Finnish National Opera installation foresees the future with d&b

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Much of opera is rarely played out in the listeners’ native tongue. As such the revelation of the libretto is transmitted through all available means of communication: acting, scenery, lighting, as well as singing. It was with all that in mind, and the potential drive into contemporary musical theatre, that specialist opera consultant Santtu Sipilä was first engaged with a complete refurbishment of the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki. “This was not some simple tale of transition through technological update,” said Sipilä. “We were asked to transform the sound reinforcement system at the opera house by considering the needs of all those influences.”

Sipilä developed the master plan founded upon Q-SYS network control throughout the entire facility, while Reima Saarinen assisted by Timo Liski, designed a completely new installation based upon the full d&b catalogue. msonic oy, the d&b sales partner for Finland supplied the system components. Liski summarised their brief: “No matter what the production, musical theatre or opera, and however elaborate the lighting and set design, we needed to be able to reconfigure the loudspeaker system to accommodate many differing formats without any compromise to the listening experience of the audience. That might sound simple, but it was not.

“Firstly when we drew up the specific system design ArrayProcessing did not yet exist, in fact the Y-Series loudspeakers we specified for mains left, right and centre, had not yet gone into production either. But we knew from d&b that both were coming, and the specification of Y-Series fit the needs to the auditorium in many ways. By selecting Y-Series we had a loudspeaker that was physically no bigger and took up no more space than the old Q-Series. That was very important, with so many productions in repertoire the bulk of the enormous stage lighting system needed to stay in place.

“The second thing was that when we drew up the design we specified D80 amplifiers, then we heard about the new 10D and 30D installation amplifiers. In terms of cost that brought things down, it also meant that we could seriously consider adding amplifier channels to implement ArrayProcessing across all line array elements. The installation amplifiers were no compromise to the performance of the system: in fact, they brought other benefits.” d&b Product Manager, Wolfgang Schulz explained: “The new installation amplifiers fit well into the design due to the parallel analog and digital inputs. Since the system at the opera house is pretty complicated and redundancy is a really big factor, there is an analog backup connection to the L/C/R arrays and SUBs as well. This gives a ‘worst case scenario’ backup that can also be used for guest consoles.”

“Thirdly,” continued Liski, “implementation of ArrayProcessing brings many improvements. If the sound system delivers homogeneously, as enabled by ArrayProcessing, then the room will respond in similar fashion, just as the original acoustic design intended. That makes it very natural sounding.

“In a more detailed example, there is an orchestra pit hard up against the front rows of the audience. At the lowest trim the bottom cabinet of the L/R system is seven metres to the front row audience. While we can use ArrayProcessing to maximize the listening experience in those front rows, the bigger gain is in being able to take away energy, across a broad spectrum, from what goes into the orchestra pit. With upward of a hundred open microphones in there that’s a really significant benefit. The same applies on stage, so the performers hear only their monitors (for musical theatre) and what comes back from the room, which is what they are accustomed to and what they like.

“The primary aim of the project was to make the listening experience for every seat in the house as perfect as modern technology will allow. What we have achieved has surpassed that goal because we can also physically reconfigure the system, putting loudspeakers at different positions to suit a variety of productions, and still achieve such ideal listening experiences.”

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