New AV System for New World Center, Part 1

Brad Gallagher, Managing Engineer at Pro Sound and Video talks about the AV installation for Miami’s New World Center.
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New AV System for New World Center, Part 1

May 19, 2011 1:09 PM, with Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

You may think you’ve seen it all until you see the New World Center in Miami with curved projection surfaces, a sound system with hundreds of speakers, and a six-story projection wall outside. Brad Gallagher with Pro Sound and Video was right in the middle of this project and he’s here to give us the details on this groundbreaking installation, coming up on the SVC Podcast.
Brad it’s great to have you with me on the SVC podcast coming to us from Pro Sound and Video in Miami. Tell me a little about Pro Sound and Video.
Well, we do pretty much everything out there. Our primary market is larger projects. We tend to excel on the stuff that requires a lot of project management or engineering, but our business is open to just about everything except for K-12. We do airports, concert halls, stadiums, arenas. It’s pretty broad. [Timestamp: 1:17]

Yeah I see a lot everywhere about Pro Sound and Video, so obviously you have a lot of plates spinning all over. Now this project was for the New World Symphony in Miami, what sort of outfit is the New World Symphony?
The New World Symphony is basically a training ground for musicians that are about to move on to some of the major orchestras throughout the country and throughout the world. Essentially after students have graduated from graduate level training programs, they move on to here and it’s the last step before taking on a career as a professional musician in a major orchestra. [Timestamp: 1:49]

Very prestigious organization and the building was intended to be no less impressive. I’ve seen the pictures of it and it’s absolutely fantastic but it’s really dressed up with the AV systems both inside and outside. So what was the aim or the scope of this project? What exactly did they want when they came to you with this?
The thing that’s interesting about this particular facility is that one of the aims architecturally of the building initially was to have a…it’s designed by a Frank Gehry along with other buildings that you are probably familiar with like the Disney Concert Hall but whereas those type of buildings have the crazy architecture on the outside, this one has some of those interesting curves on the inside of the building and they’re high-lit through a glass curtain wall that you can see all this on the inside. The theme there was…their thing is to always be pushing the boundaries of what’s done but staying between the lines of classical musical doctrine but always pushing those limits and those boundaries. So the AV system’s stayed right along those lines. We’re doing things that really haven’t been done before or haven’t been done to this extent but they’re very concerned with the aesthetic and keeping that technology where it enhances the performance but so it’s not seen. So for example, inside the facility we’ve got 14 Christie HD 30k projectors that are being displayed on—it’s hard to describe it without actually seeing the inside of the building—but the term that’s commonly been used in the construction is "sails" and they’re curved surfaces that completely surround orchestra that are primarily serving an acoustical purpose but they’re just broadcast upon by every conceivable direction by those 14 HD 30k projectors covering pretty much every square inch of that sail structure. [Timestamp: 3:38]

And I should mention here that Pro Sound and Video was right in the middle of this. It was a cooperative venture with your company, Acoustic Dimensions, and Sonitus and I was looking at the pictures and you’re right it’s hard to describe verbally but when you look at them they remind me of an old sailing ship with the sails full of wind and billowing out. The projection on these curved surfaces just surrounds you when you’re inside the place.
A number of interesting facets that were related to that, the actual construction material for those sails shotcrete, like you’d see in a swimming pool in the backyard. The contractor that did all that they actually went out and bought an entire setup to do shotcrete as if you were installing a bunch of swimming pools in people’s houses because of the extent of it. So you’ve got several inches of shotcrete on the inside of this that’s on a wire lath frame and then there is a walkable metal surface on the top that—well, on the back end of that and then on the fascia you’ve got two layers of 5/8 chipboard and then where we have speakers on the interior of the building. They’re actually rigidly mounted into the face of those sails, so instead of having a typical installation where you would have a loud speaker behind a acoustically transmissive fabric, in this case the manufacturer, ETC, custom built all the speaker boxes so you’ve got the baffle face and then all of the speaker elements actually protrude forward of that baffle face. And then we’re having custom-milled pieces of MDF board that the driver elements are actually protruding through, so when you look at the final sail, you’re seeing the drive elements through the fascia of that sail surface and they’re rigidly mounted in place, which has several advantages. Obviously the aesthetic, but then also the acoustical element because the building’s NC15 noise criteria and you’ve got these projectors that are obviously enormous. Those 30k projectors weigh about 360lbs. and they put out…it’s about 30,000 BTU per hour of cooling required for each one of those units. So that’s quite a sizable amount of sound coming from behind that sail that then puts a higher demand on the acoustical requirements to separate that from the rest the hall. [Timestamp: 5:56]

Yeah, a lot of logistics involved in the projection because of the curved surfaces and those appear to overlap depending on which angle they’re being viewed from. I would think that it would make the placement of the projectors very tricky as far as where they needed to be and where they could be placed.
Acoustic Dimensions did the initial design and all the layout of the projectors and just did an amazing job. When we came in everything had already been modeled in the 3D. The building was done by Frank Gehry in a software called Catia that’s used for a lot of sophisticated aeronautical manufacturing and prediction. It allows you to…on a more complicated level they designed planes and things with this software so that you can actually take and…as if a person were sitting there looking at a part on an airplane to see if you could reach your hand on the inside and actually be able to reach something for service—just an amazing amount of 3D involved in this project. It was…you commonly hear people talk about things being down to the inch and in this case with a lot things in the project they literally were down to an inch, or even in some cases fractions of an inch to make things fit. Part of the reason for that being, going back to the noise criterion for the facility that I had mentioned when you…when you start to get things to a noise floor that’s that low obviously that starts increasing the size of all your ducts and this is not a large concert hall for the quality that they’re doing, it’s less than 1,000 seats&mash;I want to say it’s 6 or 700 seats and so when you start expanding the duct sizes that large one of the first things that happens is that it encroaches on to all of the other spaces so we would see that the mechanical rooms were already very limited in size. The AV rooms that we had…the spaces for these projectors, the projection enclosures and as the project went on and they had to increase the size of those ducts that caused other things to shift around mechanically. The rooms would just gradually get smaller and smaller. It’s the shrinking act that we were playing with pretty much the entire construction project. [Timestamp: 7:59]

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New AV System for New World Center, Part 1

May 19, 2011 1:09 PM, with Bennett Liles

Right, the machinery is sort of forcing the people out to some degree. So how does the video get fed to the projectors? What’s the original source of the video being shown up there?
Because we’re broadcasting everywhere across this curved surface, you’re no longer in like a 16x9 or any noticeable aspect ratio, so all the content that they’re displaying up there is predominantly stuff that’s pre-canned and they’ve created it with a graphic artist before a show and we’re using custom templates that are matched to the aspect ratios of the sails, then everything gets fed through. We’ve got nine Coolux media servers and everything’s stored on those servers and then played back. This was very intensive in terms of the video servers that we’re using just because of the amount of cuing that’s required because it’s live music and everything’s based on a conductor there may be…I think there were about 30 or 40 jump cues in just one piece of music that they had for the opening of the facility and when you start jumping around that much in a video clip it’s just an enormous amount of buffering and it puts a really high demand on the CPU to be able to just jump anywhere on a timeline in real time like that, and the Coolux stuff has really been great with that. [Timestamp: 9:13]

And you’ve got a huge rack just off stage where all of the mics come into it and go into multi-channel pre-amps. I was amazed at the complexity of the audio system and all of the different places that you’re sending mic signals to.
Initially everything comes up, like you said, on a patch rack that’s just off to the side of the stage and then we’re going through Jensen splits at that point, and half of the signal goes straight to the stage racks for DiGiCo D1, which was actually chosen because it was the only console that they could find that would meet the noise spec for the performance hall. From that point the other half of the signal from the split goes into a series of pre-amps that are primarily Aphex pre-amps. We’ve also got Millenia and Grace in there, and we’re splitting off, I want to say, seven different ways from there so it’ll go…I think we’ve got two analog feeds and AES that gets converted to light pipe then we’ve got another direct ADAT feed off of that and then that’s going from ADAT and getting converted to MADi and then we’ve got several RME MADi distribution devices, MADi bridge and coaxial-to-fiber converters that then send the signal via MADi throughout the building which is really a necessity for them because the facility is somewhat unique in the sense that since it is a symphony and since they do mic things in a particular way most of the distribution and the main audio feed isn’t coming from FOH, it’s actually coming from a recording studio. We’ve got five different Pro Tools suites that we built for the project and there’s a main studio that ends up doing most of the mixing duty for most of the events and it’s sent up there. Well there’s a couple of different ways it can go but MADi being the predominant one and then from there they can send a mix onto video and a couple of other places. [Timestamp: 11:06]

Versatility is obviously the name of the game on this thing—flexible routing. And I looked at the stage layout. You’ve got a lot of floor boxes with Cat-6 for an Aviom stage monitoring system?
Yep and I think that’s going to be really useful to them over time. It’s a real common thing to be able to come into a concert hall and it’s more and more common that these buildings are used in a multipurpose sort of way, and the first time you come in and you have a drummer sit on the stage in a concert hall and they hit a snare drum, it’s just all over the place. So being able to have the ability to do in-ears and have everybody create their own mix in the Aviom system is, I think, going to be a real benefit for them. They’ve already done, a couple of weeks ago I think it was, they do an interesting type of event. It’s an amalgamation of club music and symphonic music and they bring in a DJ and some other electronic instruments and things like that and they’ve found that the Aviom worked really great in that situation for being able to get some reasonable levels without just having all that wash from the monitors on stage. [Timestamp: 12:12]

And these aren’t people that will just take any sound arrangement they’re handed they’ve got to have it all work just the way they want it and they know exactly how they want it.
It’s great to have people that know specifically what they want and they’re certainly on a level that they were able to do that. It was a really good experience working—it’s very collaborative project and like I said Acoustic Dimensions, Fred Vogler at Sonitus, and then everybody at New World. They’re very knowledgeable and able to tell you exactly what they want and that’s a great thing to have. [Timestamp: 12:41]

All right, Brad Gallagher from Pro Sound and Video thanks for being here for Part 1 to fill us in on the New World Symphony and the tremendous scale of the AV installation here. In Part 2 we’ll get into the Meyer sound system and some of the things you did outside of the building. So we’ll see you in Part 2.

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