19 May 2015

ArrayProcessing enhances an in-the-round performance

This was the fifth time PUR, Germany’s biggest band, has performed at the 55,000 seat Veltins Arena, a covered football stadium for Bundesliga club Schalke of Gelsenkirchen. Each time PUR performs in-the-round, and each time with a different PA system. “This is a highly reverberant space,” explains system technician Frank Müller, “and we have tried many different PA systems and configurations to overcome this. This time, with the d&b V-Series, and using the new ArrayProcessing feature in ArrayCalc, we achieved absolutely the best result ever.”

Müller has two solid reasons for making such a statement; one entirely experiential and deductive, based on the band’s preceding tour. “We, that’s Patrick Eckerlin, the band’s front of house engineer and I, came to this idea last year. We toured arenas with V-Series and even then people thought we were a little crazy.” Why crazy? Because the d&b V-Series system, supplied by touring specialists 8days a week GmbH & Co. KG, is ostensibly a medium sized line array; even for arenas that might be considered a bit under sized. “But one by one my fellow sound engineers and system tech’s turned up at various shows and agreed it worked perfectly,” said Müller. “What determined us to extend the idea into such a big venue as Schalke was a restriction of rigging at a previous venue. For the bigger arenas, those with over a 10,000 capacity, we regularly hung delays. So usually we’d have sixteen V-TOPs a side for mains, and eight a side down the room for delays. One venue had no rigging capacity for delays. What shall we do, we asked ourselves? Well the V-Series is very lightweight and the permitted load for the flying frame is twenty four cabinets (just 838kgs inc frame), so let’s try that.” Eckerlin confirmed the decision, “It worked so well we did it for the rest of the tour; we never hung delays again.”

The second reason behind Müller’s declaration is more technically driven but no less rational, a willingness to engage with experimentation. Müller’s comment, “Hey, if you don’t take risks you’re not going to have any fun,” belied his serious intent when he first encountered the new ArrayProcessing feature. d&b Product Manager, Werner ‘Vier’ Bayer, explains how ArrayProcessing had been first presented to Eckerlin and Müller. “Tonal balance is one of the things we are examining here,” Bayer begins. “To work a room this size with throw distances up to 105m without a delay system, and to do it well, you need to address the typical shortcomings of any line array system, whatever the brand. For example the low/mids of any system tend to be concentrated in the first twenty metres and muddy the overall tonal balance. Similarly, the spectral balance and intelligibility reduces over distance. Firstly, for d&b, the Schalke concert was a great opportunity to experience such a 360° in-the-round setup in a really large scale venue.

Using the d&b ArrayCalc simulation software, the spectral and level performance targets can be defined, with the option to apply specific level drops of offsets to certain areas to create reduced level zones. To achieve the desired performance, ArrayProcessing applies a combination of FIR and IIR filters to each cabinet, which must be driven individually. This is all with an additional latency of only 5.9 ms. ArrayProcessing also applies frequency response targets for all d&b line arrays, ensuring that all systems share a common tonality, regardless of Series, column length or splay settings. ArrayProcessing enables us to control the entire behaviour of the array onto the listening areas within its mechanical given aiming zone. In other words, it’s not an excuse for designing a poorly rigged system, it’s important to optimize your arrays as you normally would in any room. The benefit of ArrayProcessing is that it allows us to refine uniform spectral (frequency response) and defined spatial (SPL over distance) as well as reinforcement parameters, resulting in a higher total directivity precisely matching the audience areas as well as continuous and seamless HFC compensation. All this without losing either d&b’s sonic signature, or compromising the system’s headroom.”

Patrick Eckerlin has long experience with PUR. “I’ve been with the band since ‘95 when I started as a PA tech. Since 2001 I took over FoH and I’ve also been Production Manager since 2010. The moment we turned the system on my first feeling was, this is the best we’ve ever done in here and ArrayProcessing made it even better. We have also had great support from d&b; they have been absolutely great assisting Frank. They do nothing without involving us directly in what they do, and we see and hear the benefits as clearly as our audiences.”