A Story of Audio … and Taxes

So, let’s talk about audio and taxes. It doesn’t seem like they go together, does it?  Hang in there with us and you will soon see what me mean.

We specify a variety of audio consoles for  theaters in, high schools, and colleges.  Without dispute, the single biggest mistakes we come across after these consoles have been in place for months is that there still is no content.  

No Content. That Is A Problem.

There are no templates. There are no libraries saved . (If you are drawing a blank on what those are we will explain.)  This scenario is all too familiar. Your typical digital console has an input channel and there are all sorts of  things you can do to it. You can turn gates on and off. You can turn compressors on and off. You can play with EQ’s. Yes, there is all kinds of nice stuff you can do with it. And that is the rub. What should you be DOING with it?


So, let’s get back to this “taxes” thing.   When you think about your console, you have a lot of different things you do with it in a year. 

You do theatrical productions.

You do lectures.

You do concerts.

You host lectures.

And every time you do one, you have two choices. You can have settings saved to start your event out with, or you can start from scratch again and again.

Save The File. Do It Now.

Now, here is the income tax analogy. Every year you have to calculate and pay your taxes, or the government will come after you. There are a number of online services you can use that will do the work for you. You just go to their app, type in all your  stuff, it then tells you that you owe a million dollars so that you can simply write a check and all is well. Or go to jail.

Or, there is another choice. If you know how to use Excel, you can build a complete tax calculating program yourself on an Excel spreadsheet.  

That probably would take a painfully long time but you could do it. You would just have to take all the formulas and all the required information and build your own tax filing program. Then every year you could do it again from scratch! Is that the best use of your time?  

Well, just like it is smarter to let an expert create a tax filing program for you to use, the console designers have built in ways to create and save settings  so that the technician does not have to construct it over and over again. 

You can save a show to the hard drive of the console and bring it up to be tweaked and reused again and again.  A template can be made to use for the next show, with custom adjustments made for that particular event, and saved for use again and again. 

With little effort, a new version of the event can be fashioned instead of starting from “square one.” When it comes to consoles in high school and college auditoriums, this is virtually what we see happening. The audio engineer creates a show that works well and never saves that content to the library or scene libraries. He doesn’t make a template to start with when it is time to design the next show, either.  Nothing is saved.  Absolutely, nothing!

It’s what I see people doing in all sorts of venues.  

What They Should Do.

Every venue  has various microphones all of which need specific  EQ and settings to use on a the sound  system in that particular  room.  For this  discussion let’s  talk headsets for theater.

Pick a channel, get the gain set, and Eq the mike to taste and to avoid feedback. Add compressors, gates etc….. to get the sound and dynamics you want on that mike.

Once you get  channel set up and sounding  good save it in a library file.

Set the file save so you are saving the gate, EQ, the compressor and all of these features to that particular channel library.  Now, if you had a dozen of these headsets and were going to be doing a theater production with them, you could go back and populate a bunch of channels by just pasting the library channel in. Every channel  would start out sounding exactly like the one you saved.

Now that may not seem like a big deal, but when you think about bringing a channel up from scratch, it’s  not as huge a deal in a studio environment, but in a live environment where you’ve got gain before feedback and room acoustics to deal with it is. You want to be sure any channel you make live is safe and sounding  at least Ok i.e. neutral.

Then you ( or someone less skilled than you) want to create a show and be sure that when you start out with each actor in your tech rehearsal, you’re not creating feedback and having problems start out with  by using a  preset for the headset.

There are some other things you have to think about. Make sure your belt pack gain structure is the same. It’s the same type of headset, all of that stuff, but you then can take a dozen people, throw them on stage at a tech rehearsal, and you will be able to turn all of their mikes on and off without any potential for sudden feedback or gross errors.

And then you  can work on tweaking their individual voice sounds.

So that’s the real purpose of a digital console is to take the skill set of somebody else and use it to bring up what you want to work on.

So let’s talk about some of the options you have for these kinds of things.

So what we’re going to do is switch from a headset to an SM 58, which is set up with no EQ it’s just flat at a 6” working distance. You can also save one with EQ for a 12” working distance.  You can also save it for “lips on mike” with appropriate  EQ and gain changes for each.

Then set up a chorus with AKG C414’s or whatever mike  you like, and do the same. 

These become starting points for various mike types and uses.

So as you create libraries, when you get ready to do an event, you can say, okay, I need these mikes for choir. So I’m going to bring up the,  AKG C414, put those into some channels.

And they’ve all been preset to be safe for what you’re trying to do.

So  the thing I would recommend, and this is for  anybody who has a digital console, is you need to find a way to rehearse scenarios with live sources, create presets for channel libraries, whole console templates, etc…..  

Define whatever types of events you may do repeatedly and create these preset scenes and  libraries and get them set up so that when you’re getting ready to put an event together, it’s not starting from scratch.

Kind of like doing your taxes. The easy way with a template someone  else made.



Copyright AVL Designs Inc. 2021+

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Belfast High School auditorium stage

Belfast High School

Belfast High School in Belfast, New York has an active theater program. Even so, their performances have been taking place in a gymnasium with a stage that was minimally outfitted. So, with much help from AVL Designs Inc., the school undertook a major renovation project refurbishing the gym to accommodate top-notch theatrical performances .

Take a look at this “before” picture in contrast with what it looks like now, after the renovations!

You almost wouldn’t recognize the place!

BEFORE: Belfast High School Gym / Auditorium

Completed Belfast High School auditorium renovation

AFTER: Belfast High School Gym / Auditorium

Originally, there was no fixed seating, insufficient lighting, limited access to FOH [front-of-house] lighting and minimal audio [though they did have about 30+ wireless systems.]  

Actually, to their tribute, Belfast had been working diligently to do a good job with the audio on their shows but the system and room acoustics were fighting against them.  

When it came to theatrical lighting, shows were highly challenging to produce. The school had one dead hung pipe and minimal onstage fixtures. They had absolutely no focusable fixtures, only one border light and some fluorescent strips.  


Above all, the biggest change needed was to add permanent seating capability and sight lines.

Auditorium seating in Belfast High School

AVL Designs Inc.’s plan added a motorized raked seating system with padded chairs. This addition completely changed the way the room behaves acoustically, and makes it far more comfortable for the audience.

Other acoustical room upgrades have been completed, as well. Our design altered the ceiling profile to create an acoustical shell over the pit area for choral groups and to minimize side wall reflections.


The addition of side lighting galleries brought a major improvement to the performance space. Motorized lighting was not an affordable option for the school so, the new lighting galleries give them the ability to quickly change lighting for specific events without having to bring in a man lift.

LED color changing fixtures make for rapid wash changes to the look of the stage. The system is designed around Electronic Theater Controls products using an Ion Xe® with dual touch screens. ColorSource™ is the primary lighting fixture used on the project using the combination of ellipsoidal and pars. The other lighting that was used was Strand SL bar 60 40s for stage light and general illumination.


Other upgrades were to replace all front of house audio from the console to loudspeakers, monitors, processing Allen and Heath sq seven consoles were used as well as Sennheiser wireless systems and Danley S H series loudspeakers.

BEFORE: Belfast High School Booth

AFTER: Belfast High School Control Booth

The system sounds dramatically better than the original and is performing well for the owner. Video was upgraded as well, utilizing a high lumen output Epson Projector, new screen, new projector, Crestron control system, and other upgrades.

The school district is extremely pleased with their new space and, coming out of the COVID restrictions, is looking forward to using it for performances.


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