The Milton-Keynes Institute has 3,000 members from a wide range of backgrounds including engineers, scientists, educators, lawyers, architects and environmental health officers. Embracing aerodynamics, architectural and building acoustics, electro acoustics, hearing, speech, underwater acoustics as well as a host of other environmental aspects, the Institute is an environment for the cross fertilisation of ideas and initiatives and offers a range of courses.
Following a move to a new headquarters last year, the Institute wished to install a new audio system for VC in its large, divisible multi-purpose space which is used for teaching, video-conferencing and town hall style meetings. The Institute supports an extensive programme of learning and given that many of the Institute’s members are audio professionals, the solution’s intelligibility needed to be high calibre to meet high expectations.
Alan Chesney, chief executive of the Institute of Acoustics, explained: “We had to get it right. We have the world’s top acousticians as members so we have people joining our meetings who are experts in the field and we had to have a system that worked.”
The experienced audio-visual team at Excite AV was appointed to install the system and they in turn consulted with Audiologic and Shure over the best way forward.
Ben Spurgeon, senior application engineer at Audiologic, described the challenge: “Owing to the size and multi-use nature of the space the design process needed careful consideration. As it stood, the biggest issue the client faced was that in one ‘half’ of the room, participants couldn’t be heard clearly in the room itself or via the video call. Microphone coverage was the first task at hand. The length of the room and its multiple layouts required a microphone that was high in performance but flexible in its coverage characteristics. We opted for the Shure MXA910 as it allows the steering of each beam to a specific coverage area and recall its mappings via presets. Consequently, depending on what the room is being used for, microphone coverage can be adapted and optimised for each layout.”
With the assistance of Shure’s Designer System Configuration software, the team was able to establish that three MXA910 arrays would deliver optimum coverage and Excite AV carried out the installation, comfortably obtaining the required coverage in this challenging 16m x 5m space. The second consideration was local audio reinforcement within the room itself. For the space to be used effectively for town hall meetings, participants at either end of the conference table needed to be reinforced at the opposite end of the room to their seating position. Ben Spurgeon continued:
“Under these circumstances, voice-lift can be an incredibly complicated procedure, since the risk of feedback and acoustic reflections are increased during a video call. This demanded some complex programming. We opted to use a QSC DSP for its large processing power and the ability to scale the design in the future. By using its optional Dante card we could create a largely networked system to provide full monitoring of all the components.”
Spurgeon worked in collaboration with Andrew Francis, manager, Applications at Shure, to create a sensing program that was able to detect which microphone lobe was being activated and cut out the loudspeaker local to whoever was speaking, whilst at the same time boosting the participant’s voice at the opposite end of the room and simultaneously transmitting out via video conferencing. The QSC Core110f processor also took care of the room-division aspects of the brief. When the space was split into two, both halves could be used for completely different scenarios. Each microphone could be individually assigned and routed in relation to the particular setup required.
Excite AV installed 12 x QSC AD C6T ceiling speakers driven by two x QSC SPA 4-60 amplifiers to complete the picture and Spurgeon, Francis and the client worked closely on the commissioning of the system. The project partners worked carefully to test the entire system, optimising reinforcement levels within the space, whilst maintaining a feedback free environment.
Alan Chesney expressed: “Any concerns I might have had were alleviated when I heard the system in action – it works fantastically well. You can talk in your normal voice, you don’t have to be conscious of trying to talk into microphones. It gives you complete freedom and people don’t even realise that it’s there. We’re very pleased with what we’ve done and it works very well. In fact, I get lots of compliments from acousticians about just how well our system works.”
Spurgeon concluded: “The solution not only addressed the immediate issues faced by the client but also opened up greater flexibility for the space(s) and supported much easier usability. The automised nature of the system allows the end user to simply walk in, select the room’s function and begin work immediately.”
Alex Forman, sales director at Excite AV concluded: “The Institute’s brief was clear. As the leading acoustic research and teaching organisation in the world, nothing but the best would be acceptable. With that in mind we brought in industry-leading manufacturer Shure and award-winning distributor Audiologic for their advice and expertise. The Shure and QSC products deliver an exceptional solution. The results speak for themselves and the client is delighted with the outcome.”