Sizing a PA for a Small Theater

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drliebs
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Sizing a PA for a Small Theater

Post by drliebs » Mon Apr 05, 2021 3:15 pm

I know this is the Creative Recording forum, but I'm sure there are folks out there with some experience with this sort of thing. :D

I am a studio engineer with limited live sound experience, just your local bar band kind of thing. A theater group I work with just got their own space, an old movie theater from the 1930's. It is a cool space and they are looking to me for help on choosing PA gear or at least getting a road map to the future planned out. The budget is thin to say the least.

The dimensions for the seating area are approximately 45' wide by 70' long. The ceiling is about 40' high in the first row, 32' at the back row.

Some of the performances will be rock bands and the desire is to have enough thump at a pretty good volume. I think 97 db 35' back would be my best guess.

What thoughts do you have? What kind of consideration do we need in regards to subs and speaker coverage? I'm sure there are a hundred things I don't know so any advice is welcome. We are starting out with a small budget and hope to improve along the way.
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markjazzbassist
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Re: Sizing a PA for a Small Theater

Post by markjazzbassist » Mon Apr 05, 2021 3:28 pm

where in ohio? i'm in cleveland. what is your dollar amount budget?

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Scodiddly
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Re: Sizing a PA for a Small Theater

Post by Scodiddly » Mon Apr 05, 2021 6:18 pm

If you're doing rock shows then rent an appropriate PA for each show, and make it part of that show's budget. The tech rider for the band will quite often list what is needed. Seriously, don't buy anything unless you're doing shows every week.

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Re: Sizing a PA for a Small Theater

Post by The Scum » Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:33 pm

A year into a pandemic might be a good time to go hunting for a large PA system.

I see a ballroom of similar size near me clearing out their system for peanuts, and a lot of bargains on
big PA stuff on CL. Nobody's played a gig in a year and want to get some value out of the gear.

to the OP:

Is the structure of the place solid enough that you can fly cabinets over the wings of the stage? Or will they have to be stacked? And can you squeeze subs under the front lip of the stage?
The tech rider for the band will quite often list what is needed.
I rember seeing Firehose's tech rider in 92 or 93. My recollection was that the spec was 1000 W to FOH for every 50 people in venue capacity.
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drliebs
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Re: Sizing a PA for a Small Theater

Post by drliebs » Tue Apr 06, 2021 10:00 am

markjazzbassist, we are in Chardon.

As for budget, I am trying to push for buying a pair of substantial subs. For now, we have to use the mix of existing gear we currently have.
2 EV SX500
2 Mackie SR1530's
2 RCF NX 32-A

We plan on mounting these in the walls on either side of the stage. We can vary the angle to try to distribute the sound.
Here is a picture

You can see the existing 2 speakers, we plan on putting the others below. The entire area from green to the curtains on the side wall is easily accessible plywood facade. We could put the subs under the stage, but we were thinking of putting them stage level to the side of the other speakers.

I'm not sure yet how the stage will effect the sound of the subs. We are looking at a pair of these Mackie SR18S 18-inch 1600-watt

I have reservations on if this will be enough. It may have to do for a while. Renting is always an option, we may have to consider that if we get an act that needs more.

The structure is substantial enough to mount a hanging rig, maybe down the road this could be upgraded. We will see what we can find in the used department, that is a good suggestion.
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Re: Sizing a PA for a Small Theater

Post by dave watkins » Tue Apr 06, 2021 11:10 am

That space is not gigantic so you may be able to get away with using what you've got as a basic rig for day to day theatre music, cues/sfx, and public address uses and then upgrading when the money is there. Hiring a PA when you have a bigger concert situation is definintely a good solution in the meantime. That would also give you the ability to see/hear how different systems work in the space without having to commit to a big purchase up front, and then maybe you can maneuver to purchase and install a system featuring whatever gear worked optimally. Some rental houses are also do A/V install work so you might be able to get a relationship going that would be beneficial if you end up installing a bigger sytem down the line. If the theatre company plans to do a lot of musicals with live music, Then yeah you should be looking at getting a bigger system installed sooner.

Honestly I'd probably just try and get a day to yourself with the gear on hand, set things up and listen to music you are familiar with in the space and see what different placement options do for the sound in house. You'll know pretty quickly if the speakers are struggling. Pairing the SR1530's with subs and doing a ground stack near the proscenium for now would probably work fine, crossing them over so they aren't trying to reproduce the lowest fequencies, and leaving the subs to do that should get you more clean headroom and fill the space fine for most things. The existing speakers look like they are installed in the wall? if you are going to use those in conjuntion with other stuff sitting on the ground in front just be careful of phase cancellation since they'd be offset from eachother. Would be best to have the drivers in vertical allignment. My one concern with speakers in that location long term is feedback if you do anything with lots of mics.

Long term though if I were upgrading a space like that to handle live music and theatre, it would be good to get speakers flown, maybe a smal line array closer to the audience at the edge of the stage, and maybe have the subs sit in the house just in front of the stage. There's so much stage in front of the porscenium, that you won't be doing yourself any favors in a live music situation as far as feedback is concerned with the main speakers/subs are back there behind performers.
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