SEVIERVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 2011: Picturesque Sevier County in eastern Tennessee serves as the western gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. It is also the childhood home of country legend Dolly Parton and the current home of her theme park, Dollywood. The Sevier County Courthouse, where a bronze statue of Ms. Parton serves as a frequent backdrop in visitors' photos, is an icon in its own right. Built in 1896, its grand architecture is a source of civic pride. The Sevier County Commissioners meet in an annex to the courthouse, which seats seventy-five people. The public attends the meetings, which have, at times, devolved into heated arguments in which commissioners speak (or shout!) without listening to others. Partly to rein them in and partly to correct a collection of other audio issues, the county called on Kelvin Francis of Knoxville-based KC Sound. Francis relied on SymNet open-architecture DSP to deliver
a flexible, powerful A/V system that, among a host of other things, permits the mayor to mute the commissioners' microphones when decorum unravels into a wrangle.
The twenty-five commissioners meet with the county mayor once a month, which means the room is frequently available for other events. An adjacent kitchenette accommodates luncheon meetings and parties of all types. A room divider provides space for breakout sessions or other small gatherings. At times, if the courtrooms are booked, this room serves as judicial overflow. "Their main complaint was that the commissioners' microphones couldn't be muted, either by themselves or by the presiding mayor," said Francis. "In addition, it was hard to take full advantage of the room for outside events, because the sound system wasn't very flexible. Apart from those concerns, the system provided poor coverage to large sections of the public seating."
To begin with, Francis replaced their existing microphones with twenty-seven Shure desktop mics with push-to-mute functionality and a wireless mic at the podium. Two video inputs allow users to play DVDs, PowerPoint presentations, or other types of visual media using four new Sanyo PLC XU300 and 350 projectors with accompanying Da-Lite screens. Two are oriented for the commissioners and two are oriented for the public - during meetings, one shows the meeting agenda and the other displays the commissioners' votes. An iPod input and a 1/8-inch jack provide additional input flexibility.
Three SymNet Express 12x4 Cobra DSP units supply 36 inputs and all the processing power to make the audio perfectly intelligible and to coordinate appropriate routing logic for all of the room's many uses. During meetings and other A/V-intensive events, a technician oversees the system from a booth at the back of the room. Francis set up SymNet's proprietary, computer-driven user interface software, SymVue, on a PC for technically-involved events. But for more modest events, such a luncheon or a party, he installed a SymNet ARC-2i wall panel remote. From it, users can select an input, such as iPod, and adjust the volume.
But, arguably, the most important control Francis installed is a red "interrupt" button and a "white" resume button for the mayor. With a calming chime, the red button cuts every microphone in the room except for the mayor's. Once everyone cools off, the mayor can resume the meeting with the white button.
"I have a lot of experience using SymNet products at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville," said Francis. "I love its versatility and simplicity, which has gotten me out of jams. In fact, it wasn't until the entire job was completed at Sevier County Courthouse that they asked me to make the room divisible. You hear something like that, and say, 'Ah! Why didn't you request that in the first place!?' But then I thought about it... the speakers were already separated across a few amp channels, so the change was totally in the software. It was easy to program and easy to deliver control to the users via SymVue."
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