Ceiling Speakers in hotels and conference centres

(Video transcript) Hi. Paul Donovan here from AVTechnician.ca Thanks for watching my channel. This is the channel where we're giving tips and tricks to AV technicians and those who would like to be an AV Technician.

Today my topic is talking about ceiling speakers in ballrooms, meeting and convention centres. As an AV Technician going into room where we're doing banquets, meetings and conferences often times we're using the built-in sound system that is provided by the room, such as in a ballroom and so on. These built-in systems are usually setup with speakers in the ceiling so that they're distributed around the room to have a fairly equal balance of sound. There is no louder at the front vs the back and so on. This is a great convenience for the meeting that really doesn't need any special technician involved. It's very easy for the hotel staff just to plug in the podium microphone in the wall and turn it on and they have sound. This sound is also good primarily for spoken word, talking. Occasionally you can do a little video playback and a bit of music, background music. Generally the sound system that is built-in is designed to work well with the spoken word.

As an AV Technician if we're going to an event that means there's a whole lot more technical equipment being brought in. More microphones, a lot of wireless lavaliers, or headset mics. There may be instruments playing in a band. A whole lot more involved in what's happening. If it gets too complicated the ceiling speakers are just not going to provide you enough sound quality for what you want to do. In those situations you would want to bring in your own PA system your own speaker setup, so that you have a whole lot more control.

I'm going to do another video soon about how to work with your own PA system, sound system, in a ballroom, but for now I'm going to talk about using the ceiling speakers of a built-in system that is in a lot of ballrooms, meeting rooms and convention centres.

The ceiling speakers in a ballroom and meeting rooms often times are not very high quality speakers. Once in a while you'll get somebody that will buy the nice professional speakers, but go cheap on the amplifier and the other things that are in place. Often times the sound system that's built into an older hotel often times is also quite old. Things are broken or not working. One of the worst things with the hotel's built-in system is the staff like to play and tinker with things, even if they have no idea what they are doing. Many is the time you will find that jacks are broken or you'll even find the amplifiers are turned off. You've got to be ready for the surprises that can happen when you go into a hotel ballroom, meeting room or ' conference centre.

Most of the PA systems that are built-in to the hotel meeting rooms and conference centres are usually built-in with jacks that are either on the wall on in a floor plate. These jacks are generally speaking an XRL connection. This is where you feed in the connection from your mixer. You'll want it come out to the wall at a mic level signal.

Very few locations have a line level situation when they have an XLR jack. This is designed to allow simplicity for the hotel staff to be able to plug in a podium microphone directly into the wall without having to be very technology oriented. But when a technician goes a hotel we're bring in a lot of extra gear. All we do is plug into that one wall jack. I have been to hotels, especially some of the more rural hotels where the wall jack is actually a couple of banana clip connections. Where you're hooking up a line level feed to banana clips, or RCA jack is the other type. You have to be ready for those. Always keep in your kit the adapters to bring the sound off of your mixer board into, say, banana clips (although those are rare) as well as the RCA type feeds. I few hotels I've gone into I've also used the mini-jack that is quite popular I few hotels I've gone into I've also used the mini-jack that is quite popular for sound coming off the side of your laptop, and so on. That's really scary when you have a microphone trying to plug into a mini-jack. We don't like to see that very often.

If your event is very sound critical either the clarity of the sound needs to be clear, or you've got a band that is playing, or there's lot of video playback you might want to consider not using the built-in sound system but to bring in your own sound system. I'll be talking in another video about using your own PA system but for now we're going to continue to talk about the ceiling speakers.

In a lot of ballrooms they use airwalls to divide the rooms. Therefore you need to be able to link the sound or separate the sound, between each of the sectoins when they're separated or when they're joined together. There may be a wall jack (switch) inside the ballroom or a wall jack (switch) inside the PA room where you will link together the 2 or 3 parts of the ballroom in different combinations. Often times when you are plugging in the wall jack in a specific ballroom that is the wall jack that controls the volume for all the rooms if they're linked together. A few times I've seen situations where you may have the volume set perfectly for the middle jack of the middle ballroom, and as soon as you link in the other two ballrooms the sound volume changes considerably. Especially on events as the course of the event going on they're going to be dividing the rooms uo you'll often find that the sound will vary depending on the rooms are linked together. Do pay attention to that because that has hurt me a couple of times when I've done events to where the rooms are dividing up randomly throughout the day.

Many ballrooms are very interesting spaces for acoustics. Most ballrooms have carpeted floors, sometime a quite thick carpet, which absorbs an awful lot of sound. Then you add in tables and chairs, then 2, 3, 4 or even 500 people in there, your acoustics really change from the time when you setup when the room is empty to the time when the event is happening. You need to be prepared to have enough volume to deal with a bunch of people clanking their dishes, eating and talking, while somebody on the stage is trying to get their attention. This is why the built-in ceiling speaker situation this should not be an event what's happening on the stage overly more important than what's happening on the floor. If you do have to use the ceiling speakers you need to be prepared to turn up the volume as the event starts to overcome all the additional acoustical things that happen.

Just to talk about acoustics I'm going to tell you about an event I did at a convention centre in the middle of British Columbia a few years back. I arrived and to my surprised to discover that the floor in this convention centre was the wooden sports floor, because it was a combination of a convention centre and a sports arena. I was absolutely shocked because I've always gone to ballrooms where there's been carpeted floors. We had not planned on the fact that it's a wood floor, and all the noise that goes with it. You've got people walking around, with their heels and shoes making noise. Tables and chairs banging against the ground. Everything magnifies. On top of which up in the ceiling they had no acoustical batts or tiles in place so we had sound bouncing around in the rafters along with sound bouncing off the hardoow floor. In that situation I had arrived with my own PA system so I was able to adjust things, eventually. It took me a while during the first part of the first meeting, event, to tweak it. Eventually I got the sound to deal with all that bouncing of sound and the noise that was happening. But that entire event was really a challenge, in this case because of the hardwood floor, and the lack of really any sound baffles in the ceiling.

These are things to watch out for when you are planning go to a place, if you're going to use the built-in ceiling speakers, be prepared for all sort of unusual surprises. Failed equipment, wires that are broken, jacks that don't work. You may have to plug a mic into half way around the room, several hundred feet away. Be prepared for that, or what if you walk into a space and have the surprise of a hardwood floor, or tiled floor. You've suddenly got to deal with a lot of echoing sound that can really disrupt the overall sound of an event. So there you have it. Some tips about how to deal with ceiling speakers.

This is Paul Donovan from avtechnician.ca Please check out our website at www.avtechnician.ca. Subscribe to this channel to keep up with what's happening in the world of AV technicians. Thank you for watching.

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