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It’s been ten years in the making but Orlando finally has a world-class concert venue in Steinmetz Hall, the 1,700-seat acoustic theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Metropolitan Interactive, Inc., which provides strategic solutions for architecture, communication and technology, worked closely with Phillip Peglow and Domonic Sack of Sound Associates, Inc., which has 70 years of experience providing professional audio and video systems, to supply AV systems design, engineering and installation for Steinmetz Hall, a unique metamorphic space that’s already acclaimed as the newest destination for top caliber national and international artists.
“Steinmetz Hall gives upper central Florida the same kind of performing arts cachet that you’d find in Miami,” says Metinteractive CEO, Jeff Mele. “It’s an important step in making the city of Orlando a relevant destination on the performing arts map.” Steinmetz Hall was added to the building housing the Walt Disney Theater, which opened in 2014, as part of phase two of the build out of the Center. Metinteractive became involved with Steinmetz Hall in 2016 and continues to work with the Center on the construction of Judson’s, a 3,000-square-foot performance space due to open late 2022.
“Steinmetz Hall is a world-class building and quite special in its architecture and design,” says Rich Gold, Senior Engineer at Metinteractive. “It – quietly – boasts an N1 sound rating with an ambient noise level of 18dB, making it one of the quietest concert halls in the world. Retractable sound banners throughout the auditorium allow the acoustics to be adjusted to suit the nature of the performance – more absorption for amplified events, more reflection for acoustic performances.”
Steinmetz Hall is unique in the world for its multi-form design, which transforms the space into a symphony concert hall, a more intimate recital hall or a traditional proscenium stage. A massive, million-pound architectural acoustic shell, which moves up and down the space on railroad tracks, and a pair of six-story towers that fly in and float above the stage deck create the concert hall. Removing the towers and closing off space with the shell turns the space into a recital hall. And a large, motorized proscenium stored invisibly in the grid flies in and out as needed to make a conventional theatrical stage.
A customized Gala floor system has each row of orchestra seating on independent lifts so the seats may be either on top of the lift or stowed below. That enables the room to be quickly reconfigured with a flat floor for a ballroom or banquet setup; the stage depth is also adjustable, and an orchestra pit may be created by lowering the first several lifts.
According to Mele, “the heaviest part of our work on Steinmetz Hall began at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic,” which posed a challenge of its own. “We were steadfast about never leaving the construction site. We voluntarily paid a premium to workers to work a second shift to maintain safety on site at a time when other contractors were not able to maintain full crews. This key strategy yielded an awesome product in the end.”
Metinteractive teamed with AV consultant Pete Cosmos and Tom Clark of Acme Professional on the new venue and partnered with Sound Associates Inc., which provided equipment for the project under separate contract.
“Orlando should be very proud of this versatile, new space. Visitors can attend ten productions and see ten different configurations of Steinmetz Hall,” says Domonic Sack, Executive Vice President of Sound Associates, Inc. “For us, this project wasn’t just about the install but about providing a service to the Hall and its productions: Much of our business is rentals and touring shows, some of which will come into the venue. We’ve already had two musicals in the Walt Disney Theater this season. So we take a comprehensive approach, doing our best for the design team and augmenting that with the know-how we’ve acquired from servicing productions.”
With the acoustics playing a leading role in the Hall “the PA system had to be flexible enough to account for the multiple room layouts” possible in the metamorphic space of Steinmetz Hall, Gold points out. The consultants specified d&B Audiotechnik loudspeakers and a DiGiCo SD-12 96 mixing console for the unique venue.
“We have three line arrays, each with nine d&b V-Series speakers; the stacks at stage left and right can be raised up and out of sight above the ceiling while the center stack can be lowered and removed if not needed,” Gold explains. Metinteractive worked with Polar Focus to design custom hardware brackets that would be more functional and aesthetic than out-of-the-box models.
While typically located in the back of house, the Hall’s DiGiCo console is mobile so removable seats in the theater can accommodate it in various positions. The DiGiCo console is compatible with the system installed in the Walt Disney Theater; when not in use in Steinmetz Hall the console may be deployed as an extra FOH or monitoring console in Disney.
Metinteractive also installed the video system that runs throughout Steinmetz Hall, from the lobby to backstage, which may be used for production, monitoring and archival recording. The system includes three Panasonic 4K cameras and four Blackmagic Design 40×40 video routers plus a Panasonic all-in-one 12G switcher and camera controller in the control room. Metinteractive wrote a custom program to control video switching from the four routers to simplify their operation.
The video system is integrated with the Hall’s extensive digital signage sending content to some two dozen lobby displays.
The video system, the lobby’s signage and background music and paging, and backstage monitoring and paging are all run from a QSC Q-SYS Core 110f processor. “We wrote custom code to enable Q-SYS to handle all the dressing room feeds,” says Gold, “so any dressing room can be associated with any of the building’s four main performance spaces. If there’s a large cast for a production at Disney they can be assigned dressing rooms at Steinmetz but still get the Disney program feed and stage manager pages.” The Q-SYS system can also send content to receptions in semi-private lounge areas.
A combination of wired and wireless intercom stations at Steinmetz include a 12-channel Clear-Com digital intercom system and Clear-Com’s HelixNet and FreeSpeak II digital wireless systems. The systems are expandable to unify communications throughout the Center in the future.
In fact, unity is something of a hallmark of the spaces and systems at the Center. “Steinmetz and Disney are adjacent to each other, their lobby areas are open to each other and their backstage areas have various connection points,” Metinteractive Project Manager Don Ellis points out. “So the two halls’ interoperability and flexibility are very important and played a key role throughout the project.”
“Working with Metinteractive and Sound Associates was fantastic. They are both terrific professionals in their respective spaces,” says Spencer Tong, Executive Vice President of Operations at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. “Rich and Don from Metinteractive and Domonic and Phillip from Sound Associates were here during construction and commissioning and assisted us with our opening celebration events. We’re happy to be associated with them and to continue our relationship as we build out Judson’s. They are very special partners who have helped us realize everything we envisioned.”
“I can’t say enough about working with Metinteractive’s Rich Gold, Don Ellis and Commissioning Specialist Peter Briggs,” adds Sound Associates’ Sack. “I’m so pleased to have partnered with them. Project management, engineering, installation – nobody can even come close to our combination of skills. And we did it all during a pandemic!”
About Metropolitan interactive, Ltd. (DBA Metinteractive)
Metinteractive is a unique design and systems integration firm specializing in the development of immersive digital environments and entertainment systems in public and private spaces. Based in Oxford, Connecticut, Metinteractive is a Women-Owned Business Enterprise with additional offices in New York, Ohio, West Virginia and Nebraska. For more information, please visit www.metinteractive.com.
About Sound Associates
Sound Associates is an innovative professional audio company with locations in New York City, Yonkers and Atlanta. The company was founded in 1946 and has services ranging from audio and video rental, consultation and design, to installation and assistive technology. For more information, please visit www.soundassociates.com
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