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Five Recent Theater/Performing Arts Center Projects

Thomas S. Friedman • InstallationsNovember 2020 • November 5, 2020

Despite the devastating effects of the Covid-19 shutdowns on theater and performing arts spaces, the industry is looking ahead to the day when curtains will rise and again resound with the joy of thrilled audiences. During this time, facility upgrades are continuing, whether in converted environments, new construction and refurbs of existing venues. With that in mind, we present five recent installation projects. Each takes a different approach, proving there are numerous solutions to any audio challenge — large or small — for any performing space.

The Steven Tanger Center has the country’s largest Meyer Constellation variable acoustics system. Photo by Joey Kirkman

The Tanger Center, Greensboro, NC

The new $90-million Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts is the home to the largest Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system in the U.S. Variable acoustical environments tailored for each performance allows the venue to host shows ranging from symphony performances, opera and spoken word events to touring rock concerts and Broadway musicals.

“From the outset, the economics were driven by selling out touring shows, which is why we set 3,000 as our minimum capacity,” says Matt Brown, managing director of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, who operates the Tanger Center. “Our goal was to provide an optimum environment for both types of performances without compromising either.”

The project’s acoustical consultants were Arup of New York, with acoustical design at various stages guided by Matthew Mahon, Christopher Darland and Ed Arenius. Arup’s recommendation was to design the hall with relatively dry physical acoustics to accommodate spoken word and amplified music, with electroacoustic enhancement added as required for most other musical events.

As the new home of the Greensboro Symphony, the original concept was a 1,600-seat symphonic hall, but planned larger shows would sell double that number, and with the need to acoustically support both, the Constellation system provided the right solution. That decision was also prompted by the symphony’s musical director Dmitry Sitkovetsky, who had heard Constellation at Moscow’s Svetlanov Hall, and later experienced it first-hand, playing his Stradivarius with a string quartet at Meyer Sound’s Pearson Theatre.

Installed by Greensboro-based SE Systems, the Constellation system comprises 205 small full-range loudspeakers mounted laterally and overhead. Eight different models were deployed, both full-range and subwoofers, all incorporating Meyer Sound’s IntelligentDC for self-powered systems with simplified cabling requirements. For ambient acoustical sensing, 57 miniature condenser mics arrayed throughout the hall feed signals to the 18-module D‑Mitri digital audio platform. Five of the modules are D-VRAS processors hosting the Virtual Room Acoustic System algorithm.

“The acoustical toolset we have in Constellation as applied in a 3,000-seat setting affords economic advantages that I believe will be a model for all future performing arts venues of this type,” summarizes Brown.

The project was completed just days before the grand opening festivities for the new Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, the Tanger Center is looking forward with a 2021 (and beyond) schedule that includes Greensboro Symphony concerts with Kenny G and Sting; a busy inaugural Broadway season including Wicked, The Lion King and Dear Evan Hansen; and lecture dates with actress Sally Field and former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. A new opening date had not been announced at press time.

The Tanger Center

  • Capacity: 3,000
  • Key Components: Meyer Sound Constellation
  • Integrator: SE Systems
  • Designer: Arup of New York

 

The ISBVI Auditorium now has an Adamson IS-Series system.

ISBVI Auditorium, Indianapolis, IN

One of the largest and longest-standing institutions of its kind in the United States, the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) in Indianapolis is revered and known internationally as an innovator in specialized education.

A recent project was the $600,000 renovation of ISBVI’s auditorium, so every show would be accessible to individuals with disabilities. The improvements included new audio, video and lighting systems with sophisticated captioning and described-video capabilities. Florida-based All Pro Integrated Systems (recently acquired by music/audio retailer Sweetwater) got the AVL system contract.

“They wanted a solution with super clarity and even coverage that would also respect the architecture,” says All Pro project lead Mark Salamone, referring to the historic 1929 auditorium. The project also required a versatile system to handle both cinema-quality 7.1 surround and fairly sizeable live performances.

“The big challenge was providing a detailed cinema system to handle rock concerts, while maintaining that fine detail for movie screenings,” Salamone emphasizes. “We knew it should be a line array solution, and right away, I felt Adamson Systems Engineering would provide the clarity and articulation they needed.”

All Pro’s Sarah Giles helmed the system design, working in collaboration with Adamson’s Christopher Weatherford and a team at the company’s headquarters. “When we modeled it, it seemed to just snap into focus and worked really well for that room — and we had the science to back that up from Sarah and Adamson,” Salamone recalls, pointing to the extensive CAD modeling and the effectiveness of Adamson’s Blueprint AV design and simulation software.

The main LCR system has three hangs of six ultra-compact IS7 two-way, full range cabinets from Adamson’s install-focused IS-Series, which packs the tour-proven performance of the S-Series into sleek, architecturally friendly enclosures. Loaded into the walls on each side of the stage, two IS119 subwoofers add low-end punch. The floor and balcony levels have side and rear surround systems with IS7p point-source models with 100-degree horizontal coverage, which — coupled with the LCR hangs — offer uniform voicing and even coverage throughout the auditorium. Staying unobtrusive to the building’s aesthetics, all the enclosures were custom painted to match the room’s décor.

After first hearing the system in action, “I was floored,” says Todd Malone, who oversees the auditorium and its AV systems. “It was exactly what we were after — incredible sound, plenty of power and headroom. We all loved what we were hearing.”

Anchoring the system at FOH is an Allen & Heath SQ-7, the 48-channel flagship console in the company’s SQ Series. “We wanted to keep operation really simple and straightforward but also give them those great mic pres,” Salamone notes. One goal of the new system was to introduce ISBVI students to production technologies, and ultimately have them operating these systems. In fact, braille stickers adorn the console and other components to help to train and guide those users.

Also key to the project is a long-throw Christie Cinema CP2215 15,000-lumen WUXGA projector, and all the AV components are controlled via a QSC Q-Sys network, with the various audio system configurations — performance or cinema, 7.1, 5.1, stereo, etc. — accessible at the push of a button.

“Adamson was right there as a great partner,” says Salamone. “Their engineers are top-notch and worked closely with us through the entire process. It was totally seamless from the client’s perspective.”

ISBVI Auditorium

  • Capacity: Approx. 400
  • Key Components: Adamson Systems IS-Series; Allen & Heath SQ-7
  • Integrator: All Pro Integrated Systems
  • Designer: Sarah Giles

 

A month after Radius’ packed grand opening, the venue was shuttered due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Radius, Chicago, IL

Following its initial opening in February — and awaiting re-opening due to Covid-19 — Radius was a steel factory transformed into a modern artistic venue. The 55,000 square foot facility is scalable from 2,500 to 3,800 guests, and offers exceptional acoustics, a VIP mezzanine level, artist lounges, production offices, RV/truck parking with direct access to the stage for load-in/out and a d&b audiotechnik KSL loudspeaker system installed by Brown Note Productions of Thornton, CO.

Designed for use as a pre/post-event space and set to go online in 2021 is Cermak Hall, located within the Radius complex. This 10,000 square foot multi-purpose event space will have a capacity for 1,350 guests and feature its own entrance, stage and a full bar.

“The project started four years ago — before the SL-Series was available — with the original spec for d&b’s J Series,” states Brown Notes’ Ryan Knutson, “and the KSL was the natural progression for the venue’s future sound reinforcement needs.”

The SL Series provides accuracy and control in line array performance, delivering full range broadband directivity and extended LF response. The second system to be released as part of the SL-Series, the KSL range provides these same benefits for use in medium-to-large scale applications.

The all-d&b audiotechnik P.A. configuration at Radius consists of seven KSL8 and four KSL12 line arrays per side (for a total of 22); ten SL-GSUB triple-21” cardioid subs; four Y10p front fills; two Y10p for bar area fills; two Y10p under-balcony fills; and five 10S-D for the mezzanine and VIP area fills. System power is via 17 D80 and three D20 amplifiers, with two DS10 Audio Network Bridges.

Knutson said the client was impressed after hearing a demo at Denver’s Mission Ballroom (a Brown Note KSL install). “The d&b KSL system was essential,” states owner Nick Karounos. “From the start, we wanted the sound to be a major differentiator for Radius and this system was the driving force. With this system and the venue acoustics, we’ve essentially addressed a major complaint of other venues that were a theater first and then retrofitted into a concert venue.”

Radius will entertain most every style of music, from rock to electronic and everything in-between. The venue is set up to handle most touring shows and, since the pandemic, has shifted to small, socially distanced experiential events and both private and corporate functions.

 Radius Chicago

  • Capacity: 2,500-3,800, scalable
  • Key Components: d&b KSL system
  • Integrator: Brown Note Productions

 

Warner Grand Theatre, Los Angeles

The Warner Grand Theatre is the last of a series of classic Southern California cinema palaces from the 1930s that retains its original contours. Designated a Los Angeles historic cultural monument in 1982, the venue was purchased in 1996 by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, which has continuously operated this landmark art deco gem since then.

Now, the 1,525-seat theater hosts classic and art films as well as concerts and other live performances. As part of an upgrade a few months ago, El Segundo, CA-based Bell Event Services (BES) was selected to upgrade the venue with a modern sound system comprised of a VUE Audiotechnik al-8 line array sound system with as-418 subs and hm-112 stage monitors; DiGiCo SD12-96 FOH and SD9T monitor consoles and an SD-Rack with Stadius 32-bit I/O mic preamps on an Optocore HMA optical loop.

“The combination of the new consoles and the new P.A. system means this is a world-class destination for touring shows,” states BES president Michael Bell. The project was managed by BES audio/operations manager Tim Campbell, who worked closely with Victor Prudeaux, the theater’s FOH engineer and master electrician.

“With our last system, the biggest issues were intelligibility, and overall SPL on the floor and in the balcony,” says Prudeaux. “Once you got to audience sizes around 500 people, the system would run out of headroom. This issue was compounded in the balcony due to the physical distance of the balcony from the P.A. Our new al-8 VUE line array is a game-changer for us. We now have incredible coverage throughout and the vocals have never been cleaner.”

On the console side, in addition to the functional and operational benefits —the SD12 is supercharged with the SD12-96 upgrade, taking it from 72 to 96 channels and from 36 to 48 aux/subgroups, while the SD9T offers a redesigned “T” workflow to suit theatrical requirements. The consoles are also remarkably compact. Installed at the rear of the auditorium, the SD12 takes up far less space than the previous FOH desk. “They can now add more seats as a result,” says Bell, “for increased show revenue or social distancing purposes.”

With these enhancements, The Warner Grand Theatre is getting ready for its next 90 years, with upgraded projectors next on the list of planned purchases. “When touring comes back, the Warner Grand is going to be a real showcase room,” says Bell.

FOH engineer Victor Prudeaux at the venue’s DiGiCo SD12

 The Warner Grand Theatre

  • Capacity: 1,525
  • Key Components: VUE Audiotechnik al-8 line arrays; DiGiCo SD12-96, SD9T
  • Integrator: Bell Event Services

 

The Grosser Sendesaal has an L-Acoustics Kiva II rig.

Landesfunkhaus Niedersachsen, Hanover, Germany

Hanover, Germany is home to the state broadcast station Landesfunkhaus Niedersachsen, which is part of regional public radio/TV broadcaster, Northern German Broadcasting (NDR). Its building is home to Kleiner Sendesaal, a 350-seat hall that plays host to an array of corporate and music events, and the 1,250-capacity Grosser Sendesaal, primarily used for the NDR Radiophilharmonie, which produces more than a hundred concerts each year. This year, both halls received a major audio upgrade designed around L-Acoustics’ ultra-compact, powerful Kiva II and flexible A Series.

Both halls host events from live music to film concerts with cinema sound, and the existing system was not keeping up with the demands for high quality sound reinforcement. “The ever-increasing sound quality requirements, coupled with the rider requirement of incoming productions led us to look for a new, optimized sound system that can take us into a new era of audio,” explains the facility’s Ingo Schwarze.

After assessing available solutions, L-Acoustics won out, both in technical sound measurement and listening tests. Besides a requirement for distortion-free reproduction and uniform coverage of the entire auditorium, “we also needed a system that would eliminate wall reflections, attain high speech intelligibility and attenuate sound onstage,” Schwarze noted.

Other issues involved architectural requirements, with clearly defined rigging points with weight limitations, height restrictions for film performances where speaker hangs had to clear the cinema screen and pre-configured placement of side and front fills.

The final configuration for the Grosser Sendesaal comprises left/right hangs of seven Kiva II and two SB15m subs in a cardioid arrangement. Three L-Acoustics SB18m subwoofers are positioned as mobile stacks on either side of the stage, with five Kiva IIs as side fills and nine 5XT coaxial speakers as stage lip front fills. “Kiva II excels in the large hall, where the hexagonal floor plan makes it exceptionally difficult to achieve uniform sound distribution,” Schwarze enthuses. “With Kiva II, those issues are noticeably improved.”

The Kleiner Sendesaal has left/right hangs, each with one A10 Focus and an A10 Wide. Two mobile stacks of two SB18m subs are positioned left and right in cardioid mode. “The A Series was chosen for the small hall, as the team wanted a highly versatile, full-range system,” notes L-Acoustics’ Sebastian Wittrock, who created the system design, adding “the A Series’ Panflex variable directivity offers the ability to steer dispersion in the horizontal plane, preventing unnecessary reflections from the walls.”

“We are really satisfied with the system design for both halls,” says Schwarze. “Our early experiences with the overall sound are extremely positive. We are very much looking forward to the first post-pandemic shows with physical audiences and are confident they’ll appreciate the excellent sonic quality of the new system.”

The Landesfunkhaus Niedersachsen

  • Capacity: 1,250 (Grosser Sendesaal); 350 (Kleiner Sendesaal)
  • Key Components: L-Acoustics Kiva II and A-Series
  • Integrator: Amptown System Company

 

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