With technology advancing apace and opening up endless new opportunities for the next generation, academic institutions are firmly focused on upgrading their capabilities in order to give students access to a full spectrum of learning opportunities. Kingshott School – a leading independent school in Hertfordshire, UK, founded in 1931 – is no exception. True to its mission of becoming a place where innovation goes hand-in-hand with tradition, the school secured a series of investments in order to develop its site, enabling it to meet the expectations of prospective pupils and their parents, and maintain its standing as an exceptional learning provider.
Looking for a comprehensive but flexible AV solution for its newly constructed sports hall facility, which can be converted into a 450-seat performance venue, Kingshott sought the expertise of Prime Audio Visual & Lighting Solutions (Prime AVLS), in order to equip the space with full live sound, stage lighting, projection and back of house theatrical show relay systems.
“We are always looking to give our students the very best chance of success in life through their education – and that means investing in innovative technologies so that they can keep pace with their peers in today’s dynamic world,” Jude Ilott, bursar at Kingshott School, said of the £2.1 million project.
Reflecting on the brief received from the school, James Owen, project manager at Prime AVLS, says: “The brief was emblematic of what we are seeing generally in the education space, with institutions looking to make sure they are at the cutting edge when it comes to their tech capabilities. We were able to incorporate a number of key features in the design which allowed for easy switching between day-to-day use for assemblies or sports lessons to full scaled sound, lighting and projection for school productions, music concerts and presentation evenings which require a finer degree of control.”
An added challenge was the multipurpose nature of the space, as Owen explains: “Everything had to be designed to be hoisted above the cricket nets and basketball hoops. We were in discussion with the consultants from an early stage to ensure that we were able to provide roof clearance for the two lighting trusses. We also provided a number of flight cases for the lighting and all loose equipment so that it can be stored away when not in use. Even the audio system used for assemblies is contained in a wheeled flight case that can be plugged in simply using a multichannel umbilical cord.”
Arguably at the centre of that cutting-edge AV set up is a Digital Projection M-Vision Laser 18K projector installed on the rear wall of the hall and fitted with an ultra-long throw zoom lens. Owen expands: “The projector was fed from facility panels around the building with distribution, switching and scaling for presentations done using CYP. We used Blackmagic for the scaling and distribution of the video relay systems around the building with the HD show relay cameras being patchable at different locations. A Granite sound paging system and intercom kit was also installed. Live sound is mixed using a Soundcraft Si Impact, fed through a Soundweb which processed all of the DSP and allowed for digital patching using Contrio wall panels.”
The Soundweb also handles the paging system around the building with ceiling speakers in most back of house spaces and toilets. Due to their wide dispersion and selectable vertical coverage, three pairs of JBL CBT 70J-1s were specified, one pair on each lighting truss and one pair installed on the front wall for use during assemblies. Their controllable directivity minimises the amount of sound being fired at the hard surfaces in the hall. In addition a pair of JBL PRX 18in subwoofers were incorporated to allow reproduction of the lower sub-bass frequencies which can be rolled out and plugged in as required.
Owen explains: “Due to the width of the space, we also used a number of JBL CBT line array column speakers as these are fairly unobtrusive and were able to cover the width of the seating using two per truss whereas traditionally this would’ve normally meant using four point source boxes.”
When it comes to lighting, control is via a Zero88 FLX console with iPad control and DMX distribution around the building. Twelve moving heads were supplied, six profiles and six washes, as well as eight fixed Fresnels, profile spots and side lighting PARS. All equipment supplied is LED. An array of loose equipment was also supplied including microphone packages for bands and orchestras, a haze machine and follow spots.
According to Owen, the biggest challenge was the scale of the venue: “Due to the space being a lot larger than most school halls, all the equipment had to be louder and brighter than what would normally be specified which meant being really very careful in order to stay within budget. The backstage spaces are also very spread out so show video and audio relay systems are important.”
The project took place over the course of three months, and the multi-purpose space opened in time for the start of the 2018/2019 academic year and has already created the opportunity to deliver the curriculum in new and exciting ways.
Owen adds: “The school are delighted with the space they have and can’t believe that a sports hall can look so good when converted into a theatre. One member of staff commented that you can’t even tell that it is a sports venue unless you look up at the ceiling. All the equipment is from professional trusted brands so the level of production is exceptional, and the school is already in discussion with us about how they can use the equipment to best effect when the hall is turned into a banqueting hall for the school’s annual summer ball.”
Ilott is equally positive: “We are so pleased with the finished solution, which truly allows for every possible scenario for which we might want to use the space. In addition, the dedicated control room, which we use for tuition and training, allows us to extend the learning experience and encourages even greater student participation. The team at Prime AVLS were superb, with every aspect of the project exceeding our expectations. In particular, the equipment specified delivers exceptional results while being sensitive to our sports programme which also runs in the building – more than meeting our objective of creating a truly outstanding, multi-purpose venue for our students to embrace learning in.”