Small School Auditorium/Theatre

Sludwig1717

New Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2017
Location
Julian, CA
Hello all,

I'm very new to the world of sound for the stage. I work for a very small school and am currently in the process of transforming our multipurpose room into a theatre. We currently run our 8th grade productions with the ancient PA system. I'm wondering if there might be some sort of starter theatre package out there that might contain a sound system, a couple actor mics, speakers, etc. We are on a pretty tight budget of $1,000 that has already been approved, but I may be able to get more if the right system presents itself beneficial for our school. I know this won't give me ideal sound, but I just keep reminding myself that they're junior high students and anything will be better than what we're currently using.

Thank you so much for your guidance!
 

EdSavoie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 19, 2016
Location
Windsor, ON, Canada
It seems you've wandered into the right forum!
Welcome aboard, you're sure to get good advice from everyone here.

For starters, could you get us rough dimensions, seat capacity, etc?

The type of room will also change things, a gym will be a bit trickier than a room that's a little less, well, echoey.
 

Sludwig1717

New Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2017
Location
Julian, CA
It seems you've wandered into the right forum!
Welcome aboard, you're sure to get good advice from everyone here.

For starters, could you get us rough dimensions, seat capacity, etc?

The type of room will also change things, a gym will be a bit trickier than a room that's a little less, well, echoey.
The room is two large portables put together. Rough dimensions would be about 50' wide and 100' long. Height of the room is just under 10'. We seat about 150 in folding chairs. The whole room is carpeted and we're currently building a 12'x24' wood stage with plans to add curtains in the near future.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
I agree with BillESC. Anything for a $1000 or even two will not be satisfactory and not last long. With only 150 people, you should try to make some simple improvements in the room that a sound system isn't needed. No doubt the air handling system is noisy as heck (which means you have to raise your voice at least a little bit when it's on.) I was going to post a picture of a bullhorn but decided not to be so caustic.

If we were at a planning stage and you suggested 150 seats in this size space, the first thing would be a taller building, but just for budget a sound system would be a minimum of $75,000-100,000 range. Not that you can't do something for less that would be suitable, but 1% of good? I am helping a local K-5 school refit their auditorium and stage and their own group os struggling with the compromises necessary with $20,000 budgeted and raised.

Google "PA systems" and pick one for around $1000 - and then everyone will learn of the limitations of a $1000 system and decide in a few years what to do next.
 

Ric

Active Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2008
Location
Werribee, Victoria, Australia
What are you currently using?
it may be that it can benefit from some assistance, in setup & operation, in order to sound better.
 
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StradivariusBone

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Aug 23, 2013
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Space Coast, FL
I'm currently watching the aftermath of a sound system "upgrade" that I was initially consulted on and passed up because the scope of what some of the stakeholders wanted went beyond my skill level to implement (and outside of my own recommendations). That being said, I have offered up my opinion a few times before in the public school arena around here and have a few retrofits that didn't break the bank. One of the biggest problems I see when a school wants to upgrade their sound system is they love throwing the baby out with the bathwater and end up buying a bunch of new gear, often replacing existing gear that is perfectly serviceable for the application. Bear in mind, I have pizza tastes on a taco budget, but I love these types of problems.

In a perfect world, you would have a quarter million budget for a proper auditorium, but reality is reality and you've got to make do with what you've got. Take an inventory of your current setup (model numbers and makes) of things like speakers, mixers, microphones and share it on here. I've never set foot onto an elementary school campus without seeing at least one closet full of perfectly serviceable (yet largely ignored) sound equipment that could be modified to fit their needs to at least an acceptable level with some creativity. There is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution to this that you can buy off Amazon. That would involve hiring someone like Bill to come out and tell you what to do and what to buy and will definitely exceed your budget (but you will have one heck of a theatre when it's done!).
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
"Ancient" may well have remaining service life; can you tell us what equipment is currently there and which pieces are broken or defective? Perhaps more importanty can you tell us what you need this sound system to do? If you say "everything" can you prioritize that?

Sound reinforcement for an audience of 150 isn't terribly difficult if you don't require lots of microphones or high Needed Acoustic Gain. If you're trying to get a herd of kids loud enough for phone recording (arrrrrrgggggg) you have a whole 'nother set of challenges. Until we know what you have and what your expectations are, though, we can't really make any suggestions. As Bill and Bill point out, $1k isn't much money in the grand scheme of audio but we also understand this is a substantial sum for many schools were it has to come for the site budget or even PTA group. What we don't want to happen is to see your meager budget squandered. Don't buy crap. I wish I could remember who told me this so I could credit him or her: "The wrong product at the right price is still the wrong product."
 
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I agree that you need to inventory what you have. List it here with as much info as you can about the equipment, the area that you're working in, etc. I have great faith that those in the know here can help you come up with a plan to best utilize your current setup and your budget. It may not be top of the line, but it may very well serve your needs for the time being.

I know that I (and I'm quite sure others here) have faced some pretty big challenges throughout my SR career. The biggest one for me was having no budget to buy the equipment I knew I wanted. Figuring out how to make the best of what was available was another huge challenge. I imagine most of us in this field go through that.

Keep us updated.
 

lwinters630

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 12, 2011
Location
west of Chicago
Hello all,

I'm very new to the world of sound for the stage. I work for a very small school and am currently in the process of transforming our multipurpose room into a theatre. We currently run our 8th grade productions with the ancient PA system. I'm wondering if there might be some sort of starter theatre package out there that might contain a sound system, a couple actor mics, speakers, etc. We are on a pretty tight budget of $1,000 that has already been approved, but I may be able to get more if the right system presents itself beneficial for our school. I know this won't give me ideal sound, but I just keep reminding myself that they're junior high students and anything will be better than what we're currently using.

Thank you so much for your guidance!
I suggest to look at your space and how it will be used over the next 5 to 7 years and what equipment that would be needed if you had the funds. Then make a plan to phase in quality items and not buy cheap junk as it won't last. Be forward thinking and not box your self out or have to go back to redo things. Think through the location of the speakers, mixing board, wiring and mic options.

If you mount speakers up high, you miss the front seating area. If you put them to far up stage you get feed back issues. So as mentioned it's not as simple as buy this or that. When I had to add some items for a small area I used a Shure Dual-Transmitter Handheld Wireless System with 2 PG58 Mics and then ordered two wireless belt packs that overlapped the same frequencies. Then I could either one as needed. (not both) Each year added more recievers, mics and belt packs. (note: two of these just used up your budget)

Check with larger venues in your area like multi site churches, they often are upgrading and may donate some equipment to you. They may even have professionals on staff that will donate some time to come out and give some guidance.
 

TimMc

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Premium Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
Good point and I'm not a sound system person but probably not a problem in this case with a 10' ceiling.
In general, getting speakers up high and aiming them down is a preferred way to deal with evenness of coverage.

This is because of the inverse-square law (doubling of distance results in -6dB loss of SPL). If you have a speaker mounted low the distance to the front row might be only 2 meters or so but the distance to the back row might be 20 meters, or about a -18dB difference. If one can mount the speaker 4 meters from the front row the difference will be about -12dB. The designer can also use the vertical pattern of the loudspeaker to further compensate for this, but that discussion can wait.
 

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