Established in 1914, the McPherson Playhouse, known as The Mac, is a theatre and concert hall in Victoria, British Columbia, with a total capacity of 772 seats. Originally built as a Pantages theater, this prestigious venue hosts a variety of professional, community and amateur events year-round.
A couple of years ago, the McPherson Playhouse FOH Manager, Debora Johns, suggested incorporating video in the theater’s lobby to better accommodate latecomers, and to allow FOH employees to stay connected with the ongoing performances. The idea evolved, and the decision was made to update the lobby’s paging system as well, with a new system capable of playing pre-recorded announcements.
Warren Busby, Head of Audio and Assistant Technical Director at The Mac, was tasked with designing and implementing the project and needed to find a system at an affordable price point. He explains, “ I had priced out some equipment from another supplier who has a long history in the paging market, but was quickly turned down due to the high cost of the system.”
Rob Mayor, Sales Manager at Pacific Audio Works, a Vancouver Islands provider of professional audio and video products and services, had recently attended a QSC demo event presented by SFM, QSC’s Canadian distributor. The event’s main focus was the Q-Sys Integrated Platform, which allowed Mayor to discover QSC’s unique, powerful and scalable network audio solution, and in turn presented it to Busby. “I was intrigued,” said Busby. “When Mayor provided me with pricing for the equipment we had discussed, the management team was pleasantly surprised and immediately authorized the purchase.”
The lobby’s paging system now consists of one Q-Sys Core 250i, which is populated with one mic/line analogue input card with four channels of switchable mic/line-level analog audio input, two DataPort™ output cards featuring four audio output channels for connection to two QSC CX Series amplifiers, and one analog line output card featuring four channels of balanced, line-level analog output for interfacing between Q-Sys and the PS1600H paging station. Two 3.5″ TSC-3-B touchscreen controllers operate the built-in media player, and allow level control for both the media player and the iPod connection.
“Learning the Q-Sys Designer software was fairly simple, and the online training courses allowed me to complete Level 1 certification,” said Busby. “The hardware was simple to install and updating the software was just as easy.” He adds, “Once we took delivery of the first phase, we decided to go ahead and update our backstage paging system, and have the provision to do whole building pages in the event of an emergency.” The first phase went live in January 2014.
The second phase of the upgrade was comprised of one Q-SYS I/O Frame and 2 QSC CX204V amplifiers for the backstage equipment rack, as well as one PS-X paging expander connected to the PS1600G booth paging station, and three TSC-3-B touchscreen controllers for the stage manager rack. In addition, the desktop paging station, situated in the lighting booth, provides the ability to page FOH and the backstage area, and the touchscreens located in the dressing room zones allows control of individual dressing room sound level independent of preset paging volume levels. The second phase is slated to go live in Fall 2014.
Both phases of the McPherson Playhouse upgrade served as a proof of concept for a similar, yet larger system at the 1416-seat Royal Theatre in Victoria, which will be implemented in the coming year. “I would recommend Q-Sys to anyone looking to integrate paging, messaging and other audio controls into an all-in-one cost effective solution,” concludes Busby.