Progressive theater marries technical and creative needs with a Soundscape system set for all.

After an eventful Vaudeville start, the Schauspielhaus Bochum has become one of Germany’s most renowned theaters. The building, with its dominating clinker brick façade, is home to contemporary interpretations of classic works, as well as world premieres and pioneering artforms. A place where drama and dance come together, alongside pop, politics and international artists, it is, according to the theater's director, Johan Simons, “a repertoire and ensemble theater in its most modern form.”

Having aged gracefully over the past two decades, the theatre chose to upgrade their in-house d&b system to incorporate latest technologies. Will-Jan Pielage, the theater’s technical director, and Ralf Zuleeg, Head of Education and Application Support at d&b, worked together to develop a concept for the new audio system. With equipment supplied by NIES electronic GmbH, the theater’s large hall, and all 811 seats, are now all set with d&b Soundscape technology, opening up a wide range of sound design options, from mono playback to immersive and more.

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Above the stage in the theater’s Great Hall is the main PA, featuring ArrayProcessing optimized A-Series configured in five speaker positions. Providing bass support are two V-SUBs housed in the existing stage cutouts, which for some productions are supplemented by two SL-GSUBs, setup in the lower stage for special effects. The portal sound system includes two V10Ps; to the side, in front of the portal, four V7Ps are supported by two Y-SUBs. In the middle of the hall, three AL90s are suspended at height and serve as the delay line. Six 44S loudspeakers are temporarily placed on the front edge of the stage awaiting their new home within the stage itself.

Numerous loudspeaker positions provide surround playback: a total of fourteen E6s plus four more attached to the rear of the balcony. In the past, the surround speakers were addressed in pairs; today they can be addressed individually opening up creative opportunity, thanks to Soundscape.

For onstage monitoring a Y10P is installed firmly in the portals. Two C4-TOPs and two C4 subwoofers from the previous system are repurposed at the back of the stage, powered by D20 amplifiers. Six M4s and six M6s are available as wedges. The venue’s E3s, which were previously used as surround speakers, are now available for monitoring purposes. When bands perform live, sound crews can supplement the installed set-up a mobile V-Series system.

Amplification comes courtesy of the D80 for the V-Series components and the two SL-GSUBs, and D20s for everything else. These four-channel amplifiers receive AES / EBU input signals from d&b DS10 Audio Network Bridges, which in turn receive Dante signals; the Audinate protocol also provides the input for Soundscape’s matrix, the DS100 Signal Engine.

In my opinion, the possibilities with Soundscape are a blessing, especially in spoken theater - especially when it comes to the positioning of voices.Will-Jan Pielage, Technical Director

“Often actors do not speak really loudly, so that only a small level of the original sound source reaches the audience,” Pielage explains, “But, of course you want to convey the positions of the performers to the audience as precisely as possible. In principle, the same applies with musicals, but often the voices coming from the stage are much louder.”

My aim is for theater-goers to immediately see who is talking to each other during every dialogue that takes place on the stage.Will-Jan Pielage, Technical Director

With this in mind, Pielage is delighted with the possibilities presented by Soundscape’s object positioning tool En-Scene, which enables him to precisely locate the protagonists within the performance space. The latter applies not only in straightforward settings, but also in more unusual directing scenarios; for example, a piece by thirteen musicians who are not in-house during the performance. Each individual performance was recorded separately, audiovisually, in advance, and can be seen in different places on screens within the hall. “It falls to us to make sure that the sound in this special scenario comes from the correct direction and that the audience perceives it in a way that matches the visual recording.”

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Meanwhile, Soundscape’s room emulation tool, En-Space, is not only in use for special effects. The hall’s rather short reverberation time may be optimum for spoken word, but for musical performances is benefitting from being digitally enhanced.

The effect [of En-Space] is strikingly natural. Working with effects is becoming more and more popular in acting. This applies to both the placement of virtual sound sources and the enrichment of the sound through artificial means.Henry Skrowonek, Head of Sound

The theater’s carefully conceived audio upgrade has brought with a level of technical and creative possibility befitting such a venue. "In the house we often play repertoire and simply don't have the time to do a great deal of work on the loudspeakers during the day,” concludes Pielage.

The system must always be completely ready to play and usable in any desired context. The sound system is designed in such a way that a director or guest technician only has to tell us which configuration they would like to use. Stereo is no problem, L / C / R works anyway, 180 degrees is also possible, and 360 degrees is of course also possible! Everything is always ready to go, and even special configurations are not an issue. We are prepared for all situations!Will-Jan Pielage, Technical Director

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