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Theatre sound: Going to war with 14–18

Think you’ve got it bad? You’ve never had to provide sound reinforcement for the Nekkerhal

The 70-piece Royal Flemish Philharmonic in Galaxy’s main studio

measures over 300m, with both connected via fi bre-optics. “The speakers are clustered in triplets, three on each row, offering suffi cient dispersion to cover the whole stands,” explains Begard. “Each row consists of thee Coda ViRAY cabinets, two central fl own subs and four G712 speakers. Some of the G712 cabinets are used as surround speakers for the stands, and then, when the stands move, act as extra monitor speakers for the artists on stage. “With so many speakers, the challenge was to reduce visual hindrance for the audience – we wanted to create the atmosphere of a cinema theatre. The technical ceiling was completely painted in black, with sound baffl es on the ceiling and behind the speaker cabinets.” The Coda Audio cabinets are powered by 80 channels of Coda LINUS 10 amplifi ers – 14–18 is also the fi rst event to use the new LINUS Con loudspeaker management system. Begard believes that for 14–18

virtually every ViRAY cabinet in Benelux is being used at the Nekkerhal for at least a six- month stretch. He adds that Studio Haifax has “immediately started negotiations on setting up an international Coday ViRAY network to mutually support ViRAY rental companies and exchange kit and experience”. The FOH console, a DiGiCo SD5, is located at the top of the grandstand, requiring some 350m of Optocore digital fi bre cable to the amp racks and transmission equipment. “We have three main entries in the FOH desk, all 5.1, for the orchestra, the principals and ensembles and the sound effects,” explains Guido Olischlager, system FOH engineer. “The orchestra’s tracks have been pre-recorded at Galaxy Studios (see separate box) as there was no room for an orchestra in this

“By fl ying all of the speakers in the venue’s roof, with the stands driving underneath … and steered by a main matrix system deciding which speakers to operate, the audience have a full surround listening experience

without noticing the difference in audio levels when the mobile stands are moving” Pieter Begard, managing director, Studio Haifax

landscape. The same SD5 is also used for monitoring control – the complete audio production is now handled by one system tech, and an extra monitor desk would involve extra staff.” A second challenge for Studio Haifax was to fi nd partner companies to fulfi l two other crucial elements in the sound design for the show: a reliable and high-quality wireless audio connection, and the right matrix to manage the extensive speaker inventory. “In addition to a substantial extra investment in Coda ViRAY speakers, we also decided to buy Sennheiser Digital 9000 and 2000 IEM series systems,” Begard comments. Guido Olischlager says he opted to use the new Sennheiser 9000 digital system for a number of reasons. “First of all, the digital system offers uncompressed digital audio – what goes in comes out. There’s no compander/compression codec like with other analogue/ digital systems. [Secondly], the musical often has more than 20 people on stage, and the D9000 system has more room for the voices over the peripheral noise of the on-stage props. And, of course, [there’s the] limited A-D/D-A conversion: the Sennheiser EM9046 receiver’s AES outputs are directly routed into the SD5 console, then channelled back to the speaker system and to the Sennheiser 2000-series in-ear sets.” Initially, the production needed 40 digital wireless channels, but the double use of some belt packs allowed Olischlager to reduce it to 32. “We wanted to limit the number of frequencies and keep things under control, budget- wise,” he explains. “The nine principals have fi xed belt packs, and some of the 23 ensemble members switch belts with children during one scene. We also need frequencies for the 12

The 14–18 choir and soloists sang their lines separately for the CD recording RECORDING AT GALAXY STUDIOS

Both the music tracks for the musical and the content for the 14–18 CD were recorded, mixed and mastered at Galaxy Studios in Mol. The recording also marked a unique collaboration between Galaxy Studios and Sennheiser/Neumann. The size of the production, and the large numbers of musicians and singers involved, meant Galaxy needed to use four of its recording studios in combination with two control rooms. Galaxy’s main fi lm scoring engineer, Tonmeister Patrick Lemmens, and Studio 100’s producer Jan Bernolet and music supervisor Kristof Aerts were assigned the project. “What initially started as a standard assignment – recording a music score, which is our business – steadily developed to a major venture,” comments Tom Van Achte, studio manager at Galaxy Studios. “We recorded the whole score in three days [March 6–8], requiring a lot of technical and logistical preparation. The 14–18 score represented quite a challenge.” For the recording, the 70-piece Royal Flemish Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by composer Dirk Brossé, played in Galaxy’s main studio while the choir and soloists sang their lines in Studio One and the vocal booths, respectively. “Initially to make the musicians and singers ‘feel’ the score, but also because we were recording the vocals for the CD,” explains Van Achte.

All the audio content was recorded simultaneously with both

analogue and digital microphones. “Actually, Sennheiser suggested we record the score with two different microphone confi gurations,” continues Van Achte. “We have a large inventory of analogue Neumann microphones ourselves, while the new digital microphones were supplied by Neumann. It was a unique opportunity and a formidable test case, with Neumann using the results in A/B testing to analyse the digital/analogue audio quality and possibilities for future reference.” Galaxy Studios mainly used M 150, U 87, U 67 and KM 184 microphones for the analogue recordings and D01, KM and TLM series mics for digital. Because of the specifi c character of the recordings, two separate control rooms were used: the analogue API room by Sennheiser/Neumann, engineered by Gregor Zielinsky – the API desk was only used for monitoring, as the recording went straight from the digital mics (AES42 standard) to several AES42/MADI converters (two Neumann DMI-8 and eight RME DMC 842 M) into Pro Tools – and the NEVE 88 D control room, the heart of Galaxy’s recording landscape, for the 14–18 production team. A video-link system established visual contact between the control rooms, the orchestra in the Galaxy Hall, the choir in Studio One and the soloists in the vocal booths. The 14–18 CD album was released on 20 April, and is also available as a download on iTunes.

PSNLIVE 2014 l 37

Photo: Luk Monsaert

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