University Heights

University Heights
  • The root of the word "university" is a reference to a multitutde of possibilities. At Bucknell University, overlooking central Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River, no one may be more keenly aware of that wide reach than the IT and AV department heads, who are intent on enhancing sound and vision throughout campus.

Electro-Voice's tech support were on hand at Bucknell University's Sojka Pavilion to ensure proper installation and optimal performance after these initial tests. Pictured here is EV's XLD281 line array during demoing/testing, without use of proper installation hardware.
"It's not just about the classroom anymore," said Dale Hourlland, campus technical director for Bucknell. "In a university it's all about the things that happen in and around the classroom, but there's also an increased need to support non-educational applications. Pretty much anytime someone wants to speak, they want sound systems to speak through. People want to look good too, so they want to be lit with PowerPoint and data projection. There are people in universities everywhere who are specialists in educational presentation, but I think we're ahead of the curve in terms of specialists for event and entertainment production."

The latest loop to be added to Bucknell's campus-wide Ethernet over fiber network is the 4,000-seat Sojka (pronounced "SOY-kuh") Pavilion, home of the Bucknell Bison men's and women's Division I basketball teams. A multipurpose facility that hosts large-scale gatherings ranging from alumni dinners to athletic department awards ceremonies and rock concerts, the Sojka Pavilion had been a priority to receive a major audio upgrade. With the recent advent of three new Yamaha PM5D digital mixing consoles and a Whirlwind E-Snake plugging into the Ethernet network at Bucknell's Weis Center for the Performing Arts and available to the rest of the campus, Hourlland found himself with the remote audio routing firepower needed to justify a particular type of system at Sojka Pavilion.

"The sound system that had been originally installed was for basketball games, but people weren't really hearing things very clearly with it," said Hourlland. "We needed a high quality sound system. The Electro-Voice XLD281 became available when we were specifying out the new system and that's what we went with. We needed something fairly lightweight-and that's just the physical characteristics of the system."

Hourlland also needed his sound system to allow fast setup and tear-down to accommodate the venue's primary purpose, which is to host the basketball teams' practices and games. "If someone is going to do an event there, they have to go in, do it and get out," Hourlland noted. "The basketball floor is permanent and can't support large loads, so everything has to be flown from the roof. We've got 16 total XLD boxes, and one stack of eight can go up in about 20 minutes after the hoists are hung. Almost all the design work is done by an Excel file with macros that EV wrote-you put in the dimensions of the space and where your stacks will hang, and it tells you what the angles need to be, what coverage you'll get, what the rig will weigh, and at what points to put the pins in the grid. It takes a lot of the guesswork out."

The XLD line array is coupled with EV P3000RL amplifiers, which are controllable over the Ethernet network. "Once it's flown I can control all the amplifiers' internal processing with EV's IRIS software-crossover, EQ, delays, and limiting-over the network," Hourlland said. "It's really cool, because now we can walk in with a mixing console, a couple of Ethernet cables, and a computer that will control everything: the snakes, the amplifiers, it's doing a lot of the work. Now we can set up the system in two hours instead of six, and once we install a permanent rigging system in the Pavilion, we'll be able to set up main speakers and amps in an hour."

With the upgrade at the Sojka Pavilion following in the footsteps of the improvements to the Weis Center, Hourlland is excited to be seeing the worlds of event production expanding in step with the power of the campus network. "I think I got lucky because our network is phenomenal," he stated. "It's all fiber, they use the best switches, the wiring is done very well, and we have good people. The Bucknell network administrator, Eric Smith, is an absolute genius-give his guys a problem, and they just chew on it until they get an answer."