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Cline Library Assembly Hall Upgrade, Part 2

May 28, 2013 10:29 AM, With Bennett Liles

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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.

The university campus is the most challenging venue for AV systems with a huge range of operators and maximum up time. Intent Digital in Phoenix was called in to update the system in Cline Library Assembly Hall at Northern Arizona University. Bob Ginger is back to tell us about how the system testing went, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Bob, thanks for being back with us on the SVC Podcast from Intent Digital in Phoenix and this project you had at Northern Arizona University. Now you fellows were not newcomers to the Cline Library Assembly Hall. You had done the original AV system in there and came back to modernize and upgrade it. When you got the Lectrosonics processors and the Energize control system connected it was time to configure and test it, so what did you do to calibrate this whole thing?

Bob Ginger: Well, Bennett, one of those things we were lucky about is that so much of the amplifier part of it and the imaging were set up years ago when we did the system back in 2001, I think it was. So most of our calibration had to do with the mixers themselves; getting our cross-point alignments, our cross-point setups, and our source setups and some of those levels. One of the things that we like to do on Lectrosonics is to set our base operating level of our microphones within the input amplifiers in the mixer—the input stage—and then back it off another, oh, minus 90B to give us plenty of headroom, which Lectrosonics really likes. They said they wish everybody did that. But we get a good operating level and plenty of room. If somebody’s talking low we can change what they call the rear panel gain to give more gain without actually affecting the mix algorithm, and that works out really well. [Timestamp: 2:08]

You never know what you’re going to have there. They have people coming in from off campus who have never seen any of this gear before, and they have students, faculty, and staff operating the AV system in there. So how did the testing go on it? Were there any tweaks or changes made?

Testing went pretty well because we had a really good design that we had put together originally, so we knew exactly what we had to set up before we actually turned the system on. The thing that took place at the time is that we were dealing with a matrix size that large is that some of the cross points are going to be auto mix and some are direct depending on if it’s a microphone-aligned source or whatever. And so we had to watch carefully on those and we, you know, it’s one of those things you have to go back and fix. You can miss one or two of those out of the thousand-plus cross points that have to be checked. So that was the only real issue that came back as far as any tweaks, per se. Oh yeah, and then there were a couple of their existing microphone frequencies that for some reason or another, you know, they’d been online for a couple of years, so we had to change some frequencies due to some interference that popped up somewhere on campus. [Timestamp: 3:12]

Well, working with wireless mics is second only to alchemy sometimes. You can have it all done right and next week something can come along and pop up on one of your channels. We were talking in part one about the Aspen processors that you used on this. You had a fairly large matrix set up. I would think that most of the things they do in there are pretty simple, but you might have a big event once in a while that has surround sound and all that.

Mm-hmm, that’s true, and so that’s part of what the control system does to switch in and out some of the functionality and will use individual control of I/O lines on the mixer in combination with some of the macros. So we built a couple of macros to deal with some of the different setups that people might be using and then those are just buried into Energize events that execute automatically. [Timestamp: 3:59]

And that was the Lectrosonics SPN1624, a 16 by 24 matrix which should cover everything. What all do you have there for sources? You have DVDs, Blu-ray, computers, and other things?

Yeah, let’s see, there’s four computer inputs, which are stereo. There’s a Blu-ray, DVDs are on both of those with surround sound. There’s a couple of auxiliary inputs plugged in. There’s some router feeds. There’s still a couple of VCRs for legacy material. What else do we have? Oh, and all kinds of microphones. There’s, let’s see, four wireless mics, there are at least eight stage mics plus a couple of other podium mics, so it adds up pretty quick. [Timestamp: 4:38]

Multiple video sources to the projector at the same time.

Oh, yeah.

So figuring worst case scenario which is always useful, what happens when the power zaps out? How long does it take for the whole system to be back up and right again?

Once power comes back up, everything is designed to automatically start up again and the way we put it together was, of course the video will switch to the last good source automatically on the switcher itself. The mixers will revert to a preset---startup preset that we configured in the mixer, and so that’s the worst case. Now then the control system will also start up and it will go back to the last good setting that was saved so that it keeps updating itself as people are operating it. So if you’ve change the levels and switched to inputs that are totally different in the audio mixer, the control system will put everything back to where it was before the power went out, which is kind of cool. [Timestamp: 5:37]

Well, that’s probably back into the mode where it was while the operator is still sort of in mid-freakout. Obviously, you don’t just come up with a system like this and just throw it at everybody, so did you train certain people on campus to operate this or train local gurus to train others? How did you go about that?

Well, the whole goal of our Energize system is to be simple, for simple operation and simple configuration, so we trained folks on both operating it and the configuration of the system. And since we were training both the university and students, we had different levels of expertise. Some of the students really got into it. They wanted to find out what was under the hood, so that was kind of fun to teach them what they could do. So when we were going through the system shake out and the fraying and people would say, “Well, gee, could we make that operate differently?” We would just okay, let the students actually reconfigure the control system so that they could take care of it right then and there. So we didn’t have to go back and write new code or change it and come back and recompile. We’re doing this as we’re doing the training, making changes to the system, so that worked out nice. [Timestamp: 6:40]

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