12 June 2015

An orchestra at sea with eclipse and d&b

Dubai audio specialists eclipse pushed the Y-Series straight into the public eye for the Abu Dhabi Volvo Ocean Yacht Race; a sporting event surrounded by a thirty day series of concerts, featuring rock, pop and Arabic music, plus performances by the Dubai Orchestra and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. “The stage was mounted directly to the sea floor on the shoreline,” explained Head of Audio at eclipse, John Parkhouse, “hence a 15m distance to the first row. The audience area overall was approximately 80m wide and 25 rows deep, so we covered an area some 25m deep front to back.”

Sound engineer Mark Lewis: “In terms of imaging a symphonic performance, normally there are issues with achieving balance because part of the audience is in proximity to the horn section, others the strings. But in this instance the 15m from front of stage to audience worked in our favour. The more distance, the more balanced the stereo image. At most I did do some very conservative stereo panning. An open stage on the water meant it was about as anechoic as it could be. So I reached for some ‘hall’ EQ, bleeding that in conservatively, otherwise the sound was too dry. We close mic’d every other instrument. For the soloists, again, because of the throw distances involved, the need to work on localising the sound image to them was moderated.

“When John and I first looked at the job we imagined the subs would be a mono bloc on the dockside. So far in front of the flown main PA this was not ideal and I foresaw all kinds of issues with delay and phase shift. I’ve worked with John before and he and I decided it would be well worth trying the Y-SUBs flown above the main Y8 and Y12 line array. It would mean the whole system would be totally phase and time aligned and the crossover between the different elements within the system would be effectively invisible by the time they had reached the first rows of the audience. We had six or seven hours to play with this configuration, using a variety of program material, but we knew almost immediately it would work, we were just being thorough. And that’s how it proved, completely clear to mix off. The Y-Series was the closest I have ever come to mixing a live orchestral show off something that sounded like studio monitors.”

Not that Lewis didn’t encounter any unexpected difficulties: “James Ehnes the violinist with the Birmingham Symphony did step slightly off his mark when he came to the front stage edge to solo,” he recalled. “He has a ludicrously expensive violin so I mic’d it much as I would in a studio, using a stand from behind, leaning toward the F hole at about a foot to eighteen inches. When I saw he was off his mark I did have to request a tech go onstage and shift the mic. I had already instinctively reached for the gain so I didn’t lose him, here I was really helped by the rear rejection off the d&b system, it meant I could really up the gain more than I had expected. In that sense the combination of the d&b system and that idealised mic position was the perfect combination.”

Despite the challenges, the series of concerts were a resounding success. “Mark was very focussed and did excellent work,” said Parkhouse. “And simply put, from the day of its arrival, the Y-Series never ceased to amaze us on every event on which it was used.”