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14-18 Spektakel Musical staged in the vast Nekkerhal venu

Amongst the myriad of events across Europe this year commemorating the Great War centennial, few can be more epic and ambitious than 14-18 Spektakel Musical staged in the vast Nekkerhal venue in Mechelen, Belgium.

Among the many technical challenges this production presented, making the audio work was a significant one, leading sound designer Guido Olischlager to specify a TiMax SoundHub audio showcontrol system. It had been decided that the entire 1800-strong audience block would move up and down the length of the 130m long arena, so it was essential to deploy a multi-channel distributed sound system and fully automated dynamic delay-matrix processing that is a TiMax speciality.

The show’s designers had been tasked with making the staging work consistently across the whole length of the venue, with the director requiring soldiers and cavalry to move cinematically in-front and towards the audience whilst the tumult of ground and air battles raged around and above their heads. They also wanted the theatrical equivalent of panning in for a close up to create a more intimate tableau for certain scenes.

Twelve LCR rows of CODA ViRay were hung down the length of the arena, each with a pair of G712 cabinets hung behind them which TiMax selectively switched and aligned to be either L/R surrounds or foldback depending on the positions of the seating block and actors at any time. Subbass arrays were distributed down either side of the arena with an additional eight mounted under the seats which moved along with the audience.

Following initial meetings at Frankfurt ProLight and sound a year earlier with Guido Olischlager and Steven Kemland from TiMax distributor, Out Board’s Robin Whittaker proposed eight TiMax delay-based Image Definition objects to be created down the length of the hall for each of the Left, Centre, Right, SurrL, SurrR, Foldback L/R and Sub mix stems which were fed via MADI to separate TiMax SoundHub inputs from the Digico FOH console, which also rode the length of the hall with the audience. These 70-plus Image Definitions would apply independent level/delay relationships between each mix stem and the Coda speaker arrays which would be varied depending on the location of the audience seating.

TiMax morphed the mix seamlessly between these various Image Definitions as the seats moved, to continually keep the various sub-systems properly time-aligned and routed. This was fully automated by way of MIDI Program Change commands triggering TiMax SoundHub Cues, with the MIDI coming from a Coolux Media Server which was receiving positional data from the seating drive mechanism. TiMax then fed the amps directly via MADI over the 300m Optocore transport.
What sounds like a fairly complex hook-up and audio showcontrol system was actually rendered relatively simple by the combination of TiMax Image Definitions and its TimeLine facility, which is generally used more for sound effects programming. Guido Olischlager summed up: “The process has taken us weeks to accomplish and would have been impossible without TiMax.”

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