Just when you thought a ‘multipurpose gym’ was a contradiction in AV terms, one college proves us wrong.
Text:/ Christopher Holder
Waverley College in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is a school that loves its basketball. Where other schools might have a pithy latin motto regarding perseverance and divine favour, I can only imagine that Waverley College operates under the auspices of something like: ‘Ball is Life’.
I labour the point only to impress the importance a new gym has in the life of the school. It’s a big deal.
But thanks to months of consultation, consideration and care, Waverley College may well own another title, that of best multipurpose gymnasium.
Gyms are large and can accommodate big chunks of the school’s populous. Which is why other ‘stakeholders’ eye off the space jealously — drama teachers and music teachers, mainly.
The most strident advocate for a multipurpose gym was headmaster, Ray Paxton, who laid down some key benchmarks for a new facility: it needed to accommodate the whole school (around 1700 students, including the junior school), it would need an AV system that would ensure clear speech intelligibility, and to be an innovative installation that demonstrated the college’s smarts.
The school has some loyal long-time partners who have really poured their heart and soul into this new build. Glendenning Szoboszlay Architects spent many months giving the gym the requisite features required in the legacy parcel of land. Clare Communications headed up by director Donal O’Sullivan has nursed the AV through the whole way. It’s a clever and sympathetic solution.
FAST BREAK WITH TRADITION
“Previously, it was a very traditional gym,” notes school IT Manager, Simon Potter. “Now we have a genuine multipurpose venue, where we can easily switch between a full-school assembly to a basketball game to an end of year production. We can use the mezzanine areas as classroom spaces, with their own zoned PA and displays.”
Picking up the story is Clare Communications’ Matthew Donovan: “As the AV integrator we’ve tried to cater for the various needs, from school assembly, to performance and production space where there will be mixing consoles involved — analogue and digital. We’ve used Dante as the backbone of the digital audio structure, but there are traditional analogue tielines with XLR patchpoints as well.
“In a job like this it’s essential to simplify the user experience. We use a Crestron system with some built-in touchscreens and some floating tablet devices for control. Depending on the user, they’ll have a passcode that will then give them the functionality depending on their needs.
“The Crestron control looks after all the sound, the vision, as well as the stage lighting. There’s scope there, if the client so desires, to tie it in with the C-Bus as well.”
A 16 x 16 Crestron DM matrix is currently addressed by 12 inputs and eight outputs, providing some headroom for future growth if the school wishes do some streaming in or out of the building.
Simon Potter: “Prior to the new facility we would need to send down AV or IT staff for a PE instructor to talk over a basketball event. Now we don’t. Previously we would need to bring rental gear into the gym to do an event or production, but now we’re far more self sufficient.”
IT’S A ROOM MATCH
Waverley College gym is a poster child for Bose’s Room Match Delta Q system. There are three modules aside (from the top down: 55° x 10°, 70° x 20° and a 120° x 40° modules). You’ll immediately notice that at 20° and 40° in the vertical, Room Match Delta Q has some modules that address large chunks of a venue. Most line array elements will only attempt 15° vertical coverage at the most. Stretch the vertical coverage too much and it’s hard to get a constant ‘ribbon’ of HF from top to bottom. Bose pulls this off by using many more HF devices in its manifold than most. The result is excellent coverage with fewer boxes than a ‘conventional’ line array — thrifty thinking when you’re a secondary school and need even coverage but not necessarily the extreme SPLs of 12 boxes in the air rather than six.
Complementing the full-range arrays are a 2 x 18-inch sub a side. Ideally the subs will be flown at the head of the array but that would have pushed the array too low for optimal coverage. Instead the subs are spaced to the outside of the arrays, visually centred above the digital scoreboards and then time-aligned to ensure performance isn’t compromised.
It’s an audio install that’s redolent of Bose’s engineering-led, don’t-follow-the-pack, innovation, mixed with the practicality of knowing better than most that the vagaries of the real world are just about always likely to stand between you and the theoretically perfect system. In other words, it’s the right PA for the job and the budget.
The Room Match Delta Q range has some standard fill boxes called ‘Utility’. Waverley College uses these to cover the mezzanine areas and centre fill. They’re voiced to sound the same as the array.
VIDEO: A FRESH PERSPEXTIVE
The presentation video walls are a triumph. Yes, the 700-nit Panasonic TH-55LFV70 55-inch displays, with their ultra-narrow bezel are striking, but they weren’t the only thing ‘striking’ about the gym. How to protect the screens from errant basketballs?
The project’s brains trust workshopped a number of solutions, initially the thought was to cover the screens from view, like a giant dart board in a pub. And although no one was screaming for video walls on game day, it seemed a shame that the screens couldn’t be accessed for some future use — such as instant replay or for theming the gym.
The toughened glass covers have been a big hit, providing safe, unhindered views of the video walls. The glass panel can be rolled to one side to access and service the displays.
All the hardware is 4K ready even if the video wall is displaying one 1080-high image at present.
The video walls can display different content and the other Panasonic displays in the foyer and the mezzanine can be addressed independently.
Crestron Air Media allows staff to stream content directly the displays.
SAY NO TO SCISSOR LIFTS
Stage lighting dropped on and off the spec for the life of the project. The conclusion was: although not a day-to-day requirement, having stage lighting ‘up its sleeve’ meant being more self sufficient and not needing to put up with the intrusion of a rental company rolling through the pristine gym with a scissor lift every so often.
Instead, Clare Communications has installed a 16m Jands motorised lighting bar and a small complement of Altman Phoenix LED profiles. The bar is long enough to allow the lighting to be directed to the corners of the gym as well as the central stage — a particular requirement for an end of year school production that requires the use of three stages for the event.
NOT A DIRTY WORD?
‘Multipurpose’ is a dirty word in any performance venue. By necessity, it means ‘compromise’. But Waverley College has shown that if you’re willing to plan extensively and you have partners willing to take the time to truly understand your needs, then ‘multipurpose’ can work.
Advancements in PA design and the architects’ acknowledgement that acoustic treatment in a gym is a prerequisite, has all helped the college to have a sound system that expertly communicates the spoken word and will even provide excitement and clarity in music playback and performance. A carefully programmed control system ensures ease of use. And a display solution provides a visual focus for up to 1700 people, even when projectiles would normally imperil its existence!
As school headmaster Ray Paxton put it in those initial planning meetings: “It’s all about being seen and being heard. If the AV systems can’t do that properly then what’s the point!”
He has a point.
Sound Reinforcement System:
Bose Room Match FOH — 3 modules per side
2 x Bose Room Match RMS 218 Subs
Bose RMU Utility Speakers – Centre FOH Monitors, Mezzanines & Foldback Monitors
Bose DS40FW – On Stage Monitors, Foyer
6 x Bose PM8500N Power Match Amplifiers
2 x Bose ESP-00 II Control Space Processors
4 x EW500 Sennheiser UHF Wireless Systems
Various custom audio patch field plates for analogue and digital connectivity
Audio Visual System:
Crestron DM-MD 16×16 Digital Media Frame
Crestron DM 4K Scalers
Crestron Air Media
Crestron TSW Touchscreens
Crestron CP3 Control Processor
18 x Panasonic TH-55LFV70 55-inch displays (2 video walls)
1 x Panasonic 55-inch Display with Screen Technics motorised lift
1 x Panasonic 65-inch display for Foyer
2 x Panasonic 55-inch displays for Side Mezzanine
Stage Lighting System:
Jands Motorised Lighting Bar – 16m long
4 x Altman 250W Phoenix LED Profile Spot
Jands 36-Way Patch Panel and associated Dimmer & DMX Splitter