1R gym in Melbourne’s image conscious South Yarra has raised the bar for fitness centre AV.
Text:/ Christopher Holder
Gyms are starting to look a lot like nightclubs. But one gym brand, born out of the UK, has upped the ante considerably. 1R (or ‘1Rebel’ in the UK) provides a full-blown nightclub experience for its patrons: curated, high-energy dance mixes reproduced through top-notch loudspeaker systems and accompanied by theatrical lighting.
“It’s unapologetically intense,” according to 1R Head of Operations, Catharine Rose. “We’re creating a very specific feeling; a very specific energy at very specific points in the class.”
Clearly, nothing is left to chance in the fitout; everything is designed to allow patrons to do and be their best. It’s designed to be enjoyable and exciting — little wonder then that patrons are happy to pay per 45-minute class rather than sign up to an annual ‘guilt trip’, lock-in membership.
There are three distinct spaces — Reformer, Rumble, and Reshape — addressing different exercise disciplines. All the fitness rooms are windowless concrete bunkers. All the ambience is supplied by the equipment, the technology and the instructors.
1R’s representative company, Fitwork Group, approached fitness centre AV specialists, Avivo, which, in turn, called on specialists David Gilfillan director of Gilfillan Soundwork to provide an audiovisual design and Showtech to assist with the lighting design for the club.
1R Melbourne is located at the new Capitol Building in the hub of South Yarra. Spanning a total of 800sqm, every aspect of the design (by Foolscap Studios) and fitout is meticulously thought through.
“We inherited the space after the building work had been done, which includes consideration for reduction in audio transmission between studios and from the club to the rest of the building and residents upstairs,” explains David Gilfillan.
“Getting even coverage across the studio floors was really important,” continues Avivo’s Peter Ivanoski.
David Gilfillan mapped the three main rooms in EASE, to predict and optimise direct field coverage. A distributed system was necessary to avoid too much variation in level, and because of the unusual room shapes.
“Two of the rooms are narrow with low ceilings. To help keep reverberation under control, we were offered a fixed amount of acoustic absorption for the club. It was not quite enough, but we developed a plan to install the material to the surfaces where it could have most effect,” explained Peter.
The studio designs incorporate many, many, many Martin Audio CDD loudspeakers powered by QSC CX networked amplifiers.
Achieving a nightclub audio experience in sealed concrete bunkers is tricky but with the aforementioned acoustic treatment and a carefully positioned loudspeaker system, it’s possible. But fitness centres have an audio sting in the tail: instructors need to speak over the music. 1R’s Catharine Rose sets the scene: “There can be up to 40 people in a session at any one time. The instructor’s role is keep everyone safe, and they are guiding patrons through the program and cueing music and lighting. They are controlling the volume of the sound, selecting the lighting programs, and through their instructions they are also really helping to provide the energy.” Almost like a cross between a ring master and a lifeguard.
Avivo specified the industry standard headset mic, the AeroMic — which is well known for its robust manufacture and high resistance to sweat and moisture. But that’s only half the solution. Peter Ivanoski explains: “In an environment like this it is really difficult to lift speech over the music. I’ve seen lots of clubs try. Often you’ll see instructors yelling to be heard over a big-box PA, and they will distort the mic channel, and you’ll get clipping, and things get ugly very quickly.”
For a project where the quality of the audio is paramount, Peter and David couldn’t cross their fingers and hope there would be enough gain before feedback to be heard over the loud music. Instead, they proposed a design that borrows from an old theatrical technique: give the speech channel its own signal path independent of the music playback system.
The resulting audio design in the two long spaces sees Martin Audio CDD6s dotted down both sides of the room for speech, interspersed with CDD8s for music. A further four Martin Audio Blackline X210B double-10-inch subs complement the music.
The squarer, ‘Rumble’, punching bag room uses fewer CDD10 for music and CDD6s for speech.
“Gyms want that experience of a big nightclub sound thumping away at their chest, plus the voice of the instructor over the top, and that’s really hard to achieve, particularly when the instructor is walking around inside the listening area,” explains David Gilfillan. “Having the independent channel for speech helps us refine the speech component. Why don’t more people do it? Cost, mainly, but also, it’s tricky to set up. Once you factor in the extra cost of the speakers, the wiring, the amplifiers, the installation time, the architectural impact and the commissioning, it’s a significant cost. But for 1R, it’s totally worth it. When Peter and I pitched our ideas and concepts to Fitwork and 1R, they were on board from the start. They immediately saw the potential benefits and gave us the green light to help them create something special.”
MAKING LIGHT WORK
The lighting is crucial in transporting patrons to another place. In fact, club-goers will never see any of the exercise rooms with the house lighting on – the mystique is constantly maintained.
Fitwork Group provided Avivo with a lighting brief based on the UK experience. Depending on the space, a moving light is shared between two or three stations, fixed RGB colour-changers fill the gaps, or a white spot is trained on each of the exercise plinths. An MA Lighting GrandMA console provides control behind the scenes.
When in full swing, the lighting lifts the energy and provides another hit of dopamine to the brain. The only thing missing is haze… for obvious reasons.
David Gilfillan reveals some of the special sauce applied to give the music playback maximum impact without going bonkers on the SPL.
David Gilfillan: We target a certain level for music, and make sure the system’s gain structure doesn’t force too much compression. We measure in dBA because it’s easy, but our music spectrum is fairly fixed — we’ve got a recipe for a music spectrum or EQ profile, which is actually the secret sauce for these spaces.
AV: Ok. Spill the beans.
David Gilfillan: We have a target average frequency response spectrum for each of the studios. When we know from our basic EASE modelling that the coverage of the venue is uniform, so that average is representative for every listener. Once we meet that profile, we can lift the level to our ‘known good’ sound level and know that it will satisfy people. It won’t be super-loud but it will be satisfyingly loud. We also know that with a bit of work, we can get the microphone level over the top of it.
AV: How did you arrive at the frequency profile?
David Gilfillan: Repetition. Pleasing instructors and gym-goers in many, many venues over several years and keeping track of the data. The result may not be my go-to response for every job but it always results in a happy client. It sounds clean, solid and satisfying. The system needs good design along with neat, thoughtful and accurate installation. It needs the right loudspeakers and amplification and control system – the whole package matters.
Avivo was also commissioned to provide the in-studio control system for 1R. Each studio has an iPad to provide the instructors with control. (Another iPad controls the back-of-house and reception areas.) It’s a simple, one-stop GUI for the lighting and audio. Simplicity is a wonderful thing.
Peter Ivanoski: “I see so many GUIs that don’t have the end user in mind. It’s like they’re designed by programmers for programmers. But I think it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of the user. You want to walk in and understand what you need to do without stressing about it. There’s a lot going on for the instructors here. They don’t care what the sound system is, just what it does. Keep things basic and graphic so it’s hard to miss when they are moving around. It’s important that there are numbers attached to the volume controls so the instructors can remember what setting they had last time and reproduce it quickly the next time they’re in the room — much better than a green/orange/red meter.”
Consolidating the audio and lighting control into one GUI was a challenge, only made possibly by Q-SYS’s ability to play nicely with most protocols. The scripting allows for two-way communication between the GrandMA lighting system and the Q-SYS control panel (programmed in-house by James Love), which Peter and David suspect is a first.
David and Avivo have done a great job according to Catharine Rose: “The instructors are very physically involved in the session, so the iPad interface really needs to be easy to see, from a distance, even, and easy to adjust. Which it is. It’s exceptionally easy to operate.”
In a world where there seems to be a fitness centre on every second corner, 1R shows what it takes to stick out from the crowd. 1R is based in the epicentre of the very image-conscious suburb of South Yarra and its clientele take fitness seriously. Which is why every aspect of 1R is fastidiously curated. Even the ‘Repair’ change rooms are an interior designer’s dream. 1R raises the bar for fitness AV… pops 50kg on each end of the bar and raises it again.