AV Case Study: Victoria Uni Big Screen & Audio Installation
What started as a ‘hey can we do outdoor cinema?’ thought bubble, has turned into a powerful university presentation space.
Text:/ Christopher Holder
There’s no shortage of public-facing LED. In fact, you sometimes get the feeling that a big screen often gets spec’ed into a space before anyone has considered what manner of content might be displayed on it… let alone accompanying audio. Audio mostly plays second fiddle to big LED real estate. Some of that’s understandable. If the display is for digital signage purposes only, then accompanying (and super-repetitive) audio is often more of a curse than anything else. But when you find an installation designed for presentations and where audio is given consideration, it’s amazing how it unleashes a full range of possibilities.
Victoria University’s Footscray campus has recently christened its big Samsung outdoor LED, and what’s most evident is a commensurately big Bose Professional loudspeaker system.
Laki Mavridis, Audio Visual Team Leader at Victoria University (and is coming up for a 40-year anniversary in 2025, if you can believe it!), tends to agree: “Everyone talks about the audio. We run cinema nights and it’s the audio that really impresses.”
GETTING THE PICTURE
In fact, it was the outdoor cinema use-case that really drove the high-spec audio, according to Citadel Technology’s Sales Manager, Lester Mayhook-Farmer: “Victoria Uni had already acquired the LED and we were engaged to install the screen and provide an appropriate level of audio, not only for public service-type announcements but also to offer cinema-level audio for the outdoor space when it was in that mode.”
Citadel Technology got Bose Professional involved. Not only did Lester need an audio design for the space but also needed a supplier that had stock — of loudspeakers, amplifiers and DSP.
Bose Professional stepped up, getting on site to scope out the space and offer detailed acoustic modelling of the courtyard.
You don’t need two PhDs in electroacoustics to discern (just by looking at it) that the Victoria University outdoor ‘quadrangle’ is an intelligibility graveyard. The big screen sits at the mouth of a giant architectural ‘horn’ flanked by glass and steel. When you think it couldn’t get any worse, hard cobbles lay underfoot. Thankfully, there’s no roof, but with a new hospital over the road, audio pollution is also a concern.
The audio brief required good intelligibility and SPL all the way to the cafe, some 40m from the screen.
Bose Professional modelled the space and proposed an audio design based on its ArenaMatch range. As the name suggests, the range is primarily designed for large public spaces. Unlike many other equivalent line source products, ArenaMatch encompasses more than a couple of horizontal dispersion options. In fact, ArenaMatch offers three horizontal waveguide options (60°, 80°, or 100°) and three vertical dispersion options (10°, 20°, or 40°) for a total of nine possible coverage patterns.
The design for this project saw two pairs of ArenaMatch units arrayed under the screen. These loudspeakers are operating as point sources. The two ArenaMatch speakers on top address the far field and the two underneath address those closest to the display.
In fact, Citadel Technology worked with Bose Professional to ensure the audio system could operate in a switchable Near and Far mode – the top boxes remaining inactive unless they’re required for bigger audiences.
The ArenaMatch product offers a ‘Goldie Locks’, ideal balance of throw, SPL handling, intelligibility and durability for the outdoor context. Each enclosure packs a 14-inch neodymium woofer and six Bose EMB2S titanium-diaphragm neodymium compression drivers. The waveguides can be swapped out depending on the application.
A Bose Professional PowerMatch PM8500 amp powers the PA, while a Bose Professional ControlSpace EX-1280 takes care of the audio DSP.
I didn’t have an opinion about how the Bose Professional product would perform in this application. But I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. They’ve definitely surpassed our expectations
Installing the AV systems into the site is a story worth telling as well. Citadel Technology’s Rob Henricksson project managed the job and picks up the story: “There’s around two tonnes of gear to install and it needed to be done carefully. We engaged engineers to carry out a survey of the site to ensure it could bear the load. They used X-ray equipment to ensure the load-bearing structure underneath was up to the challenge.
“The LED screen had been acquired but it was our task to get it ready for the installation. We engaged a steel fabricator to build a custom frame and supporting structure. The whole assembly is free standing – there’s nothing attached to the building.”
Craning the frame into place needed to be painstakingly precise. According to Rob, there’s was only 20mm clearance on one side of the screen, which is darn tight.
The kicker for Rob was a ‘super compressed’ time frame. One week from “cutting the cobblestones, to a fully commissioned video wall”. Take a bow Rob and Citadel.
BIG SUPPORTING CAST
Apart from alfresco cinema – where it’s been a big hit – the big screen is used as a focal point during larger gathering for orientation week and the like. But anyone at Victoria University can access the display. A Kramer Via wireless connection allows anyone with a password to cast to the screen from their Vic Uni device – which makes for a very powerful feature.
Otherwise there are wired – HDMI and USB-C – options at the local rack.
It’s easy to tell by Laki Mavridis’ demeanour that the uni is delighted with the result. “We have Bose Professional loudspeakers in our lecture theatres but I didn’t have an opinion about how the Bose Professional product would perform in this application. But I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. They’ve definitely surpassed our expectations.”
Laki might be delighted but so are the university’s head honchos and they are already eyeing off other locations. “We have other campuses that all could use a set up like this,” confirms Laki.
It does make you think just how much more useful a big screen can be when it’s accompanied by commensurately big sound.