The Brave Thinking Institute, a California-based organization which for 40 years has presented live events, online courses, and coaching programs to “help people create lives they absolutely love living,” recently underwent a system upgrade — designed and implemented by AVL integration company TechArts — that incorporates an Allen & Heath AHM-64 matrix to handle all audio to various streaming platforms as well as communications between talent, broadcast, and remote staff.
Expanding beyond the usual Zoom presenter view we’ve all become accustomed to over the past year, talent at Brave Thinking Institute regularly views four screens showing different Zoom Rooms with 49 people per screen along with two additional screens for confidence monitoring with PowerPoint/Keynote slides, notes, active timers, and program views. GPIO functions within the AHM-64 allow for tally indication when talent mics are muted for additional confidence and clarity. To keep talent engaged and in control of frequent unscripted Q&A, an Allen & Heath IP6 remote controller allows for adjustments to T-Coil volume, wired and remote comms and talkback status to staff members or remote speakers.
“Some productions are three to four days long,” notes Jason Vandergrift, Designer & Technical Director at TechArts, which is also based in California. “Our presenters may spontaneously bring someone on. You have to be prepared for flexibility and mobility. Reliable and intuitive control for communication between key talent and the studio is absolutely a must.”
In the control room, six local operators manage operations alongside 20 offsite/remote Zoom moderators for multi-Zoom seminars. A Dante-based system of four-channel and eight-channel comms allows for various sets of event production audio as needed between technical staff, from local to remote, from talent to tech, from talent to remote, etc. A duet of Allen & Heath IP8 remote controllers combine with the AHM, an array of Shure wireless microphones, a Blackmagic Constellation 8K video switcher and numerous Zoom Room computers to complete the system.
“The way that TechArts and the team at Brave Thinking Institute have deployed AHM demonstrates our ‘Rethinking the Matrix’ mantra well,” says Allen & Heath USA Marketing Director Jeff Hawley. “As Jason pointed out, this sort of intuitive control is an important aspect of any well designed audio system. Not only does AHM provide powerful programming options that mere mortals can quickly and easily manage without needing certification or an astrophysics degree, but the user-facing interfaces and remote control options feel much more modern and natural than other matrix solutions out there.”
“Even as compact as something like a dLive C1500 rig could be, we just didn’t have room in the space, but we wanted the bus structure of a dLive,” adds Vandergrift. “The AHM-64 was perfect to get all the buses we need with all the control and power and horsepower and flexibility at such an amazing price. The needs of this particular project were quite interesting and we had fun getting creative with the AHM. For instance, the AHM supplies a 20kHz sine wave to trigger a comm call with a specific light color to alert the control room that the key presenter is calling above someone else. The speaker is generally most important, so the studio must be alerted. These details matter. It’s odd producing an event with 5,000 people you cannot see, but with AHM and some clever system design we’ve made it feel comfortable for everyone.”