Why Is Audio An Afterthought?

This was originally posted on March 1 on the InfoComm All Voices Blog >>>

I attended two networking events where there were more than 100 professionals gathered to make contacts and hear a presentation. For each presentation, the rooms were set up classroom style. This first event was a Business Networking International event, and it was standing room only. To kick off the meeting, the chairman made a brief introduction from the front of the room to welcome attendees. Then she asked the participants to stand up, introduce themselves and share with the group how much business they’ve gained through involvement with BNI.

While it was fun and interesting, it was impossible to hear each person because there was no audio system. Introductions went on for more than 30 minutes, and as I sat in my seat straining to understand, all I could think is, “Why is audio often an after thought?” I know I wasn’t the only person in the room frustrated that I couldn’t hear. But I may have been the only person that asked “why?” And more importantly, why did organizers think it was okay to overlook audio?
Of course, this meeting wasn’t unique. In fact it’s a far too common occurrence. So sad, too, because 100 professionals couldn’t hear the message and missed out on much of what they came for. Yet I’ll bet dimes to donuts that few gave it a second thought. Why is that? Far too often, audio isn’t on the radar for such meetings. And all it takes is thinking about how the participants’ experience might improve if only they could hear the content.
The same week, I went to a Women’s Tech Council of Utah presentation on how LinkedIn can grow your business. It was the same situation — not an empty chair in the room, everyone there to glean a nugget of content on how to grow their businesses over their lunch hour.
Again, the meeting gets started; introductions begin, and there’s no audio system to reinforce the content and message. I couldn’t believe I was going to sit through another meeting, only picking up bits and pieces because I simply couldn’t hear. Fortunately, when the main speaker was introduced, I was happy to hear him — really hear him — because he was wearing a wireless microphone. Phew!
Not surprisingly, I got a lot out of this second meeting and (event organizers take note!)  I even ordered the presenter’s two DVDs. It’s a shame that his introduction, which included the meeting’s sponsors, wasn’t picked up by all. Money not well spent.
So why do we tolerate poor audio? And why do we attend meetings where we hear only part of the content? Why do we sponsor events where our name and message aren’t going to be heard, let alone remembered, by those who attend?
I’ve committed to checking  whether organizers have a sound system prior to sending RSVPs for future meetings. I may still attend, but at least meeting organizers may put thought into their audio.
What will you do to make sure you can hear and be heard?

AV Week – Tour Of The LDS Conference Center Part 3

This blog is the third in a three part series. To read part two click here  >>> To read part one click here >>>

The LDS Church has a history of embracing technology to communicate its message to the community with its first radio broadcast in 1922 and first video satellite broadcast in 1972. Presently, in addition to its semi-annual General Conference and many independent productions, the church produces and broadcasts “Music and The Spoken Word” live to BYU TV and KSL TV every Sunday morning and later distributed to more than 2200 TV and radio stations. If you’ve ever seen a broadcast, you know that in addition to the beautiful words and music, it is visually inspiring.
During our tour of the LDS Conference Center which was part of our AV Week (a week set aside for the audiovisual community to celebrate, promote and share the impacts of the AV industry across the world) activities, we were able to get a firsthand look at the video production process.
Guy and Jeff testing out the robotic cameras
While I’ve talked a lot about the audio installations (after all we are all about audio here at Listen), but the video installation is second to none in producing feature films and educational videos. Using Sony digital HD technology, there are more than 120 fiber drops throughout the campus. Several control rooms handle all the steps of production. The video capture control room could easily be confused with a teenagers gaming room. We had a chance to play around with the mounted cameras using the joystick fashioned control. I was amazed to see how a camera that was mounted on the top balcony of the 1+ million square foot building could zoom in on the wall at the front of the room, showing the texture details in the paint.
In the video control room everything comes together. During a production, the director calls the shots on everything. All of the camera, lighting and audio are choreographed ahead of time, but there are constantly changes and mishaps that need to be taken into account.
Let’s talk lighting for a minute. With 70 dimmer racks and approximately 100 dimmers in each one, there are over 6000 controllable outlets and dimmers. There are stage lights, lights that project images on the walls and lights that change the look of the famous organ pipes. When you are in the audience of a major production, it’s as if you are center stage. From the lighting control room the computer has a map of the stage allowing you to easily use pre-programmed settings or to try your own. Once again, we were allowed to have a little fun as we experimented with the controls (you should have seen the 70’s Technicolor transformation the organ pipes made)!
Amanda testing out the lighting controls
Now for a little more audio talk! From the audio mix room they run 2 HD systems simultaneously. Everything is multi-tracked through Pro Tools so that if they get to the end of a show and need to redo a piece, they can pull that mix and it is recorded and mixed again within 5 minutes. While it is currently a digital set up, they are actually in the process of going back to analog with and API Legacy Vision consul. Digital audio just doesn’t have the same quality as analog and doesn’t offer the flexibility that is necessary. We listened to a recording of the Tabernacle Choir accompanied by the Orchestra at Temple Square and I really noticed all of the layers of sound that contributed to the piece.
Thanks again to Jason McFarland and his team for providing this tour. Being new to the audiovisual industry, I am so glad that I could experience such an impressive display of AV at its best.

AV Week – Tour Of The LDS Conference Center Part 2

This blog is the second in a three part series. To read the first blog click here >>>

As part of our AV Week Activities, a week designated to celebrate, promote and share AV throughout our community, I was able to tour the LDS Conference Center with almost 40 Listen Technologies employees and friends. The Conference Center has the ability to interpret and disburse 97 languages live.

Not even the United Nations comes close to that number (they interpret 6 languages live). I was impressed by many things during the tour, but I think that the language interpretation process is especially impressive as it really is uncharted territory.

On the 2nd floor between the main auditorium floor and balcony, is the language interpretation area. There are 58 individual language booths, a general meeting area, a control room and one set of bathrooms. ASL translation is performed in a different area as it requires its own studio and production staff. During LDS General Conference, which is two full days of content streamed live twice a year, they will simultaneously translate up to 97 languages. Each language team has from 6 to 16 people, depending on the availability. Even more impressive to note, these interpreters are volunteers. That’s anywhere from 500-600 people who freely donate the time and talents. And remember, there’s only one set of bathrooms.
Each booth is set up for two people to see and hear the broadcast; one is actively translating while the other is on standby for backup. In many languages, there are not locals who can either speak fluently or without a thick accent. For these languages a Tieline codec is used and the audio is sent directly to that country, using IP, ISBN and analog phone lines, where it is interpreted and sent back to the Language Control Room and then distributed around the Conference Center campus using Listen Technologies and other receivers. In all there is less than a ten second delay from the time the original content is spoken, to the time the interpreted language is received. It makes my head spin just thinking about it!
Everything produced out of the Conference Center, is in a minimum of 13 languages though the majority goes out in 32. To keep things moving quickly, the translations are all recorded and cut at the same time. This goes for audio recordings, films and productions.
The Translation Control Room has a complete wall of custom designed boxes, 48 ATM-2000 (Automatic Translation Mixers) designed by dlb Research. The ATM-2000 automatically adjusts the microphone volume of each interpreter, fades the live program up and down for the musical numbers and provides an intercom to each interpreter’s booth. From the Windows based control surface allows the operator to monitor all 96 languages, see at a glance the status of microphones and signal levels, as well as use a talkback system to speak to individual interpreters or all at once.

“Fifty years ago we were interpreting from dirt floors in the Tabernacle, and now we are interpreting for a single event from essentially anywhere in the world,” said Brad Lindsay, the Church’s manager of interpretation services. “This is a huge change, and technology makes this all possible.” Source >
It’s inspiring to see just what can be achieved as technology evolves.

Get Ready For Your Holiday Sound Challenges

Is your house of worship sound system ready to meet the challenge of the holidays? Or will you and your congregation be annoyed and disappointed once again by poor sound intelligibility, runaway feedback squeals and frustrated musicians?
During the holidays, pageants, special services and concerts make extraordinary demands on your sound system and staff…
The HOW-TO Church Sound Workshops, the nation’s leading providers of sound worship training, are ready to help by offering our seasonal SAT training sessions during December.
These System Analysis & Training (SAT) sessions are dedicated to fixing what ails your sound system — from how to set up microphones to configuring mixing boards to adjusting speakers and everything in-between.
Plus, we provide hands-on training for your Sound and Praise teams on your own sound system including how to do a proper sound check and getting the band to turn down their stage volume. That’s 8 hours of sound system set-up and hands-on training on your own gear with your musicians and sound teams!
Our SAT sessions have helped dozens of churches throughout the USA make holiday and year-round services more productive and enlightening. We are here to serve you. Click HERE to read church testimonials, letters of recommendation and past and present church sites.
Please contact me, Hector La Torre at 732-741-1275 or [email protected] for pricing and scheduling. We have a limited number of open SAT dates available on the east coast month, so call now for scheduling. More SAT dates will be open in 2012, so contact us now for next season’s road schedule, no matter where you’re located in the country.

This year be prepared for the holidays.

The California Academy Of Sciences Makes Impact With AV

The California Academy of Sciences is 155 years old and their new building in Golden Gate Park is the largest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified green building in the United States.

The Academy has several venues, including an aquarium, a 4-story rainforest, the planetarium, science museums, 3D theater, a lecture hall, and a naturalist center. The building also houses the Academy science labs and administrative offices, including an extensive library and scientific archive consisting of more than 26 million specimens. 
All of these offerings are under a “living” roof. 1.7 million plant specimens make up the 2.5 acre living roof making it yet another for the Academy’s attractions.

Besides the thousands of plants and animals the California Academy of Sciences has incorporated innovative audio visual elements into their exhibits. I am always amazed at how the AV industry impacts the world around us. There are digital signage systems, interactive exhibits, soundscapes, diver intercoms, public address systems, labs exam tables, and audio for auditoriums.
Some of these elements make a big impact to a museum experience and some are subtle but without them the experience might not be as rich and full. Are there any museums you have been to recently that made an impact with their AV?
The Academy uses two Listen Technologies solutions. One is the tour group system for their docent led tours. The Academy offers three different kinds of tours as a unique Academy experience.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Tour
  • Nightlife VIP Tour
  • Wine & Dine Tour 
The wine and dine tour sounds like an interesting way to celebrate a special occasion.
As a public facility the California Academy of Sciences meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for accommodating the hearing impaired with Listen’s assistive listening systems. In the auditoriums the Academy uses the assistive listening systems with the LT-800 stationary transmitter. The stationary transmitters easily interface with the wireless microphone systems in place throughout the Academy. Assistive Listening systems are offered in the following exhibits:
African Penguins “Person Facilitated Experience”
Auditorium East & West
California Coast – Octopus “Person Facilitated Experience”
California Coast Dive Show
Coral Reef Dive Show
Flexible Exhibits
The “Person Facilitated Experiences” involve a docent inside a tank, talking to visitors on the outside of the tank. What unique Person Facilitated Experiences have you recently enjoyed?
One Minute Slideshow – The California Academy of Science
Listen Technologies