Back in October, I had the chance to work with Model Farms High School on an AV Upgrade Project for their school hall. This project was a part of a competitive tender process, and I was very proud of the value Media Realm delivered for the school and the team at School Infrastructure NSW who managed the project.

This was another great chance to work with Phase 3 Audio Visual on the design and delivery.

The Brief

This project brief was a wide-ranging request to upgrade audio, lighting, video and control in their main hall. The existing install was from 2009 when the hall was built, and had minor upgrade over the years.

We were starting from a low baseline, replacing Australian Monitor PA and mixer, conventional par cans, and a small commbox projector control system.

The school also needed a renewed focus on easy-to-use systems, bearing in mind the students and teachers have a wide variety of experience and needs.

The Approach

We were able to leverage our existing knowledge of the venue, along with a robust design and quotation process, to develop a solution which utilised existing infrastructure and equipment in a new way while also installing some best-of-class equipment to supplement it.

Control

At the heart of the system is a QSC Q-SYS Core 110f processor, with TSC touchscreens for control in three locations around the hall.

We designed a control system in Q-SYS which incorporated in-build audio mixing & DSP (with optional use of an external audio console), lighting control (with optional use of an external lighting console), video control, bluetooth audio control, radio mic monitoring, and general system startup/shutdown functionality.

Q-SYS is a fantastic system because it enables all of this without too much effort. Because we have designed similar systems in the past, we could also re-use some existing programming to churn out a system quicker then starting from scratch.

One touchscreen lives in the AV Room, and two touchscreens live in the body of the hall for a variety of uses including PE classes and external hires. We worked with the school on finding lockable boxes for the touchscreens so they can be protected from rouge balls, rouge students, and external hirers.

Audio

Front of house audio was to be two existing QSC K12 speakers. We also ran a bunch of audio outlets around stage, to enable easy microphone and DI inputs, as well as foldback speaker outputs. Students and teachers can mix front of house and foldback audio via the touchscreen, which will make assemblies very easy affairs.

The school had an existing Behringer X32, and we have designed a way to use this console on larger events when needed. All audio inputs and outputs are split between the two systems, with final DSP always being controlled via Q-SYS to ensure things can’t get too loud.

Lighting

We replaced all the existing conventional Par56 fixtures with a selection of Event Lighting LED fixtures.

For front wash, we selected eight of the F300WWMZ, which is a 300W fresnel 3200K. For coloured LED fixtures, we selected twenty of the PAR12X12 which is a 12 x 12W RGBWAU fixture.

Part of the criteria for selection was not only brightness and colour temperature, but also build quality. These fixtures need to be able to withstand general abuse, as the hall doubles as a gymnasium. While the fixtures may move out of focus with direct ball hits, the fixtures themselves and connectors should withstand a pretty high level of abuse.

Lighting control is primarily via the Q-SYS touchscreens, allowing for basic grouped intensity control. We thoughtfully grouped the fixtures allowing the centre stage to be dimmed when using the projector screen.

However, students and teachers can also choose to get some tactile control via an existing LSC Mimim or advanced control via their existing LSC Clarity VX20 system.

Switching between control systems and mapping DMX addresses was an interesting little challenge. We used the DMX King eDMX4, which supplied 4x DMX inputs and outputs. We used one output to the LED fixtures, another output to the GenVI power distro, and then two inputs from the LSC Minim and LSC Clarity consoles.

LSC Clarity uses a simple sACN priority system to override the Q-SYS sACN feed, whereas the LSC Minim actually inputs directly to Q-SYS and maps the 12 DMX channels from the console to a couple of hundred DMX channels on stage. We found this to be a clever little way to get some more life out of their old DMX console and get some tactile control over the fixtures without needing to worry about a full VX20 system.

Video

We integrated the existing Panasonic projector with the Q-SYS system via PJLink, to allow simple power control and lamp hour monitoring (the touchscreen now tells users when to order a new globe). We also integrated the existing motorised projector screen with Q-SYS via GPIO.

For video switching, we ripped out the existing VGA and HDMI extenders and put in an all-new HDBase-T system. We selected the Blustream SW41HDBT as the main switcher, which gives us two HDBase-T inputs, two standard HDMI inputs, and a HDBase-T output to the projector.

We then used Blustream HEX70SL extenders as the inputs and outputs.

These products are excellent and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough. They are much more robust than any other HDMI over Cat6 system I’ve used, and the remote control via IP and Serial of the switch is also excellent.

In the past I’ve had problems with flakey control on Kramer and Extron boxes, but this Blustream switcher just keeps working.

A big tidy-up

This was also a great chance to remove a bunch of redundant and outdated equipment and cabling. We cleaned up their main AV room by removing two racks and wall-mounting a LSC GenVI power distro unit. We also installed a brand new lockable rack side stage which houses most of the new equipment.

Finally, we delivered a range of schematic drawings and documentation. Schematics are all laminated and on display in the AV room for anyone to walk in and understand how the system connects. We also delivered a binder to go on file in the office, and a soft copy for staff to keep on their network share.

Overall, I’m really proud of how well this project turned out and look forward to my next chance to deliver a similar AV project.

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a IT Professional, Broadcast Technician, Software Developer, and Solutions Engineer. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008, and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I provide freelance services through Media Realm - in particular, to the media and not-for-profit industries.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden