The voice of parliament
In the second phase of the Turkish parliament’s audio systems upgrade, Atempo has installed a new main system as well as localisation technology. James Ling reports
It sounds obvious, but intelligibility is the most important factor for a parliament’s sound system. In a room designed for debate, being clearly understood is of critical importance. So it is of little surprise that this was the main reason behind the decision to upgrade the audio solution at the Turkish parliament.
‘We had some problems in the past with the intelligibility of our sound system in the assembly hall. The technology for the sound system in the hall was from 1996, so it was quite old,’ explains Banu İlktan from the parliament’s technical department. ‘The old system was causing fatigue with the delegates due to the sound levels and intelligibility.’
Having identified the need to upgrade, the parliament put together a multi-phase plan to refresh the complete audio system. The first stage of this took place during its summer closure in 2013 where a pair of Microtech Gefell microphones were added to the main lectern. The second stage was the replacement of the main sound system itself which was scheduled to take place during the 2014 summer recess.
Having won the contract to install the first phase of the project, Atempo was in a good position to bid for the second phase of the installation. However, it was a competitive process with a number of different solutions for the parliament to review.
‘They were choosing between several different systems, so we demonstrated a d&b solution to them and they were impressed by the intelligibility of the speakers,’ says Atempo’s Tayfun Konuralp. ‘It’s a parliament, so there is a lot of speaking there and a lot of important people speak in the hall. This meant that speech intelligibility was really important. We believed that we could provide that intelligibility with d&b, and after the demonstration the parliament agreed.’
Having won the contract, Atempo set about devising a project plan for the installation with the inauguration speech as a fixed deadline for completion. However, events conspired against the installation to create the biggest challenge for the project. ‘The deepest difficulty that we had for the project was the time limit. The parliament was supposed to close in June but because of local elections and a variety of other issues, the parliament went on working until August,’ recalls Mr Konuralp. ‘Normally we would have three months for the installation, but because of the delays we had less than one month.’
The systems integrator could very easily have admitted defeat at this point and postponed the project until the next parliament closure. However, Atempo had already imported all the equipment and had faith that its technical team would work around the clock to get the installation done.
‘The project needed to be finished in time for the parliament’s inauguration speech giving us three to four weeks to get it done,’ explains Mr Konuralp. ‘We could have postponed it due to the time constraints, but that wouldn’t have made a good impression with the parliament. We promised them that we could deliver the project on time, they believed in us and we believed in ourselves and our team.’
Working with Atempo’s technical manager, a plan was devised to create different teams working in shifts around the clock to speed through the installation. ‘We allocated our whole technical team to this parliament project,’ continues Mr Konuralp. ‘Normally they would work eight hours in a day, but in order to deliver the project on time, the teams worked 24 hours in different shifts. We created a good team, and they worked very hard to finish the project on time.’
The system Atempo was installing consisted of two major components. The first part was the main PA and assorted fills to cover the room evenly. Secondly, it also needed to install a localisation system to help representatives in the hall work out where on the floor a speech was being made from.
The main PA consists of four hangs of d&b audiotechnik Ti10L cabinets – two on the back wall and a further pair to cover the balcony at the far end. Fill is provided by four of the manufacturer’s E8 boxes while 17 Community Professional D6 ceiling speakers cover under the balcony. ‘They wanted a flown system with clear speech intelligibility,’ says Mr Konuralp. ‘d&b provides an excellent solution for this kind of application.’
Power for the system is from 24 D6 amplifiers and further components include an Electro-Voice N8000 with AI 1 and AO 1 input and output cards and a pair of Electo-Voice CPS 8.5 amps.
Away from the loudspeakers, Atempo also installed a Shure UR4D+ wireless mic system with four of the manufacturer’s MX-150B/O-TQG lavaliers and the same number of headworn WBH53T units. Added to this as further audio sources were four Sennheiser MKH 418S shotgun microphones positioned in front of the semi-circular seating.
The second portion of the project was the localisation system. This again called on d&b speakers but also control from Saltzbrenner Stagetec. Atempo installed a pair of Stagetec’s Nexus central audio matrix systems as well as a Polaris mixing console and a CAS-50600 media control system central unit.
‘There are more than 500 delegates in the parliament. With the previous system, when one of the representatives was talking it was not clear who it was. You could see people looking around to find out who was speaking,’ says Mr Konuralp. ‘With the new localisation system, we have some loudspeaker clusters on the ceiling – all d&b 10s speakers. We have four speaker clusters on the ceiling and we created some localisation groups using the Stagetec Nexus equipment.
‘When a delegate on the right hand side is speaking, only clusters on the right hand side are activated,’ he continues. ‘This gives the impression that the person who is speaking is on the right hand side. If you are sitting with your back to the parliament, by listening to the system you can find out where people are speaking from.’
‘The localisation function means that when a delegate uses their microphone, the speakers will perform accordingly so that others in the hall understand the speaking delegate’s physical location,’ adds Mrs İlktan. ‘The localisation function is great because in the past the sound was only coming from the specific loudspeakers at the front of the hall and the delegates couldn’t easily tell which parliamentarian was talking. The new intelligible system and the localisation technology makes it much easier for the representatives.’
It was with this aspect of the installation where Atempo needed to make its biggest compromise in the project. The time constraints meant that even though all the equipment was fully installed prior to the inauguration speech, there was not time for the parliament’s personnel to receive full training on the new digital console. With this in mind, Atempo made the decision to run the inauguration speech and support the other events taking place in assembly hall itself prior to the parliament technicians’ training.
‘Following the speech, we had two weeks before the official opening of the parliament where we invited over some technicians and engineers from Stagetec,’ notes Mr Konuralp. ‘They did all the necessary training and then the parliament technicians were able to use the digital system.’
With this phase of the project now complete, Mr Konuralp is pleased to reflect on a positive performance from the Atempo team under extreme time pressure. ‘We are really happy with everything. The quality of the d&b speakers is excellent, the Stagetec performance is superb everybody is delighted with the solution and said it was a good project. We are happy to be involved with such a complicated and prestigious project,’ he notes.
It would seem like the parliament is equally impressed by the work done during this phase of its audio upgrade. ‘We have been using the new system and everything is perfect,’ smiles Mrs İlktan. ‘The intelligibility is perfect, the sound level is perfect and we had some training from Atempo on the new system. My technicians got lots of information about the whole system, not only the loudspeakers, but also the console and the full system. Everything seems okay now in the hall.
‘There is a homogenous sound throughout the hall which is a real advantage for our members of parliament,’ continues Mrs İlktan. ‘We are very happy with the results of the installation. Working with Atempo on this project has been great.’
Tight installation timescales are almost as common as A/V upgrade projects themselves. By going through this process and ensuring it has always made every effort to meet the parliament’s needs, Atempo has shown not only the skill and quality of its team of technicians, but also the will to get the job done to the highest standards, no matter what the limitations placed upon it. The Turkish parliament should prove to be a very important reference for the systems integrator.