The Southport School, Australia

Hurrairah bin Sohail discusses the AV deployment at The Southport School to discover how Videopro and partners provided technology systems that help the building morph between a performance arts venue and a learning space.

The Southport School [TSS], is an early learning, primary and secondary day and boarding school located in a suburb on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia. As TSS sought to expand its facilities it reached out to integrator Videopro to assist with the AV technology deployment.

Mark Chaplin, the account executive from Videopro, provides some background: “The relationship between Videopro and TSS goes back quite a bit. I have been dealing with the school for probably five years and we’ve been working on upgrades for their facilities and classrooms. We’ve done a number of big spaces for them.”

He continues: “They were building a 1,200-seat theatre which would serve as a full performing arts theatre as well as a venue for weekly assemblies, special presentations, events and much more. The venue was also intended to have function rooms and spaces to help it really be fully functional to the highest degree.”

The directives from TSS regarding how the venue and facility would operate posed an interesting challenge as Chaplin details: “TSS did not plan on having a dedicated theatre manager for the space and the venue would be managed by the existing IT team on a day-to-day basis with special expertise being brought in when the events demanded it. This led to an interesting dichotomy, with a theatre consultant being part of the project to ensure that the venue would function as a performing arts venue and with Videopro handling the AV and presentation side of the project which would be automated and intuitive to use. TSS was clear that they did not want resources being pulled to manage the theatre.”

The design process was challenging as Chaplin explains: “It was difficult to demarcate between the theatre and the presentation parts of the system. There was definitely crossover and there were conversations about how the resources and the infrastructure were going to be divided between the two systems. The school knew it wanted flexibility and one-touch automation, but it wasn’t clear how this translated to actual technology and systems, so it was our job to work with all parties to make sure that the end product met their needs.”

Jordan Rieck, programming team lead at Videopro, contributes: “As the school didn’t necessarily know how to achieve their end goal, which was creating a space that was fit for performance and also suitable for teaching, it helped that I had a background in live sound and theatre coupled with my role at Videopro. The starting point for us was really discovery, pinpointing what was important to TSS and what features they really wanted and then taking that to the drawing board.”

For the presentation system at TSS, Videpro has chosen Crestron NVX for AV-over-IP signal transmission. Two Epson EBL 1505 12,000 lumens laser projectors provide an ultra-wide display via rear projection. The edge-blending is powered by a tvOne Coriomaster. A third EBL 1505 unit is employed for a cyclorama projection. Two PCs drive the content with one capable of handling ultra-wide content with the second delegated to 16:9 aspect ratio content. Panasonic AW UE 150 KE PTZ cameras are used to record proceedings.

In the gallery and function room, Philips flat panels of appropriate sizes are used while an Epson EBL 1070 7,000 lumens projector is used for the orchestra pit. The stage features Philips confidence monitors.

Chaplin explains why Epson projectors were chosen: “We’ve always had great support from Epson and they are a great supplier with quality products. We’ve actually used the same projectors in a couple of other locations for the school and the experience has been great, so we stuck with the model.”

AV over IP was an obvious choice as Chaplin details: “The original intention was to have the main auditorium connected with the gallery spaces, function room and classrooms so that those could serve as overflow spaces. While this was removed from the scope as the project progressed, we decided to go with AV over IP because it is constantly expandable and down the line if they ever want to revisit the idea of overflow spaces, we can make it happen quite easily. It made logical sense.”

There were other advantages of choosing NVX as Rieck elaborates: “Another consideration with choosing NVX was that we could bring it into the DSP without any analogue cables. So, you can bring every source into the DSP and route or switch as needed. In the later editions of NVX we can take AES67 audio channels to and from every NVX box and Q-Sys can speak AES67 natively.”

The decision to go with AV over IP also led Videopro to a first as Rieck details: “We were using NVX with the school’s Aruba switches and this was the first time that we as a company were dealing with Aruba switches. There are some particular considerations with IGMP in the HP Aruba world. But we worked closely with HP and were able to resolve any issues pretty quickly.”

Over to audio

L-Acoustics Kiva II speakers were chosen to deliver audio in the main auditorium and Chaplin details how TSS selected the speakers: “We had a Christmas party where the Videopro house band was playing, and Jands, the L-Acoustics distributor, had provided the kit for the audio. We invited clients and partners to the party and the IT director from TSS happened to be there and he was blown away by what the system was outputting. He got chatting to the vendor who conveniently happened to be standing near the system and from there modelling and designs for the auditorium with L-Acoustics systems were done and L-Acoustics was eventually deployed.”

While the selection of the speakers was straightforward, deploying them in the auditorium was a different matter. Gino Simone, the project manager from Videopro, says: “Putting technology into a construction this size is always challenging because of timing and deadlines. These matters are amplified for us as integrators because we need to have the cabling and infrastructure in place before we begin. The Videopro team worked very closely with the builder to get scaffolding in place to install the speaker arrays. This was to make sure the speakers were placed exactly where they were supposed to go, as per design.”

Rieck explains the choice of DSP: “The QSC Core 110i is just incredibly flexible. It can handle a lot of networked audio sources which meant that we could bring in all the NVX audio and we could also integrate it with the CL5 sound desk with more Dante streams to really create a powerful and expansive audio system.”

A Yamaha CL5 mixing desk and Shure microphones complete the audio system in the auditorium.

JBL Control 16 flush mount ceiling speakers and Bose in-ceiling subwoofers are used for audio in other spaces.

Creating logic

As previously stated, the operation of the venue was of paramount importance for TSS. The Crestron CP3 processor was chosen for the control system.

Rieck details how the right control system was designed and delivered: “We had a lot of conversations with TSS and there was a revision process and we worked with them to really get to the core requirements. This is where switching between my programming hat and my theatre professional hat helped. I could look at the system we were designing and deploying from the perspective of a theatre manager as well as a regular user. The first thing we did was to start treating the whole building as one large system. We created a password protected admin page that can be accessed through all the touchscreens, and this gives you the ability to view the status of every piece of equipment and route the audio and video as you want. No two performances are ever the same, so this level of control allows them to get the best out of the venue and facility.”

He continues: “We have also provided the option to do manual routing on the backend. The other part was to build a one-touch control system which was a sequence of presets that can be activated say for assembly mode where the presentation is in ultra-wide mode and the audio levels fall back to a default. With these two different operator modes we feel we’ve hit the brief given to us by TSS.”

With the project completed and the venue up and running Simone sheds light on the feedback from TSS: “There has been a lot of excitement regarding the potential of the technology and the realisation that it can be expanded to keep advancing the potential of the building. I can definitely see more technology being integrated into the building because we have provided a solid foundation that can be built upon.”

Rieck adds: “This is a very large building and for this project we primarily focused on the main auditorium. There is the possibility to enhance some of the smaller and additional spaces. With NVX, upgrading or scaling the system is a simple task.”

Chaplin identifies possible upgrades: “The function room in particular could benefit from a larger display. It is a really beautiful, glass-enclosed room that overlooks the Nerang River. We have an 86-in Philips display in there at the moment but perhaps a larger LED tile display might add a real wow factor to match the ambience and the atmosphere of the room.”

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