Central Command: Concert Hall Takes Control

In the last decade {Perth Concert Hall in Scotland} hosted a diverse programme of concerts, performances, contemporary art, political conferences and corporate events. In that time the (very busy) tech team has naturally had to adapt to changing client demands and changing technologies. As a result, the venue was home to a variety of different AV systems, many of which didn’t talk to each other. The client brief was to bring everything (legacy equipment and new kit) together. “We had seven different audio systems in the building, and numerous different lighting controls. Just turning on sound and video in one room was a major mission, now it’s all achievable on an iPad.” says Patrick Dalgety, production and technical manager, Perth Concert Hall. And this is where integrator Autograph Sales & Installations enters the story.

At the heart of the new install was the decision to go with QSC’s Q-SYS Designer software.

Walking into the foyer the visitor is immediately struck by Scotland’s largest dedicated digital art installation. The foyer displays show a mix of art and advertising (promoting future events) and is fully programmable and linked to a central calendar which controls all the lighting and sound. The busiest room in the venue is the Norie-Miller Suite. The room can accommodate 120 people, or be split into two (for 50 or 60 people), and is home to workshops, music shows and AGMs. AV in here is controlled by panels in the wall. If the team needs to split the room a single button press will instruct Q-SYS the room is now in two. Depending on which code the operator enters into the panel, the operator can access different levels of control. For those events where the tech team needs a bit more control, the consultant specified JLCooper control surfaces, which take command of visuals, light and sound from one custom board. “This is one of the more custom pieces of this project,” says Chris Austin, technical sales manager, Autograph. “The JLCooper control surfaces came as a completely blank canvas, so we had to write our own integration into Q-SYS for that.”

The level of control the tech team now has with Q-SYS has obviously made a huge difference to their working lives, as Dalgety demonstrates: “All the Shure radio mics can be used anywhere in the building. You just go to the space you want and select the mic you want and that setup will come out in the right space. The inclusion of the automixer means we have presets.”

It’s not a small task managing what’s going on, as around the venue there are 130 channels running on Q-SYS, with around 60 running on Dante. Austin estimates there are around 200 channels of audio on the network in total, running at a continuous 300Mb/s, ‘it’s a heavily trafficked network,’ he adds.

Upstairs at the Concert Hall are more conference rooms, with the 16-seatre Tay Boardroom. Again, due to the flexibility of the space, Q-SYS has been programmed to reflect this; “Every morning at 4am everything gets set back to default. So the staff coming in first thing in the morning have consistency,” says Dalgety.

The benefits of the new technology are clear says Dalgety, “We have a faster turnaround, and fault-finding is easier.

“The scale of the network and the resilience required was quite a challenge,” continues Austin. “If it was a closed shop and we had total control of the network, it would be quite straightforward. The challenge here is I can’t control who is going to plug something in and where they are going to plug it. If a visiting engineer comes here with a Dante-enabled sound desk it’s fair game for them to plug it into the network.”

This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of InAVate Magazine. To read the full article, please visit: