The recent audio visual installation at The Collegiate Church of St Peter in Westminster (more commonly known as Westminster Abbey) included 80 x RCF compact CS 6940 2-way cardioid column loudspeakers. These were installed to provide coverage of the public areas and form part of an integration which includes speech reinforcement, induction loop and CCTV systems, along with video, audio and data distribution; a complete system designed by AV System consultants Michael Hyland & Associates.
The CS 6940 was designed specifically for speech reproduction with high intelligibility in acoustically difficult environments, both indoors and outdoors, whilst also being suitable for music. Featuring eight round extended-range speakers and a tweeter, each speaker comes complete with line transformer for directly connecting the speaker columns to 100V constant-voltage systems. All have been spray painted in RAL 7006 to match the surrounding stonework.
Above: A very, very camouflaged CS 6940 in RAL 7006
The coverage has been divided into 47 loudspeaker zones. A number of presets enable the appropriate zones for the regular services to be selected via the touch-screens which display a visual layout of the building. The project was completed ahead of the thanksgiving service to mark the 450th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth I granting a Royal Charter to The Abbey in 1560 and of course, the upcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Installation of the system was implemented so that there was no impact whatever on the building’s daily services and the various other events for which The Abbey is used. Steps were also taken to ensure that the work did not disrupt routines in place to accommodate the many visitors who tour The Abbey daily.
Winchester based Whitwam Ltd undertook the installation of the audio, video and control systems, whilst Thame based Albert Walker Electrical Ltd carried out the cable installation.
In fact a major part of the site work was related to the cable requirements for new microphone, line level, loudspeaker, video and data circuits installed throughout. Great care was taken to conceal new cables and remove all redundant cabling where possible.
In order to reduce the length of the cable runs, equipment was de centralised and racks were installed at six key locations interlinked by a fibre backbone. In order to provide resilience and flexibility, two multi-core fibres are installed between all rack locations, forming two continuous rings.
Each rack contains a number of DSP units and control of the audio, video and related systems by the Vergers is by means of remote touch-screens.
In addition to the need for remotely located racks, limited space at ground floor level also had an impact. There are two user racks at ground floor level, located between The Nave and The Quire. A further two are at Organ Loft level, with a single rack in the South Transept and in the Nave Side Aisle — both at Triforium level. Smaller racks are located in the Henry VII Chapel and in The Cloister.
The system includes 32 cabled mic circuits set in key areas (identified via a building mimic on a separate page of the touch-screen) and six lapel radio mics, along with two stand mounted / hand held units. A paging mic at the user rack enables ‘live’ announcements to be made throughout the building — the system also includes pre recorded messages, which take account of various emergency situations. Once the announcement is selected, it is automatically fed to all loudspeaker zones.
All seated areas of the building have induction loop coverage whilst CCTV coverage has been included by the use of pan/tilt/zoom colour cameras.
For major events, hired video monitors are temporarily installed to provide those in the side aisles and other areas with a better view of proceedings (these monitors are also used for events which are televised). In addition, at each location, there is an audio and a data circuit facilitating audio visual displays, inter active video, educational work stations and info display presentations.
Finally, the consultants’ design ties in ancillary areas to the core system such as the Ringing Chamber — whereby a local loudspeaker enables the bell ringers to listen to the speech and music elements of the services and a video monitor enables them to see the output of the CCTV cameras; The Cloister – where equipment in this area provides a relay capability from The Abbey, and conversely cabled and radio mic facilities enable Cloister based events to be heard in The Abbey; finally St Margaret’s Church, which stands between The Abbey and the House of Commons, contains an audio link to the church’s own local sound system, enabling the relay of Abbey services to the church (notably The Abbey’s hourly prayers).
The entire project was carried out under the supervision of The Abbey’s Clerk of the Works. Since being commissioned, the system has been in use for the regular services, along with concerts, drama performances, lectures and TV broadcasts.