Audio Visual Design Guidelines

Specialist spaces

21 views November 19, 2019 aetm 0


The standards applied to the design of sound reinforcement systems in cinemas are generally defined in SMPTE or manufacturer-specific standards (e.g. THX, Dolby) and will impose more detailed requirements than would typically apply for a presentation space. 

Where a larger space is to be enhanced to provide a good quality screening environment, designers should consider both:

  • the physical acoustics of the space, aiming for cinema-like performance, and
  • designing electroacoustic systems which reflect the intent of the cinema-specific requirements to the extent possible



Superlabs are large laboratory environments where multiple simultaneous classes can occur for a large number of students.  They provide a challenging acoustic environment as there are no physical walls between each of the classes and extensive use of hard, reflective surfaces.

Addressing the acoustic and audio distribution challenges early in design is of paramount importance to the success of these spaces and it is essential that specialist acoustic and electroacoustic advice is sought where electro-acoustic systems are required in these less typical spaces.


Discursive spaces and Council/Senate chambers

Many new facilities will include one or more spaces intended for discussion and debate; typically

  • Discursive (a.k.a Harvard or case study rooms) are traditionally horseshoe-shaped or in-the-round; these spaces encourage cross-chamber discussion and interaction. 
  • Council and Senate chambers are generally designed to support meetings of the organisation’s governing body with attendant advisors and a local audience.

Both of these space types should be designed to allow everyone to be heard clearly at conversational levels. This is best understood as peer-to-peer communication rather than just didactic (presenter-to-audience). 

Whilst some form of distributed audio system is typically employed, the physical acoustics of the space must respond to the discursive/debate brief and aim to achieve high STI between each source and receiver position. Typical audio systems in these applications will target even voice lift and may comprise of:

  • individual or shared desktop microphones with local speakers
  • an array of ceiling-mounted microphones and distributed loudspeakers in flexible spaces.

These will often be augmented by lectern or wireless microphones for presenters, processed through complex mix-minus or congress system processors. In the case of multiple ceiling microphones, the physical acoustic design must account for the often large number of microphones which must be automatically processed. This is best achieved by reducing ambient and services noise as far as feasible. In learning spaces, the most critical criteria should be applied e.g. conference room rather than flat floor classroom.


Spaces with video conferencing and unified communications

With the increasing reliance on ‘soft codec’ Unified Communication (UC) systems, video conferencing technology is becoming ubiquitous. This requirement should trigger a discussion about which spaces are appropriate to be equipped, and should shift an organisation’s design criterion higher e.g. from meeting room (small) to video/audio conference room

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