Staging Five Guys named Moe, in UnderBelly Production’s signature circular spiegeltent structure for Edinburgh’s Christmas on Stage event, presented a number of sound design challenges – all of which were met head-on with a TiMax2 SoundHub dynamic delay-matrix spatial audio processor.
The high impact production featured a circular stage revolve to bring the cast and action into the audience, with seating inside and outside of the revolve. The sound design also followed the circular theme with four rings of loudspeakers focused inside and outside of the revolve plus an additional band system at the stage area.
While this distributed radial sound design helped counter the acoustic challenges of the non-rigid, temporary structure, sound designer, Ben Harrison, had a further challenge. He explains, “During the show at any one time, the actor is in front of some of the audience looking at them, for some the actor is behind, and for some the actor is in front but looking away!”
Harrison’s audio team – comprised of sound operator, Tom Cox and sound engineer, Andy Fugle – therefore needed to provide a variable acoustic focus for the audience. Cox explains, “We wanted to be able to move the cast – with their sound – between all the available locations in the tent: the stage, the back of the auditorium, everywhere. But this would mean the audio would always be out of time. What we needed was a big delay matrix and as soon as we’d demo’d TiMax we were sold. We wouldn’t have to think about dsp or delay paths as TiMax does it all for you.”
Harrison agrees, “TiMax made it ‘do-able’. We could have sat for weeks and weeks programming some other equipment but TiMax was so quick and so intuitive that every other ‘solution’ seemed like a compromise. It all worked and it worked really well. What struck me – aside from all the delay management – was the simple interface and the way it managed a huge system so effectively.”
The largely d&b loudspeaker system comprised six E8s focused towards the inside of the revolve, twelve Y7Ps focused on the outside, with a central truss with four Y10Ps. The left and right band system on the stage featured two Y Subs and two V10Ps per side. EM Acoustics EMS-51s provided front fill, whilst five E8s were positioned at each entrance at the rear of the tent, as well as being used as spot FX speakers with two E8s as delays.
DPA 4066 Headsets with Shure UR1M Transmitters feed to the Digico SD10T desk, which is connected to an SD Rack in the rack room via Optocore. The SD rack links to TiMax via AES with outputs to amplifiers also via AES. The audio system was provided by Stage Sound Services who sub-hired the 48-channel TiMax2 SoundHub-S48 spatial processor from UK developers, Out Board.
As the programmer, Cox was hands-on with TiMax and for the first time. He says, “We really liked the user interface. Compared to various other ways of managing the audio, I couldn’t see any other way of making a complicated job so simple. We imported a speaker diagram of the whole stage area and TiMax showed us exactly where they all were. It was just so easy with the features saving so much time – like ‘Panspace’ which we used every time a cast member spun either way from the stage using the revolve.”
The natural sound TiMax created seamlessly, impressed Harrison. He notes, “If we slipped to the wrong cue, or didn’t start in the right place, you could really hear it. That’s how in tune your ears are to what’s going on. When it’s right the sound is so unobtrusive you just know where the actor is: behind you, over there…”
“Compared to a speaker setup where two hangs of speakers at the front bounced energy all over the place – and with the circular structure that was one of our main worries – the energy is focused where the energy needs to be. It worked brilliantly and we were very happy with the results.”
Cox sums it up, saying, “I couldn’t imagine doing it another way now. It would have just taken forever but it’s so simple.”