Lightning Show

Lightning Show
  • ST. PETERSBURG, FL-Built in the early 1960s, the 2,030-seat Mahaffey Theater has recently renovated its lobby and concession area with nine new audio zones and several new flat-panel displays. The project began in November and finished in April. At the beginning of the renovation, contractor Magnum Audio wasn't able to get into the building more than once a week, but by February they were working almost daily to finish the project.

In the ballroom at the Mahaffey Theater an Eiki EIP 3500 projector complemented the independent sound system. The lobby is outfitted with SoundTube's recessed ceiling speakers that are separated into nine audio zones and have delay appropriate to the various heights of the ceiling.
Randi Cooks of Magnum Audio worked on the design of the project. "Getting the piping through the old part of the building to the termination points, one in FOH where we put the main racks, and one to the existing racks that were stage left of the theater, was complicated. Long distances and old pipe made it difficult."

Cooks, along with the theater, chose dbx drive racks and Crown amplifiers to power the system in the lobby. Each system has its own MX508 console to add equalization to each zone with multiple inputs without using digital controllers.

He also put a lot of focus on the local weather when designing the system. "Being right down by the water and in the Tampa Bay area caused a lot of sway. We are the lightning capital of the world. This is not a good place for transient surges and huge spikes. We didn't use digital controllers because if it goes down you can lose the whole joint. It's not cost-effective to use them."

The speakers selected were all SoundTube, 160 CM500i recessed ceiling speakers, multiple CM800i ceiling subwoofers, and four SM500i surface mounts used outdoors at loading docks. At the colonnade at the entrance to the theater, Magnum installed nine HP890is, which are 8-inch with 1-inch compression drivers on the ceiling because at 30 feet they need a little boost. Cooks explained, "The number of speakers needed and the ease of installation with the CM series based on its magnetic grille made them the perfect choice. And they sound great. This wasn't just a public-address system, this was a full bang-out audio system. If you put music through, it rocked."

Magnum also installed a video element. In the ballroom there is an Eiki EIP 3500 projector and a 9- by 12-foot screen with the independent sound system. In the conference room they used a Sharp X70 projector on a 6- by 8-foot screen. Magnum installed four N-20 50-inch ViewSonic NextVision widescreen LCDs and four N-27

50-inch NextVision widescreen LCDs in the lobby and around the concession and entranceways.

Cooks explained that there wasn't much of a need for routing in the installation based on the renovation and the location. "We'd play coming attractions and performances routed to the lobby and a balcony overlooking the water, but the renovation was the reason for not doing too much routing. If it was a new installation I would have been able to work with it more, but this is not a good location considering the lightning hits, and the building was old. I was more comfortable doing less routing."

Thanks to the MX508s, they only had to run signal to the left or right of a mixer because of the variation of heights in the lobby. Cooks said, "We had a lot of delays to work with so we used a couple of dbx Drive Rack 260s to add delay, isolating wherever they were going to have a different signal to each system. Then I looped them all together in case they wanted the same signal throughout all the systems. The 260 seemed appropriate because I wasn't doing a lot of routing."

Upon completion, there hasn't been one complication since the system's inception. Cooks attributes it to his personal philosophy when putting together such complex systems. "Take a source, put it to an input, process it, amplify it, and get it to the speaker. Anytime you're adding a bunch of stuff to a line, you're going to have problems. We have 1,000 lightning strikes a day in the summer. You have to make it simple so if a piece goes down, you don't lose the whole system."