New Mid-Sized Venues Takes Centerstage

Jul 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Sarah Benzuly



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Popejoy Hall Center for the Arts, Albuquerque, N.M.

The JBL Vertec system at Popejoy Hall can be “detached” for use outside of the venue.

The JBL Vertec system at Popejoy Hall can be “detached” for use outside of the venue.

The Popejoy Hall Center for the Arts is located on the University of New Mexico campus and brings in touring Broadway shows, national/international artists, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, and performances by the UNM Department of Music and the Albuquerque Youth Symphony.

When spec'ing the system, technical director Billy Tubb had to make sure that it was not only flexible and could provide 5.1 for opera simulcast or films, but it also had to be “detachable” so that it could be rented to local production companies. “We added extra cables to the package, and I also designed both of the onstage equipment racks that provide power, signal and data distribution to be identical so that the system can be split into two or even four separate systems,” Tubb says.

Tubb also needed to consider the space's functionality when selecting gear. “I really wanted to use stage monitors as the surround speakers for the 5.1 setup so that we could kill two birds with one stone,” he explains. “The JBL VP7212MDP was not designed for wall mounting, yet the JBL custom shop added multiple rigging points, allowing us to basically add 16 new wedges to our inventory. When we need them for the 5.1 setup, we add the custom adjustable angle brackets my installer built and hang them. They actually fit snugly right against the wall and look like they were meant to be there. They also sound better than most of the traditional low-profile speakers we would have considered for the location and coverage needed.” Taking versatility a step further, the custom shop installed a pole-mount socket on one end of the VP7212MDPs.

The rest of the system is all JBL VerTec: “Honestly, VerTec was not a system I originally considered after having heard an early version of the product. And the full-sized box was just too big for us in regards to sightlines at our venue,” Tubb explains. “Then the following events happened: JBL introduced the mid-sized VT4888 and developed their new Version 4 DSP presets, which has greatly improved the sound of the boxes. Now, VerTec has become more accepted on technical riders. The DrivePack technology makes it a self-powered system, while the networking, control and user features providd by Harman's System Architect software interface are very power.” Rounding out the gear is a Midas Heritage 2000 console. On the acoustic front, the rear of the orchestra has 4-foot alternating sections of cherry-stained wood diffusers and fabric-covered 2-inch absorption panels. Scheduled for installation this month are more wood diffusers on the balcony rail.

An Outline Butterfly system brings the stage sound to a small audience at the Pacey Richards Theater.

An Outline Butterfly system brings the stage sound to a small audience at the Pacey Richards Theater.

PC Richards Theater, New York City

Inside the AT&T building in Manhattan (where Clear Channel Radio houses a number of its New York radio stations) sits the new PC Richards Theater, a 200-invite-only room that was designed as an intimate performance space. There is also a separate mixing room to allow tracking or live mixing of the show for broadcast or digital media content generation.

Though its scope generally includes acoustical design, for this project, SIA Acoustics was employed to handle the technical system only, says Steve Sockey, who headed the SIA project team. After meeting with Josh Hadden, Clear Channel radio director of engineering and IT, and his team, SIA created a technical design that would fulfill the theater's variety of goals. “This is an exclusive type of venue with A-level artists coming in,” Sockey says. “You have substantial technical demands that typically come with major talent: monitor console, house console, enough stage monitors, a large enough stage, significant mic inventory, in-ear monitors and wireless mics. We wanted to provide systems that made sense, were highly functional and robust, and had great rider acceptance on all fronts. We felt it was critical for the infrastructure — while being comprehensive to facilitate any type of performance — to be logical to allow an operator to walk in and quickly become acclimated. As a designer, you have to decide what's important, and for us it's the functionality.”

While a small room, the theater packs in a large amount of gear, including two Digidesign Profiles and a Digidesign ICON Pro Tools systems in the mixing space. To preserve complete independence between the various live and recording systems, all field connections terminate in control room patchbays, and Jensen transformer-isolated splitters provide FOH, monitor and recording systems with duplicate signals. “From the control room,” Sockey says, “they can reconfigure the room as needed. A large number of tie panels are located throughout the facility, and any routing is possible via the patchbays. Having said that, the patchbays are normalled to allow someone to remove each patch cable and be show-ready for what the client has defined as their ‘default’ configuration.”

For the live sound system, Outline C.D.H. 483 “Butterfly” main arrays were selected due to their consistent directivity, compact physical packaging and high-power output. Outline MiniCompass systems are used as delay speakers and surround speakers. A number of high-capacity suspension points are located throughout. Each of the loudspeaker arrays is suspended via CM-ET Prostar chain motors to allow easy reconfiguration and achieve the maximum possible trim height. “This is a sound system that will readily accomodate rock 'n' roll performances, but where a completely clean look is needed [i.e., a video shoot], they can quickly take it down and put it away,” Sockey explains. The amplifiers are mounted to the Butterfly arrays via custom frames (designed by McLaren Engineering) to eliminate the need for amp racks.

“This system provides very sophisticated capabilities in an extremely compact footprint. Because of significant advances in technology, the difference between arenas and small theaters, or between dedicated studios and multipurpose spaces, has really become one of scale and not quality,” Sockey says. “This space has the same preamps, converters, consoles, loudspeakers, amplifiers, et cetera, as a larger venue — and though it may have fewer of them, the level of production is the same.”

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