Cariboo Memorial Rec Complex
Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex / August 2015
An overly complex AV system confused users and often failed.
Simplify the controls and update key equipment.
The recreation complex in Williams Lake includes the 400-seat Gibraltar Room Theatre, a multi-use room that sees everything from monthly film society screenings to music concerts. It was one of dozens of 2010 Winter Games Olympic viewing locations across B.C., outfitted with an impressive audio and video system that enabled local residents to be part of the Vancouver Winter Games. The AV system was of significant size and quality, complete with a large sound system, a 7000-lumen video projector, and a number of touch screens that – in theory — controlled all facets of the theatre.
The system had a number of issues, making it unreliable and unpredictable in its operation during events:
- one speaker buzzed and needed repair
- the HDMI video feed to the projector cut in and out on a regular basis, which interrupted the video signal
- the audio system was overly complex, and while good quality equipment was used, it didn’t always work as expected
- users were confused by the erratic touch screen system
We recommended the removal of the touch screens for ease of operation and reuse as much of the equipment as possible. After all, it was all relatively new (2008). We added:
- 5000-lumen 1080p video projector (the existing one was only 720p)
- video switching system to eliminate video dropouts
- small rack within the theatre with a Blu-ray player, HD cable box, and master volume controls of all music and mic sources
- lockable microphone and music inputs to prevent unauthorized use of the system
Sound Solutions spent four days on-site. First up was moving the existing rack from the sound booth where it was difficult to access to a storage area on the main floor of the theatre and removal of the audio mixing console from the sound room.
The rack was greatly simplified with the removal of unnecessary equipment and wiring. The wireless mics that had some dead spots in the room when located at the sound booth now had clear reception throughout the theatre when moved closer to the people using the sound system.
A new rack houses the master volume controls and all video source equipment, along with an easy-to-use video switcher.
Audio, VGA and HDMI inputs were located in the rack so that external audio and video sources could be connected to the system. Illuminated speaker on/off switches were installed so that the room could be configured to accommodate various functions, and master volume controls were set up so that even a novice could understand the use of the system. Rather than using a touch pad, we used a simple keypad to control the new video projector, Blu-ray player and HD cable box. Only frequently used functions were programmed into the touch pad, leaving out many buttons that would be confusing to use.
The inputs to the system were simplified, and a total of six lockable mic and music input plates were installed around the room for easy access. By locating volume controls right at the mic and music inputs, the system could be used without touching the rack equipment.
The sound system
The original sound system consisted of a Soundcraft 16-channel mixing board, which was of excellent quality, but difficult for a non-technical user to operate. The signal from the mixing board was sent to a Lectrosonics DM1624 digital signal processor. The output of the Lectrosonics was fed to four Crest amplifiers, which in turn powered eight JBL speakers.
We chose to reuse all but the Soundcraft mixing board, which was left at the theatre for larger events where sound techs would run the audio and video in the theatre. We took advantage of the control functions of the Lectrosonic by adding simple master volume controls and speaker on/off switches. Blue LEDs light up the switches so that users can easily see which speakers are turned on or off. Volume levels were set within the Lectrosonic processor so that the speakers could not be overdriven, which could potentially damage them.
The existing Crest CPx1500 amplifiers and JBL speakers were reused, and the one blown speaker was removed for repair.
We added six Factor Electronics RVC PRO mic/music input plates: four at the front of the room, one by the new rack in the theatre, and one in the sound booth. For basic mic and music functions, a source can simply be plugged in at any input plate, and the sound system will function. No confusing controls to adjust, no need to call a supervisor; the system was designed to be simple, as the room is used for many different types of events.
The video system
The existing system used a 7000 lumen 720p video projector along with control via their original touch screen system. Due to issues with the original installation, the HD cablevision system signal for the Olympics would cut in and out during events. We changed the video system from an HDMI signal to an RGB analog signal feed, while maintaining the 1080p resolution fed to a new Infocus IN5145 projector. We used an Extron VGA video switcher and converted all of the HDMI input sources to 1080p RGBHV analog video for seamless and reliable video switching. A heavy-duty chassis-mount HDMI input connector was used for any external video sources, and this connector can be user-replaced if it ever breaks.
Finally, the wiring at the rack was neatly bundled and covered with split loom tubing and strain reliefs at each end, to facilitate moving the rack without damaging the integrity of the sound system.
Cue the applause
On the final day of installation, the Williams Lake Film Club held its monthly film screening in the theatre. I snuck in and sat at the back, curious to see how the brand new projector and controls would function. This group is typical of the many users that the theatre sees: they have high expectations that the system will turn on and function, and have minimal technical expertise when it comes to buttons, knobs and switches. The reviews were positive: the new projector was a hit and making it all turn on, play and turn off at the end of the evening was simple and straightforward. The club president blew my cover and on behalf of the film club thanked me by name for the new system. And for the first time ever in my professional sound career, I was given a hearty round of applause.