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Meyer Sound Tackles Tough KidStuf in Atlanta
Imagine the scene if Disney or Nickelodeon took over Sunday school, and you'd have a good idea of what happens at KidStuf. It's a place where big video screens zoom in on the action, where rollicking comedy and timely dramas play out across a homey double-decker stage, and where laughter and lively songs pour out across a crowd of 1100 kids and adults through a brand new Meyer Sound loudspeaker system. No, this is not your father's Sunday school. But, who says teaching faith and values has to be boring?
For the past seven years, KidStuf has been the keystone program for family ministries at North Point Community Church in the suburban Atlanta community of Alpharetta. The ministry began in an elementary school cafeteria space, and then in 1996 moved to a permanent space (accommodating about 300) built adjacent to the church's main worship center. But attendance – by kids with their parents in tow – kept growing by leaps and bounds. By early 2002, the KidStuf team realized that they needed to expand. They decided to demolish the outer walls of their current space and triple the size of the room. While they were at it, they put in a new stage, new lighting, expanded video facilities and the new Meyer Sound system.
Designing an effective audio system for the new space was hardly "kid's stuff," however. A number of technical and production-oriented challenges had to be overcome, beginning with the basically problematic room dimensions.
"They wanted a wide stage to keep as many kids up close to it as possible," says Houston Clark, president of Clark ProMedia, the Atlanta-based performance technology design-build firm contracted for the job. "Also, they were adding on to an existing space, which set some limits to what they could do. So we ended up needing to cover a room that is about 100 feet wide but only 55 feet deep. It's probably one of the most difficult rooms we've done because it's so wide and shallow."
Another prime consideration was overall production quality. "They were taking a big step up," notes Clark, "to the point where what they are doing now is on par with the best professional entertainment. We thought they needed sound on the same level, which is one reason why we strongly recommended the Meyer system."
Most of the Meyer Sound components in the KidsStuf auditorium system are flown in three main clusters: left and right clusters each with two CQ-2 Full-Range Narrow Coverage loudspeakers with an underhung UPM-1P Ultra-Compact Wide Coverage loudspeaker for downfill; and a center cluster of three CQ-2s, also with a UPM-1P for downfill. In addition, two UPA-2P Compact Narrow Coverage loudspeakers are positioned wide of the left and right clusters to fill in the far wings. Once installed and aligned, the coverage patterns conformed closely to the wide, short-throw dimensions of the space. According to George Clark, the company's vice president of engineering, "The Meyer boxes made it easier to tailor our coverage because they are so predictable. You know exactly what you will get from the array, and you have clean demarcation points."
In the first months of operation, the sound quality and precision coverage offered by the Meyer Sound loudspeakers has kept KidStuf audio flowing on an even keel, despite the uneven mixture of sources coming live from the stage and from recordings.
"Many of the older actors on stage are either professionals or have extensive community theater experience," notes George Clark. "They project very well into the room, so the speakers must have a natural sound so that their live and amplified voices blend together. At the same time, younger kids with soft voices will be heard almost exclusively through the Meyer system. So achieving a neutral tonal balance out of the speakers was crucial, and the Meyers do it practically right out of the box."
Nearly all music for KidStuf is prerecorded, mostly originating from a variety of composers and musicians in Atlanta area studios. Some of it has been professionally mastered, according to Clark, but much of it comes straight to KidStuf from production studios – often only days beforehand. "We get a wide range of spectral balance and dynamics," he says, "but the Meyer system is very forgiving. It handles everything predictably, and it never turns harsh like some other PA speakers will do. Some of the composers we work with were concerned about that issue, but when I said we were putting in the Meyers, they said, 'Okay, never mind, it will be fine.'"
Ultimately, of course, the system wasn't installed to please adult professionals. So the last word comes on behalf of the most important people involved. "The kids absolutely love their new home," says Colette Taylor, the Assistant Director of Family Ministries at North Point. "And the Meyer system has been fantastic. It certainly does everything we need it to do. It makes the experience so much more vibrant and exciting for the kids, and when it's so exciting – they learn and grow. And that's why we're here."