Shelby County Arts Center: AVL For Arts Education

The Shelby County Arts Center leverages technology to support its community of artists and performers.
Shelby County Arts Center

The Shelby County Arts Center (SCAC) offers a great example of how local government can muster public resources to enrich a community. The product of collaboration between Shelby County AL, the city of Columbiana AL and the Shelby County Arts Council, the SCAC was built with the purpose of creating a community gathering place that could host cultural events and arts education, in addition to supporting a wide variety of other use cases like public meetings and private events. The facility occupies 20,000 square feet of the greater 30,000-square-foot Old Mill Square, a public park complex complete with a fixed outdoor stage and a tiered fountain imported from Italy.

Inside the SCAC are three purpose-built venues equipped with sophisticated audio, video and lighting (AVL) technology: These include the Black Box Theater, the Grande Hall (pronounced “Grand Hall”) and the EBSCO Fine Art Gallery. The building also includes classrooms and administrative offices, as well as spaces dedicated to practicing specific crafts, such as a pottery studio, a painting studio and a metal shop.

“[The SCAC] took a form-follows-function approach from the design aspect,” Bruce Andrews, Executive Director of the Shelby County Arts Council, explained. “Arts education is very integral to what we do. We’re trying to develop and encourage a community of artists. In doing so, we’ve got people learning the arts, we’ve got people teaching the arts and we’ve got people performing the arts. The spaces evolved based on community need.”

The Grande Hall is “a flexible civic auditorium” equipped with a JBL Control series sound system. Because of the large amount of natural light in the space, Reliant Media specified a 21K-lumen Digital Projection projector and a custom Da-Lite ambient-light-rejecting screen.

One-Stop Shop

From the early stages of the SCAC project, integrator Reliant Media worked directly with the SCAC team to design AVL systems for these purpose-built spaces. Also instrumental in the the project were general contractor Clements Dean, video-production company Video Visions Media Marketing, the Shelby County IT Department, Shelby County Arts Council Production Manager George Dudley and Shelby County COO/CIO Phil Burns.

“We were direct with the Owner after they had broken ground,” Reliant Media President Chad Keathley recalled. “The Owner had always planned to do low-voltage and audiovisual integration, security and all that independent of the general contractor. Since we’re an all-in-one integrator, we can handle the audiovisual, the lighting, the stage curtains, the CCTV [closedcircuit television], the IT, cell boosters and Wi-Fi—I mean, you name it. That really allowed us to be a one-stop-shop for them.”

He added, “We designed it, installed it and still get calls when, ‘Hey, that iPad won’t turn on.’ We’re interested in doing the full stack of processes: the design, implementation and ongoing maintenance. We’re not trying to do a ‘hit and run.’ We’re trying to build a relationship so it’s a long-term benefit for both parties.”

Reliant’s ability to cover all those bases proved to be the deciding factor in winning the bid for the project. “We needed one provider for IT, AV…all of that. I wanted a one-stop point man for all the integration. And that’s where Reliant came onboard,” Andrews affirmed.

Black Box Theater

The Black Box Theater is, according to Andrews and Keathley, the most impressive space in the SCAC. It’s a little more specialized than a traditional black-box theater is. Most black-box theaters feature flat floors and non-fixed seating; by contrast, the SCAC’s Black Box Theater has a raked floor with 216 fixed seats oriented toward a stage. However, much like a traditional black-box theater, this venue was designed to serve as a flexible, multi-use space. It is especially suited to applications that require high-fidelity sound, and it primarily serves as a performance venue for live events or a production studio for streamed events and recordings.

“Our benchmark [for the Black Box Theater] was to do a slantedfloor theater, but we wanted something that was small—more like a production studio with seats—[designed for] the critical listener,” Andrews explained. “So, if you’re listening to a singer-songwriter or a symphony-ensemble performance, you feel like you’re getting a high-fidelity experience.”

The high-fidelity sound reproduction comes courtesy of two Meyer Sound ULTRA-X42-3 point-source speakers, with the low end handled by two USW-210P subwoofers. Four Meyer Sound UP-4SLIM-5 fill speakers round out the coverage. “Initially, we were looking at some line arrays for the space,” Keathley said. “Once we got into the space and started seeing how the plans were being articulated, we were like, ‘No, the Black Box is not a line-array space; this is a point-source space. And we can really do a bang-up job using Meyer.’ They had just come out with the ULTRA-X42, so that worked out really well. We coordinated with them to give a world-class sound system to that space.”

Regarding the reaction to the sound quality in the Black Box Theater, Keathley remarked, “It’s a very simple system. And we get more compliments on that sound system than anything else in the building.” He added, “We had not worked with Meyer Sound previously, other than as end users. I told them what we were trying to do, and they worked hard to get us that system at a very competitive price so that they could get the win with us. That’s been the beginning of a good relationship with them.”

Stage monitors include six JBL SRX series models: four SRX812Ps and two SRX815Ps. The quality of the stage monitoring was of particular importance to Andrews, who himself is a seasoned musician and an inductee in the Alabama Blues Hall of Fame, having four decades of live-performance experience. “Our philosophy with regard to performers, which is sort of my wheelhouse, is that they should have an extraordinary experience with the monitors,” Andrews said. “[They should] experience what the audience is experiencing, [because] it enhances the performance for everybody. Reliant did a good job of achieving that goal. And fortunately, we have a seasoned, experienced production manager in George Dudley who knows what musicians and patrons want to hear, as well. Almost every performer for the last 15 months or so that we’ve been booking shows comments, ‘Man, I really love playing in this room.’”

The EBSCO Fine Art Gallery is also equipped with a JBL Control series sound system. The distributed audio systems in the Art Gallery and the Grande Hall are tied to the Symetrix DSP located in the Black Box Theater.

Stage Input Challenge

For microphones, the Black Box Theater offers Sennheiser wireless as well as a variety of wired mics from a range of manufacturers, including Audix, Electro-Voice, Radial, Sennheiser and Shure. A small sound booth in the back of the Black Box Theater is equipped with a Midas M32 mixing console, which receives stage inputs via a DL32 digital snake.

According to Keathley, wiring the stage was one of the biggest challenges on the project. “The digital snake from the M32 hits a bunch of stage inputs. I had originally given them several Ethernet drops for video onstage and different drops for audio and monitors. But we got to the project after they already put the conduit in the ground. They put a bunch of ACE Backstage floor pockets with three-quarter-inch conduit, and I needed 32 inputs onstage,” he said. “What we ended up doing is pulling shielded Cat cable, and we used [Rat Sound Systems] Ethernet XLR breakouts because, otherwise, it [would be] a change order that ripped up the whole floor. The contractor also s-patterned between the boxes, so you’ve got like six or eight rounded corners while trying to pull that Cat cable. I had one team that had to spend a whole day trying to pull one Cat cable through one of those [conduits] because a rock got in there somewhere and they couldn’t get it out.”

In the end, Reliant was able to provide the stage with enough inputs. “When we went with the powered JBL [monitors], that was good. We didn’t have to do amps, and that saved them from having to run Speakon cable in a conduit they couldn’t fit it in. We got them at least a couple of inputs per box. We’re at approximately 32. But it was good to pull a rabbit out of a hat and not have to come up with a big honkin’ change order.”

Lighting, Projection & Distributed Audio

Lighting is controlled via an ETC lighting system that was not installed by Reliant Media. However, Reliant did design the lighting grid, and it provided fixtures for the lighting system. “It was an all-ETC system that was implemented via the electrical contractor. So, when we came in, our work was cut down severely because we could just go with the CHAUVET Pro [Ovation F-915FCs] and articulate a professional theatrical vision, while also being where they needed to be on budget. They can zoom in and out, as needed, to give them that soft coverage because we wanted to give them max flexibility for whatever kind of show was coming in. We did Ovations for front wash. I really like the 160s for that size room.” Additional lighting includes Altman Spectra CYC 100s and ADJ Vizi CMY300 moving heads.

The Black Box Theater also features a Digital Projection E-Vision Laser 10K-G projector, which is controlled via an iMac running ProPresenter at the sound booth. The projector fires onto a custom 120″x192″ Da-Lite Advantage screen hung from the lighting grid. “They wanted to get it so that they could hit the screen or shoot over the heads of the bands, so they could use it for a cyc display or environmental projection,” Keathley explained. “The Digital Projection [model we used] has lens memory in it, so you can swap between zoom settings to be able to do that and stay in focus.”

The Black Box Theater’s sound booth is also where the brains of the SCAC’s distributed audio system reside. “The Black Box can throw audio throughout the building. We use a Symetrix [Solus NX 8×8] to help us pipe that everywhere and also give them local control on [ARC 2e] wall panels,” Keathley said. The Symetrix digital signal processing (DSP) system sends zoned audio feeds to the other venues, as well as the connecting hallways and the building’s two foyers. The hallways are covered by 21 JBL Control 47C/T speakers, and the foyers are covered by eight JBL Control 47HC high-ceiling speakers; these are powered by two Crown CDi1000 amps and one crown CDi2000 amp, respectively.

In addition to the high-end AVL in the SCAC’s three main venues, its classrooms and offices are outfitted with some simple AV solutions. For example, this conference room is equipped with a Vizio D70-F3 display.

Grande Hall

The SCAC’s largest venue is, appropriately enough, the Grande Hall. It features an open-floor, flex-seating design that can accommodate up to 500 seats, and there is a stage on one side of the room. “The Grande Hall is what I would call a flexible civic auditorium,” Andrews described. “It was planned as a theater, but it’s not a proper, slanted-floor performance hall for strictly theatrical performance. You couldn’t take a space like that and do a Chamber of Commerce meeting one week, a dance recital the next week and a trade show the next week. And that’s what that 10,000-square-foot space needed to be.”

The Grande Hall is equipped with a JBL Control series sound system. Nine JBL Control 321C speakers and four JBL Control 312CS subs are installed in the ceiling in a 9×4 design. They are supported by six JBL Control 47C/T fills that cover the sides of the room. Four JBL SRX812P stage monitors were also provided to be used on poles or as ground stacks for extra flexibility “They wanted the ability in the future to hang arrays, but, initially, they just wanted it really clean. The JBL Control series ceiling speakers were a great fit for that space because we could put a bunch of subs in the air and also cover the mid and high and the rest of the range with the regular boxes,” Keathley said.

“They did not have the budget, at that point, for any acoustic paneling in the room. So, it is a concrete floor and a very boxy space with a lot of reflections. Clarity takes a hit based on the hardness of the concrete. But the sound system has actually worked really well in there because it’s coming straight down.”

The client didn’t want audio or lighting consoles to take up any real estate in the Grande Hall. For that reason, Reliant specified a rackmount Behringer X32 with iPad control for the audio console. On the lighting side, the electrical contractor had already outfitted the space with an ETC Ion lighting control system that can be deployed, as needed. Reliant provided the fixtures, which include CHAUVET Pro washes, Altman cyc washes and ADJ moving heads.

According to Keathley, “They wanted to be able to have a system that did not require a sound booth. The integrators for lights stuck a port over in the corner, so [that,] if the lighting board needed to be in a corner, it could be, or they could move it onstage. We went alongside them as far as the other functionalities go because, with a rackmount X32, you’re really using an iPad the whole time. The other integrators pulled the Cat5 for the ETC system. So, we ended up pulling multipurpose, shielded Cat cable to the back of the room to a custom ACE Backstage plate.” Other rackmount equipment includes a Denon DN-300Z media player, Sennheiser wireless and a Behringer S32 digital snake.

The Grande Hall also features a projector. Because of the generous amount of natural light that spills into the room from its high windows, Reliant specified a Digital Projection M-Vision 21000 WU 21K projector. The unit fires onto a custom 180″x288″ Da-Lite ambient-light-rejecting (ALR) screen. Alternately, as with the projector in the Black Box Theater, it can also fire onto the stage’s cyc curtain for environmental-projection applications.

In addition to the highend AVL in the SCAC’s three main venues, its classrooms and offices are outfitted with some simple AV solutions. For example, this conference room is equipped with a Vizio D70-F3 display.

Art Gallery & Digital Signage

The sound system in the EBSCO Fine Art Gallery is the simplest of the SCAC’s three main venues. It includes nine JBL Control 47C/T ceiling speakers powered by a Crown CDi 1000 amp. A Sennheiser wireless system allows presenters to roam around the gallery with a wireless mic.

The Art Gallery sound system, much like the Grande Hall’s sound system, is tied to the Symetrix DSP located in the Black Box Theater. “That’s the first time we had implemented [the Symetrix DSP] in that way,” Keathley said. “You’ve got the control brain there at the Black Box, and it allows you to rezone and redirect outputs in multiple places throughout the building. They had not seen a system like that—that was touchscreen- or app-based—so that was really handy to them. For most who do integration, it’s basic matrix-audio switching. But it really helped them out because it allowed them not to have to have a full-blown sound system for the Art Gallery, which allowed them to put more money into the Black Box.”

The Symetrix DSP also sends audio to the SCAC’s two foyers, which are located near the Grande Hall and Art Gallery. These foyers also feature BrightSign HD224 digital-signage displays, which are primarily used to advertise upcoming classes and events. IP Network, Cell Tower & CCTV

According to Keathley, the Wi-Fi and cell-phone service at the newly built SCAC left a lot to be desired. Fortunately, Reliant was able to address those concerns. “I told them, ‘Y’all built a perfect Faraday cage. If you want people to be able to use their cell phones, we’ve got to put an industrial cell-phone booster in here,’” Keathley said. Reliant specified a Wilson Pro 1000C commercial signal booster kit with 15 total antennas spread around the campus. Reliant also outfitted the SCAC with an 802.11ax Wi-Fi network that uses Ruckus switches. In addition, the SCAC project called for integration with the local police department—which is located in Columbiana City Hall, less than a mile away—to provide remote-viewing capability for the building and park’s CCTV security-camera feeds. “We helped them get the subcontractor to pull fiber between City Hall and the building so that they could tie into the existing WAN [wide-area network] subscription for the city,” Keathley said. “Once they got the fiber in the building, we pulled all the fiber for the different IDFs [intermediate distribution frames] and MDFs [main distribution frames] and put in all the network switches, which we coordinated with county IT to get their preferred brand: Ruckus Wireless. On CCTV, we brought a sub in to help us with Avigilon. They were already using Avigilon in all the other locations in the county, so we coordinated with them to see continuity in the brands.”

Because Reliant Media was involved in so many aspects of the project, including AVL installation, stage design, Wi-Fi and cellular networks, CCTV integration, and ongoing maintenance and support, Keathley views the SCAC project as a leading success story for its all-in-one business model. “It’s really been a crown jewel for us, walking a client through the entire process and [installing] practically everything in the building that plugs in,” he said. “Our tagline is, ‘If it plugs in, you can call us.’ And this [project] is such a great example of that.”

For its part, the client had nothing but praise for Reliant Media’s efforts. Andrews concluded, “Between the city of Columbiana and our third-party service providers, Reliant Media had to become like a director of a big orchestra. They all had to get together and figure out how to solve things. [The project was] very affirming of the fact that, if you get the right people involved, and they have the right resources and intelligence base, you can solve your problems. It doesn’t take a whole lot of people, and you can do it for less money than you might think.”



8 ACE Backstage PNL-106 in-floor stage pocket plates
8 ACE Backstage Super Stage Pocket in-floor stage pockets
1 ADC 170 Track Kit curtain track
1 ADC 280 Track Kit curtain track
4 ADJ CMY300 moving light fixtures
6 Altman SSCYC100 CYC washes
6 Altman SSCYC100-YOKE CYC wash mounts
1 Apple iPad (32GB) soundboard remote control
1 Audix DP7 professional drum mic pack
1 Belkin F8N384TT iPad case
12 Chauvet Pro OF75BARNDOOR stage wash barn doors
6 Chauvet Pro OHDLENS19 front washes
4 Chauvet Pro OHDLENS26 front washes
10 Chauvet Pro OVATIONe160WW front washes
12 Chauvet Pro OVATIONF915FC stage washes
1 Da-Lite 21830FLR custom electric screen (120″x192″)
1 Digital Projection 112-500 long-throw lens
1 Digital Projection E-Vision Laser 10K-G 10K laser projector
1 Electro-Voice RE20 cardioid mics
3 Furman CN-15MP power sequencer
1 Furman CN-1800S power sequencer for sound booth
3 Hosa Technology HMP-006Y cabling
2 Hosa Technology HPR-005X2 cabling
4 JBL SRX812P stage monitors
2 JBL SRX815P stage monitors
1 Meyer Sound MPS-488HP-5 8-channel power supply (5-pin phoenix output, 1RU)
4 Meyer Sound MUB-UP4SLIM u-brackets for UP-4SLIM speakers
2 Meyer Sound MYA-X40 yoke mounts for X42 speakers
2 Meyer Sound ULTRA-X42-3 2×8″ 2-way active speakers (3-pin input)
4 Meyer Sound UP-4SLIM-5 2×4″ 3-way active speakers, M8 (5-pin input)
2 Meyer Sound USW-210P compact narrow subs
2 Meyer Sound USW-210P-3 2×10″ 2-way active subs, M8 (3-pin input)
1 Midas DL32 digital snake
1 Midas M32 soundboard
1 Middle Atlantic BGR-45SA-27LRD back AV rack
1 Middle Atlantic BRK12 rack for sound booth
1 NETGEAR R6700 router
2 ProCo 10′ – TS – TS cabling
10 ProCo 10′ M-F XLR cabling
4 ProCo 15′ – TS – TS cabling
10 ProCo 15′ M-F XLR cabling
30 ProCo 25′ M-F XLR cabling
2 Radial Pro48 active direct boxes
2 Radial ProAV2 stereo passive multimedia direct boxes
1 Radial ProD2 stereo passive direct boxes
2 Radial ProDI passive direct boxes
1 Sennheiser EW 100 G4-945-S-A1 all-in-one wireless system
2 Sennheiser MD 421-II cardioid mics
1 Sennheiser SK 100 G4-A1 bodypack transmitter
12 Shure A58WS-BLK mic windscreens
1 Shure Beta 52A kick drum mic
2 Shure Beta 58A supercardioid mics
1 Shure Beta 87A supercardioid electret condenser mic
4 Shure SM57-LC instrument/vocal cardioid dynamic mic bundles
3 Shure SM58S cardioid mics
2 Shure SM81-LC cardioid condenser mics
1 Tripplite SMART1500LCD UPS for back rack
1 Tripplite SMART1500LCD UPS for sound booth
4 Ultimate Support MC-05B stands
6 Ultimate Support MC-40B stands (short)
10 Ultimate Support MC-40B stands (standard)
3 Ultimate Support Pro-R-T-T stands
1 Sennheiser ew 100 G4-945-S-A1 all-in-one wireless system
2 Vizio D55-F2 55″-class D-Series 4K (2160P) ultra-HD HDR smart LED TVs
2 Vizio D70-F3 70″-class D-Series 4K (2160P) ultra-HD HDR smart LED TVs


1 ADC 170 Track Kit curtain track
1 ADC 280 Track Kit curtain track
2 ADJ CMY300 moving light fixtures
8 Altman SSCYC100 CYC washes
8 Altman SSCYC100-YOKE CYC wash mounts
1 Apple iPad (32GB) soundboard control
1 Behringer X32-Rack soundboard
1 Belkin F8N384TT case for iPad
2 BrightSign BSNSUB-12-R annual subscriptions
2 BrightSignHD224 digital-signage players
16 Chauvet Pro OF75BARNDOOR stage wash barn doors
6 Chauvet Pro OHDLENS19 front washes
4 Chauvet Pro OHDLENS26 front washes
10 Chauvet Pro OVATIONe160WW front washes
16 Chauvet Pro OVATIONF915FC stage washes
1 Crown CDi 1000 2-channel, 500W @ 4Ω, 70V/140V power amp
1 Crown CDi 2000 2-channel, 800W @ 4Ω, 70V/140V power amp
3 Crown XTi 4002 2-channel, 1,200W @ 4Ω power amps
1 CyberPower OR1500LCDRM1U UPS
1 Da-Lite 38837 custom ambient-light-rejecting screen
1 Denon DN-300Z CD player w/Bluetooth
1 Digital Projection 114-313 lens
1 Digital Projection M-Vision 21000 WU 21K projector
1 Furman M-8S power sequencer
3 Hosa Technology HMP-006Y pro stereo breakouts (6′)
4 JBL Control 312CS ceiling subs
9 JBL Control 321C main PA ceiling speakers
6 JBL Control 47C/T side of room ceiling fills
13 JBL MTC-300BB12 back boxes
13 JBL MTC-300SG12 grills
4 JBL SRX812P stage monitors
1 Middle Atlantic BGR-45SA-27LRD rack
2 Middle Atlantic UD4 drawers
1 NETGEAR R6700 router for iPad control
5 ProCo 10′ M-F XLR cabling
5 ProCo 15′ M-F XLR cabling
5 ProCo 25′ M-F XLR cabling
1 Radial ProAV2 stereo passive multimedia direct box
2 Sennheiser ew 100 G4-945-S-A1 all-in-one wireless systems
2 Sennheiser SK 100 G4-A1 bodypack transmitters
3 Symetrix ARC-2e menu-driven remote controls for Symetrix DSPs
1 Symetrix ARC-PSe rackmount wall power supply
1 Symetrix Solus NX 8×8 controller
2 Ultimate Support MC-05B stands
2 Vizio D55-F2 55″-class D-Series 4K (2160P) ultra-HD HDR smart LED TVs


2 Crown CDi 1000 2-channel, 500W @ 4Ω, 70V/140V power amps
1 Crown CDi 2000 2-channel, 800W @ 4Ω, 70V/140V power amp
21 JBL Control 47C/T hallway speakers
8 JBL Control 47HC high-ceiling speakers for 2 foyers
2 CyberPower OR1500LCDRM1U UPS units
9 Ruckus Wireless R730 enterprise wireless access points
2 Ruckus Wireless ICX7150-48P-2X10G enterprise network switches
2 StarTech RK630WALVS 6RU vertical server cabinets
8 Wilson Pro 304412 interior dome antennas
1 Wilson Pro 460242 enterprise cell booster
3 Wilson Pro exterior donor antennas
4 Wilson Pro interior dome antennas
List is edited from information supplied by Reliant Media LLC

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