Memorial Chapel at Lawrence University – Community Spotlight

Lawrence University has a very distinguished music program that is well known in the community, regionally and nationally.  Equally as well known, is the performance space, simply called “Memorial Chapel.”  Built in 1919, it seats 1,148 people.  With its wraparound balcony seating, it creates a very intimate space despite number of people who can attend a performance.

The current technology features a recently renovated sound system, plus a fully equipped recording studio used to record the numerous events – which include guest speakers, student con centers and recitals, and professional arts series.

Until now, however, all of the technology focused on audio.  The campus was already streaming audio to the web when Dean of the Conservatory of Music, Brian Pertl, had a vision to expand those webcasts by adding video.  This was to be a big step forward, considering the only video currently in use was a small Sony Handycam used to allow the recording studio to see what was happening on stage.

After meetings with staff, it was determined the systems had to offer some unique capabilities.  It needed to be high definition and the cameras needed to be capable of remote operation by one or two people, instead of one person per camera.  The site lines of the space would not allow for standard cameras on tripods with operators.  It would be too visually distracting during performances.  Also, the equipment had to fit in a small space in a tech booth at the back corner of the balcony.  And finally, a second point of control was needed from the recording room.

For the HD cameras, Sony BRC-Z330 cameras were chosen for their outstanding color reproduction.  The cameras were outfitted with additional hardware from Vaddio.  Vaddio produces equipment that attaches to the cameras allowing all power, video, and control to run on standard CAT5 over long distances.  Also, HD-SDI cards were added to allow full HD connection to the video switcher and to the recording booth.  A camera was placed directly on center in the face of the balcony.  Two cameras were place in the face of the balcony, about halfway into the room.  This allows for both side angle shots of the stage, as well as shots of the audience.  This also allows shots of performers in the balconies, which is often done for special pieces of music.  The fourth camera is located on the stage wall, allowing wonderful close-ups of the conductor and other musicians on the stage.

Cameras are controlled by a Vaddio Precision Camera Controller.  This allows the cameras to be controlled for pan, tilt, and zoom, and features 14 presets per camera that can be recalled at the touch of a button.  This greatly simplifies managing a four-camera system during intense orchestra performances or similar events.

A Panasonic AV-HS400 video switcher allows for a true broadcast quality video mix experience.  Each camera comes into the switcher as HD-SDI.  Each input has a direct output connected to AJA Ki-Pro hard disc recorders.  This allows every concert to be recorded from four different angles.  This raw video can then be edited after the concert, with the knowledge that no shot will be missed.  The switched output of the mixer is also recorded on a Ki-Pro.

One advantage of the Panasonic switcher is the multi viewer output.  One LCD TV is mounted on the wall and the switcher shows all camera inputs, plus preview and program on one monitor.  This also allows the recording studio a great way to see everything that is going on, since they have no direct view of the room.  That same multi viewer output is sent via HD-SDI to the recording room.  The recording room has three 42″ LCD TVs.  All are fed from a small matrix allowing any of the TVs to display the two monitor outputs of the Pro-Tools computer, the multi viewer feed from the chapel, the main full screen program output, or a local DVD recorder.

In addition to seeing the feed from the chapel, the Recording room has a small Crestron button controller that allows the system to be remotely turned on.  It also has control of the Panasonic switcher, allowing the user to perform basic camera switches without having to be in two places at once!  For direct camera control, a second Vaddio Precision Camera Controller is slaved to the main controller and allows the user to recall the same camera presets as the main controller.

Finally, a Black Magic Ultra Studio capture device allows the output of the video switcher to be captured by a MacBook Pro laptop via Thunderbolt.  This laptop then encodes the video so it can be streamed live to the world over the Internet.

This innovative system is a true collaboration between the design staff at Camera Corner / Connecting Point, and the highly proficient technical staff at Lawrence University, including Larry Darling, Director of Recording; David Berk, Director of Instructional Technology; Rachel Crowl, Web Content and New Media Coordinator; and Dean Brian Pertl.