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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Avalon Ballroom Theatre, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Engaging Touchup

The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Avalon Ballroom Theatre, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Jessaca Gutierrez

Engaging Touchup

The Avalon Ballroom Theatre has two 64-frame Midas Heritage 4000 mixing consoles, one for monitors and the other placed at front of house. Also at FOH is a Klark Teknik DN9331 Helix Rapide remote EQ system; 12 effects engines from Eventide, Lexicon, Yamaha, and TC Electronics; and 56 available channel inserts.

When home is Niagara Falls, Ontario, there is a lot to live up to. At the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort, which overlooks the majestic and enduring falls, keeping the entertainment flowing for tourists and honeymooners is a keystone to its success. The resort was opened in June 2004 after six years of development with a $1 billion price tag. The 2.5-million-square-foot complex includes a 200,000-square-foot casino with 150 gaming tables and 3,000 slot machines; a 30-story luxury hotel with 368 rooms and suites; a 15,000-square-foot health and fitness spa; and an expansive shopping Galleria. But it was the 1,500-seat Avalon Ballroom Theatre at the resort that needed a recent touchup. Although the theater was already grand, the resort wanted it to be no less than one of the finest live-entertainment venues in the world.

Less than four years had lapsed since the original Avalon installation, but the theater had already outgrown its technical capabilities to host events and performances the resort was now ready for — acts such as Reba McEntire, Tony Bennett, Kenny Rogers, and The Beach Boys. In 2006, the resort placed Larry Gregson at the head of its marketing department to move the resort toward the type of live-entertainment venue it wanted to be. Gregson recruited John Keddy as director of entertainment and events productions and Wally Bodnar as lead audio and technical engineer. Because Toronto-based PA+ Productions had worked with team before on other projects and had experience in the casino entertainment industry, it was a natural choice to bring the company in to transform the theater. PA+ Productions and the resort first began discussing the design build in November 2006.

The old audio sytem consisted of a small L’Acoustics Kudo line-array setup, Innovason digital consoles, and an assortment of “middle-of-the-road” outboard gear and microphones. The first priority in the installation was replacing the old loudspeaker system.

The largest challenge that Toronto-based PA+ Productions faced in updating the Avalon’s technical capabilities was the amount of wiring and cabling for the entire installation.

“With so many players in the market, we not only had to identify the right speaker system for the job, but had to be cognizant of rider-friendliness, as well,” says Mark Radu, systems engineer with PA+ Productions. “The JBL VerTec line-array system had a couple of clear advantages in this particular installation. Firstly, it is the most rider-friendly line-array cabinet on the planet. Secondly, it is one of the very few line-array systems that can maintain its sonic quality regardless of program material or sound-pressure levels — an essential characteristic for a venue that would play host to such a varied array of musical styles.”

When it came to amplification, it made sense to use the Crown I-Tech series, because that technology is part of the same Harman family as the VerTec series. The series’ onboard DSP also offers flexible control over every element within an array. Choosing the mixing console, however, was a little trickier because almost every sound engineer has his or her own preferences, Radu says.

“The Midas Heritage 4000 satisfies almost every engineer, and a 64-frame model was placed at both the FOH and monitor positions,” he says.

At the front of house is a Klark Teknik DN9331 Helix Rapide remote EQ system; 12 effects engines from Eventide, Lexicon, Yamaha, and TC Electronics; and 56 available channel inserts from Avalon, Summit Audio, Drawmer, dbx Professional Products, and BSS Audio. The monitor system employs 24 channels of Klark Tekink Helix remote EQ to process the VerTec VT4888 sidefills and monitor wedges.

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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Avalon Ballroom Theatre, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Jessaca Gutierrez

Engaging Touchup

The JBL VerTec line-array system was perfect for the theater because it maintains its sonic quality regeardless of program material or sound-pressure levels.

“Once again, utilizing onboard DSP afforded through the monitor system’s 28 Crown I-Tech amplifiers, the venue can easily switch presets to accommodate their full complement of monitor-wedge choices from EV and Clair Brothers,” Radu says.

The eight Sennheiser SR3256s provide 16 stereo in-ear mixes, while four effects engines and 24 available channel inserts provide all of the outboard gear processing. The microphone kit contains a variety of options, including everything from Shure SM58s and Sennheiser MD421s to Neumann KMS105s and Schertler piano mics. A 20-channel Shure UHF-R wireless system ties it all together. The resort also purchased a huge selection of backline equipment and upgraded the inhouse lighting system.

The wiring was perhaps the largest challenge of the project. PA+ Productions enlisted the help of Digiflex project manager Yvan Arshoun to handle the large number of custom panels, snakes, and cabling for the installation.

“Digiflex built our entire rental department cabling inventory, and together we have developed and implemented a proven system over the years,” Radu says. “Their workmanship and attention to detail are second to none. We used this same cabling infrastructure to deal with all of the wiring components on this project. Digiflex was familiar with the infrastructure we were going to use, and Yvan was able to oversee the continuity of the custom wiring projects as well as develop and maintain a production schedule.”

As systems integrators, the team was equipped to tie all the pieces of the system together to create a world-class system that would let the venue draw world-class performers. The challenge of this system, Radu says, was keeping it simple and intuitive for the rotating mix of guest engineers the theater sees.

“Whether it’s a guest engineer operating or a house engineer trying to troubleshoot an issue, things have to be simple and straightforward,” Radu says. “All of the complicated and intricate DSP aspects of this installation are buried away from the everyday use of the system. While the system as a whole is one of the most advanced, high-tech installations in the country, it is also one of the easiest and simplest systems to maintain and operate. Guest engineers have had nothing but praise for the new installation.”

The installation was completed last year, but Radu says the team is continually tweaking the system to keep it on the bleeding edge. For example, the main VerTec arrays were recently switched over to the new V4 system presets.

“This change not only keeps the system current, but also maintains the sonic characteristics of the system in line with what guest engineers are used to,” Radu says. “There were little or no restrictions, financially or technically, put in place on this installation. While one might think that integrating an audio system under circumstances like this is as easy as it gets, in fact, the exact opposite reigns true.”

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