Houston Area District Upgrades Performing Arts Centers - Tech Learning

Houston Area District Upgrades Performing Arts Centers

The system designer, Erich Friend of Teqniqal Systems assessed their existing systems and determined that they could transform the performing arts centers from outdated to cutting-edge by revamping only the front end and control systems.
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The rapidly growing Katy Independent School District serves over 65,000 students in the greater Houston area. To meet their growing audio and visual media demands, school officials recently earmarked funds to update the performing arts center A/V systems in four of its seven high schools. Broadcast Works of Tyler, Texas was contracted to do the installation and used SymNet Edge and Radius AEC open architecture Dante network audio DSPs.

“The old A/V systems were 1990s vintage and entirely analog,” explained Aaron Comer, project manager with Broadcast Works. “The system designer, Erich Friend of Teqniqal Systems assessed their existing systems and determined that they could transform the performing arts centers from outdated to cutting-edge by revamping only the front end and control systems. The existing QSC amplifiers and Renkus-Heinz loudspeakers were basically in excellent shape.”

The new systems send signal long distances without copper and provide digital patch bays that allow users (including first-year students) to select among each stage’s 70+ inputs for allocation to a 48-channel Avid SC48 console.

Stage inputs include a multitude of wired input plates together with a portable rack feeding a SymNet Edge and SymNet xIn12 expander. Rather than home running all of the stage inputs back to the sound booth, as in the old design, the new system uses a stage-located SymNet Radius AEC to collect them for transfer to the sound booth via Dante. That same Radius AEC, together with a SymNet xOut12 expander, receives the final house mix from the sound booth (again via Dante) for output to the stage-located amp rack. The portable SymNet Edge rack pairs up with a sixteen-count wireless microphone system or an additional twelve-count hardwired microphone collection and can connect to the system via any one of four Dante ports located around the stage.

Each sound booth contains three SymNet Radius AEC units with additional input cards, three SymNet xIn12s, and three SymNet xOut12s. Broadcast Works designed a custom computer interface using Symetrix’ SymVue software that allows users to connect any input source to any channel on the Avid SC48 console. In turn, the console outputs thirty-two channels that feed back into the SymNet system for transfer to the amp rack via Dante.

“The students love it,” said Comer. “We trained a group of freshmen who had zero experience with a system like this. Within a couple of hours, they were completely comfortable and playing with the whole thing. Despite its complexity from our perspective, SymVue makes it simple from their perspective. They get it.”

For less elaborate events, Broadcast Works gave each school an iPad outfitted with Crestron control that would allow them to turn the system on with a minimal number of commonly-used microphones and input sources. The iPad gives them control over which commonly-used inputs are active, their individual volumes, and the overall volume.

The new systems’ learning curve made it possible for the theater and music departments in all four schools to start production on fall programs without delay, including The Wizard of Oz, a Masquerade Serenade concert, and a play called The Cherry Orchard.

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