For the renovation of Pomfret School’s Hard Auditorium, Metinteractive, which provides strategic solutions for architecture, communication and technology, supplied AV systems which gave a significant boost to sound and video in the reconfigured space.
Pomfret School is an independent, co-educational, college preparatory boarding and day school in Pomfret, CT with 360 students in grades 9-12 and post-graduates. Hard Auditorium, which has served the school since 1928, is the larger of two auditoriums. It hosts the biggest school gatherings, including theater performance and the Schwartz Visiting Fellow lecture series.
Architects Centerbrook and AV Consultant Acentech transformed the 280-seat Hard Auditorium into a flexible, multiuse space that can take multiple configurations: a 430-seat assembly space; a 330-seat endstage for dance, music or musical theater; an intimate thrust for drama; a flat-floor event space and more. Users include Pomfret School’s departments of dance and theater as well as onStage at Connecticut College.
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“Hard Auditorium is a beautiful space. It’s so nice to bring families into it and hear their oohs and aahs—even I do that every time I walk into the auditorium,” said music teacher and AV specialist Mackenzie Christensen.
Metinteractive has a strong presence in the preparatory education market so its expertise in marrying technology solutions to the culture of a prep school was invaluable to the project. “This was a very significant and complex renovation, virtually down to the wood structure of the building and integrating new infrastructure,” said Metinteractive CEO Jeff Mele. “Many late-stage changes impacted our work requiring us to continually change our strategy for completing the project.”
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Fulcrum CX1295 loudspeakers comprise the center clusters with CX896 speakers as side fills, a CS121 subwoofer, QSC’s Q-SYS audio, video and control platform plus a Behringer X32 digital mixing console in the FOH booth. Fulcrum FX1295 moveable floor monitors are deployed when the space takes on a new configuration for live music events. A ClearCom analog intercom system links dressing rooms and instrumental rehearsal rooms downstairs to the sound booth; ceiling mounted JBL speakers in those spaces take the stage audio feed.
Metinteractive bolstered The Hard Auditorium’s video capabilities with a 21.5x12-foot motorized Da-Lite Pro TNSD 330D projection screen with HD.9 viewing area and a ceiling mounted Panasonic PT-RZ21KU 20,000-lumen DLP projector with custom white vinyl wrap. A Vaddio PTZ camera next to the projector captures action on stage. A 55-inch NEC display enables those in the dressing rooms and instrumental rehearsal rooms to see stage feeds.
Touch panel controls for audio and video are mounted on the stage and on a desktop in the sound booth. Metinteractive was charged with routing all the audio sources as well as with WyreStorm IP routing of video sources from internal IP cameras and plug-and-play systems for laptops.
“Working with Metinteractive was really wonderful from the project’s conception to troubleshooting any issues that came up through a great installation process,” said Christensen, who is responsible for the auditoriums live event audio and video production work. “Jesse LaBranche and the Metinteractive team have been incredibly responsive and have worked tirelessly to make it all happen. It makes me feel comfortable knowing they are on our side should we encounter any hiccups.”
LaBranche trained Christensen on the new sound system and its proprietary software. “A big factor was making the system as user friendly as possible for when Mackenzie is not there and non-professionals step in,” explained LaBranche. “They don’t even have to touch the sound board: Everything is plug-and-play at the podium or via the on-stage touch panel. The same is true for video projection.”
Metinteractive also coordinated a tricky rack move and split. “We had to relocate one rack originally allocated to the attic which was too big for the door height,” said LaBranche. “So, we split the rack according to the equipment’s frequency of use. The amps, DSP and Listen Technologies’ assistive listening systems, which don’t have to be touched daily, remain in the attic. Everything that needs to be touched daily, such as a full complement of Shure wireless mics and transmitters, moved to an under-counter rack in the downstairs sound booth.”
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Throughout the project Metinteractive was challenged by manufacturers’ continuing post-COVID supply chain issues. “It impacted everything from cabling to equipment,” said LaBranche. “There was an issue with pretty much everything, with sometimes up to 18 months delay. So, we had to figure out how to change some sourcing without paying a premium.”
Hard Auditorium has already hosted a number of events, including last school year’s premier of The Academy, which was staged while the rebuild was in progress, and this fall’s production of The Snowball. “Jesse helped us with our fall show,” said Christensen. “The ceiling mics were a big improvement over the students having to wear body packs. Everyone was heard evenly.”