04 April 2016

ArrayProcessing and Google Earth team up for Tanglewood

Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and the Boston Pops has now closed its 2015 season and the orchestra has returned to the city and Symphony Hall. Yet the pleasures of Tanglewood linger. “We look to make technical improvements on a yearly basis,” said Chris Ruigomez, Director of Concert Operations for the BSO. “It has been apparent for some time that the delay system for the Tanglewood Shed lawn needed addressing. Each year it required more and more repair work; eventually you reach a point where it no longer makes economic sense.”

“As well as in Symphony Hall, BSO already uses d&b line array systems inside the Tanglewood shed,” explained Michael Cusick of Specialized Audio Visual Inc. (SAVI), Tanglewood’s audio provider since 1978. “Entirely familiar and satisfied with d&b systems, the consensus logically pointed to more of the same. Initially we replaced three of the five old lawn delay systems with a temporary installation of V-Series. They made a striking impression, so much so it sold the system.

“The principal aim with the lawn area was, as is always the case, the need for consistency. That’s what is uppermost in management’s mind, to have a similar listening experience for as much of the audience as possible. But there were other gains in mind. Twenty years ago they had purchased the old lawn system outright; current budgets prohibited purchasing a complete new system so now they were looking for a rental package. This makes a lot of sense; the shed only functions for three months of the year and SAVI structured a rental situation for the BSO that made it possible. That’s why we chose V-Series touring boxes rather than the installation variant.”

SAVI replaced the old delay system with five line arrays of V-Series. “In partnership with Creatacor Inc. we designed a weatherized protective enclosure for each line array to ensure the system remains in top condition,” added Cusick. “The housing is basically a large box with a fine micromesh front of stainless steel. Shaped to the banana curve of the array, a large full height rear door isolates the electrical connections from the weather while still allowing easy access.

“We modeled the lawn in great detail using d&b’s design software ArrayCalc. That’s important. After the season closed we experimented on the lawn system using ArrayProcessing, ArrayCalc’s new line array optimization feature. To accurately map the variations in lawn height we did initially consider having a professional surveyor come in, but then one of my team at SAVI pointed out that Google Earth will give elevation above sea level to within one foot, which was enough for ArrayProcessing purposes. Lawns are deceptive and the one at Tanglewood varies between four and seven meters below the exit floor level of the shed, so Google Earth helped us refine our model.

“After the ArrayCalc configuration was complete, deploying ArrayProcessing was relatively simple. So much so the intention is to fully implement it for the 2016 season. Our overall goal is to achieve greater uniformity in perceived level and tonality over a zero to four hundred foot spread. A full crowd on the lawn can be as many as twelve thousand people: that’s a significant coverage area to achieve such a consistent listening experience. Fundamentally we strive for the most accurate conveyance of the performance, from the musicians’ instruments to the audiences’ ears.”

Tanglewood’s latest technology upgrade has not gone unnoticed. “I stood with Diane Krall’s management,” concluded Ruigomez, “and they turned to me and said, ‘this is the best sounding lawn system in the country’.”