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EASE Modeling for a Multipurpose Venue, Part 1

Feb 14, 2012 10:32 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Whitley Auditorium at Elon University

Whitley Auditorium at Elon University with the Casavant pipe organ and the D.A.S. Audio Variant speaker array installed by Audio & Light.

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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.

North Carolina’s Elon University had an auditorium designed for a its huge pipe organ, but Whitley Auditorium was being used for a lot of other events, so they needed a sound system that could cope with its multi-use role. They called Audio & Light for the job and Jim Hoyle is here to let us now how he tackled that project, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: So Jim Hoyle from Audio & Light. Thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast from Greensboro, N.C., and we’re talking about the new sound system installation in Whitley Auditorium at Elon University. We’ve had Audio & Light on the podcast a while back, but refresh our memory on the company and tell me a little about what Audio & Light does.

Jim Hoyle: Well, Audio & Light was started in 1984. We are mostly involved in AV integration, but we also offer live production services and we have a rental department for rental projectors and small sound systems and things like that and portable equipment. [Timestamp: 1:20]

OK and you were called in to do a complete sound system upgrade on Whitley Auditorium, and there are some challenging acoustics in there and a lot of different events the place is used for. So what was the situation? What did they want you to do when they called you in?

Well, Whitely Auditorium is a multipurpose space on campus. It houses a pipe organ, and the acoustics of the room have been adjusted for that, but they also use the room for lectures, student performances, guest performances, small ensembles. So it has to do triple duty, and of course the acoustics desired for an organ don’t really match up with the rest of those needs. The intelligibility—the room is very low and that’s something that they’ve been fighting against for years. When they have lectures if the speaker is soft-spoken, it’s almost impossible to hear them past the fifth or sixth row in the balcony even with the sound system they had. The former sound system had been in there for some time—10 years, I guess, at least. And was never adequate to really cover the whole room with sound, and of course they’re fighting the intelligibility problem. The device they used was a very wide throw device, so the critical distance was very short at not making it to the seating. So we’ve been talking about changing this room for a long time, and Rick Earl, the technical director at Elon theater department, finally got interested in the projects and—if we’re doing all these performances in Whitely, we need to fix this—and so we started talking about how would we fix it. And that’s where the design process started. [Timestamp: 2:48]

OK and that place is, I think, it’s something like 90ft. deep and 42ft. wide?

That’s correct, approximately 90x40.

OK and they’ve got a huge pipe organ in there, and that place is of course built acoustically just for that.

It is, yes. It’s a very live reverberant space. [Timestamp: 3:05]

OK, so you went in there and you had to get a handle on the exact acoustic situation and how did you go about analyzing the acoustics and the design of the room for this?

I created a model of the room in EASE, and it started playing speaker placements and using different devices and looking at coverage patterns and reflections and what was going on in the room. Rick Earl at Elon is a big fan of the DAS products, which we ended up using and we really liked the product as well. So we wanted to take a look at that, and we found one of their small line arrays that worked really well in EASE. It showed very even coverage from the floor even up into the balcony, so after modeling the room, and the room was not easy to model by the way; there are several architectural features there that are difficult: There’s a large dome on the center of the ceiling, 5ft. to 8ft. forward of where the speaker cluster hangs. So there’s a nice tool in EASE to help you design those kinds of shapes, but add a large reverberant space then putting a dome on top of it, you can imagine what we’re dealing with there. So we’re trying to keep energy out of the dome so that we don’t get any of those reflections bouncing all over the room. So we found a location that worked really well using EASE 26ft. off the floor. Actually about 1ft. upstage of the down stage edge of the stage allowed us to cover from the very first seat all the way up to the back of the balcony with this DAS Variant 25 line array. [Timestamp: 4:37]

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