Making it big enough and tech capable while still fitting into the specified footprint...
June 04, 2014, by Mike Sessler
I’ve spent the last several years looking at church tech booths. I knew, someday, we’d be able to relocate ours from the balcony to the floor. When we did, I wanted to be ready.
The design started about three years ago, according to file creation dates. It’s changed more than a few times over the years, but I’m pretty happy where we’ve landed.
As you may have gathered from my series on renovations, I’m always starting with a set of design objectives.
In this case, we had several:
—Get front of house to the floor, and keep it in front of the edge of the balcony.
—Bring lighting and ProPresenter to the floor.
—Incorporate the existing camera platform.
—Have a “producer” desk.
—Keep front of house, lighting and ProPresenter in a line at the front of the booth.
—Maintain enough space for new volunteers to observe.
The back wall is existing; we raised the walls of the booth to obscure the monitors, and to provide a little more security. They have since added a short wall extension to the back wall as well.
That’s a pretty good list, and I think we hit it all. Design is all about compromise, and we did have to make some compromises. The booth is probably larger than it needs to be in terms of square footage. At 14 feet deep and 21 feet wide, it’s certainly spacious. The size was dictated by three things.
First, the depth was based on the camera platform we needed to incorporate. The ProPresenter desk sits in front of the camera platform, and we needed enough depth to accommodate the desk, chair and some room behind the chair.
We would have been fine with 6-feet 6-inches or 7-feet in front of the camera platform, but that would have landed us in the middle of a row of seats. If you have to remove a row, you may as well push the front wall out as far as possible.
Second, the width was based on a section of seating. After playing with a good half-dozen designs, it just didn’t make sense to not go full width. At best, we could have saved 1-2 seats on one end, and they would have been terrible seats no one would have ever used. So again, we went big. No need to go home.
Finally, we really needed to keep the front of house position out in front of the overhanging balcony. My original design was actually one row deeper (!) and had FOH on the left side of the booth, almost in the center of the room.
Leadership felt that was one too many rows, and looking at it now, I have to agree. So we moved FOH to the right of the booth, which is a little more off center than I’d like, but due to the curve of the balcony, we’re still in front of it by a few feet.
I wanted room for new volunteers to sit and observe without being in the way.
Tech booths have a lot of cable in them. For years, we’ve had a pile of cables at the front wall/floor intersection of ours. We’ve cleaned it up quite a bit by adding some conduit and a slotted cable duct (and tearing out old cable that’s no longer used).
But for this one, I wanted it as clean as possible. As I mentioned last time in the conduit post, I located three 12-inch x 12-ich boxes with 36-port panels on them throughout the booth.
We put them as close to the rack locations as possible so everything will be pretty much straight runs. Because we’ll still have a few cables that won’t fit in the boxes (HDMI cables, for example), I’m also running a small 1-inch x 2-inch slotted cable duct around the perimeter.
Because we located the producer desk behind FOH, and it’s on the producer desk that the monitors for LAMA and the (Roland) M-48s live, I had to come up with a solution for that. I didn’t want the engineers to have to keep turning around to check levels or fix an M-48 issue. So I decided to double the monitors.
By using simple HDMI splitters, we’ll have a set of monitors in front of and slightly below the (DiGiCo) SD8, and another set on the producer desk. Wireless keyboards and Magic Trackpads at both locations will enable operation from either location.
We’ll also have the master screen and SD8 remote screen at FOH, along with the overview monitor. Including the built-in touch screen, that makes six screens at FOH. Excessive? Probably. But I’m a glutton for information.
All of our wiring is slated to live in F6 TecFlex with service loops so we can pull the racks and desks out to work on the backside. The desks will be on wheels, making it easy to get back behind for access.
It’s hard to see in this picture, but the brace is just behind the keyboard tray.
No More Smashed Knees
I hate most tech booth counters and desks. They either sag in the middle over time, or have bracing that smashes your knees, or a deep front brace that catches your thighs. I determined to engineer my way out of this.
I’m building the desks out of 4-foot x 4-foot redwood because it’s readily available out here. I’m placing a brace in the center of the desk where most of the weight will be concentrated so it won’t sag.
The tops are two layers of 3/4-inch plywood laminated together with glues and screws. The brace is far enough back that when sitting on an architect’s chair, I’ll be able to sit as high as possible without smashing my knees. I also designed a clever little slide out keyboard tray in the middle.
Sometimes I’m accused of over thinking things. And I’ve probably spent a few hundred hours working on this design over the years. But I believe when it’s done, it will be one of the nicest tech booths around. Even with the ugly pull box in the corner.
Mike Sessler now works with Visioneering, where he helps churches improve their AVL systems, and encourages and trains the technical artists that run them. He has been involved in live production for over 25 years and is the author of the blog Church Tech Arts.