The Most Romantic Things to do in New York: Winter Edition

*NOTE: This article originally appeared on the Walks of New York blog.

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As the backdrop for countless romantic movies, New York City has worked its way into the pantheon of incredible places to go for romantic weekend trips. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, here’s our list of the best ways to maximize the romance on your next visit to New York, with tips on what to see and do specifically during these colder winter months.

Take in the City from the Rooftop of the Empire State Building
The 1993 film ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ solidified the observation deck on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building as one of the most romantic places in New York City. It’s been labeled numerous times in the press as one of the best locations in the city to propose, and each Valentine’s Day, 14 couples are selected to actually get married on the top of the NYC landmark. Unsurprisingly, this spot is known for its large crowds, so if you go make sure to plan enough time there to really take in the sights with your loved one.

Walks Tip: Buy your Empire State Building tickets online—this will save time waiting in the ticket line, and if you purchase an express pass, you can bypass the elevator line as well (you will still have to wait in line to go through security, though). The observatory opens every day at 8 a.m. and closes at 2 a.m., so if you are trying to pack a lot into your weekend, save this part of your trip for first thing in the morning or later in the evening. Plus, this is a great way to wrap up a romantic outing with some of the best views of the city lights.

Try Skating at One of the City’s Rinks
Ice skating at Rockefeller Center is widely considered one of the most romantic things to do in New York during the winter. Unfortunately, this means it’s almost always packed with, well, young people in love. If you don’t want to stand in line (which can be quite long) to get a chance to skate, don’t worry, there are plenty of other options that are just as magical. Bryant Park’s Bank of America Winter Village is another popular rink and can accommodate more people. The downside is that it can be a little expensive to rent skates (even though admission is free). But if you don’t mind splurging, the scenery more than compensates for the price, with the New York Public Library and views of Midtown’s skyscrapers surrounding the rink on all four corners. If you get cold you can always warm up after your skate at the rink-side restaurant, Celsius.
Central Park’s Wollman Rink, located in the southeast corner of the park, has similarly beautiful views of the city. The rink is a little smaller, but prices are cheaper than other rinks for entry and skate rentals. If you’re looking for romance, this is our pick – its intimate setting in Central Park gives you a chance to escape the noise of the city and you’ll have more space to skate. Plus, you can always take advantage of the scenery for some selfies with your date.

Walks Tip: Most rinks have a time limit on how long you can skate in order to accommodate crowds. Also be aware that rinks may become more crowded during the warmest hours of the day.

Stroll Through Central Park
If the cold doesn’t turn you away, Central Park is perennially one of the most romantic places in New York, and with a fresh coat of snow, it becomes a winter wonderland. With bridges, fountains, and scenic paths popping up around every bend, you and your date can dedicate as much time as you want to see the sights. The Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, located next to the The Lake (Yes, it’s really just called “The Lake”), is a perfect spot to take some photos. In fact, this is such a popular spot for romantic shots if you go on a Saturday afternoon you will most likely spot at least one bridal party. A little north of the Bethesda Terrace is Belvedere Castle, a stone folly (a medieval-looking building constructed for decoration) set on the highest point of the park that is now used as an observation deck and the official weather station for the park. From the tower, you can see the entire park and surrounding buildings, and figure out where that winding path you found actually leads.
When you start to get cold, you can always pop into the Tavern on the Green or the elegant Loeb Boathouse lakeside restaurant for some food and drinks while you warm up.

Walks Tip: Central Park spans 40 blocks north to south, and four east to west, takes up approximately 843 acres, and contains countless curving paths. It’s easy to get lost. Be sure to grab a map of the park before heading out on your walk, and make a note of the spots you want to see on your self-guided tour.

Dinner and a Show
Sometimes romance is as simple as sticking to the classics, and there’s no more classic NYC date than dinner at one of many romantic restaurants in New York and show for dessert. A lot of restaurants have dinner and theater deals, so talk with your hotel concierge about what kinds of reservations you can book to make sure you get to your show on time. Our favorite romantic restaurant in NYC that also accommodates theater is The Haven Rooftop, located on the roof of the Sanctuary Hotel (132 West 47th St.). It offers a prix fixe menu for theater goers, with three courses for $45. It’s a great deal, and you can’t beat the location in the heart of the theater district. If you are feeling rushed, you can come back after your show to get your dessert!
For the show, if there is something specific you want to see, we’d recommend reserving your tickets online at Broadway.com, but if you want to try your luck at finding cheaper seats, you can always check out the TKTS booth, located on Broadway and 49th Street in the heart of Times Square (They offer discounted tickets on the day of the show, so when you arrive you can choose from what’s available. It’s a great way to save some money, and still get to see a show on Broadway!).

Walks Tip: Most shows offer matinee performances on Sundays, so if you’re concerned about time, you can always see the show first and eat dinner afterwards to keep stress levels down while you enjoy your day. Check out this blog post for more tips on seeing a show on Broadway.

Learn Together at a Museum
New York City’s museum circuit offers something for everyone—if it’s classic art, we have the Met. If you’re looking for history, we recommend the New York Historical Society. And all movie buffs, should take the N or Q trains out to Queens to visit The Museum of the Moving Image. But when it comes to romantic things to do in NYC, museums can also offer you some of the most surprising options.
When you think of romance, flowers often spring to mind, and a trip to the New York Botanical Garden elevates them from a pre-date gift to an entire experience. Located in the Bronx, the Garden is open year-round and is home to over 1 million living plants from all climates and regions of the world. The museum sits a little beyond the other main attractions in NYC, but its absolutely worth it. Just take the B, D, or 4 train up to the Bedford Park Blvd. station in the Bronx.
For something closer to your hotel, we recommend the Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side. You can take the B or C trains right up to the museum on 81st street, or walk over after a stroll through Central Park, and spend the afternoon looking at every exhibit or browsing the highlights. To ramp up the romance we recommend a visit to the Butterfly Conservatory, open seasonally from September to May. Here, you can learn about the thousands of butterfly and moth species, their life cycles, and more, all while mingling with the more than 500 live butterflies that inhabit this exhibit. It’s a captivating experience that will be the highlight of any romantic weekend.
For those with an eye on the sky, the museum is also home to the Hayden Planetarium, where you can get a virtual tour of the cosmos. Admission costs extra, so be sure to purchase tickets to both the main museum and the planetarium. For more info on visiting the museum, check out our guide to what to see and do and in Museum of Natural History.

Walks Tip: Some museums (but not all) follow a ‘suggested admission’ approach. This means that while it’s recommended to spend the full suggested price (for example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art suggests $25 for admission), you can still get admission for your own price if you pay in cash. This is great if you are hoping to save a little cash, or if you have a short amount of time to see the museum. Just remember, these museums rely on admission fees, so paying the full amount helps keep cultural programs going throughout the year.

Drink With Me
We won’t say that all the bars in NYC are equally romantic, but there is something for everyone and the most romantic bars in New York are better than any in the world. Quite possibly one of the best is in the restaurant One If By Land, Two If By Sea. It’s located in the heart of Greenwich Village in an old carriage house that dates back to the 18th century, and is another one of the city’s most popular spots for engagement proposals. While getting a table here can be tough, a stop at their bar still gives you the chance to enjoy your date’s company in the beautiful historic setting, and also gives you a good reason to dress up.
If it’s views you’re looking for, the newly-opened Pier A Harbor House offers just that. This bar/restaurant/event space has two bar options with food and drink specials stretching late into the night. The space is a bit more casual, but the views of New York Harbor are stunning. You can see everything from the Statue of Liberty, to Ellis Island, and even Staten Island, all from the warmth of your bar stool.
For a more secluded option look into the backrooms and secret doors of NYC’s speakeasies. New York City was a hub for the clandestined drinking of prohibition-era America and modern-day New York is keeping this tradition alive with hard-to-spot bars dotted throughout the city. The Back Room in the Lower East Side is a popular locale, with its classic 1920s theme and drinks served in teacups. Other options are The Bathtub Gin in Chelsea (complete with dark seating and, yup, a bathtub in the center); Little Branch in the West Village, which offers some carefully crafted cocktails that are vaunted by most NYC drink snobs; and if you want to have a great story when you return home, visit PDT (Please Don’t Tell), a speakeasy hidden within Crif Dogs restaurant on St. Marks Place.
If cocktails are you thing, don’t miss our blog on the best craft cocktails in NYC.

Watch Out for Traps
New York City has a lot to see in just a short amount of time, so you need to be wary of some of the bigger tourist traps that can drag down a trip. If you and your date have a sweet tooth, and are looking for a romantic cafe, try popping into a lesser-known spot versus waiting hours for a table at Serendipity III or standing in the cold at Magnolia’s Bakery. Our favorite cafe for an intimate dessert is Lady M, with locations on W. 40th Street near Bryant Park, W. 58th Street, and E. 78th Street. The crepe cake – 20 layers of thin crepes stacked with a custard cream – is a dream come true..
Beware of pedicab drivers. While taking a romantic trip on the back of a bike may sound fun, it can be a huge waste of time and money. Prices are steep for short distances, and pedicab drivers are known for scams, including tacking on a $100-per-person fee on unsuspecting tourists. It’s better to skip this option and ride the subway.
Finally, one of the biggest hubs for tourist traps in New York City is still Times Square. This doesn’t mean you should avoid it – it’s an iconic landmark in the city that you need to experience at least once. But be aware that you’ll be harassed by comedy clubs, costumed characters offering to take pictures, and a number of overpriced cafes, restaurants, and shops – all experiences that may not be enjoyable if you’re looking for the perfect day/night of romance. It’s best to make this spot a sight to see, but don’t base an entire day around it if you’re in the mood for love.

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How to See Live Music in NYC

*Note: This article originally written and published for the Walks of New York website.

If the streets of New York could sing, they would play a rock opera. Or maybe a Broadway musical – something grand enough and detailed enough to encompass the many layers and facets of the city’s rich musical history. As a hub for live music, New York City provides a vast variety of options for visitors looking to hear the sounds of the city. With big name acts regularly selling out the city’s two main arenas, historic theaters welcoming a plethora of modern acts, and up-and-coming musicians vying for a time slot in the city’s smaller clubs, there’s a venue for every music fan. But with almost too many options, how do you decide what show to see? We’ve put together this guide to Live Music in NYC to help you sniff out the best venues when you come for a visit. It doesn’t matter if you want to catch the next big thing in the Lower East Side or take in a Kanye West show at Madison Square Garden, this guide will tell you where to go to enjoy whatever type of music tickles your fancy.

All That Jazz

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Outside the Blue Note Jazz Club.

New York jazz clubs historically played a significant role in the development of modern jazz by providing venues for some of the biggest names in the genre. Today the city still hosts an incredible lineup of small clubs packed with talent. The Village Vanguard in the West Village may be the best option for the jazz fanatics looking to see a classic-feeling gig in NYC, as this historic club has played host to some of the genre’s legends, including Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and more. This small theater just celebrated its 80th anniversary and offers nightly performances for only $25 plus a one drink minimum. Seating is on a first-come, first serve basis, so be sure to arrive early.

Insider tip: With smaller clubs, you may be required to buy a certain number of (alcoholic) drinks during the show, especially if the club offers a free show. Standard minimums are usually two drinks. You can often work around it, but remember that the arts in New York are funded by people who love them, like yourself, so if you don’t want to drink ask how you might contribute money otherwise. Often if the club serves food you can swap that to meet your requirement.

The Blue Note, one of the New York’s most popular music venues, brings some of today’s top jazz performers to the small stage, creating that up close and personal vibe only found at the best live music gigs. With performances held every night, and a Sunday brunch special, this may be your best option for ‘dinner and a live show.’ You can find the same intimate vibe at a number of small venues throughout the city, including Birdland, a jazz club that boasts “The Jazz Corner of the World;” The Iridium, a Midtown West club that still dominates the city’s jazz scene; and Smoke, a club on the Upper West Side that has held onto that, well, ‘smoky’ jazz vibe of the old days (Smoke is a personal favorite of ours. Prices are a little steep with the food and drink minimum, but the ambiance is incomparable).

If it’s big names and big jazz you’re looking for in your NYC music gigs, be sure to check out some of New York’s larger venues, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, an indoor amphitheater overlooking Columbus Circle and the southwest corner of Central Park. With three rooms to choose from, the Rose Theater, which holds 1,233, the Appel Room, with 483 seats, and the Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, with 140 seats, you can have your pick of the experience.

Gospel Word
Christian Gospel music can be traced back as early as the 17th century, stemming from the oral traditions of African Americans. As the music evolved, it became a full spiritual experience. We recently created a phenomenal list of specific churches where you can see gospel performances, but you can also catch a show at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Apollo.

Did you know: Harlem’s iconic Apollo Theater is one of the most historically significant in the entire city. It has hosted performances by artists including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, and more. Aside from the stars it hosts, the Apollo also runs a legendary Amateur Night where stars have been born and more than a few outsized egos put firmly in their places.

Latin Moves
Among the live music bars in NYC, perhaps the best to go to if you want ample room to dance along to the band are the Latin music clubs. The most famous of these is in Manhattan’s SoHo district – SOBs has hosted latin legends including Marc Antony, Tito Puente, and Celia Cruz & Eddie Palmieri, and today offers concerts by popular world music artists. The club has a full restaurant, bar, and dance floor, so whether you want to cut a rug or just kick back and watch the action, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself.

If you’re looking to really immerse yourself in the dancing, Club Cache, located on 39th street just off of Times Square, offers weekly latin and bachata nights, with free bachata classes at 8 p.m. It’s famous for its salsa dancing Thursday, with live bands playing for the hundreds of people who stop by. Other popular spots for latin dancing and live music include Copacabana New York and Iguana New York.

Avoid the biggest mispronunciation made by NYC tourists: SoHo stands for “South of Houston”, referring to the East to West-running thoroughfare that has long acted as a boundary between many of Lower Manhattan’s most famous neighborhoods. It is pronounced “How-ston” NOT “Hyoo-ston.” This is because, unlike the city in Texas of the same spelling, its name is a corruption of the Continental Congress delegate William Houstoun, not a homage to the American war hero Samuel Houston.

Classical Approach
We could write an entire article about classical music venues in New York, but for now we’ll just hit a few of the big ones. As a classical musician, you know you’ve made it in your career when you play at Carnegie Hall. The building, an eclectic mix of Italian Renaissance and pan-European influences, is almost as attractive as the music within, a fact that once inspired the violinist Isaac Stern to quip: “Everywhere in the world, music enhances a hall, with one exception—Carnegie Hall enhances the music.” Before designing it in the late 1800’s the architect William Burnet Tuthill (who was also an amateur musician) traveled Europe to not only collect design influences for the facade, but also to learn the secrets of creating great acoustic spaces. In the end he came up with a deceptively simple design that purposefully avoided baroque elements like frescoes and elaborate moulding that are commonplace in many theaters, but can hurt sound quality. In doing so he created a space that has been called “the crown jewel” of American concert halls.

Year round, Carnegie Hall hosts everything from symphonic performances and new age perspectives to jazz and world music played by today’s greatest musicians. It’s one of the most varied and diverse places to see live music in NYC. If you’re planning to visit, be sure to check out their website to look into discount ticket prices–they have options for general admission, students, young music enthusiasts, and more, which can help reduce your ticket price to as low as $10.

If you’re interested in catching a show, read our visitors’ guide to Carnegie Hall.
Another option that is often just as good, if lacking some of the historic cachet, is The New York Philharmonic, which has a residency at the David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Plaza, and offers a number of affordable performances every week, including free Thursdays with a few members of the orchestra – one of the best experiences of free live music in New York.

Pro tip: You can catch a rehearsal for $20 the morning before a performance, if you’re looking for a cheaper option or an inside look at the preparation before a show.

Pop, Rock, Etc.
Bowery Presents, a NYC concert management company, has, for years, run the top the small- to mid-sized venues in NYC —Terminal 5, Music Hall of Williamsburg, The Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge, and Rough Trade. Catering mainly to a younger crowd, these venues are all essentially NYC live music bars that host some of pop and rock music’s biggest names,as well as amazing underground acts and up and comers.

Terminal 5 and Music Hall of Williamsburg bring in the most famous acts. If you’re looking for big name rock, hip hop, or pop acts performing in an intimate (i.e., not an arena) space these are your go to’s. The audio system at Terminal 5 is second to none but get there early if you want to actually see the performers on the stage. Unless you splurge on VIP seating, it’s standing room only and its three level, horseshoe shape makes it hard to see the stage from the back. But for ticket prices ranging from $25 to $75, the shows are almost always worth the hassle. Music Hall of Williamsburg also has an amazing audio system but is slightly more intimate and generally has a more low-key feel. If we had to choose, it would be our pick of the two.

Mercury Lounge is a more affordable option if you are looking to catch a show. It’s located in the perennially hip Lower East Side, and is one of the few clubs to survive the neighborhood’s rent hikes of recent years. Artists are often a little lesser-known, but that often works to your advantage because you can catch an amazing show by a band that is set to blow up in the next few years. And it’s all under the backdrop of the grungy music scene the LES used to dominate.

Lastly, Rough Trade is a spot to check out, even if you don’t get to see a performance. It’s a Brooklyn joint par-excellence that functions as a record store by day and a live performance hall by night, giving you the full NYC-music-scene experience in one spot. The acts tend to fall into the more eclectic spectrum, but that’s half the fun – this is music nerd heaven.

Iconic New York
New York’s cache of historic live music venues stretches far beyond its theater district and is led by its iconic Radio City Music Hall. No trip to New York is complete without at least a stop at this theater, even if you are just snapping pictures next to the neon signs floating above 6th Ave. Those who actually get to catch a show inside are in for a real treat. The venue, originally opened in 1932 and converted over the years from a live theater, to film house, and back to a stage, has always been a contender for the best-sounding venue in the city. This is because during renovations, the designers hired some of the best acousticians to create a perfect-sounding theater to compliment the Art Deco style, making your experience just as much about the place as it is about the music.
If you want to see historic theaters beyond Radio City, we suggest checking out the Beacon Theater on the Upper West Side or Town Hall, a midtown theater that is also an acoustic gem.

You also can’t forget the titans of New York’s music scene — Madison Square Garden and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. Both arenas play host to all sorts of events, but if you’re here to see your favorite superstar, most likely you’ll do so at one of these locations. If you go there are two important things to remember: first, food and drinks will be expensive, consider it part of the experience. Second, and more importantly, don’t be afraid splurge on the good seats—acoustics get a little touchy in the nosebleed seats, and when you can’t hear half of the frequencies coming from Jack White’s guitar, it can be disappointing (we’re speaking from experience on this one).

How To Ticket
With any live music venues in New York, the easiest way to score tickets is by visiting the venue’s website or Ticketmaster.com. Tickets typically go on sale a few months before the show, but depending on the artist, you can usually land tickets online through StubHub or the venue’s website right before your trip (unless you are looking for Adele tickets. She sold out pretty fast).

Avoid buying tickets from scalpers at all costs. While there are isolated instances in which this is harmless, it’s not uncommon to get forged tickets, in which case you aren’t getting into your show and you have just given away a probably-sizable chunk of money. Resale sites like StubHub.com are a little more reliable, since they will actually guarantee the validity of your tickets, but keep in mind that they make more money from the ticket you buy from them than the artist does. Today’s musicians make most of their money at live shows through ticket and merchandise sales while scalpers and resellers are taking away from that profit. This may not be a serious issue for the Taylor Swifts of the world, but for the smaller performers it can be a big hit. But if ticket price will make the difference between seeing and not seeing the show, your best friends are local coupon programs like Groupon or Living Social. Classical venues run lottery deals, and most venues will run deals and discount nights at certain times of the year. A little exploring online can usually go a long way.

Music Festival Business: The First Issue

In 2013,  I was approached by a sales rep within my company to help start a B2B publication that focused on the production of music festivals. At the time, festivals were just starting to grow into the phenomenon they are now, so we wanted to get our hands into that side of the industry before anyone else. What we came up with was a tabloid publication with vignettes of various festivals held throughout the year, interviews with organizers and sound companies involved, and tech specific features for the pro audio/ live sound members of the festival circuit.

My role, as editor, was to plan and execute all the editorial, from assigning the freelance articles, to writing my own articles. I also worked closely with the rest of my editorial team, managing the production and layout of the final copy of each issue.

While the publication is a once-a-year product now, I am still heavily involved in the planning and executing of each edition. However, of all the issues we’ve produced, the premier 2013 edition is still my favorite. Here you can access a digital copy of our first edition: MFB_09_13

AES Delves Inside Mixing Late Night TV

The Audio Engineering Society held its annual Convention at the Javits Center in New York City on October 29 to November 1, with lectures, panels, and a show floor of the latest products from the Pro Audio industry. My role at AES each year is to make sure the hottest events are covered for the show daily magazine. This year, the session that stood out was the Grammy Soundtable: After Hours—Mixing for Late Night TV. You can read my coverage here or at its original location here.

The faces of late night television have changed dramatically over the last few years, ushering in a new generation of hosts. In 2014, Jimmy Fallon moved up from his NBC late night gig to take over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. David Letterman, who hosted Late Show with David Letterman since 1993, retired earlier this year, handing the show over to Stephen Colbert, the comedian, actor and former star of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.

Late night television’s hosts weren’t the only changes though—with these new shows also came complete overhauls of the show studios, which are designed first for visuals, then audio, giving the shows’ sound engineers a special challenge of mixing clear audio in the smaller studios.

In this year’s Grammy SoundTables panel, moderated by Will Lee of the CBS orchestra and Late Night with David Letterman, a panel of sound engineers discussed their positions in late night television and how they adapt to each show’s unique challenges. Panelists included: Harvey Goldberg, Late Night with David Letterman and Late Night with Stephen Colbert; Josiah Gluck, Saturday Night Live; and Lawrence Manchester, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

“In general, making music for TV is not always the best acoustic environment,” said Goldberg. Since Colbert took over, Goldberg said he could tell what acoustic changes were made to the theater when it was redone. The same occurred at Fallon’s studio 6B at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York.

“Jimmy (Fallon) wanted the new studio to sound fantastic, for both him and the audience,” said Manchester. While each show has its own unique format, one of the most common challenges each producer faces is mixing audio in a short time span. For Manchester, Fallon’s writers will come up with a musical segment a few days (and sometimes a few hours) before filming, leaving him with the challenge to create a plan as fast as possible. This is usually for Fallon’s musical impressions, or collaborations with guests throughout the show. “The experience relies on ample time—you don’t have a lot of time in late night but that forces you to come in with your best plan,” he said.

Over at SNL, Gluck said they usually start figuring out recording plans on Thursday— two days before the live performance. For the 40th anniversary special, Gluck said they used a lot of wireless for the musical performances to add flexibility to the show.

Why It’s Time to Consider Drones

*NOTE: This article originally appeared on the SCN Blog. It was a recap of a recent event in Buffalo, NY where AV Distributor Stampede Presentation Products gave their annual report. You can view the article on the original website here.

Stampede Presentation Products held its annual Vendor Summit on October 5 and 6, 2015 in Buffalo, NY, and without competition, there was one element on their agenda that stood out: drones. And there’s a good reason for this—of the listings of Stampede’s top categories this year, drones came first, followed by touch displays, unified communications, audio, hospitality, signage, and security.

So it’s not really a surprise that Stampede would invest so much of its agenda to drones—they’ve been pushing this technology for some time now, with vendors participating in the distributor’s Big Book of AV tour stops around the country and putting up a Drone Pavilion at InfoComm this past June, complete with a caged demo area to show these flying machines in action.

Of course, there is still a lot of skepticism about the relationship between drones and AV. While I was live tweeting the event on Tuesday, conversations were starting up about why integrators are doubtful to invest in drones, citing that the technology offers ‘limited’ uses. I myself was even hesitant to embrace this new technology at first, but the more I hear about the benefits and the connection to AV, the more open I am to it. I think the key is to look beyond the hype we read about drones in the media, and think of the practical solutions drones offer and how AV can have a hand in that—a point that was heavily emphasized during the presentations.

Kevin Kelly, president and COO at Stampede, said the prediction is that drones will become a nearly $100 billion opportunity, and that AV can play a big part in this growth. With over 10,000 possible applications for drones, Kelly said that when it comes to drones, we need to see AV as a piece in the big picture. “Stop thinking of a drone as an end all, be all product, but as a platform to hold a camera,” he said. “And cameras are a big part of our industry.”

Kelly said that beyond military purposes, 29 percent of drones are used for other reasons, including filming at events, safety surveillance, and more. Mounting your camera to a drone, as well as providing command and control solutions, are important to the user, and Kelly emphasized that these are areas where AV companies excel and can help provide solutions specific for drones.

Stampede isn’t making a push for AV in drones just because it seems ‘cool’ though—as the data shows, the drone industry is growing exponentially, and it’s not stopping. Thomas Frey, a futurist with The DaVinci Institute, spoke to summit attendees about the future of drones, saying that future uses may include delivery, wildlife tracking, and more. A big use for drones will include helping firefighters battle wildfires by attaching sensors to the drones to pinpoint where the firefighters need to go to extinguish the flames faster.

Frey also reminded us that drones don’t just fly—they can roll, walk, climb, swim—you name it. Essentially, our future will finally involve the robotic droids that George Lucas created in Star Wars—I’ve waited a long time for this to happen.

Representatives from the Cleveland Research Company gave a more detailed account of where the drone industry is headed—“There’s two main things we want you to know: professionals in the drone industry want a complete solution, and the market is in early stages and accelerating,” said Josh Rowe, market research associate with the Cleveland Research Company.

Rowe said that right now, drone sales are at a 100 percent increase from last year, and will continue to rise until the industry hits critical mass. In 2015 alone, the industry has already sold 2.5 million units. They predict that by 2017, drones will be a far more prominent industry, so the focus for 2016 will be to educate interested users. This means that this is the best time for AV companies to get involved.

“People need to get a drone IoT solution together,” commented Rowe. “What you’ll need is software, cloud video storage, vertical specific software (mapping, measuring, video analysis, facial recognition), along with services for insurance, drone management, deployment, education, support.”

The event closed out with a Q&A panel of drone experts, including Rowe; Ted Ellet, partner, Hogan Lovells; Greg Frasca, president, SkyWeb Media; Vincent Cowie, president and CEO, G2 Digital Solutions; and Gene Payson, president, Troy Built Models, who offered a more detailed look at specific concerns regarding adopting drones into AV solutions.

Projecting Change

Pedestrians photograph a leopard projected on the Empire State Building as part of the “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building” project.

Pedestrians photograph a leopard projected on the Empire State Building as part of the “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building” project.

By Kelleigh Welch

*Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2015 edition of Systems Contractor News.

New York City’s skyline received an environmental makeover on August 1 with an animated display of the world’s most endangered animals projected onto 33 floors of the Empire State Building. This show, titled “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building,” uses images of endangered species, including manta rays, birds, reptiles, lions, and a gorilla that “climbed” to the top of the building, as a way to spread awareness about our role in protecting these animals and to promote the upcoming documentary, “Racing Extinction,” by the Oceanic Preservation Society.

“The story we were trying to tell was something that no one really knows, and it’s that we’ve had five mass extinctions (in the Earth’s history). Now we’re rolling into a sixth, and man is the cause,” explained Travis Threlkel, chief creative officer with Obscura Digital, the design firm tapped for the project. The entire project was a collaboration between Threlkel and Oscar winning filmmaker and photographer, and executive director of the Oceanic Preservation Society, Louie Psihoyos.

Twenty-six Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors were used for the “Projecting Change” display in New York City.

Twenty-six Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors were used for the “Projecting Change” display in New York City.

Projecting Change occurred in three parts, starting first with a mobile Tesla car that projected video, followed by a projection project on the United Nations building in New York City for Climate Week back in 2014. The grand finale was to project these animals onto a high profile structure—the Empire State Building. Threlkel said it took Obscura and the Oceanic Preservation Society nearly four years to get everything together for the event, working with the Empire State Building and the New York City government to secure all the permits to make this happen. On August 1, 2015, these efforts became a success as images of endangered species were projected onto the Empire State Building from 9 p.m. to midnight.

The display measured 375 feet high and 186 feet wide, projected onto the iconic skyscraper using 26 Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors, provided by Nationwide Video. Obscura built weatherized steel turrets to hold the projectors, and used their own custom blending software.

“Really our challenges were with the scale and the building and surface material,” Threlkel said. “We weren’t sure how the materials would react, but luckily it worked a little better than we thought.” Threlkel was referring to projecting onto a building with so many windows, many of which would still be lit during the event, along with competing with lights in Midtown Manhattan. He said they were expecting the images to be dim, but luckily the final images were much brighter than they expected.

“Our goal was to capture people’s attention,” Threlkel said. “That’s why we targeted something as big as the Empire State Building—it’s iconic and it would help create as much dialog as possible.”

The original print page for the article.

The original print page for the article.

Surrounding Stockhausen’s Oktophonie

By Kelleigh Welch

*Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2013 edition of Pro Sound News.

New York’s Park Avenue Armory, known for its 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall, hosted a week of performances in March of German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Oktophonie, which immersed the audience into a space-age experience of light and sound.

During his lifetime, from 1928 to 2007, Stockhausen composed more than 370 individual pieces, and his music is seen as a significant contribution to the age of modern and electronic music. Sticking to his electronic innovation, Oktophonie was composed and recorded prior to any performances, and was intended to be played back for the audience in a surround sound environment writ large. As a result, there were no performing musicians present at the Armory; instead, the “performance” was the mixing of playback within the surround environment itself.

Walking into the hall, attendees were each given a white robe and directed to sit on one of the many cushions on the floor surrounding a DiGiCo SD8 console, where sound designer Igor Kavulek and sound projectionist Kathinka Pasveer controled the performance. A total of 32 Meyer Sound MSL-4 loudspeakers and 24 600-HP subs surrounded the audience in a virtual cube, projecting sounds in various patterns throughout the performance.

According to Pasveer, the composition is meant to depict a war between Michael and Lucifer, with loud and frightening bomb sounds within the music. During WWII, Stockhausen was stationed at a field hospital in Bedburg, Germany, where he experienced the terrors of war first hand— witnessing bombings and gunfire at only 16-years-old—and he recreated this fear through the composition.

“It’s about war,” Pasveer said. “It’s about the invasion of two groups, the Michaels and Lucifers, and this music is the background of that scene. That’s why there are the sounds of bombs, exploding objects and airplanes. It’s war.” It is a composition inside a composition—originally written as one part of Stockhausen’s Dienstag (Tuesday), which is part of a larger, seven-part opera titled Licht (Light). Oktophonie, named after the octophonic audio arrangement with eight channels playing back through speakers that surround the listener, can be played as part of the Dienstag opera, or as a separate piece, as it was performed at the Armory.

When composing Oktophonie, Stockhausen intended to place the audience into the center of a virtual cube, surrounding the listeners in speakers with four channels projecting from the base and the other four playing 45 feet above the audience. As the piece is played through the speakers, the sound moves in various patterns from front to back, side to side, and in spirals.

“It’s a square with another square on top,” Pasveer said. “This (composition) is produced by Stockhausen with eight layers of music. It’s all specialized in the studio and then he mixed it back to eight channels, and those eight channels are played back into the hall.”

Kavulek said the size of the room allowed him to project the sound at a higher volume, but it also placed on him the challenge of choosing the best speakers for the job. Originally, Kavulek said he wanted to use a different set of speakers, but when he couldn’t acquire enough for the performance, he decided to follow Stockhausen and chose the Meyer MSL-4s and HP-600s. “Stockhausen always worked with Meyer Sound,” Kavulek explained.

In his note to the audience, Park Avenue Armory Artistic Director Alex Poots said Stockhausen would project a small image of the moon during other performances of Oktophonie, and Stockhausen wanted the setting of this piece to take place on the moon. Through the lighting choreography created by the show’s Lighting Designer Brian Scott, the illusion of the moon moving around the Earth was created.

The performance itself was meditative— it fully engulfed you into the lunar atmosphere as you slipped in and out of your own thoughts, letting your imagination define the intentions of the composition.

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