Hollywood Theatre Virtual Organ Project

Hollywood theater facade

The VTPO at work

Hollywood Theatre

 Portland, Oregon


About the Beverly Ruth Nelson Memorial Virtual Organ

The Columbia River Theatre Organ Society is in the process of installing a theatre pipe organ in the historic Hollywood theater in Portland. This installation is progressing but it may be several years before the pipe organ is actually playing. A Ken Crome built Wurlitzer replica console was purchased for the pipe organ. This console had been attached to some Devtronix analog electronics in its past. 
    As there are many scheduled silent picture events and other opportunities at the Hollywood, it was decided to install a virtual organ as an interim instrument. After some research and experimentation, the Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ software was chosen for the instrument. Hauptwerk was chosen as it is the most advanced PC based virtual organ software available. It is very flexible, stable and has many pipe organ sample sets available for it.    
       The console specification has recently been completely revised with the addition of some 60 new stops and 15 general pistons. 
     This sample set, produced by noted Australian organist Neil Jensen, is the 3/19 set from Key Media Productions.  It provides 19 virtual ranks of pipes, along with the typical array of tuned and non-tonal  percussions, as well as sound effects that will be used  for the accompaniment of silent pictures.
     The organ loudspeakers repose on the stage, behind the movie screen. The audio system configuration is listed in the table below, and consists of 12 audio channels that includes a bi-amplified subwoofer pedal channel.    
     Noted theater organist Donna Parker played the dedication recital. Future Hollywood theatre events using the virtual  organ are scheduled, including silent films.  
     Upgrades and additions to the instrument are planned very soon and will include the addition of a second Tibia Clausa and Vox Humana, a standalone reverb unit and four additional audio channels including a second sub woofer/pedal channel. The plan is to upgrade to Windows 7 64 bit and Hauptwerk ver. 4.0.

Technical Data:

Computer: (supplied by Iguana Micro)

  • Asus mother board P5QL-EM
  • Intel 9550 Core 2 quad processor 
  • 4 Gb DDR3 RAM
  • Western Digital 250 Gb hard disc drive
  • Antec NSK 4480B case
  • Lite-on DVD ROM

Audio and MIDI interfaces:


Audio system

  • Subwoofers custom built by Gary Nelson

  • Amplifiers are QSC GX3 and GX5, and

  •   ART pro audio  SLA-4 


  • Custom Built by Charles Sutton, enhanced by Ken Crome, Reno Nevada

  • Internal wiring by Tim Rickman

  • Uniflex Combination action

  • Syndyne SAMS

  • Robert Morton keyboards with Accomp. 2nd touch 



Keyboard stack with 15 generals Junk Drawer

Amplifier rack

Custom made GN-15 3-way speakers

MIDI Configuration

Since Uniflex is used as the relay, the Hauptwerk organ definition file and graphics  associated with it are not used. The MIDI outputs from Uniflex are ported to the MIDI inputs of Hauptwerk using a virtual MIDI cable, in this case the MusicLab MOLcp III software application. There are rank outputs on the Uniflex system that are connected to the rank inputs of Hauptwerk. Hauptwerk is used as a "box of ranks" in this case. There are other MIDI control inputs that turn on and off the tremulants and connect to the swell box controls.  


Audio Configuration

Echo Audio Output Channel Amps Audio Group Speakers Mode


1/2 QSC GX3 A Main 1 GN-15 x2 CYCLE WITHIN OCTAVE, OCTAVES AND RANKS CYCLED Salicional Concert Flute Oboe Horn Chrysoglott
3/4 SLA-4 A,bridged 2 channel mode Main 2 GN-15 x2 CYCLE WITHIN OCTAVE, OCTAVES AND RANKS CYCLED Salcional Celeste Quintadena Tuba Horn Harp
5/6 SLA-4 B,bridged 2 channel mode Main 3 GN-15 x2 CYCLE WITHIN OCTAVE, OCTAVES AND RANKS CYCLED Flute celeste Open Diapason Clarinet Piano Special Sounds
7/8 QSC GX3 B Solo 1 GN-15 x2 CYCLE WITHIN OCTAVE, OCTAVES AND RANKS CYCLED English Horn Horn Diapason Orchestral Oboe Solo String Celeste Vox Humana Glockenspiel Traps
9/10/11 SLA-4 C , 4 channel mode Solo 2 GN-15 x3 Tone Matching 2 Trumpet Saxophone Tibia Clausa Solo String Kinura Xylophone
12 QSC GX5/ SLA-4 C, channel 4 Pedal Sub Woofer/ JBL JRX12M Mono Bourdon Diaphone Tibia Clausa  Diaphonic Horn Chimes

Audio system description

All audio equipment is installed in a 6' high equipment rack in a room behind the stage. This includes the Echo Audiofire 12 sound interface unit that connects to the PC in the console through a firewire extender. This connection is an ordinary cat 5 LAN cable and is the only connection between the console and the audio rack . There are two separate and dedicated AC power feeds for the amplifier rack and another for the console.  

The speakers are placed on the stage behind the screen, with the Main chamber speakers on the left and the Solo speakers on the right. Each speaker in its group is spaced about 3-4 feet apart.  

Intermodulation distortion occurs to some extent on all loudspeakers and can be heard most easily when playing major or minor thirds on a bright reed like a Trumpet or Post Horn thru the same speaker. The resulting sub and super tones produced are not harmonically related to either one of the original tones. This distortion is very annoying and unmusical. That is why the C/C# split and especially the "tone matching 2" configuration is used, so major and minor thirds never come from the same speaker.   Further discussion of IM distortion is found here.
Solo 2 Group Tone matching 2 note layout
Channel #        
9 C# D# G# A#
10 E F F# B
11 C D G A
There is no such thing as "string channels" or "reed channels" in this VTPO set up. That is a paradigm that belongs to obsolete electronic organ building. Dedicating a channel or group of channels to one rank or type of rank leads to the same inefficiency that pipe organs have, in that most pipes are silent when playing small combinations. If channels are dedicated to strings, as an example, they are silent when not playing strings. All that expensive hardware just gathers dust during that time. The current audio configuration is designed to reduce IM distortion and spread ranks over multiple speakers systems to maximize realism.
 In addition, no string or flute unisons and celestes originate from the same audio group. The celestes are allowed to mix acoustically. When coming from the same speaker, celestes sound very "electronic".   
Another consideration to group assignments was to separate the big reeds (English Horn, Trumpet, Tuba Horn) so each rank comes from a different audio group. Same for the color reeds, etc. Example, the Main Clarinet and Oboe Horn come from different groups. In the Solo, the Orchestral Oboe and saxophone are separated. All the tuned percussions such as Piano, Harp and Chrysoglott all come from different groups.  


A full schedule of first run movies is available.
Silent films and special events are announced when available.

There is more information about the Hollywood Theatre on the following web site: http://www.hollywoodtheatre.org.
To access a current schedule of events at the Hollywood Theatre: http://www.hollywoodtheatre.org/frames/welcome.htm

To read a history of the original Hollywood theatre pipe organ, go to the following PSTOS web pages:




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