Acclaimed as the longest and deepest in the world, the new Gotthard rail link tunnel has just officially opened in Switzerland, with extravagant opening ceremonies taking place simultaneously at each end. These involved elaborate dynamic spatialisation sound designs based around TiMax SoundHub audio showcontrol processors plus a TiMax Tracker system, specified by award-winning designer Thomas Strebel and managed by a team of skilled engineers and operators from his resource company audiopool GmbH.


After almost two decades of construction work, the 57km (35-mile) twin-bore Gotthard base tunnel will provide a high-speed rail link under the Swiss Alps for efficient freight transit between northern and southern Europe. At peak capacity it could handle over a third of a million tonnes of goods per day, the equivalent of 15000 shipping containers.


The ceremonies took place in Erstfeld at the north end, inside a 120 metre train shed that had previously held tunnelling equipment, and at Pollegio in the south, as an open air event. Video and communication link-ups helped ensure synchronisation between the two ceremonies, with speeches from gathered dignitaries including Swiss Federal President Johann Schneider-Ammann and European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern. These link-ups were also essential to the scheduling of two trains carrying members of the public drawn from a lottery, which travelled from either end of the tunnel arriving simultaneously at the opposite ends to a warm welcome from the expectant audiences.


Thomas Strebel was charged with providing audio systems both for the complex and eclectic ceremonies as well as for celebration events laid on for the all the workers involved in the 17-year tunnelling project. There were also public performances on subsequent days for more than 20,000 visitors, to showcase how the re-incarnated tunnel is set to revolutionise pan-European freight transport.


The team of eight audiopool engineers, assisted by Winkler System AG technicians, assembled distributed audio systems comprised of over 100 d&b Q series loudspeakers in the north arena with a further 30 in the southern arena. A Rocknet audio network connected Soundcraft Vi consoles providing FOH, monitors and broadcast feeds, and also TiMax Soundhubs used for the parading performer amplification and sound effects. Show soundtracks were played back from Ableton Live, with certain tracks assigned via TiMax inputs for moving sound effects.


TiMax was also pivotal for the finale of the ceremonies, in which a live orchestra and choir traversed the full length of the northern Erstfeld performance space. TiMax managed the continuously changing delays and levels to the distributed audio system, to maintain the vital musical timing integrity between amplified and acoustic sources.


At the same time TiMax was also responsible for automatically dimming speaker channels closest to the trucks as they passed to maximise gain before feedback. To achieve all this, Out Board’s Robin Whittaker, who assisted with set up and operation in the northern arena, utilised TiMax Tracker quite differently to its usual application.


Best known for its market-leading UWB performer-tracking automation for delay-matrix vocal localisation, on this project TiMax Tracker was installed purely as a visual aid to help match manual cueing of the TiMax SoundHub spatialisation events to particular performance elements, some of which were a long way from the mix position.


Commenting on the gargantuan scope of the Gotthard production, Thomas Strebel observed, "I do not know how I could possibly have done this show without TiMax."



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