Central Square High School, located in Central Square, New York City, contracted King & King Architects to head up the renovation of their auditorium. AVL Designs Inc. was hired by King & King to assess the performance systems and design a new system for the school.
Audio and acoustics were the top need for the district. The school has a wide-ranging music and theatrical program, and the space is used for many events each year.
First: Fix the Acoustics
AVL Designs Inc. dealt with the acoustics first, as many acoustic concerts are held in the room. So, in the design, the side walls are canted in segments to provide lateral energy distribution into the seating area. Overhead clouds are curved, to provide a measure of diffusion to overhead reflections. The under-balcony ceiling has diffusive elements, as well, and the rear wall is absorptive to minimize echoes to the stage.
Next: Audio and Lighting
The main sound is built around Danley Sound Labs’ audio main speakers, chosen for their fidelity, pattern control, and frequency range. Drive electronics and amplification are provided by Ashly audio products, and the man house console is an Allen and Heat SQ7. An Ashly Audio NE 800MM is used as a day to day automixer, fully automating small functions. Wireless microphones were selected from Shure using the QLX D series.
The AV system includes a Crestron control system, 298” Diagonal 16:9 screen, and Christie DHD Series projector. Two touchscreens allow control of the video system as well as audio selection between automated and manual controls.
The lighting system is a hybrid using both incandescent dimming and LED fixtures. ETC Source Four, Color Source, Fresnel, and Philips SL bar and Punch Light fixtures were used in the design. The dimming and control are Strand with a Strand Neo Console.
Due to COVID-19, the system has not seen much use, as of yet, but the performance use in the future looks bright.
Cortland High School produces many music and theater arts performances each year. They are home to a Concert Band, Jazz Band, Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Chorus, Modern Band, Dance, Cultural Music, and performance theater.
The high school auditorium was aged, and not well suited acoustically for most of the program. Top priority for this project was to improve the acoustics, and next in line, was developing the technical: audio, AV and lighting.
AVL Designs Inc. provided the district with a primer on electronic acoustics, which we offered as a solution for the needs of their multipurpose space.
AVL Designs Inc. is a LEADER in the application of electronic acoustics in the US, with over 30 systems deployed.
Electronic acoustics allows a room to take on entirely different acoustical character for varied performances. The system enhances the stage and the seating area, provides extended reverberation time and adds early reflection energy to the seating area. Physical acoustics were designed to work with this system. The panels, which look like they are all the same wood, are, in actuality, multiple types of acoustical products.
The base condition of the room is a warm neutral frequency balcony with a low noise floor. This makes the room ideal for theater, lectures, and other uses. When music is involved, by use of electronic acoustics, the room can change on the fly.
One key item that was added was a highly accessible catwalk for front-of-house lighting access. Stage rigging was replaced with new Brickhouse™ arbors, for added safety, and extensive stage electrics.
An existing dimmer rack was refurbished to provide continuing use of ETC S4 fixtures, all other lighting is LED based utilizing fixtures from ETC and Varulite. Control for lighting is provided by ETC paradigm and Ion ZE 2K consoles.
Audio consists of an extensive new system designed around Danley Audio main speakers, Ashly Audio® DSP and amplification, Allen & Heath SQ series consoles, and Sennheiser wireless systems. The system is Dante connected to a second console in the video control booth on a lower level.
Video presentation and green room systems are controlled via Crestron and utilize Christie®, Panasonic, and Crestron display products.
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
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.
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.
AUDIO & AV
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.
With a new emphasis on streaming and online meetings, many people are discovering the many pitfalls of remote technology.
Whether it is an online worship service where you can only hear half of what you see, or an online conference meeting with audio and video issues, when things don’t work, it’s a problem.
And now that we have virtual classrooms where the teacher meets with students via an online platform, quality control is essential. AVL Designs Inc. is skilled in all the subsets required for successful remote communication: Acoustics, Audio, AV, Lighting and Video.
Newfield High School’s auditorium was an outdated facility housing a very active theater group. In fact, people at the highest levels of the school administration have contacts who work in theatrical productions in New York city. Those pros come in to operate shows at New Field High School.
Newfield High School needed an update!
AVL Designs Inc. was contracted to design new stage rigging, lighting, audio, video, and make room acoustic corrections for the auditorium. The architect was tasked with raising the height of the fly space to make it more usable for productions, as well as adding a balcony and enlarging the entire seating area of the auditorium.
The resulting changes to the room are striking, not only visually but functionally as extensive system improvements have been made.
Lighting has been enhanced with LED lighting fixtures as well as additional moving heads. The new audio system is a dramatic improvement. It includes an Allen & Heath D live digital console, expanded wireless microphone inventory, a new sound system Mains, subwoofers, over and under balcony fills and stage monitoring are included.
An electronic stage orchestra shell was added to enhance sound on stage as well as in the house using proscenium loudspeakers to expand the coverage of the electronic shell into the seating area.
The stage fly space was raised in height and all new counterweight rigging was designed using brick house technology. Although a FOH catwalk is part of the project, it could not be properly located to provide good lighting positions to the pit area. A motorized FOH batten was included just below the catwalks. This batten is populated with moving heads, allowing flexible for forestage lighting.
The new video system is a utilizes an HD laser projector with Crestron controls. Projection is made to a 298” diagonal screen. An HD PT Camera provides video feeds to green rooms and streaming.
Note: Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 problem, their first show was canceled. As a result, photos of the room were taken with the disarray of an abandoned building, being evident in all of the photos. The cast and crew were told to “leave the building and don’t come back” and they hastily left everything behind, just as it was during their show prep and rehearsals. We hope to get better photos of the room when all of this subsides.
Company principal/owner, Seth Waltz, reflects on the evolution and application of acoustic room conditioning technology on a range of projects.
Seth Waltz, a principal and owner of AVL Designs, a Penfield, NY-based firm specializing in A/V system design for performing arts, theater, worship, and several other applications, has worked closely with every version of Yamaha Active Field Control (AFC) acoustic room conditioning technology for more than 15 years.
He’s seen numerous changes in each of these applications, with traditionally high-end technologies being applied to smaller environments.
“Auditoriums with a few speakers and a microphone were once considered high-end A/V rooms,” he notes. “Now these same venues are being outfitted with million-dollar technology. The digital era has created a whole new mindset where a performing arts center, even at the school level, is looking for a higher level of everything: acoustics, sound quality, video quality and streaming. It’s all tied together.”
His first experience with AFC and its ability to configure and condition a space came in 2004 when he and his associate Geoff Nichols were invited by Yamaha to a system demo.
“We walked into what looked like a large office space with drop ceilings,” he explains. “A pianist backed by a string quartet performed for us with AFC applied to the room. If you closed your eyes, you would swear you were in a 500-seat theater. It sounded extremely natural. We got to play around with the system and we soon realized this is the future of room acoustics as far as having the ability to modify a facility as needed.”
AVL Designs Inc. first implemented the AFC system on a design project in 2005, turning a “plain Jane auditorium” into what sounded like a completely different sonic environment and drawing rave reviews from the project owner as well as the musicians who performed there.
points out that AFC technology has improved greatly over time, especially in
terms of its processing and responsiveness. He’s also suggested new system
developments such as an “orchestra shell”, allowing him to configure the stage
as opposed to just the seating areas.
“With most of our jobs now, we’re simulating the performance of orchestra shells as well as covering the seating area and early reflections,” he says. “Now that the processors have become so powerful there’s no limit to what type of space AFC can fit. We don’t have to even think twice about metallic edging or other factors. It sounds so smooth that nobody seems to know it’s there.”
noted the only challenge to a successful AFC installation is a room with a high
degree of mechanical noise, more common on projects that are updates to an
“You can’t have background noise or anything that creates echoes,” he said. “You won’t hear the nuances of the reverberation. Plus, the microphones pick up the noise and cycle it back through the system.”
Waltz looks forward to future versions of AFC incorporating new features and capabilities suited to a diverse range of applications. These include using the system as an effects device or controlling it via a mobile device. AFC4 can be controlled using the Yamaha ProVisionaire Control app on a PC or Windows tablet as well as ProVisionaire touch for iPad. These two software tools allow customers to create customer user interfaces to control various Yamaha equipment to simplify system operation for non-audio professionals.
Whatever changes are ahead for Active Field Control, Waltz is already confident in the technology’s ability to handle any project challenge. “Often at the tail end of a bid, someone changes the seating and suddenly the space is absorbing a sound we didn’t expect,” he concludes. “Or, something may happen during construction where you end up with different frequencies or there’s some other problem you wish you could do something about. AFC fills in the holes and helps compensate for these factors.
I tell clients, ‘I can give you one room that does one thing really well, or I can give you a room that does several different things well.’ Accomplishing this with physical construction alone is limiting, but AFC is extremely flexible and able to make one room do the job of many. It’s such a great tool.”