An outdated sound reinforcement system at the Falls Area Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Oconto Falls High School in Wisconsin has been recently replaced with a new design that’s headed up by Martin Audio Wavefront Precision Mini (WPM) line arrays.
Part of a complete AV upgrade to the technical infrastructure, the work was carried out by Camera Corner Connecting Point in Green Bay, WI following a competitive bidding process. According to the project designer, Steve Littlepage, the contract was broken into two phases: a complete video upgrade, followed by the installation of the PA and system processing, as well as supply (and relocation) of a new digital mixing console.
The function of the PA has always been to provide even coverage for a seated audience of up to 700, as well as be sufficiently versatile to serve not only a range of school events, but incoming productions hosted through a community foundation, for which the school has a long history.
The existing — and aging — sound system had proven inadequate in meeting these requirements, relying on a point source center cluster hung from the ceiling above the orchestra pit and a pair of smaller point source speakers mounted on either side of the proscenium. “The audio coverage across the audience was less than ideal, and feedback issues from microphones on stage were souring performances,” notes Littlepage.
Camera Corner was given the directive by the client to design a system “that would solve their issues and help the venue be a technology leader in the area,” he adds. After consideration, the main PA choice was the WPM, marking the integrator’s first Martin Audio line array deployment.
“We considered a variety of manufacturers, focusing on line array solutions for the venue, but the WPM had exactly the right coverage to price ratio for the project,” Littlepage continues. “Using an array allowed reduction of the level variance from the front to back of the audience—unlike the point source solutions we considered—and the wide horizontal pattern allowed consistent coverage left to right across the venue.”
The designer was also aware that the locations for where they could place new loudspeakers were limited, and this additionally created weight restrictions. Camera Corner’s approach was to hang the arrays from the building truss, between the proscenium opening and the first ceiling cloud. “The compact size of the WPM allowed us to do this while still minimizing the impact this location had on the lighting system,” he notes
Through a combination of Martin Audio Display optimization software and EASE modeling of the arrays, Camera Corner was able to illustrate the coverage of the system during the design phase and explain the advantages of this system to the school officials. “Attention was given to reduce the amount of stage wash coming from the arrays as well as slapback off the rear wall,” Littlepage says. “It was important to improve the gain before feedback of the system as the school theater performances are regularly run by student operators.”
Specifically, the design comprises five Martin Audio WPM elements per side, with SXF115 subwoofer flown above each array. In addition, two SX218 subwoofers sit at the proscenium opening to round out the low end for more intensive events, while four Blackline X8 compact loudspeakers serve as lip fills across the front of the stage. The arrays are permanently hung while the ground subwoofers and lip fills can be moved when necessary for a particular event or when not in use.
The loudspeakers are powered by Martin Audio iKON amplifiers—one iK81 assigned to each array, in single-box resolution. An iK42 has been deployed for the SX218 subwoofers, with two channels per cabinet. Spare channels of the iK81 amplifiers, not being used for the arrays, are used to drive the Blackline X8 lip fills.
At the same time Camera Corner replaced the entire video syste and added Crestron control for the audio and video system. The integrator incorporated two operating modes for the system, a Performance mode for theater and a Presentation mode for more simple lecture-style situations.
Littlepage concludes, “I;m thoroughly impressed with the WPM. I had some reservations as to whether the compact loudspeaker would live up to its marketing material, but was blown away with the power and clarity of the rig. I knew that any line array solution would provide the necessary SPL but being able to circuit the array with single-enclosure resolution allowed the Display software to optimize each loudspeaker to provide a seamless audio experience from back to front.”
Following the installation, Camera Corner provided full operator training for the key personnel and assisted with the first event for the new system, which Littlepage says “went fantastically.” Managing the project was Tony Stahl, with Chris Lecher serving as account manager.