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Podcast w/ Bennett Liles: Serious Audio Video at Kilroy Bar

Casey Johnston of Serious Audio Video talks about the installation of 75 TVs, 40 speakers and a Lutron lighting system

You’ve got to install 75 TV’s, 40 speakers and a lighting system in a sport bar where the Super Bowl is going to be happening just down the street. Kilroy’s called in Serious Audio Video to handle this job and Casey Johnston is going to give us the lowdown on how it all happened. That’s coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Casey, thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast from Serious Audio Video in Union City, New Jersey. A huge sports bar installation at Kilroy’s just down the street from Met Life Stadium where they were about to have the Super Bowl last year. Tell us about Serious Audio Video. What’s been happening there?

We have a lot of different things going on right now; a lot of residential projects. We just completed, actually, a large Buffalo Wild Wings down in Tom’s River, New Jersey, which is another massive sports bar just like Kilroy’s that we’re talking about. We try to focus mostly on medium commercial and large residential projects, but like all small businesses we’re moving along. [Timestamp: 1:27]

And Kilroy’s Sports Bar, you got in on the ground floor for this one. This was a new place or being newly renovated?

It was an old restaurant bar and the owner wanted to really do something wow and big here being that it’s right down the road from the new Met Life Stadium, which is for the Giants and the Jets. So we had a customer that wanted big expectations and budget wasn’t so much of an issue. So yeah, we had a lot of fun with this one. [Timestamp: 1:56]

And that must be a pretty busy place being that close to Met Life Stadium. All the fans who aren’t actually in the stadium, there’s going to be a whole slew of people in this bar and that’s a very high-energy crowd.

Yeah, that was part of the plan in putting such a big investment into this bar is that it’s going to be the go-to place for them before the games, people that don’t make the game, and after the games. [Timestamp: 2:18]

So when they called you in and you saw what the general idea was on this thing, how much did they tell you they wanted and how much did they leave the details to you?

We had already worked with them prior on a massive nightclub project, so we had already proven ourselves and we had strong credibility with them. So what they kind of told us was, “We want to have the most TV’s of any bar in New Jersey and we want to have a ‘wow’ effect.” That was pretty much the conversation to us and we took it from there. [Timestamp: 2:44]

And that was 75 TV’s, I guess 40 speakers and the lighting as well, so you guys had your hands full.

Yeah. We had a very short duration to do it, too.

Looking at the bigger picture on this, you’ve done sports bars before so what would you say is the biggest thing to watch out for, the biggest potential gotcha in doing a sports bar installation like this one?

You know, obviously when you’re on a scale this big, to make sure the engineering of the system is done correctly. But also at the same time it’s timing. We’re at the mercy of permits and other trades and the pressure to open, so if you can’t get the timing right on each phase you can set the project back and delay the opening, which is obviously the worst-case scenario. So timing is the biggest stress factor in these projects. [Timestamp 3:27]

Yeah, I guess with so many people working on this and the tight deadline it would be easy to get into situations where you’ve got a dollar waiting on a dime.

That’s a good way of putting it.

So I think timing would be a critical factor because you don’t want to have your guys standing around there with their hands in their pockets waiting on something else to happen.

Which happens.

Yeah, I’ve seen that one myself. You used the ELAN g! system, so how does its capability fit the task on this particular installation?

So ELAN for us has become the do-it-all platform, if you will.  The reliability coupled with the intuitive user interface makes it easy to use and light on service, which is obviously the second most important thing when this job is done. The first thing is making sure it all works; the second thing is making sure we’ve built a system that’s not going to be a high service factor or going to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. [Timestamp 4:17]

Right, you’ve got a lot of people there and the people they hire are bartenders and waiters but not AV technicians, so it’s got to be a system that’s simple and quick to operate when there’s a lot of stuff going on and you have a high-energy crowd. The staff has just got to be able to peck a few buttons and give the crowd what they want, and I would think that they have clients coming in to see a specific televised event in specific places in the bar.

That’s one of the biggest things when you have one of these big sports bars. You always get the people who will come in and they’ll be sitting in a certain area and they want to watch a certain game. One of the biggest problems that managers and bar personnel have always faced was getting the right cable box to change the right TV and making sure you don’t change another TV in the process and disturb someone else right in the middle of the big event. So we’ve also enabled the ELAN g! platform to be controlled on the managers’ and hostess’ smart phones as well so on a busy night if someone asks a question, that personnel can handle that request right there without having to even leave that client. It’s a win-win for everyone. The patron wins and the employee wins. [Timestamp: 5:24]

So 75 TV’s. How long did it take you to mount all of those things? You’ve got to get the mounts up, you’ve got to get the TV’s on the mounts and everything.

A lot of those TV’s are actually hanging from a ceiling grating and a lot of these mounts are suspended, so it’s quite the task when you have this many TV’s of this size. The wall TV’s and the hanging TV’s took about three days start to finish. We had a great system built from doing extensive experience with a lot of these Buffalo Wild Wings and a lot of big sports bars throughout New Jersey. So our system is locked down in place and it’s been successful for us. [Timestamp: 6:02]

Alright, so why did you decide to go with the Sharp Aquos for this one? Had you used that one before or did it just have the feature set that best applied for this?

You know, Sharp has a great product where price and quality and reliability meet up. We use Sharp for most of the commercial sports bars we do for this reason alone: it just fits the budget. [Timestamp: 6:21]

Well, as long as it has the right feature set, the right price and you know they’re going to work once you get them up there.


So where is all of this controlled from? Is there a central rack somewhere for all of the business end of this thing to be mounted out of sight?

We have all of the equipment housed in, two 80-some-odd-inch low racks, everything is centrally located in the basement and that’s obviously the beauty of the design here and the partner of ELAN control systems. We can have everything tucked away where we don’t have to worry about hands meddling in the rack and creating service calls when it was easily avoided if somebody would have just kept their hands out of there. [Timestamp: 6:59]

Right. I guess with that many people and that frantic and atmosphere security has to be a prime factor because you don’t know who might get in there if it’s not kept locked up.

That’s very true.

And I guess a lot of bad things can happen.

Yes, yes they can – and they have. In the early days of doing these big projects, before we had the ELAN control platform in place, we would put in these systems and you would be guaranteed to have two and three service calls a month sometimes. And most of the service calls were nothing more but people just connecting personal devices to the racks. Some bartender wants to plug in his iPhone at the night and he thinks he knows where to unplug an input to plug his device in and the next thing you know the whole system’s not working correctly and that costs the owner several hundred dollars when it could have been avoided. [Timestamp: 7:47]

Yeah, I think there’s probably nothing worse than somebody who knows just enough to be dangerous and get things really tied up in a knot.

That brings us back to that old saying, right? The person that knows a little is the most dangerous.

Yeah, because most of them I think would be afraid to touch anything until you have them trained to know what they can really do with it.


So what sort of video format did you use to get the receiver to monitor signals where they need to go to all those monitors?

We’re using RGB. We have shielded CAT-5 run to every location – home run to each TV – and then we’re using baluns to modulate to RGB. [Timestamp: 8:25]

Well, that sure holds the cost down on the cable and that would be a prime factor.

It holds down the cost on a lot and allows us to use that budget in other areas.

So have you been in that place since the installation and seen it in action with a big crowd?

You know I haven’t, but some of the guys that I work with and some friends have. And I’ve even been sent some pictures at night when the place is really going and it’s been nothing but compliments, so it’s a good feeling. [Timestamp: 8:49]

Yeah, that’s good because the crowd in a place like that is not the most patient client when something doesn’t work. There’s probably a couple of milliseconds before you start getting a lot of complaints.

Yeah, I mean it’s always a fear whenever you start a new place. You always get nervous on opening night or within that opening week, that soft opening if you will, that you worry about a system not working. With this bar in particular the race here was to meet for Super Bowl when Super Bowl was held in Met Life, not this year but the year before. So we were racing against the clock to get ready for Super Bowl and there was some great marketing done for this place. So on the opening nights, I mean there was – I don’t know the exact number, but I would say several hundred people. So you know there’s always that nervousness and that fear that the system is going to crash because usually if something is going to go wrong it’s going to happen within those first couple of days of running the system. [Timestamp: 9:41]

Yeah, a few things that might have been overlooked to a lot of user error since the staff isn’t used to operating it yet.

And then sometimes you just get some defective equipment that might work for a couple of days and it just fails.

Yeah, that’s the worst. I wish it would just conk out at the very beginning.

It can be nerve-racking. Usually once you get through that first month the pressure releases and on to the next.

Alright, well in Part 2 we’ll get into some of the details of the equipment and kind of down and dirty on what you did on the installation but I really appreciate it. Casey Johnston from Serious Audio Video and Kilroy’s Sports Bar in Carlstadt, New Jersey. I’ve seen the pictures of it and it looks like a fantastic place. I know your guys did a good job and we’ll get back together in Part 2.

All right. Thank you for having us.

Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with Casey Johnston of Serious Audio Video. Show notes are available on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at In Part 2 Casey will take us through electrical, acoustics and lighting at Kilroy’s Sports Bar. Next time on the SVC Podcast.

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