systems can each work independently. So you might have one event going on in the servery area, which is where the primary sound system is—that’s the Meyer UPQs, the 500HPs, and the UPJ and the UPJunior delay systems—and then you could also have another event going on in either of the other three zones, and because of the way the system are zoned and setup in any real world application there’s going to be some spill, but as long as you’re within the throw of the speaker, you won’t really be bothered by what else is going on in the space. [Timestamp: 3:51]

Yeah, and I guess it depends a lot on exactly what they’re doing and how loud they want to run the sound for it. It’s a lot easier if they don’t have a lot of real high energy stuff going on.

Right, I think if we had a rock band at one end and a acoustic quintet at the other, there might be some issue, but luckily, they’ve not overlapped at the same time so far. [Timestamp: 4:13]

So you’ve got all the hard surfaces in there. Was delay an issue with all the reflective surfaces? How did you handle delay in there?

We have different snap shots for the time alignment in the room, so if the primary event is at one end of the space, we have that part of the space set up as ground zero and then everything is delayed to that. There’s a couple of different snapshots, so if there’s an event by the coffee bar—which is where the M1D array is—we can set that as ground zero and everything delays from there out. As far as delay from reverberation, because the system is set up with a lot of speakers in a lot of locations, we can keep pressure down so that it doesn’t get a lot of slap back. [Timestamp: 4:58]

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Audio Outfitting for Urban Outfitters, Part 2

Dec 1, 2011 10:01 AM, with Bennett Liles

And you’ve got RF mics in there too, don’t you?

Yes we do.

And those are Sennheiser RF mic systems?

They are Sennheiser 300 series G3300s in there with the 835 heads. We also have a couple of headset mics in there too. Wireless presented properly—the biggest challenge; one because of the size of the space. They wanted wireless reception inside and outside, and we are still on an active naval installation with Homeland Security flexing their might. [Timestamp: 5:32]

Oh, well, I’m sure there were no hoops to jump through there.

There was a lot of design going into that, and we’ve been pretty successful since then. [Timestamp: 5:42]

Yeah, in close proximity to any military installation I guess the RF situation is always going to be a little tricky. I was curious about one other thing here though. I saw on the pictures that the open space goes all the way up to the roof.


So what happens when it rains in there? How loud does that get?

I think the roof is cast concrete. We’ve been in there in some very heavy rains that we had on the east coast this summer, but it gets loud but not as loud as you might think. It’s also right next to Philadelphia International Airport, which causes another slew of noise issues. Some of it is just the reality—we work in the real world, so we have to deal with real-world situations and the sound of rain or the sound of jet liners is part of the flavor of the building. [Timestamp: 6:29]

Right and they’re just gently reminded of where they are now and then. So you didn’t have to do any acoustical treatment at all…


…because that would have been a lot of area to cover.

It would have been. Cost wise, I think, to add a lot of acoustic treatments might have added a whole lot more to, and above and beyond where Urban may have been interested in going. [Timestamp: 6:48]

How long did it take you to do all of this?

We started at the end of January 2011 and finished up in the very beginning of April. We were not there every day. We had, I think, a couple tours and a couple other shows—live show, live productions, and Urban came literally on the heels of another install we did at the Sellersville Theater. So I think we finished up at Sellersville on a Wednesday and started pulling wire at Urban on a Thursday. [Timestamp: 7:16]

Well, I guess since you had been in there with a lot of temporary setups before, you didn’t have have a lot of surprises to deal with on this thing.

We did not have a lot of surprises, but there always are some surprises; cable runs are always a little bit longer than you think they’re going to be. It took a lot longer than we had expected it or than we had hoped it to take, but there were not a lot of surprises that popped up I think because we have experience working in the space and a lot of experience working with the client. [Timestamp: 7:43]

Probably no substitute for both of those at all. So tell me about what else DBS Audio has coming up. Have you got some things you’re just about to make happen?

We are finishing up a church installation at the Yuong Sang Presbyterian Church in Horsham, Pa. That’ll be, again, a Meyer system; it will be a combination of 500s, the Meyer MINA line array, and then UPJs for a delay, and then there’s also a 70V system using Tennoy 601s. Another project we have going on that’s about to start is going to be a new space Drexel University and then we still have our live sound and touring division of the company.

Well, I would think that that would be enough to keep you guys busy.

It is.

Well, this was really an interesting project and the more I got into it, the more I wanted to get into it and I’d really love to see that place sometime and hear the sound system for myself. Thanks for giving us all the details on it. It’s Michael Shoulson from DBS Audio. I appreciate it, Michael.

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