SVC: Roland, tell me, how long has Charis Bible College worked with Acoustech? You guys go back a pretty good way don’t you?
Roland: Yes. It was either the fall of 2010 or 2011 we were contracted on to work on the design for this whole facility, which ended up being done in two phases. Phase I, which is called “The Barn,” is an 1,100-seat full performance space that can be set up for conferences, dinners, whatever it might be, with full sound, lighting and video. Shortly after completing that, they began construction on The Auditorium, which didn’t complete until last fall. Some aspects were still under construction this year. So we’ve been on it for quite a long time. And then Nate and I actually met right about at the opening of The Barn in late 2013 or early 2014.
Nate: Yeah. I started in this department originally as a volunteer and I had come from a large – about 1,000-1,500 person church in Texas. I came here without any intention – not for a job or anything like that — we just kind of got connected to the vision and eventually that led to a full-time job. I met Roland as he was mixing and commissioning and setting up for the first time. We had gotten in The Barn just in time for rehearsals basically the Saturday before we were going to be in there for school on Monday. So it was…
Roland: [Laughs] Fun.
Tell me, what is the general design and layout of the main house sound system as far as speakers, amps, location of rack gear and that kind of thing?
Roland: There’s a very large – I’m going to call it an electrical room, but it’s electrical, it’s storage, it’s an audio rack room. It’s got its own AC system, of course. The main speaker system in the auditorium is made up of three hangs of 10 NEXO S12 boxes, S1230s on the bottom and then nine S1210s – so three line array hangs of those. And then two hangs of four NEXO RS18 cardioid subs for each two hangs. And all of that is powered by the NEXO NXAMP 4×4 power amplifiers; four by 4,000 watts. Then we have some under-balcony fills that are actually JBL. And up at the very top of the balcony, which wasn’t originally there [Laughs] when we designed the NEXO system –
Nate: As part of the redesign the whole balcony extended out.
Roland: As part of the redesign, the balcony got deeper and taller. And because of height limitations and some sightline issues we actually put six EAW MK396 2-way boxes for the very upper back balcony fill just to replace a little bit of the spectrum and level its loss from the line arrays.
OK and you selected, I believe it was a Yamaha CL5 for the front of house mixer? Where do you have that?
Roland: Front center of balcony is the audio and video control booth. What’s done from there is obviously front of house mixing and lighting system operation and the IMAG operation for presentation to the screens.
OK so you have all of the tech folks right there shoulder to shoulder.
Roland: That’s right. All the switching and all of their control of their camera systems, etc. There’s actually a completely independent control room for all video production for streaming, recording everything. And right night next to it in its own little isolated room is the multitrack audio room, which is audio for video.
I understand you used the KLANG:vier system for stage monitoring. What are the advantages you have with that?
Nate: I’ve been involved on the musician side with live sound since I was late elementary school, so I’ve been involved in tons of praise and worship setups. I’ve been on Avioms, I’ve been on monitor mixing console and having that feed. The thing I really liked about the Vier, is it was the first thing I’ve ever been on that felt like natural sound in a room. All the way through junior high and high school I played in an orchestra. I was a violinist. And so I’m used to hearing all of this instrumentation and listening through mixes of things in an open space. And then you go from there and whether it’s an Aviom system or it’s just a stereo pair out of a monitor console, everything is very flat and for me it feels unnatural. The beautiful thing about the Vier, I feel it’s the first thing in the market that really lets your brain relax. It makes it very easy and intuitive to monitor in a space, whether that space is in a large performance hall or in a studio, you get lots of options with the Vier system. And the audio quality is impeccable. The other aspect is I like the fact that it can integrate with virtually anything. It will do Dante, it will take ADAT in. The larger unit will even take in some analog input. So it not only can operate as IO, converting ADAT into your Dante network, it gives you so much versatility for how you’re going to work with your in-ears.
Roland: Yeah. Creating that sound stage in your head is really the big deal. Instead of just having two dimensions of left/right, having front/back added to that, it’s a whole new world.
Nate: So up until we used the Klang unit, even in the older performance area, we used an Aviom implementation because we don’t normally staff or plan in such a way to have a dedicated monitor mixer. And musicians generally like to just adjust their own mixes and save the presets and things like that. When they moved from an Aviom system and they started using and listening to Klang for the first time, you would have thought they were seeing for the first time. It was a massive thing. And now they like it so much they’re starting to try and utilize both The Barn and The Auditorium simultaneously for things and all the musicians are lobbying really, really, really hard to be playing –
Roland: In the auditorium. [Laughs]
Nate: Yeah. Well, or we have a proposal right now that we’re going to bring a Klang system into the previous performance space because there really isn’t a comparison at this point.
And so how do you get the signal actually into the musicians’ ears, the IEM transmitters and receivers?
Nate: So with the CL5s in the auditorium setup, we have a primary and secondary Dante network. All of the Viers live on the primary, secondary, and then the analog outputs from those Viers go to a couple of rack spaces of Shure PSM900s. And then each musician has whatever in-ear monitors they purchase for themselves usually.
Roland: And some of the players are wired, but by wired it’s a CAT cable to a Dante headphone amp sitting on a mic stand right by them and they just plug in.
Nate: They get power over Ethernet. It’s super easy. In the design of the stage, Roland just distributed some CAT5 –
Roland: And some CAT jacks for plug-in.
Nate: Yeah. Go back – yeah. And really all you have to do in a Dante network is just go back to PoE switch. And so it’s a single cable. It will power our RedNet AM2, and then people just plug their headphones directly into there. Because it was decided to go with that Dante backbone, routing, connecting anything is really very simple.
Yeah, I was going to ask how the learning curve was on that and how everybody kind of got used to it.
Roland: Charis has always had an interest in the technology. For the gentleman that was running the technical department back when we did Phase I, he was a big upgrade for the organization. And then Nate, and actually his wife Katie, really took over that position and they have taken it to a whole new level. They are very technical and very adept. They’ve got the expertise in Nate and he’s got some other people that have been trained under him. So they’re really good at keeping those things ready. The musician doesn’t really have to get into that. They just need to know how to play with their mix, etc.
Nate: The learning curve has been the Klang interface on personal mobile devices.
Roland: On their phone, iPad.
And they already know how to work those so it is pretty simple for them to get into.
Nate: We are a school so every three years we have a whole new batch of volunteer musicians. So that learning curve, sometimes it’s the first time they have ever used an in-ear monitor setup ever. But for the people who live here and run that department, they basically felt like they got it in about two weeks. You can go as deep as you want to, really, with Klang. You have the ability to EQ within your own mix or within the system itself, just your channel. So you can be adjusting some simplified preset EQs across channels in your mix. Not everybody goes that deep, but at least the people for those who can benefit from it, they have the option for that. So it was a good thing. After we got everybody comfortable with the control system, they just jump in, do their mix, save their own personal preset on device and then they can just walk in on any day. Pretty much no matter what has happened in the days preceding – because that room gets used for all sorts of things all the time. They just walk in and they can recall their personal mix settings and boom, they’re ready to go.
When something happens, what do you have to do to get that whole place ready for a major performance event say, testing everything so you know it’s all working?
Nate: We’re a department that’s very big on creating SOPs, standard operating procedures. Because of the versatility of that room, we have to create SOPs because oftentimes we’ll do a conference and then on one given day of that conference they’ll do a performance, which means the LED wall comes in, gets built overnight, gets tested. Video gets reconfigured. Recall is seen on the CL5 to run like 12 actor mics at a time. I mean we’ve got 22 hooked up and going, but we could not do what we do without creating the flexibility and infrastructure that the CL5 consoles coupled with the Dante network coupled with Klang coupled with all of the video routing. So the way we tend to do things would not be possible prior to this digital age. But we can turn the whole building over in about six to eight hours if need be. For theatrical performances we use essentially a 13×40-foot LED wall, 22 headset mics and then the whole graphics and playback scenario. We basically do a lot of the engineering before the event happens so when we go into it we have a plan. We just pull it apart and put it into the configuration that we’ve already designed. Then as soon as it’s done we pull it apart and put it back, run through line check signal tests and we’re back to a worship band and speakers—from a theatrical performance with 85 cast members.
There are lots of lighting effects with live music so how is the lighting system set up and what can you do with it?
Roland: There is a complete catwalk system in the auditorium, which of course it great, so almost everything is up there. The lighting system is all LED fixtures. We’ve got Blizzard fixtures, we have Chauvet fixtures, we have high-end movers; just a variety of color washes with zoom. Up in the catwalks, 42 or 44 are 20-amp power circuits. All of the power for theatrical lighting is on a contactor panel so one switch turns the power on and you can shut it off after events so your electronics aren’t running 24/7. Under the screens there are soffits which color-wash the walls with high-power LED bar fixtures. Everything is, of course, controlled by DMX. Every catwalk has multiple jacks that are all through a distribution system, plus they have the ability to add up to eight more DMX channels over CAT as needed for bigger events. So it’s set up to be able to handle all that. We’ve got 200 amps of power. And additional power in the catwalks and on the stage for large productions. The main controller is a Road Hog.
So what have you got up there for projection?
Roland: The three main projectors up in front, left/center/right, are Panasonic PT-RZ21; 21,000 lumen, 3-chip DLP laser projectors. Then they also have a fourth projector that’s up in the back of the balcony in the center for stage view. That’s a bit smaller of a screen. That’s a single-chip DLP that’s an 8,500 lumen Eiki EK- 815U.
And how do you get the video fed to the projectors?
Roland: Everything is HD-SDI out of the control room. They’ve got a Blackmagic broadcast mixer for ME and then they have the Blackmagic 2ME control surface. We’ve got a 40 x 40 HD-SDI matrix router where they can have presets for different functions and events. All video sources, all cameras, all computers, everything, goes into there. All outputs from there feed the projectors. They feed recording, they feed the streaming, they feed other areas of the building so everything is routed and everything is HD-SDI, with the upgrade path to going full 4K at some point.
With all the wireless gear you’ve got, you’ve got intercom, you have mics. How do you handle RF coordination?
Nate: Very carefully. [Laughter]
Roland: All the wireless mics are Shure ULX-Ds and we’ve got, I believe it’s over 50 channels between the two buildings. We’ve got a lot of portable units in portable racks that can go into individual classrooms because they record every class. All that was done via Wireless Workbench, but also initially I was in touch with Shure and had them go ahead and give us a frequency list. And then we just had to coordinate that between Phase I and Phase II.
Nate: It’s not really been an issue. In Phase I we implemented the J50 band, the Shure ULX-D. And then some months after that the FCC went through and was like, “Oh, by the way. We’re going to sell off everything 601 and above.” So we lost part of the J50 band. With the diversity of that we were still able to just rechannel stuff and move it all. So we didn’t have to give up channels that we currently use. We just had to replan where everything would sit.
OK. You’ve got the wireless gear, a lot of lighting stuff and sound. How do you keep the power for the audio and lighting gear separate so they don’t cause trouble for each other?
Roland: The power system for audio and video comes off its own sub-transformer and its own panel. There are probably 30 circuits of audio/video power. And then the lighting is its own separate power off its own panel. I think it’s 48 20-amp circuits for lighting power plus, of course, the as-needed additional 200 amps, three-phase, in the catwalk and on stage.
Yeah, it sounds like that was a good idea because you’ve already told us about a couple of times when they added things. I was going to ask if there were any surprises or changes during the installation but I think that was a continuing story.
Nate: How much time do you have? [Laughter]
Roland, what’s coming up next in projects for Acoustech?
Roland: Well a variety of things right now. I think the most interesting thing, which we’re actually starting next week, is an old warehouse. I don’t remember what it used to do, but it was built about 1900 in downtown Denver. A church purchased the building, not only to have church services in, but it’s going to be an event center that’s handled by an outside agency that does all the bookings and coordination. So on weekends or on Sundays it will be a church with full audio, video, lighting production and then during the week it could be anything – corporate events, weddings, whatever – with obviously a much nicer AV system than your typical event center. So it’s kind of an interesting little project.