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Theatre sound: Going to war with 14–18

14–18 is powerful audiovisual reminder of the horrors of World War I, brought to life with kit from Coda Audio, Out Board, Sennheiser and DiGiCo

War story

As of 20 April, the Nekkerhal in Mechelen has become the platform for one of Europe’s biggest-ever theatre productions – and audio reinforcement plays a key role in 14–18, notes (a slightly overwhelmed) Marc Maes

RELEASED TO coincide with the First World War centenary events across Europe throughout 2014, the musical 14–18, produced by Studio 100, is currently running at the gigantic Nekkerhal venue in Mechelen (Mechlin). Its enormous stage, mobile stands, moving set pieces and an overwhelming sound and lighting set-up that takes the audience into the stupendous brutality of the Great War. 14–18 is Studio 100’s 11th musical and, as with the massive success story of Daens, de musical, which attracted over 220,000 visitors in 2008, the production company decided to continue with the creative trio of Frank Van Laecke (director), Allard Blom (script) and Dirk Brossé (composer). One of the dominant features

of the show, and a spectacle in itself, is a 1,880-seat mobile grandstand, built after a year of research and design. During the show, the moveable seating travels back and forth through the venue over a distance of 100m, as soldiers fi ght in front of the audience and the cavalry – with real horses – attacks from behind,

36 l PSNLIVE 2014

bombs explode and aeroplanes fl y overhead. A crew of 300, including some 70 actors and 23 chorists, take part in 14–18. Three kilometres of light trussing carries some 1,225 lights, while laser-controlled stage platforms move over the fl oor. Pieter Begard, managing

director of Studio Haifax, the contractor for sound reinforcement, says the musical’s production team opted for his company for the prestigious project because of their working experience with the Coda ViRAY system, found to offer the correct characteristics and dispersion for the size of the hall and production. Studio Haifax operates the biggest Coda ViRAY inventory in continental Europe, and the current production is undoubtedly the biggest Coda ViRAY set-up in the world. The sound design was drawn

up by sound engineers Marc Luyckx and Guido Olischlager. “Our fi rst assignment was to design an audio confi guration for the moving stands without using mounted speakers,” comments Marc Luyckx. “We looked at various solutions like

miniature speakers behind the seats and individual in-ear sets for the public.” “The ‘lightbulb moment’ was

to fl y all of the speakers in the venue’s roof, and then to have the stands driving underneath,” continues Pieter Begard. “Steered

by a main matrix system deciding which speakers to operate, the audience would then have a full surround listening experience without even noticing the difference in audio levels when the mobile stands are moving.” In total, Studio Haifax installed and fl ew 108 Coda Audio ViRAY cabinets, 18 Coda SCV-F subs and 44 12-inch Coda G712 top cabinets in the roof of the Nekkerhal. Eight Coda Audio SCP 2 x 18-inch

subs are installed under the stands for extra low-frequency output for sound effects like bombs and explosions, and seven front fi lls (Coda Audio D5s) and four (Coda Audio G308) monitors complete the speaker confi guration. The FOH mix position is situated on the moving stands, with all of the cabling (audio–video–lighting) on a gigantic festoon. The maximum distance between the FOH console and the amp racks

Guido Olischlager, 14–18 FOH engineer

Photo: Luk Monsaert

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