Steel Toe Sandals

  If you find yourself reading this and have no idea why I am talking about this job, you might like to read last week's installment. In it I discussed two things: deer in the headlights, and messing up my circles through this blog. You can read it HERE if you like. There you will learn about the different things I do to entertain myself while providing bowls of feed for my kids. I have selected the hipster term "channels" to describe these different companies of mine. This week we introduce the 7k' Solutions channel.

Recently, we designed and installed an Audio/Video/Theatrical Lighting package for Sandals Church in Riverside, CA. The day I met them at their very empty and newly purchased industrial building it felt like we were standing inside a massive blimp hangar. My German engineered laser measuring device claims to be accurate to within 1/64" at 400 feet. This was the ideal opportunity to disprove them and get a partial refund. Sadly, the only other measuring device I had with me was my 12" shoe. Not interested in walking the entire length of the building looking like I was on a tightrope, I put it off my refund quest for another day. Someday I hope to consult for a really really long measuring tape factory. Watch out German engineered laser measuring device, your day is coming.

Back to the blimp hangar.

Like all building projects, this space was not going to look like the inside of an Ikea for long. With the architectural design to come from the mind of Tony Massaro, I knew that visually we would wind up with a terrific, warm, and comfortable space with plenty of natural wood diffusion.  My particular task was to fill the meeting rooms with sound, light, and video.

The church had recently invested in an EAW line array speaker system, along with a host of equipment including a pair of Yamaha M7 mixers (read: poor sounding and awkward to use digital consoles that have taken the church market by storm. How you ask? Early bird gets the worm.). Happily, the EAW speakers, along with their set of Lab Gruppen amplifiers, appear on my go-to list of equipment for a room this size. However, the accompanying 15" subwoofers were not capable of true bottom end, if causing nausea is your goal. Since, in fact, it was part of ours, I supplemented with a pair of EAW dual 21" subs. If you have ever seen Back to the Future, you get the idea. This combined for a tight punchy bottom end along with lows that extend so far you can count the pulses.

I was able to convince church leadership that their Yamaha mixers lacked the sonic quality they needed. We installed an Allen and Heath iLive mixing system at main and monitor positions. With superior sound accompanied by a far better user interface, the iLive brought to Sandal's what they sought.

Another major battle was won in the front-of-house mixing placement. While concert venues prioritize sound quality and place the mixing area appropriately (for example, in the middle of the room where the operator  can hear the nuances), churches typically prefer the mixing to happen from the next county and just live with the "bad sound" complaints. To make both sides happy, we designed a low, rolling mix booth. The operator sits while mixing so people can sit directly behind with no visual interruption. The booth can be rolled away and patched in at the back of the room for events where open floor is more important that perfect sound- such as a banquet or wedding event. In the bottom photo you can try to find the mixing booth among the crowd.

While my crew wouldn't allow me to enjoy the scissor lifts, this was with good reason. They all know of the game I invented, "Bats," nearly twenty years ago. It requires two or more people to be up on the lift. The one who draws the short straw grabs on to the ceiling structure, while the others lower the lift and drive to the other side of the room. This is not one of those things you are proud of later in life, but I do clearly remember my turns hanging there 30 above the hard concrete waiting for my friend to return with the lift. This game was meant as a "Trust Building" exercise for the team. These days it seems that "safety first" is taken literally, and while I thank Alex Suchey and the guys for not hanging the speakers upside-down, it could have been a lot more entertaining if a little "Fear Factor" were introduced.

To match the size of the room, we installed a pair of 16'x9' fixed screens at either side of the stage. With a tight camera shot, Sandals can bring the speaker right in front of you even when sitting at the back of the room. Production is handled by a Ross Crossover 12 HD production switcher. This video, along with accompanied audio is sent to every other meeting room in the building, as well as flat panels in the cafe, so that any room can become an overflow room as needed.

Lighting comes from a combination of LED, with their infinite color possibilities, and traditional fixtures. Source 4 lekos with and without color scrollers are used for the furthest throwing fixtures. I give Joe Chappel a big shout out for the help with lighting design. He brings not only terrific insight and ideas to lighting, but also a host of entertaining stories from his days at Disney. Finally, we covered the entire seating area with Altman scoop lights tied into the theatrical lighting system. Lighting control is handled by an ETC console from Sandal's inventory. I consider this console to be technically "vintage" as it boasts a floppy drive. Yes, a floppy drive, I know, right?

At the end of the day, our goal was to leave Sandals with a system that is easy to use, but even more importantly, a system that delivers stunning results. Sound that rivals concert venues, video that does not limit creativity and lighting that can go from elegant to dramatic instantly.

So there you go. Welcome to the introduction of the 7k' Solutions channel.

Paul