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Gymatorium upgrade

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by jamsession, Feb 8, 2008.

  1. jamsession

    jamsession Member

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    Greetings - I've enjoyed reading y'alls other posts. 2 weeks of time well spent. That done, I reckon its time I posted. :cool:

    a little background:
    I've been interested in sound ever since I was old enough to take apart a tape recorder to see who's inside. (How did John Denver get in that 8-track cartridge??) Or get the magnets out of old speakers and pick up iron filings.

    Anywho, fast-forward many moons, now I've started working live sound, and started getting serious about sound design/AV installs, digital recording, and the thrills and chills of live production. It's a dharma thing and I love it. I sure appreciate this site and the knowledge and experience many of you share so freely. The difference between the books I read on the subject and the real world, is fasc-in-at-ing.

    Thank You. It's fun.


    I have a project I'm working on and would welcome any suggestions/experience that may be helpful and save time or $.

    I'm upgrading a school gym for their theatrical productions. Next one is (get this!) in 2 weeks from tomorrow - I'm the miracle man if I can pull this off (and I plan to, as it's their big production of the year.) I've got most of it spec'd out, as always a few ideas still in the air.

    Design objectives: it's a school gym (Multipurpose - assemblies, parent programs, basketball games). Value, reliability, durability, ease of operation are priorities. It's a beautiful space, Aesthetics are fairly important.

    Gym size:
    108' wide (doors to doors), 71' across (back wall to front of stage. The stage extends additional 34' back from front of stage.) 30' high ceiling - (open HVAC grid structure comes down 4' from that). 4 basketball standards that swing up,
    Mix position will be back wall, center.

    Occupancy: 1,005
    stage is 49' across, 2' up from gym floor. so about 30' on each side of stage to the far walls.

    Acoustics:
    A row of 4'x4' sound panels (fabric on frames with I guess rigid-back insulation inside) which line 3 walls, 10' up. fairly live space but having 1,000 people in it changes it of course. For a gym it's pretty good. No noticeable slapback echo, etc. since current PA is 24 ceiling mounted mono cones distributed. Works ok for intercom/paging but not music source.

    Problems to Solve:
    1) mono-cone speakers are 30' up, intelligibility is a bit of a prob. It sounds like you're in a gym. ;)
    2) lots of mic ringing (dynamic, handheld) due to lots of big hard surfaces, untrained staff, possible system eq.

    Overall, that works _ok_ so I'm going to leave that system for regular gym class/intercom. For theatrical prods, will add some speakers along the 49' stage (front of house), wireless and floor (boundary) mic the actors on stage. add system eq, compression, good gain structure. (I will be doing the live sound mixing for the performances.) I have an interest in making it sound good.

    If I get some 90 degree dispersion speakers, I'm guessing that they can do the 70' throw to the back wall and get decent coverage. I will mount them 12' up and angle downwards a bit. I may add side fill speakers (30' back or so) if needed, on a delay. (see: intelligibility probs)


    QUESTIONS:
    1) Micing choir: there will be 30' of 4-step risers on each side of stage, with 125 member choir on each side. Could do 2 stereo pairs, or 3,4 mics seperated 8' apart or so. Will figure out during rehearsals, but welcome suggestions.

    2) Recommendations for a good multipurpose condenser mic for choirs, vocal?
    I've been looking at MXL 990, Shure KSM109SL, something in the $150 range with a shockmount and case would be :). I've heard lots of good things about the Studio Projects C1, bit more at around 239 but nice to have for soloists, etc. Want bass rolloff to avoid stand/floor noise, cardiod/polar pattern switch to avoid feedback since choir is in front of the speakers. I'm asking a lot but nowadays there are some real nice options sub $200.


    3) k, this blew my mind, but I heard you can well and truly mic a piano with a boundary mic (taped inside lid, with the lid DOWN). crown pcc160. I'll give it a try.

    4) on front of stage, 3 or 4 boundary mics (crown pcc160)

    5) wireless mics for key actors, looking at Shure SLX14/93 and Sennheiser EW112G2, similar prices... - ease of use, selecting freq, for schools especially: DURABILITY RULES THE ROOST so I'm leaning towards the Shure, thx to the good posts previous regarding this topic. Would opt for 1 or 2 less bodypacks/receivers and a few extra mics so I can have more mic'd up and just switch bodypacks as needed. (Countryman B3 seems the good route, but they aint cheap - oh, what a large diaphragm condenser I can buy for one of those!)

    6) speakers (with 90x50 degree dispersion speakers 3' from corners of stage, and 12' up, I'm expecting can control feedback pretty well. One friend who does a lot of schools suggested using 3 speakers (EV sx300), right above stage, tucked in, left|center|right). They would look nice mounted there, good center coverage, but not reach the sides as well, and it puts the speakers RIGHT OVER (10' above) the floor mics. Granted, they are 60x50 dispersion..... so I dunno.... if I can put 2, 90x50's on the corners, I get energy to the sides better without too much reflection. methinks better coverage that way.... harder to mount, but better sound. white speakers will match ok. For those (2 speaker option) - looking at JBL Control 30, possibly JBL AM2415/95 (but cant get the latter in by next week, could in 2 weeks, so I'd have to do something temporary on poles or fly if I go with the AMs.

    LOTS of schools use the EVsx300, and could go that route, on paper and the friends advice they have good vocal range intelligibility, but alas the 65 degree dispersion. For 108' wide room with 2 speakers, me needs dispersion.
    I can always use the 2 side fills for each performance, definitely an option (they already have the 2 side speakers, on poles so I can move them around.)

    FYI - now, JBL SRX700 series are out of budget for this install, but I heard a pair last weekend and those roclk. vocals waay clear, tons o' power handling, and for a reason unbeknownst to me, appear to have this amazing feedback rejection. He said he was doing PA for a guy a couple weeks ago, using the SRX712's as floor monitors, who was swinging an SM58, RIGHT IN FRONT of them and they didnt howl. that's a neat trick. that would solve the gyms ringing problems once and for all??? hmmm....... more research needed but interesting so thought I'd share and welcome thoughts/experience on this one. talking about gear is cheap. You need a sub with this speakers.

    I'm not installing a sub here, will wheel one out as needed for music-oriented programs, but am going for the speech clarity here.

    interesting note: for the 2 side choirs, they will be singing different songs at different times. before I found that out, was going to do the show in mono to make consistent audience experience. but now I may do each side on their own channel, and pan the left choir to the right side, and vice versa. So that people sitting next to the choir that is singing, hear the choir, and audience on the far side get some amplification through the PA. Make it a bit more natural. I like that idea. we'll see how it works (plus it reduced feedback).


    7) One other thing I'd like to do is set the narrator (adult) up with a nice big on/off mute switch he can operate himself. something I can plug his mic into (XLR in/out), ideally would have 2 leds on it - one green meaning his mic is on, one red meaning it's muted. one led meaning it's on is fine. Silent - doesn't pop when operated. I'm half temped to build, but given the short timeframe and all the other work I got going on, would welcome a cost-effective plug-n-play solution here.


    OK, I know that was a mother of all long messages, hope you don't mind that, as an engineer for me more info is helpful and I welcome ideas for success on any of the above. Thanks & Best,

    Jam
     
  2. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Occupation:
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    (3) 65x65 loudspeakers "clustered" are going to sound like general garbage.
    Mind you I like the SX300, and I'm a tad bit of a gear snob.
    Nice Boxes, not the right application.
    Two properly angled Sx500 will work better for this application.
    Where are you at?
    I know people.;)
     
  3. jamsession

    jamsession Member

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    a quick clarification (sorry reading my note I see the possible confusion) Right above stage in this case means DIRECTLY OVER the stage (flush with the wall).

    I'm not clustering or arraying them. Agreed, I wouldn't want to do that. Option (2) - using 3 sx300 speakers above the 50' stage would put them 25 feet apart (on each end and the center.) I'm in the midwest and if you have a good contact for source on those, feel free to send. I've found one here who may have the white ones in stock. He sells a ton of them. They look like good speakers esp for voice, their "Ring Mode Decoupling" is promoted to improve that as well.

    If I did use those 3, I could turn on side and still get 65x65 (same) coverage. it's an option, just with that wide of a room, I've got 30' on each side of the stage to reach. and they would be tucked into the 10' false ceiling above the stage, flush with the wall, so it would not catch the large corner areas as well as mounting them on the wall directly facing the back wall with a downward tilt.

    Hope that makes sense. Thanks for the note.
     
  4. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Occupation:
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    Why are you splitting the speakers as noted? Are you trying to create an LCR system or an exploded mono system? Why 12' high, it sounds like you have much more height available, have you looked at the speaker patterns and coverage and determined that is the optimum height?

    The Sx300 are a nice box, but due to the physically small horn they start to lose directivity up around 1,300Hz or so and have some noticeable beaming at higher frequencies. Have you considered the effect of the speaker pattern?

    What are you doing for inputs, cable paths, system processing, amplification, etc.? What about ALS (Assistive Listening System) since you're well above the 50 person limit requiring ALS for ADA compliance.

    You mentioned that you will be doing the mixing, but that is not usually a good long term assumption. It is the school's system and there may be times that their schedules or needs do not match yours, so consider the implications if they do end up with a student or volunteer mixing and try to make sure that the system supports that situation.

    Is this a permanent install for which you are the Contractor? Or is this temporary for the production? If the former, then you should do a complete design addressing coverage, levels, intelligibility, etc. as well as addressing system documentation, tuning and so forth. I'll be blunt, please do not let this become a situation where you throw something together because of this one event and the school then has to live with that for years, those situations all too often hurt the reputation of all audio professionals. If you need to do something temporary for one event while you figure out an appropriate long term solution, then please do that rather than compromising proper design and installation practices.
     
  5. jamsession

    jamsession Member

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    Hi Brad,

    yes, I've taken all of those into consideration. fair questions.

    >>Is this a permanent install for which you are the Contractor?
    yes

    >Why are you splitting the speakers as noted?

    In an ideal world*, I could do a center cluster/array. I looked at that.
    Reasons why not:
    1) cost was way prohibitive - JBL VRX932LA (~$2K ea. x4-6 of those, plus subs) the brackets alone are $710, need 2 of those, you see where that goes. I'd rather have budget for mics, etc. It's all a balancing act.
    2) 30 ft high ceiling, I want to keep the sound localized to the stage action.
    3) I could bring a cluster down, but there will be projection screen mounted above stage in future.
    4) aesthetics (minor but a factor in all good design)
    5) obviously install much easier than from a 30' ceiling. never my design criteria, just another factor. I always opt for "doing it right" within the project needs, budget, timeframe.

    so.... I'd rather get good coverage with wide dispersion speakers, and side fill if neccesary (OR even use existing overhead mono PA to fill a little.... big if, but hey it's an option). My biggest concern is the 70' throw to the back - making that well heard without blowing away people in front. inverse square law and physics in play here.

    (insert philospohical discussion about TD and sound system design being about tradeoffs, and the mix of art and science. I guess that's what makes it attractive to creative thinkers and problem solvers.)

    so, for front mounted speakers, the best 2 options would seem to be:

    #1) 2 speakers on front walll, 20' in from side, with a 90x50, will give me good angle of coverage, minimize feedback into stage floor mics. ~13' up to get it above basketball standards (which do swing up but why not make it accessable all the time as long as they dont get hit by b-balls too much.) white spkrs on slightly off-white wall should be ok visually. mounting is easy (I've got 1 week to get this in, plus all wiring, etc.)

    2) 3 speakers EVsx300 LCR seperated 25' apart mounted horizontal, under stage top ceiling edge, flush with wall.

    Cons: smaller dispersion of the SX300s 65x65, side wall areas are pretty left out. speakers over stage, depending on angle, possible feeding into floor mics.
    Pros: Great localization. This is important to me.

    [begin personal opinion] I don't mind going to a huge concert arena and hearing overhead clusters, if I pay for bleacher tickets I don't expect to have a front row sound experience, but I do expect to hear it. So that's fine. But for theater, it's a bit unnatural to be seeing actors and having sound coming from somewhere else. Unless I'm in a far balcony or something. I'd rather hear behind/beside/above me than not hear. I think the best mixers and designers sit in all places of a theatre, and design/optimize for the best sound for all as much as possible; Been reading Bob McCarthy's excellent and rather expensive (high quality paper, color graphics, no complaints) book and I agree with that philosophy. How many front row tickets can you sell, anyway? [/rant]

    white wall, white speakers, tucked under (flush with stage front wall) is visually the nicest solution - never my top design criteria but who doesn't like a good looking install as long as it sounds great

    so those are the reasons for that. if it was a much bigger space, we'd have a bigger budget and I'd be doing overhead array. Given the 30' ceiling, front mounted seems like it will accomplish the design goals best and have budget for floor/choir/wireless mics, which will get more bang for buck.

    >>The Sx300 are a nice box, but due to the physically small horn they start to lose directivity up around 1,300Hz or so and have some noticeable beaming at higher frequencies.

    Good to know. thx.


    >>complete design addressing coverage, levels, intelligibility, etc. as well as addressing system documentation, tuning and so forth.

    yep, I'm doing all that. I didnt include it on original message because there were a few specifics questions I needed to solve asap. But I'm definitely glad to talk holistically.

    >>What are you doing for system processing,
    >>What about ALS (Assistive Listening System)

    yep, I'm looking into those too (Biamp Nexia CS, driverack 260, bbs minidrive). EV DC-one doesnt ship until end of Feb. What brands/models do you like for this size space? preferred sources?

    also looking for a good _value_ reference mic for system tuning, smaart use, etc. if anyone has reccs.
    "inexpensive reference mic" see: oxymoron, but I'm looking... Audix TR40?


    >>I'll be blunt, please do not let this become a situation where you throw something together...

    hehe - I appreciate your candor.
    I've talked with the major designer/installers in my area, - some do good work. (2 do very good work, one can't touch it till 3rd quarter, the other would take 2 months and it would cost 2x my price.)
    What I may lack at the moment in experience I waay make up for in service and project management, understanding and hitting the customers objectives. I'm working long hours to fill in the few missing gaps I do have.
    Everybody starts somewhere.

    All project management is a triangular balance of time, resources, and features/quality. Time is certainly a driver on this project, but the quality will be excellent because it's my name on the job.

    I have the craftsman ethic to see it done right the first time, which I agree with you that is all to missing these days, in almost any profession.

    >>You mentioned that you will be doing the mixing, but that is not usually a good long term assumption. It is the school's system and there may be times that their schedules or needs do not match yours, so consider the implications if they do end up with a student or volunteer mixing and try to make sure that the system supports that situation.

    Well taken and for most all other designs and installs, I wouldnt do that. Live engineering is a value-added service they are happy for me to provide.
    In this case, I am because 1) I am showing them how good the system can sound, 2) I am training and documenting the whole deal, 3) they are friends of mine and we have a win-win relationship.

    I figured my original post was long enough so I didnt explain all the rich, succulent personal stuff. :^)

    cheers,
    Jam

    *ideal world might be every person in the audience has hifi in-ear monitors with their own mini mixer and eq/reverb presets. Every choir singer and actor individually micd, (300 channel main mix) system processor automaps parents with children so parents hear their own kids in front of mix (auto-tune selectable), and records to their iPod so they can listen in car on way home and emails copy to distant relatives via car or venue wifi connection.
    [official announcer voice:] "You've got concert."

    But then the whole "shared experience" of the performance goes to pot. ^;
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2008
  6. mixmaster

    mixmaster Active Member

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    Couple of thoughts on your microphone selection. Perhaps I'm not reading right, but it appears you want good quality handheld condenser mics for vocals. Are you also trying to mic the choir with the same mics? I would be surprised if you can find the controls that you are looking for in the price range that you spec. You will find several insturment mics (shure sm81 or your ksm109 for example) with bass roll-off but few vocal mics with that feature. Besides, lots of switches on a mic is just asking for trouble with a performer. Especially one that has limited or no mic experience. They always seem to find the worst time to hit the wrong switch, or can't figure out which one turns it on. I have 1 lonely mic with a switch and I keep it locked in the "on" position so no one gets confused. In your shoes I would consider a more general purpose mic like an SM58 for day to day use. They are rugged and will stand up to abuse well, and they are cheap to replace when someone walks off with one. Hundreds or thousands of schools and churches across the nation use them comfortably every day. Consider this: would your audience know the difference? No? Then why pay extra. Spend the extra money on something that matters.
    That being said, I use Shure Beta87s (lists for $460 in Full Compass)as my primary performance vocal mic, and I mic our university's choirs with them as well. The response of the mic is thinner and less susceptible to stage rumble and handling noise. I also have been very happy with my Sennhiesers. I see they have an 865 that list for a bit less than the Betas ($399). Both are out of your listed price range but I'm a firm believer in "by once, cry once" and "you get what you pay for".
    As to the PCC 160 in the piano, yes you can. I will be the first to admit it doesn't sound as good as a pair of good instrument condensers (sm81, AKG451), but I have used the technique in the past when I am out of condensers or need to eliminate the stands for aesthetic reasons. I prefer not to tape the mics to the lid though. For one, they could fall off and land on the strings mid-show. This is bad for a number of reasons, not the least of which is sound that results. For two, the lid tends to pick up stage rumble and induce it into the mic causing feedback. I prefer to tape mine to inside of the curved side of the piano. One goes down near the high strings, one goes up near the low strings. I mix them in stereo and roll out some mids and its not too bad. An SM81 would be in the same price range though, and it would sound better, and be more versatile. Another consideration for mics would be the Shure PG series. I'm not advocating them as Pro grade or Studio grade, but as a less expensive option, they are worth considering. They didn't really sound "that bad" last time I borrowed some.
    I am a believer in playing around with ideas to see if they work. Perhaps if you know someone in your area who has a variety of mics, you could rent or borrow some to play with during the upcoming show and see which ones the customer likes best.
     
  7. jamsession

    jamsession Member

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    Thanks mixmaster -

    yeah, they have some sm58s already, work well and rugged as h3ll.

    I'm looking to add some stand mounted condensors for performances only not general daily use, (IE, only the control-freak sound engineer touches these) which have a bit better pickup, bass rollouff. Shock mounts work well, but look like a spider thingy for audience who arent used to studio mics. and they do get in the way visually for solo mics. I have seen the neprene/foam mic stand shockmount holders, hardly bigger than a regular mic holder, just lined with foam. havent used them but they look like a nice solution.

    I would mostly use the condensors for micing the choir. perhaps the adult narrator (he gets a foam windscreen - "don't P in the mic!").

    for student narrations, they will walk up to the stand mic with an SM58 or ND2/67 - (btw a nice little handheld dynamic with an on/off switch).

    I like giving this mic to the principal, staff. who always have last minute announcements and I find it easier to give them a switch rather than trying to watch them constantly. If it's off, it aint my fault. If a kid turns a mic off, that is my fault. funny that, just a law of nature and I'm ok with it.

    thx for the boundary in piano tips, I'll play around with that.

    I like to have a few extra mics of different types to work with during rehersal and so looking to build that up.

    I saw the AT handheld condensor, looks good, might try one of those. Just have to remember to phantom power those, of course.

    yep - you get what you pay for, but there are some sub 200 condensors which are handy to have a couple extra. (It was MXL 770 I was looking at.)

    The M-Audio Sputnik is a great mic. Rizzo (producer, et al) takes one with him into every studio, on every plane. I'm sure he has one on his person or in arms reach right now.

    Thx
     
  8. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    The best way that I have found to mic a piano is two newer Crown PZMs. They are both mounted on the vertical walls inside of the piano, one down at the end of the piano, and one up along the straight bit right before the major bend into the high strings. Also, I've always found the Shure SM-94 to be a nice sub-$200 stick condenser mic, great for choir micing, drum overheads, good in pianos, and nice on a variety of instruments. It can be easily had for $140 + shipping from the right source.
     
  9. jamsession

    jamsession Member

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    cool, thx!
     

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