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Acoustics Tailoring with Meyer Sound Constellation System, Part 2

Apr 15, 2010 10:18 AM

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Yeah, working with a committee and getting, sometimes, the technical elements across to people of varying degrees of technical expertise on this is enough of a challenge in itself. Were they looking at doing anything else and came over to this or how was that? Were they looking at any kind of a different solution on this?
David Lawler: No, I have to say that I believe, personally, this is the solution unless you want to do it mechanically. In other words, having curtains moving in and out and that kind of thing. I’ve been a supporter and an affiliate of Meyer Sound Labs for 24 years, and I know that everything that we’ve done with them over that time has been nothing but the highest quality, so I have no reason to doubt it now. And especially as I said, I’ve heard it used in these Vegas show rooms as well as multichannel systems that LCS had done, so I knew that it was going to get nothing but better. This project was done through the transition of Meyer Sound acquiring that company and then redeveloping the product, so it was great, actually, that it took a long time, because we ended up being the benefit of all that development in the end. [Timestamp: 10:45]

And Dave, were there any special challenges that you had on this installation? Was there any kind of surprises in the architecture or anything that you had to kind of think about and go around?
Lawler: The church is—I believe, it was [built in] 1927, or as Lorna says, 82 years old, so maybe 1928—a California a mission-style church. Basically they were trying to—just like building a ship in a bottle with tweezers—they were really trying to renovate it or restore it, and then beyond that, to a really magnificent structure. So the challenge was, on the Constellation side especially, is how to get 90 speakers and 16 microphones to disappear into the architecture of the church. I think on any Constellation job I would have to say that’s the biggest challenge, unless it’s a contemporary-looking building, because we ended up having a lot of custom wood back boxes, grilles, and a lot of discussion on hiding speaker subwoofers in the walls and under the chancellors steps and what kind of grilles we were going to use. It was enough of a technical exercise, but really the biggest challenges, which we enjoyed, were, as you mentioned, architectural. I have to say too that the timeline being long end up being good. We didn’t feel at all that we were pressed for time, and we had lots of time to discuss what we were going to do at every aspect of it because the rest of the construction wasn’t going faster than scheduled. [Timestamp: 12:17]

And you had a lot of microphones and speakers, like you said, to put out. Those microphones, I believe Steve told me in part one, they all come back at mic level down to a processor.
Lawler: Well, there are Constellation processors in this job. There are three of them: one of them is the main unit and then there are two units that have eight mic inputs each and 16 line outputs, so it’s a total of 16 mics into those two processors. There are 12 hanging mics that are really about the size of a pencil eraser and about 1in. long with a very tiny cable. We got them custom colored to match the barrel ceiling, and there was four boundary mics that were like a PZM kind of thing that we custom mounted on single-gang plates. [Timestamp: 13:01]

Was there anything else that was a part of the Laguna upgrade?
Lawler: That’s just the Constellation system, and then there was another system that is a main sound system, I guess you could call it. That has FOH and monitors, and there’s choir mics, and the pipe organ has digital voices as well as pipes, and plus it’s in two rooms that don’t face the actual sanctuary; they come around at 90 degrees, so that’s in the final process of being constructed now, and we’ll have microphones outside of the louvers and then tie-in the line with the digital voices to the analog voices. We also did all of the acoustics for the church because, with Constellation, you need to have a short enough reverberation time in the basic sound of the church to construct the shortest time you want and then you’re regenerating the room back to itself to realize the longer reverberation times. [Timestamp:13.55]

Sounds like there might have been a lot of cabling involved in that.
Lawler: Yes, the low-voltage contract was significant, plus with a barrel ceiling, a lot of it had to go over the top and back down and then all over the church. We had to do a lot of cutting through wood areas and just trying to find paths to get the cable to go up to the racks room, but the cable is very tough and it’s DC, and control are in the same cable. It’s a five-conductor cable for those speakers, and I think that it’s a very reliable system in that way because they’re like phantom. They’re phantom-powered speakers in other words. The power supply is in the rack room and the amplifier is in the speaker. [Timestamp: 14.4]

Yeah, Steve was telling me something about that. I was thinking when he first said self-powered speakers, “Well, you got to run AC everywhere”, but that’s just DC coming out of the processors apparently.
Lawler: Yes, there’s one U-8-channel power supply that lives in the rack room, and the only AC powered speakers were the subwoofers, of which there were seven for that system. [Timestamp: 15:04]

Well, it sounds like it was a pretty big job and a challenging situation, but I guess it’s all worth it when you demo the system and you get the reaction that apparently you got with this.
Lawler: Yes, it was quite satisfying, and of course, Laguna Beach is 25,000 people, and this church is a whole city block in my home town, and they have a school there and another center beside it and all kinds of outreach programs and all that, so it’s a significant part of the downtown village there. [Timestamp: 15:33]

How many people were involved in the installation all together? What kind of a crew did you have for this?
Lawler: On the audio side, there weren’t many because either you do it quickly with a big crew or something that takes this long, you do with a small crew. The low-voltage wiring was installed by two people and the rest of it was installed by three of us, depending on when things happened. A lot of the equipment was built, or custom things were built offsite, but then, of course, there was a significant amount of carpentry involved because of these custom back boxes that was provided by Burch Corporation, a general contractor. So I suppose it was about 10 people, just as an estimate, did it, and it took about three and a half years to complete from when we started talking about it. [Timestamp: 16:19]

What did you have to do? Sort of in order here, what were the steps in the installation process? Obviously you’ve got to have a game plan to start with?
Lawler: Sure, well, the first thing you have to do—which has nothing to do with the actual hardware of Constellation—is you have to design the room acoustics. It’s not only what reverb time you want in the space, you have to decide what areas you want to be live-er or deader than others and what type of EQ curve you want it to have, and then you have to decide what products you’re going to use to take your reverb time down in conjunction with the architects. We used the Sonicrete to absorb the spray on foam—I guess it is—and fabric on Corning board panels inside the extensive wainscoting that’s on ceiling and wall areas. So the next step, number two, would be to design the Constellation speaker locations because it’s not only hiding the speakers, it’s tough to work and you actually put them to correspond to where they need to be for Constellation to work properly, and then we would edit one and two as many times as it took with acoustics and speaker locations and choice of speakers. So the next step, number four, would be to install the low-voltage cabling. Then five would be the custom back boxes and wall cut-outs, and then the subs are up in the aisles—some are under the stairs. It’s quite tricky how that was done. Six would be to design the mic placements, locations, and custom colors and that kind of thing. Seven was install the racks and the rack room and build that room, which is the master control of the main system and the Constellation systems with UPSs online and things like that. Eight would be install all the speakers and microphones. Nine was custom grilles and finishing. [Asking,] “How do you want this to look?” There were foam grilles, fabric grilles, metal grilles, and all them were not grilles that come with the product. Ten, which is a big one and a fun one, is system tuning; it's a pretuning day where a representative from Meyer Sound comes in and thins through the system and does some initial calculations and sends that data to the factory and then a team of four of us tune that system for about a week using two different types of software that Meyer has for that, and then, finally, we did another tuning several weeks later after we had listened to it for a while. A lot of that was by ear, just making sure that everywhere in the sanctuary, we believed we were somewhere real, and so we ended up with five different reverb times going from 1.1 seconds up to 2.4. And now a lot of that end of it is fairly subjective. I mean, what reverb times and EQ curve of that reverberation do you use for different applications? [Timestamp: 19:22]

And you had to have them do everything they’re going to do, expect to do, in there while you were in this process.
Lawler: Well, yes, we additioned the different presets several times with either the praise band or the choir. In fact, the pipe organ room we haven’t done yet. I mean it’s there and it’s tuned, but the organ isn’t finished being put back in there, which is a massive task, which it will be next month, and then we will go in and work on that again. So you have to have them sound like you want them to sound on each preset, but then you have to hear the application being done in itself to really judge it, and plus, as Lorna said, she’s saying there’s five different areas in the space, and I think there’s actually almost seven, but whatever the number is, you have to not just enjoy it or delete it in one place. Everything affects everything. As soon as you change it in one area, it’s going to affect another area. So I have to say I really enjoyed the process because it’s very creative, more so than just generally doing audio in my opinion. [Timestamp: 20:29]

Lorna and Dave, thanks very much for being with me and I really appreciated having you here for part two. This has really been great.
Cohen: Great. Nice to talk to you.
Lawler: Thank you very much. I have enjoyed it myself.

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