The Woolshed rises from the ashes with a whip-smart technical backbone.
Story: Christopher Holder
Harbour Esplanade, Docklands VIC
It’s every venue owner’s nightmare. A fire. But providing you have adequate insurance… there’s a silver lining: you can build again and this time, really get it right.
The Atlantic Group’s Woolshed venue in Melbourne’s Docklands had just such a great misfortune; and made the most of the silver lining with an newly refit restaurant, pub and events venue.
The Atlantic Group is well versed in the challenges of running a multipurpose events. Its group of venues (some on the same central pier as the Woolshed) have a heavy events focus. It prides itself on a maverick spirit but an unwavering attention to detail.
One thing that’s become ever clearer in recent years is the importance of technology to running events. The Woolshed’s General Manager, Duncan Laidlaw, makes this observation:
“I started here in August 2008 for a January 2010 opening. So we launched with 2008 tech. By way of perspective, in 2008 I had a Blackberry with a little trackball on it — it was the best phone on the market. Well now we’ve got the iPhone 7 and whatever else is coming out — that’s how far the technology has come and that’s how fast it’s moving.”
The updated technology was designed and installed by Node Audio Visual Systems, helmed by Tom Connolly, with Anthony Sottosanti running point. The key to a truly multifunctional space is flexible zoning — with the ability to run ‘anything to anywhere’. This is not a simple exercise.
The Woolshed has a total of 12 audio zones. Even more importantly, the Woolshed can accommodate six entirely separate bookings simultaneously.
Which brings me to other key to a successful multifunctional space: each group must feel independent of every other group in the venue if they so choose.
Again, this is not easy to achieve and not cheap. The Woolshed used the rebuild opportunity to install heavy glazing to provide acoustic isolation where required.
Combining the latest tech with good old-fashioned materials and in-wall insulation, has given the Woolshed the multifunctional venue it wanted. And when you consider the financial advantage of booking six groups into the venue at once rather than, say, four, then the tech investment is soon paid for.
Duncan Laidlaw: “Previously we had, I think, three zones. Now, with 12 zones I could have a DJ source or band coming through to any particular zone or the whole venue — I can select where I want it or don’t want it. But then in the restaurant I can turn off music so people can talk or have a wedding or conference upstairs and have their own DJ or music.”
ACHIEVING VENUE FLEXIBILITY
There are a handful of technologies that provide the backbone of the solution. Without getting too technical it’s worth knowing what you’re in for if you want to achieve something approaching the Woolshed’s flexibility.
Routing Video Anywhere to Anywhere: This is achieved via a video matrix. The Crestron DM (DigitalMedia) 16x16 matrix can route HDBaseT (point-to-point HDMI over category cable) from any source to any destination.
Audio From Anywhere to Anywhere: A QSC Core DSP brain takes all the audio inputs from around the venue and feeds it to the appropriate amplifier channel in the rack.
Control of Anything from Anywhere: A Crestron control solution allows the operator to monitor the whole audiovisual setup from an iPad. The iPad interface is bespoke for the venue, but it’s the Crestron control (behind the scenes) that does the work when you hit the source button on the iPad or push up the volume on the balcony speakers.
Getting Content to Screens: Events are plagued by people bringing something in on a random laptop and expecting to ‘get it up on the screen’. With so many connector types, screen and content resolutions, it can be tough to get a good result — not what bridezilla wants to hear when the family has paid top dollar for a dream wedding. Crestron’s AirMedia is the primo means of streaming content from a device to a screen via wi-fi. You need to download the AirMedia app but from there, it’s cable-free and high quality.
With the technological backbone in place, the Woolshed didn’t skimp on the audio.
There are QSC loudspeakers and amplifiers throughout. QSC isn’t the most expensive loudspeaker brand in the market but provides outstanding value. QSC’s CXD range of multi-channel amplifiers are at the top end, thanks, in part, to the ability to exist on the network (so it can be tweaked remotely via the Crestron control system) and, of course, the audio quality.
QSC has a broad range which means the main performance space can have the power, punch and clarity of the E15 15-inch full-range loudspeakers and an 18-inch sub, the restaurant has the low profile surfacemount options, the bathrooms have an in-ceiling speaker, and more.
The main performance space has an Allen & Heath Qu rackmount digital mixer with iPad control. The Fireside room regularly features duos and small bands, which have enthusiastically adopted the new technology. Setting up once and ‘saving themselves’ as a preset on the system saves time and hassle on the next gig.
Elsewhere, input wallplates allow DJs to plug in or allow the outputs of a mixing console to be plumbed in. There are four wireless microphone systems that can be used anywhere in the venue — again, it’s as simple as pressing the right button on the iPad controller.
The rebuild has allowed the Woolshed to buy into the best and biggest LCD panels on the market. Duncan and the Atlantic Group management selected Philips 98-inch commercial displays. They’re certainly a large screen, but in the context of the Fireside room with its soaring ceiling height, the large screen real estate is a must.
The Woolshed has two Nightlife music video systems, three channels of Foxtel, and inputs that allow video to be shunted to the screens.
The pressure of running events is considerable. Building a system that makes a sophisticated system easy to run, will pay off in spades. But these aren’t off-the-peg solutions, they require the knowledge of a competent AV designer and installation know-how. It’s a pleasure to see a well-integrated sy stem in action, sounding and looking great.
The last word should go to Woolshed GM Duncan Laidlaw: “The freedom to set the venue up without moving stuff around is amazing. For example, we’ll have a conference that will use the main space and another, they can have the same screen content running throughout, without having to plug into multiple places. Previously we would need to hire AV staff to meet those kinds of demands and it got costly. Now it’s just so easy and less costly to run.”
Node Audio Visual Systems: 0448 196 496
TAG (QSC, Allen & Heath): (02) 9519 0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Westan (Philips Displays): 1300 963963 or westan.com.au
Nightlife Music Video: www.nightlife.com.au
Airstream Architects: airstreamarchitects.com