We have just announced we are going to build a PAC. We are starting to build next summer. It will have a 200 seat theatre, classroom which will double as a changing room, a lovely open glass fronted foyer and a dance studio.
I am involved in kitting it out. I would love to put a LED video curtain at the back of the stage to be used for scenery backdrops for productions, watching films and also for presentations so would love to hear from anyone who has done that already.
Any tips, advice or pointers on what is essential or desirable would be really helpful.
I am also going to setup a time-lapse camera to capture the build outside and then the inside later so any tips on that would be brilliant.
We used a mobotix hi-res cctv camera for our time laps covering the demolishion of the old school and building of the new.
We actualy had two for different angles. they were set up to write a picture to an ftp server ( one each ) every 10 minuets, and then replicate between the two servers to protect the images in case of failure.
As for the Performing arts center, expect the cost to serverly restrict any grand plans. Ours was built in 2005 and sadly the theatre is not much more than a hall with raised retractable seating, some curtains ( no stage ) and a not fantastic lighting rig.
Fortunatly with LED multicolour lighting technologies things have moved on in the last 10 years so you can get a gr8 desk, lamps and have a super array of colour options without having mechanical colour changers or running up ladders!
An LED video curtain sounds like a great idea - it has to be better than a projected screen, which you can never really get to be completly off for lighting purposes. Make sure whoever fits it doesn't use up one of your lighting bars, have them fit it on its own bar - we fitted a motorised screen in the new theatre at my last school and then found we couldn't get any lights properly into position behind the people on stage.
As pointed out above, modern LED lighting is great for flexibility. For some reason, everyone seems to leave buying the lights and control systems until the last moment and then never buys enough. I'd aim to just flood the whole lighting rig with as many lights as you could possibly need in each position, then there's no need to mess around with a scaffold tower changing lighting at any point. Get sound and lighting control boards, but again you'll probably get more flexibility out of a computer-based control system for both. Make sure to specify a couple of decent computers - don't forget one to drive that video curtain, too. For presentations, someone is bound to want to plug their own laptop into the video curtain, so provide an HDMI / VGA point somewhere in the theatre for them to plug into.
Floor-based network and power connections are always nice - in my experience it's always worth going for the deepest ones you can get as there's always someone who'll want to plug a large power brick in. The plans for the building should contain some kind of control booth or balcony. Make sure there's some method of hearing whatever the sound system is actually doing in the main theatre - if you're up on a balcony away from where the audiance are sat, possibly behind the speakers, you'll get a completly different idea of what things sound like. The whole point of a properly designed theatre is that the aucoustics should work so that people can be heard from the centre of stage without any need for amplified sound. However, modern drama teachers quite often don't seem to get this and often want mics and so forth for every performance, and at some point you're bound to have a band or something play. It's worth making sure you have floor-based mic connections (tie lines) for as many instruments as you think you'll need and then some, and make sure you have a set of mics, stands, an assortment of mic cables and some instrument mics. If you want wireless mics it's worth considering doing things properly from the start and buying pro kit, but if you do that bear in mind you'll need to get a site license for the radio frequencies the mics will use (not actually expensive, it just needs organising).
To make your dance studio (which I assume will have a sprung floor) as flexible a space as possible you might like to suggest a storage room for mats for martial arts, and if you're going to do that then you could aim to make the room sized to be an exact multiple of the standard judo mat size, then they would fit neatly wall-to-wall. If you have a barre in the studio set up for ballet, the ability to be able to remove it easily for non-ballet lessons is always handy.
I have an interest in education, I make a living working with large scale LED screens.
It's a nice idea but not really that suitable for you. Most of the LED curtains that you see on major concert productions are relatively low resolution screens (measured in pixel pitch, generally 15mm or higher). To get a useable picture for watching films or presentations on a small screen (<20sqm) you would need to be looking at 10mm actual pixel pitch or less. That would become expensive. I can't really tell you prices, I put the things up and make them work, I don't sell them but for a rough idea 3.5sqm of 20mm curtain is going to be around £8000 and that would be half the resolution you need for it to be any real use.
They can be a nightmare to maintain. If they're a cheap import you will struggle to get support for them after a very short time.
You would be much better off with a good quality, high output projector. The resolution will be better and the price considerably lower. If you need a proper blackout during your show then google 'projector blackout shutter' and you will find several simple but elegant solutions.
My big recommendation for any new arts space would be to make sure you have cat5e cables everywhere. You can't have too many runs and it is cheap. You can use it for all sorts of different signals; audio, video, networking. Increasing numbers of digital audio desks use cat5 to link their control surface to stage instead of big heavy multicore runs.
Hope this helps,
dhicks (13th October 2013)
I would suggest taking at look at what others have done and talk to firms who are good at stages and stuff, such as Stage Electrics, to get an idea of what you may want and need they fit out theatres all around the place and have good ideas and suggestions
Surely County have got consultants on the job to sort these things out? I know that some are useless, but I'd be hugely surprised if there isn't one in the food-chain already.
My previous role was at a specialist performing arts colleague who had a new school build which incorporated a theater matching your spec. For us we went down the projector route too as advised above.
We also used Stage Electrics to do the finer design and installation - be aware that they are not the cheapest, but you do tend to get what you pay for in the pro light and sound areas.
If you would like contacts at my previous school, or contacts used at Stage Electrics feel free to PM me.
The putting-my-other-hat-on plaintive plea of "make sure it's a usable theatre" wells up from the depths of my heart. Lots of school "theatres" are rooms with raked seats, dire sightlines, no dressing room space worth talking about and a booking system that just doesn't work... as far as the last goes, BTW, look very hard at TicketSource. Zero load on your system, works like a dream.
Spend as much as you can on infra-structure. Fancy desks and lights can be hired as and when required. You will never again get a chance to get the basics right. Lots of mic lines, comms lines, video cable, CAT5, 13A power, switched and dimmed outlets all over the place. Places no one in their right mind is going to put lights will need power, as directors are seldom in their right minds.
There are heaps of ideas, and thoughts here:- Blue Room WIKI
Last edited by Andrew_C; 14th October 2013 at 03:43 PM. Reason: WIKI link
john (14th October 2013)
I am really grateful for all these replies this info is going to come in useful. Couldn't agree more about cabling everywhere.
I saw a demo projector screen on Ricoh's stand at the BETT show in January that linked three short-throw projectors together to make a super-widescreen back-projected display.
A Matrox Triplehead will do that with any 3x projectors of your choosing... a solution I use regularly for large theatre & small arena shows. Multi Monitor Adapter for Maximum Performance | TripleHead2Go
Might also be worth investing in Isadora (TROIKATRONIX | live performance tools) to manage what you're showing on those screens, and with a USB to DMX adapter, you could also then use Isadora to control lighting presets etc.
Sound-wise... Behringer X32 console (it's Midas pre-amps are SUPERB - http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/X32.aspx), which uses CAT5 for FoH to Stage multicore... thus keeping costs down of a traditional analogue loom. At the stage end you'd use 2x S16 snake units (http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/S16.aspx). You can also then simply plug console into a laptop running Cubase via USB, or Macbook running Logic, and multitrack record events with ease. This setup will keep the audio side of things as uncluttered as you can possibly get it. Ideally from that into a pair of CLA300 line array, and you'll have a superb facility.
Last edited by Marci; 15th October 2013 at 09:01 AM.
dhicks (15th October 2013)
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