Perth’s Wesley College audiovisuals are in a class of their own.
Text:/ Graeme Hague
Wesley College in South Perth was established in 1923 and not surprisingly has a kind of ‘old school’ feel about it. There’s much tradition and history and, of course, an Old Wesley Collegians’ Association. But the school’s attitude to modern audio visual facilities, both as a part of the college’s infrastructure, and to be included in the students’ curriculum, is far from 20th century thinking – there’s a serious commitment to giving students a decidedly 21st century education.
A broad network of equipment gives the staff access to AV resources in over 50 classrooms via a Crestron RoomView system running on a Crestron Media Manager Server. Each AV point is matched with integrated C-Bus lighting control. And that’s just the beginning. It’s not only about the classrooms and display systems for the students’ benefit or the impressive Joseph Green Centre, which is the school’s main auditorium. Fitting out the college for hands-on learning was a big part of the AV installation, and the boys get to operate their own recording studio, venue control room and even a well-equipped video production suite complete with high quality cameras and post-production hardware and software.
Probably about the only things you won’t find at Wesley College are a blackboard and a stick of chalk!
CLASS UNDER CONTROL
Starting with the classrooms, Crestron’s RoomView management software allows control of an AV source point, projector and screen from either in the classroom, or remotely from the server. A teacher can use the network interface in the room, via a connected laptop, to navigate through the database for the material they want to display. Alternatively, the information can be requested and another operator can do the virtual legwork at the server, before sending it through. In fact, the process can be much more refined that that. The teacher can program RoomView to begin transmitting the data to the room (or rooms) of choice at a designated time, with local control for pause, play or zoom settings. Specific classrooms can be locked out of a broadcast to restrict sensitive exam material only to those areas where it is required. Alternatively, a bulletin can be broadcast across the entire school for public announcements and priority settings can be applied for emergency announcements and fire alarms.
JOSEPH GREEN CENTRE
The Joseph Green Centre is a multi-purpose space for large gatherings like school assemblies, theatre productions and other big performances. Retractable seating offers the possibility of large open areas or, if things need to be scaled down, an operable wall allows for more intimate productions. The same wall allows the stage to become a drama studio while the upper gallery of seating transforms into a lecture theatre. The sections become places with identities of their own, thus you end up with the Stage, Central Hall and the Ryan Lecture Theatre.
When Vizcom Technology won the contract for this project, the Joseph Green Centre presented a range of interesting design challenges, with its requirement for AV systems to enable operations as both a single venue and a series of full-capability independent spaces.
One large motorised screen drops down in front of the stage and remains visible to the seating even when the drama studio behind it is in operation. Vision is projected by a 5500 lumen Panasonic projector fed by a Crestron QM-MD7x2 matrix mixer via a QM-RX QuickMedia receiver. By fortuitous accident it was discovered the projector also worked well on the white scrim at the rear of the stage space. This has turned out to be very useful in a full-house assembly where more seating is required. With the divider wall in place, the Ryan Lecture theatre has its own projector that focuses on the intentionally – white divider panels.
Similarly, the audio for the entire centre is completely flexible for each room configuration. As one whole PA, it’s a Turbosound system with TQ310 boxes providing left, right and centre FOH. A TQ308 adds some centre fill, while a TSB212 subwoofer punches out the bottom end. Upper and lower pairs of TQ230 units act as either fill for those seating areas or, when needed, can be programmed as part of any surround sound configuration. With the divider wall in place, these speakers independently cater for the individual spaces. Similarly, the foldback outlets on the stage become the drama studio’s principal source of audio.
The versatility of the centre demanded a mobile mixing desk that could handle all the different configurations thrown at it. The answer was a Mackie TT24 Digital Console matched with a Cat5 digital snake to 16 channels on the stage. With the Cat5 connections rather than a multicore, it was easier to provide multiple mixing positions throughout the room. A Media Matrix Nion DSP controller takes care of the signal distribution to a rack of Lab.gruppen amplifiers, and there’s the usual array of ancillary gear like CD player, DVD player and four channels of radio microphones.
To complete the triad of vision, audio and lighting, a Jands Vista T2 looks after four bars of stage lighting for a total of 48 outlets. The lighting bars are electrically winched, as is the house curtain (will these kids ever see a flybar rope and a pair of gloves?!) and of course there’s sub-divided areas of auditorium lighting to match the independent spaces.
All up, you’re looking at a significant amount of equipment that requires configuration and operation on a daily basis, not to mention maintenance. To this end, Wesley College has appointed Kingsley Matheson as the house AV technician for the facility. Over time it would be expected that some of the students will develop the interest and the skills to run the systems. However, reliance on either Kingsley or the students isn’t imperative due to the inclusion of a Crestron wi-fi tablet touchscreen controller that communicates with an AV2 processor running nigh-on everything. To provide simple operation the wi-fi tablet offers a selection of single-press presets for the entire room or its smaller divisions such as ‘Welcome’, ‘Presentation’ or ‘Assembly’. These same presets, which can be further tweaked at any time and new ones easily created, can also be activated via a laptop installed with the appropriate software interface or they can be triggered back at the main server.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL
Most of the first floor of the Joseph Green Centre is taken up by the Wesley Music department including several rehearsal rooms and smaller teaching studios. By now you will have realised that Wesley College doesn’t do things by halves, so it’s no surprise there is a recording studio equipped with active monitors, an Allen & Heath Zone Zed R16 Digital mixer and a multicore link to the nearest (and largest) of the rehearsal rooms. A Mac desktop computer with DAW software completes the studio system.
But wait, there’s more! (For someone whose high school music department consisted of a cardboard box filled with a rather unsanitary collection of wooden recorders this is getting tough to deal with.) The music department also has two portable recording trolleys that each have an Alesis Multimix USB mixer, monitor speakers and laptop stand. Audio can be recorded and played back locally, or sent digitally to the recording studio via the network of RJ45 inputs found in most rooms. It’s a two-way system and the resulting mix and talkback signal communications can then be sent back to the room via another network of balanced XLR connections and played back on a set of active Turbosound speakers (no less!).
Last, but certainly not least, the first floor also contains a media studio and control room. To all intents and purposes this is a video editing suite complete with the latest NLE software and hardware, including three high-quality cameras. Between the studio and the control room students can record interviews and similar small productions. However the main attraction is the audio, video and talkback lines extended to the auditorium so that performances on stage can be captured from three different angles and then mixed live in the control room, or captured for post-production in the NLE suite.
Altogether, the music recording facilities and video editing equipment can offer an impressive grounding in the skills required for these industries. You have to agree that any student who’s graduated from Wesley and wants a career in AV and multimedia will be a step ahead of the competition.
ROOM & BOARD
In the staffroom there are the usual network ports, plus a motorised screen and a projector controlled by a Crestron processor and operated from a 100mm wall-mounted touchscreen. Here the teachers can preview and further prepare material they want to present in the classrooms. The room is also often used for business functions (and, by the way, has superb views of the city skyline) so everything is designed to be neatly tucked away into the ceiling if necessary. With such functions in mind, the staffroom has its own single-channel radio microphone.
The college boardroom boasts a similar setup with a Crestron-controlled and networked projector that can be lifted out of sight, a motorised screen, ceiling speakers and a 150mm touchscreen mounted on the wall. Although it also has plenty of network connections, the boardroom has a dedicated PC with a wireless keyboard and mouse.
It’s clear that Wesley College understands the impact of audiovisual technologies both in the learning environment and in the general community, and has taken the time and invested the money to make these resources available for teaching and learning. Every student who passes through the college will not only benefit from the ready access to information that these technologies provide, they will also be equipped to interact with and employ those technologies in every aspect of 21st century life.