Question for the paging system gurus

Les

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Feb 24, 2004
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DFW, Tx.
I'm hoping to expand the paging capabilities with my theatre's installed system. We currently have three TOA 900 series amplifiers which supply program audio and audience recall chimes to three zones: Lobby, Wings, Backstage (greenroom, dressing room, etc). I hope to add a fourth amp to allow a secondary paging means via 70v speakers for the auditorium (we already have a fire alarm system which plays a prerecorded announcement for evac). I mainly want this fourth amp to provide a reliable means for the box office or stage manager to address the audience and building if needed - ala 'God Mic' without relying on every sound technician to supply one.

The tricky part of the system is zone selection. I would really love a wallplate in the box office so they can select between "Lobby", "Backstage", or "All Page", etc. It would be nice if this panel was duplicated in the booth. This Atlas unit seems to kind of do what I want (?question mark?) but it wants to interface with a box that costs almost $350. Then I saw this Bosch unit, but it, also would prefer to interact with their specific gear (though a cursory glance didn't uncover anything particularly special about it). I guess I'm just looking for a really dumb wall-mount mixer.

Anyone know of anything like this, or am I just chasing my tail?
 

DrewE

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Mar 18, 2019
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Vermont
Rolls makes a variety of little installation mixers, some of which might possibly work for your situation. They're not too exorbitantly priced generally, and in my (rather limited) experience work as expected without any serious vices or surprises and seem to be fairly decently constructed. You probably would have to improvise a wall mount or get a little wall-mount rack cabinet or some such.

How exactly do you plan on interconnecting your new amplifier with the existing amplifier for the emergency system, and doing so in a way that does not compromise the emergency operations? That seems like a bit of a tricky thing to accomplish--certainly not entirely impossible, but a bit tricky and quite important to get right.
 
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themuzicman

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Apr 27, 2007
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On Tour
I'm curious why Wings and Backstage are separate zones, what sort of different audio are they getting? Trying to see if there's a way to streamline this.

I'm almost always a fan of just running all VOG mics for the audience thru the FOH console and PA system, so many times I've started a show and an SM has unmuted their VOG switch mic by accident and I have control to mute plus I can usually nab the SM on com to tell them to mute the thing. I can't ever reliably get Box Office on the line if they accidently unmute during a show, and can't think of any time in my memory where Box Office has needed to page the audience and couldn't get the SM on walkie to do it for them (ie Patron left valuables in the house on walkout). Plus, you're going to need a really beefy auditorium 70V system to overcome the noise of the PA unless you already have sort of Fire Alarm shutoff relay installed to hard cut the PA, at least running the VOG thru the FOH console you can set up ducking.

Anyhow, my mind immediately shouts "make this analog" and get a 3P4T switch and just do the thing that way, wire up your Mic to the common side and then run wires back to your TOA's. You could run it all over a single shielded CAT5 with common ground and make your own breakout on the Amp side of things.
 
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Les

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Feb 24, 2004
Location
DFW, Tx.
How exactly do you plan on interconnecting your new amplifier with the existing amplifier for the emergency system, and doing so in a way that does not compromise the emergency operations? That seems like a bit of a tricky thing to accomplish--certainly not entirely impossible, but a bit tricky and quite important to get right.
Luckily, the primary emergency voice evac operates entirely separately using the FA horn speakers, so I will not be modifying that in any way. The TOA system would be more for broadcasting custom messages (severe weather, for example). Thanks for suggesting Rolls products - I will look in to that.

I'm curious why Wings and Backstage are separate zones, what sort of different audio are they getting? Trying to see if there's a way to streamline this.
Yeah, this is the way it was originally installed, and I don't get it either. They typically receive the same program mix. The biggest difference being that you can page to them separately via the ClearCom system - but paging to the wings during a show is no bueno as it can be heard by the audience. When I first started, the "backstage" amp only fed one speaker in a hallway and another in the shop. I have since expanded that to include ceiling speakers in each dressing room, each backstage restroom, and the greenroom.

Using the main PA would be preferred, but we get so many different volunteers through that it's hard to ensure that they all consistently patch (or even leave room for) a God Mic. One of the most attractive features of Box Office paging capabilities would be corralling patrons from the lobby at the end of intermission. Though we use 5,3, &1 minute chimes, we almost always have to hold for the lobby to clear. I figured if we're going to do that, I'd might as well give them the option to page backstage (summoning the SM to headset, perhaps) and the auditorium while I'm integrating Feature Creep.

My preferred box office mic would be a non-latching PTT style, hopefully preventing an open-mic scenario.

The Peavey PageMatrix system seems to do all this, but I don't think it's a current product. The 3P4T switch is an attractively simple option. Do you think it would need a resistor inline to prevent popping as a zone is brought online?
 

themuzicman

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On Tour
I'd might as well give them the option to page backstage (summoning the SM to headset, perhaps) and the auditorium while I'm integrating Feature Creep.
Inexpensive 2-way radios are the way most venues handle this. SM gets all the things, a nice intercom headset, a radio to the house manager, and a crew radio. It's a whole Batman utility belt look they get going on.

My preferred box office mic would be a non-latching PTT style, hopefully preventing an open-mic scenario.
The NY standard is a Shure 514B for Page and an SM58S for VOG - two different form factors so they know by sight what goes to what.

The 3P4T switch is an attractively simple option. Do you think it would need a resistor inline to prevent popping as a zone is brought online?
You raise a good point, but I honestly have zero idea! I only got the idea because a 2PXT (X = # of Venues) switch is what I use when I install cheap paging systems in multi-venue spaces that have freely assignable dressing rooms. You need to be able to flip to whatever venue the room is assigned to, just using the idea on the input side and not the output side. Sorry I'm not more help here...
 

Les

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Feb 24, 2004
Location
DFW, Tx.
You've been plenty of help, @themuzicman . If not a rotary switch, push buttons could work (be nice if they were self-cancelling) , or even a VoIP gateway - but that could open another can of worms.

The theatre has tried using handheld radios before, but man... Never seems to work out in the long-term. They get lost, sat down somewhere not-useful, etc. Since we are a mostly-volunteer group (I'm the only staff member who is directly involved with productions), our SM's range from some of the greatest you'll ever meet to ones who are "at least a warm body". They're always nice people so I don't want to speak bad of them, but we've had a few SM's where it was all they could do to call a show correctly, so I wouldn't want to entirely entrust them with communicating with the audience in a clear and effective way.

Our box office staff, though also mostly-volunteer, are generally more consistent in training, experience, and regularity. We had one show where a tornado warning occurred. The stage manager had to shout from the booth "Hold, please" and then call the house manager by name until he showed up and addressed the audience. This was before I was on staff, and I have since installed a ClearCom station with HS6 telephone-style handset in the box office, and I'm hoping a more facility-wide paging system can help us with ready-to-go communications from various locations - even for shows where we might have only one tech in the booth and no real SM (like dance shows). Some training will be needed, as well as chain-of-command, but at least it's something better than we had before.

That's the idea, anyway :).
 

teqniqal

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Apr 26, 2009
Location
Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas
Or you could ask the guy that designed it (and knows all the ins and outs) how it might best be handled.
 
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