Belmont University’s Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business moved into the new $87 million (£70.8M) R. Milton and Denice Johnson Center in 2015, a 134,000 sq-f structure featuring a new home for the music business, motion pictures and media studies programs.

Impressively, on top of its classrooms, labs, performance spaces, production spaces and research rooms, the Johnson Center features a 250-seat Dolby Atmos theatre and mixing stage, completed with JBL loudspeakers, Crown amplification and BSS networked audio.

The Johnson Screening and Mixing Theater serves as a screening room for motion pictures and a mix theatre for audio mixing for film. In fact, this makes Curb College the world’s first and only university-based film program capable of teaching the process of developing and producing theatre-ready films in the Dolby Atmos immersive format.

“Student film courses at most schools don’t dedicate the time and resources to teaching and creating professional audio,” says Dave Warburton, manager, Recording and Film Studios, Belmont University. “Directors regard audio as half the film experience. Our goal is to give students the opportunity to work with the very latest in audio production tools and technology and enable them to create projects that look and sound professional.”

The Dolby Atmos Rendering and Mastering Unit (Dolby RMU) allows faculty to teach the process of creating and compiling movies in immersive Dolby Atmos sound, as well as traditional 7.1 and 5.1 formats. The system design for the loudspeakers alone presented some unique challenges, with the overall goal of providing maximum sound quality and flexibility.

University officials worked with Nashville-based AV Integrator, M3 Technology Group, who provided the systems, technologies and installation on the project.

“Designing and installing the Atmos system within the Johnson theatre was fun and rewarding,” enthuses Keith Martin, senior account manager, M3 Technology Group.

“Every speaker in the theatre is independent and we’re able to create a completely immersive audio experience. With different imaging between all channels and speakers you can make sounds come from an exact location in the theatre,” added M3 senior designer engineer, Todd Lewis, CTS-D, DMC-E.

The Johnson theatre has 34 JBL 9320 high-power cinema surrounds, five JBL 5732 3-way high-power ScreenArray loudspeakers and four JBL 4642A dual 18-inch bass reflex subwoofers. The entire system is powered by a set of 14 Crown DCi Network amplifiers with a total of 64 channels, connected through BSS BLU-806 audio transport.

“At one point we were challenged to come up with a ceiling mount solution for a few of the JBL 9320 speakers. We fabricated a nice mounting system that is completely flexible, allowing for angle changes and adjustments,” says Keith. “This turned out to be a great feature for this working classroom. If students want to work with how speakers are angled and mounted, and how it effects the room in either 5.1, 7.1 or immersive. They can make it what they need. It’s a very flexible sound system.”

A great deal of planning for audio transport infrastructure went into assuring the entire facility had fast, flexible access to data. Treating each room of the four-story facility: theatres, sound stages, production suites, edit bays as a network node, engineers were able to create a robust system to support the university’s current and future needs.

“We deployed a Harman-based system with JBL speakers, Crown DCi amplifiers, BSS BLU Link because it all works together seamlessly,” Todd elaborates. “Another huge advantage for a Harman solution is that the Dolby Cinema processors also use the same transport protocol. This makes the entire system reliable, efficient and easy to install and use.

“Essentially we daisy-chained all the Crown DCi network amplifiers, DSPs and the Dolby processors on a loop with Cat6 cable between each box for access to the entire system. Except for a few analogue input cables and speaker cables, the entire audio system is in the digital domain. We used Dante to integrate the Avid products into the BSS DSP so everything is connected digitally.”


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