A Venetian study in the exploitation of power and the spoken word with d&b
Sustaining a dramatic dialogue while a full on rock band powers out a blast of the real thing immediately behind you might not be to every sound designers liking, but for Rock of Ages (ROA) Peter Hylenski had already successfully solved this dilemma on the Broadway stage. It remained only for him to contend with a quite different room acoustic and a totally new PA system when the show came to the Showroom at the Venetian in Las Vegas.
"The previous show in this theater was the Blueman Group, they had been in here for around seven years", explained Michael Cusick of Clifton Park, New York based SAVI who provided the full audio infrastructure installation to Hylenski's specification. "The driving rationale was to use the wiring already there, but Blueman used a d&b audiotechnik Q-Series system; a system just not powerful enough for the realistic evocation of rock music Peter required." While discussing options for a larger d&b based system Cusick suggested the more potent d&b V-Series. "I considered the V-Series line array system to be a perfect fit. Although he had never heard V-Series before, Peter had used d&b many times, notably for Shrek."
Hylenski had also worked with Cusick many times before and took his recommendation. "Once we were able to work into the design a bit more, we realized the benefits of the V-Series and its interaction with the Showroom," Hylenski confirmed. "Having experienced many d&b products I had no doubt they would work very well in this application. During the initial listening to the system there were smiles all around the room. The three-way design of the box delivered the smooth sound that I'm accustomed to from d&b, yet provided incredible power and clarity." It also meant being able to utilize much of the existing cable infrastructure, "Good for the client and for minimizing disruption to building fabric," added Cusick.
At first glance the system design appears conventional, left / right hangs of V8 loudspeakers, with a center cluster of more V8s and a pair of d&b C7s arrayed beneath; but there was little that was conventional about this system or its application. "The inner workings of Rock of Ages from a script point of view, present a number of challenges for the sound team," explained Hylenski. "Much like a film, there are dialogue scenes written while the band stands behind them fully rocking out. We, of course, need to hear every word but at the same time cannot lose the energy of the music."
Hylenski's response is a mixture of refined signal path control coupled to a carefully considered system design. "Using LCS as the heart of the signal management system, I was able to create a computer assisted mix that works in conjunction with the engineer creating the live mix on the console. Applying cinematic dynamic moves through LCS we can focus into and out of dialog moments with control and precision. The system itself needed to provide the power of a rock concert with the clarity of a theater system." Tuning the system is critical, as Hylenski explains, "I certainly spend time on my system tuning and voicing as it really is the foundation against which all our other sonic adjustments are made. More often than not a louder show reveals certain deficiencies in the system, providing a smaller window for error, however I found the V-Series very responsive to adjustments and sonically smooth yet incredibly detailed."
Naturally a rock sound imperative drove other considerations to Hylenski's design; his response to the demands of low frequency management, and an ample surround system being equally important. "The ROA theatre had no space for a ground based sub array," explained Cusick, "and I was aware Peter had been using mono-bloc center sub systems for some years, so we suggested a flown mono-bloc of the inherently cardioid V-SUB. This was achieved by flying two vertical columns of seven V-SUBs adjacent to each other behind the center V8 array." A mono-bloc differs from the standard left/right subwoofer stacks or horizontally distributed subwoofer arrays by creating a lone vertical subwoofer column. "Mono-blocs often provide the desired even sub coverage that can be difficult to achieve in a theater," confirmed Hylenski, "especially given the specific architectural and scenic parameters of placement. Rock of Ages has traditionally used a few different varieties of mono sub array types, and the d&b sub array certainly did not disappoint. The flown system combined with two cardioid arrays of B2s worked very well to anchor and extend the V-Series."
"As for the surround applications, in Rock of Ages the demands vary from song to song. With such a powerful system from the front I needed a surround system that could rival it and Michael suggested the 10S-D from the d&b White range; these are primarily an installation product and though not on my regular purview, had in the technical specifications all the qualities I sought. Often times the surrounds work as an extension of the V-Series arrays; in that respect the 10S-D did a great job covering the Showroom and providing the width the show required."
The Venetian presentation of Rock of Ages has been open eight months now and continues to play to packed houses. "Peter and his team arrived just three weeks before opening," concluded Cusick. "At that time we had installed everything except the White range surround system." Hylenski was sanguine, "I've worked with Michael and SAVI many times and knew preparations would be thorough and precise. Sure enough we arrived and everything was hung and tested, so I was able to start tuning immediately and we completed our work comfortably and on time."
For fans of rock music and musical theater ROA is a heady combination. The show is that most curious of beasts, both loud and detailed; that's a rare experience; justification alone for making a visit to the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas.
Images courtesy of Denise Truscello