Polished Performance

A corporate event in an acoustically challenging period venue provided a challenge for event company Key AV. Chris Fitzsimmons went along to see how the problem was solved.

The beautifully decorated Painted Hall is located in the Royal Naval College, Greenwich on the south bank of the River Thames in London. Designed and built by the architect Sir Christopher Wren at the beginning of the 1700s for King William III, the Chapel is around 60 metres long, 10 wide and 15 or so high at it’s tallest point. With it’s large windows, vaulted ceiling and polished marble floor it may look the part, but it’s not the ideal place to set up a PA system.

However this is exactly the task that fell to events company Key AV, based in Norwich, when the British Chamber of Commerce elected to hold their annual gala awards dinner at the venue. Event organisers, Stockdale Martin selected the Painted Hall as the venue for a sit down dinner followed by the award presentation ceremony.

Key AV under the auspices of Trevor Evans supplied both audio and video systems for the event, comprising projection, and a unique solution the acoustic challenges of the space.

That solution came in the form of Vieta Pro’s award winning So-Cube. Forty seven of them to be precise.

On each long dining table Key AV used a So Cube at each end, and for the smaller round table a single So Cube was placed centrally to provide appropriate coverage. The cubes act as mono, omni-directional sources, which means that diners sat at the table don’t get the impression that the sound is coming from the cube particularly, just from the table.

Trevor Evans commented: “When we first took on the project I knew I wanted some sort of distributed solution, we looked at using infrared systems, and even headphones to try to combat the massive reverb problems that this room was going to cause. When I came across the So Cube at PLASA I really thought it would be the answer.

“The alternative would have been to fly speakers from trussing, but that would have spoilt the look of this amazing room. The So Cubes are really discrete - they need zero cabling or speaker stands. They are the perfect solution.”

System design consultant Chrys Lindop, who was responsible for designing the So Cube attended the set up to hear the results for himself. He commented: “The architecture creates a very long reverb time, around 6 seconds. It’s a really tricky environment for a sound engineer.”

Aside from providing an innovative and effective sound reinforcement solution, Key AV also supplied the rest of the evening’s AV technology. “To give a nautical feel to the long tunnel from the drinks reception to the Painted Hall we used 64 x LED par lights, producing a blue/green wave, controlled by Martin Light Jockey. An audio loop of sea shore sound effects added to the atmosphere,” explained Evans.

AKG c 391B microphones were supplied for the speakers, feeding into Vieta’s VDC1 processor. The signal was then sent on a single wireless frequency to the 47 cubes via a single So-1101 transmitter positioned in the FoH area. Audio mixing was provided for by a Yamaha 01V desk.

Evans’s team additionally provided a rear projection system for visuals showing sponsors’ logos and finalist information. A Christie LX100 10,000 Lumen projector mounted in the sanctuary of the painted hall plays onto a 7m by 5m screen positioned behind the speaker’s podium. The audio and video content is controlled by Dataton’s Watchout software running on a laptop. Additional live clips and a recording of the night’s proceedings were provided by Sony HDV-Z1 cameras mixed through Watchout.

Evans explained: “We use Watchout a lot at these kind of events, it allows us to aggregate lots of different media content types together into a single presentation in a much more efficient way than using something like PowerPoint. It’s also much more powerful in the way it can scale and resize content.”

Overall, the So-Cube has provided an ideal solution to a common problem. Events such as these are regularly held in prestigious or ornate venues, often afflicted with appalling acoustics. The combination of aesthetic and acoustic advantages over a traditional PA system is hard to fault.

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