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I work for a church as a system admin. Considering the size of the organization, my tasks also involving being the go-to guy for research and making any decisions involving any form of technical needs, including audio and video setup.

Within the next year we are planning on breaking ground on a new facility. Since this is a 100% new construction, and we are still working with the architect on the design, I have full say on how to layout the sound area, conduits and flooring. I have an entry-level hobbiest understanding of this stuff but I'm nothing close to being an expert.

My question is, specifically, in laying out a sound booth for an auditorium, where should the booth be located? Bonus points, what else should I be sure to consider when designing a sound system for an auditorium.

I've seen many auditoriums in my life and, regarding sound booths, I've seen it all-- the best and the worst. I have a good hunch about what is less than optimal, but I have no clue what would be considered the "absolute best" setup for the audio and video techs and the acoustics of the facility.

My inclination, from observation, is to have a raised platform, dead center of the auditorium I think this is what I'm going to push for in future meetings. However, if I'm going to get behind such a request, I'd like to be sure that this is the best for our needs.

I'd appreciate any input.

  • FYI, if this is mis-tagged, I'd appreciate an update to the question. Thank you. – RLH Mar 26 '14 at 16:48
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    Beyond the information I put below, I'm not really sure how much can be said without a lot more information. The design of the auditorium makes a huge difference on ideal placement and ideal way to build the system. – AJ Henderson Mar 27 '14 at 18:59
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    You will definitely need to collaborate with the architect on this. The materials the hall and its furnishings are constructed from, the layout of the room, the size of it, the presence, absence and location of outside sources of noise all have a huge impact on what will and won't work, and your architect's job is to know how to juggle all of that. – Joseph Harvey Mar 28 '14 at 5:30
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This depends entirely on the layout of the room and the architect's design for it. More often than not, sound booths are placed in the open in the middle and near the back so that they don't block people's view and can hear an average experience. It can also help to elevate them so they are less impacted by people absorbing sound. (People absorb a LOT of sound.)

Honestly, the best thing you can do is make sure you have a dedicated wifi network in the auditorium and get a digital mixer that can be controlled from a tablet. Then your audio techs will be free to move around the room and check how things sound from different parts of the room rather than being confined to a particular booth. We do this at my church and it works fantastically. I only go in the sound booth when I need to move a wire or adjust the recording.

  • As is always the case, we don't have unlimited funding. We're not operating on a shoe-string budget, but it's not unlimited. For the time, we would prefer to have the best possible setup that can be expanded in the future. Booth positioning, and cable access, are what's most important right now. As far as WiFi is concerned, I think that will be a bit of a given, however, it's going to be a bonus feature for the techs. WiFi can be to finicky for something that needs to be perfectly consistent. In this case, if it can have a wire, it will. – RLH Mar 27 '14 at 18:30
  • @RLH - do you have a board already? Digital boards are not substantially more expensive and may actually save you money in terms of cable routing and having to build a platform. – AJ Henderson Mar 27 '14 at 18:35
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You may well get some good advice here or on other forums, but you need someone who can look at your budget, examine the building plans, and provide you with a detailed analysis of your best course of action. So, if you really want to know the perfect place to put the booth, hire a professional.

Not all architects are versed in sound, sound-control, and acoustics. Find yourself an acoustical architect/studio designer/acoustician to come on as a consultant and spend the money wisely on the front end, rather than trying to fix a costly (albeit well-intentioned) mistake on the back end. They very well may tell you that the location of the sound booth is completely irrelevant if you have enormous acoustic problems with the plan of the actual auditorium itself.

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    +1 for getting an architect who knows about acoustics. Most of an architect's job is working out how to balance the various concerns and requirements of a client, so getting one who knows what the relevant concerns are and how to deal with them is crucial. – Joseph Harvey Mar 28 '14 at 5:27
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The answer to your question is a complex one. There are as many options as there are locations in the room. As mentioned a raised platform in the middle is generally the best place to put it. This will change depended on the room but if their are levels in the back I like to keep the board in front of any overhang. What you are really asking is, what is the best location to listen to your PA system. This may change based on your system but in general, center of the house from a left right perspective and a bit behind center from a front back perspective is where I like to post up if the console is not permanently mounted.

To answer your other question. There is lots to consider when designing a system. 1. What size room is it in 2. how much power do you need to fill that room 3. how many channels are you going to need to mix all the signals you may have (16,32,64) 4. are you going to go digital, or analog 5. are you making your own cables or buying stock length stuff 6. do you need wireless mics, how many 7. where are you going to mount allyour console inputs, snakes? Wall pannels? a mix rack (for new digital style consoles?

And most importantly, What Is Your Budget?

More than any other factor the money you have to spend will define what you can do more than any other factor.

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