Speed and efficiency with d&b at De Factorij, Zaventem

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Named to celebrate the region’s rich industrial heritage, De Factorij is a bustling new cultural centre and performing arts facility in the historic district of Zaventem, near Brussels. The centre, which opened in 2017, hosts a diverse programme of performances, exhibitions and events. Its main performance space is the 680-seat Ivo Maupertuis Theatre, a shell-shaped auditorium designed as an acoustically isolated box-in-box construction.

With quality, diversity and inclusivity at the heart of the venue’s vision for the local community, the management required “fast and efficient” control of its state-of-the-art technical systems, audio included. Belgian systems integrator and audio specialist Amptec, already installing the cabling infrastructure for the new venue, was also asked to design and implement the sound reinforcement system for the main theatre. 

Despite the excellent natural acoustics of the main auditorium, the room’s design presented some challenges when it came to sound reinforcement. Frank Geerts of Amptec says, “As a venue it’s quite unusual: the auditorium is not very deep, but large and high, with very steep audience seating. And in the middle of that audience plane is the big window of the projector booth.”

Faced with these challenges, Amptec’s engineers chose a d&b audiotechnik Y-Series system, designing the initial configurations using the d&b ArrayProcessing software. “Before ArrayProcessing was available,” says Geerts, “our experience with line arrays was that you can’t get an even frequency distribution in that kind of space; a point source system may have been the best solution. But with ArrayProcessing, you have the guarantee that you will have the control needed to work around these issues with the space.”

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De Factorij’s Dries D’Hondt, an experienced live sound engineer, says, “There are some difficulties in the venue, because you have a projection space with a vertical wall, so we used the ArrayProcessing to get rid of the reflections there, and it really works.”

With the design work still off-plan, ArrayProcessing was to prove invaluable. Geerts continues, “The side balconies were another issue. These only seat eight each side, but they would be too close to the line array. We discovered that, with the right height of the line array, and with ArrayProcessing working to eliminate the glass window, we also reduced the level at those side-balcony positions. So we get a lower level at the balcony, we have control of the reflections at the window, and control of frequency distribution across the audience plane. All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.”

In finalising the design and the final installation, the team at Amptec were supported by d&b at every stage. Geerts says, “On the design phase, we coordinated with d&b, to get a second opinion. The guys from d&b Education & Application Support are really great with that.”

The main Theatre system includes eight d&b Yi8, two Yi12 and three YiSUBs in each main left and right hang, with additional low frequency support from a pair of VG-SUBs each side. Yi10P and Yi7P cabinets provide downfill and outfill, with E5 cabinets delivering frontfill from the stage lip. The main system is powered by nine d&b 30D amplifiers. Also provided are twelve d&b M4 stage monitors.

While the d&b R1 remote interface is the primary control over the PA system, the venue’s “fast and efficient” requirement meant an additional interface was necessary. Amptec’s solution involved a custom-designed touchscreen offering selection of simple presets drawn from an industrial PLC [Programmable Logic Controller] from automation specialist Beckhoff. This allows easy recall of audio setups for speech, or cinema projection, for example, including amplifier settings and Dante patch presets. 

Programmed in HTML5 by Amptec’s live sound installation team, the interface can even be accessed from a web browser on a mobile device. Dante patch presets are prepared in Dante Controller software and can be exported to the PLC using a USB stick. d&b amplifier presets are stored in the amplifier and recalled by the PLC through OCA (AES70) protocol or GPIO.

“If you are a sound guy, you should work with the R1 remote control system; the rest of the world just press the preset button when they want sound,” says Geerts.

For the cinema system, Amptec installed an additional surround system of ten d&b 8S loudspeakers powered by two d&b 10D amplifiers. Consoles and amplifiers are connected to redundant CISCO switches and four d&b DS10 Audio network bridges. 

Dries D’Hondt is impressed with the new system. He says, “It doesn’t happen a lot that people come up to the mixing console and say ‘Man, I never heard an orchestra sound like that.’, but it’s happened here. Mostly, people don’t give credit to sound, but here, they have. It says a lot.”

He adds, “It’s a great sounding system, in a really great hall.”

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