Stretching the fabric of sound through d&b
When the Munich Olympic Stadium opened in 1974 it was hailed as one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture since the pyramids. Architect Günther Behnisch and the engineer, Frei Otto, had conceived an Olympic park of venues covered like Bedouin tents, only instead of canvas they chose glass panes, stretched taut like their flexible forebears. The lasting legacy of this innovation can be seen today in buildings as diverse as the new Reichstag, Waterloo Eurostar Terminal, and many more. Taut glass canopies are now commonplace, but in 1974 this was a revolution.
It was this architectural innovation that stimulated the minds of sound contractors Neumann & Mueller when they were approached to produce, manage and service the opening ceremony of the 2006 World Cup. The central concept of the plan was simple enough: three orchestras that would perform upon a single stage. Orchestras one and three on the forestage side by side, with orchestra two on a raised level, augmented by a choir filling the central section.
"The demands were obvious," said Ralf Zuleeg from d&b audiotechnik's Application Support team. "Primarily this was an orchestral event, although there were to be great performances in the realms of pop, opera and piano, from the likes of Placido Domingo and Lang Lang. Levels needed to be comfortable throughout the twenty-eight thousand seated audience. This element is not so hard to achieve with a distributed delay system. And secondly the main system at the stage needed to be split into a Left/Centre/Right configuration so that with the careful application of time delay we could move the image to match whichever orchestra was playing at the time."
This is a set up that requires some thought and finesse, but it's hardly ground breaking in the context of tensioned glass coverings of the grandstands thirty years earlier? "No, but there was to be a sequence where all three orchestras would perform Strauss' master piece 'Also Sprach Zarathustra', with the music literally spreading across the stage as playing moved, chord by chord, from one orchestra to another. We wanted to move the audio image with the orchestras, so the whole audience was able to experience the effect as clearly as those who were seated immediately in front of the stage. Literally an increasing wall of sound." Rudolf Pirc of Neumann & Mueller and Zuleeg likened the audio image to a triangle of stretching fabric, one point at the stage, the other two reaching to the far corners of the facing audience, so the fabric covered every seat. Zuleeg continued "By carefully shifting the time delay configurations between the L/C/R hangs of the d&b J-Series system, and matching this in a complex network through the multiple delay system of Q-Series loudspeakers, we could effectively move the centre stage anchor point of the fabric from one orchestra to the next and the music of Zarathustra moved with them."
The entire signal distribution and processing happened in the digital domain, with the advantage of having just one A/D conversion at the desk inputs and one D/A conversion within d&b's D12 amplifiers. This resulted in a breathtaking 120 dB dynamic in the entire system. Three times ninety-six inputs routed into forty-eight outputs created the audio canvas.