Thursday, January 7, 2016

Designing a 360 sound setup for Bassnectar

Over the past year I have been working on and off with Bassnectar as a sound consultant. My position is multifaceted and in general I work to solve some technical challenges so Lorin (Bassnectar) can achieve the audio connection with the audience he is looking for. My focus has been on improving the audio impact of the show when there are overly restrictive sound limitations, occasionally I fill in as the sound engineer if Jason Decter is not available and I also work with Jason and production on the design of the sound system when Bassnectar is bringing in full production.

I really enjoy working with Lorin, Jason and the full production team. Not unlike working with Chili Peppers, Lorin and the whole team really care about all aspects of his shows. For this past New Years Eve show I was brought in to design a sound system with some unique and fun challenges.

The first step was outline the goals:
  1. The sound system must be optimized for 360 degree arena coverage
  2. The system should not block sight lines or distract from the visuals in any way
  3. The system must cover the entire arena as smoothly and uniformly as possible
  4. The sub woofer must be powerful and immersive to a very low frequency
  5. The sub woofers and main system must not reproduce excessive low frequencies in the center of the room where the artist is located. (This has been a significant issue in the previous years of doing 360 degree shows before I was involved)
Achieving 360 degree coverage from a conventional line array system is not overly challenging if one is willing to hang 5 or more clusters. The problem is that one can not physically put two line array hangs next to each other without a space between them if they are not both pointed in the same direction.due to the "J" shape of a conventional line array.


Additionally, placing J shaped line arrays in close proximity will cause undesirable interference if the same signal is sent to to both arrays. To deal with the interference, the arrays need to be physically separated.


But regardless of whether they are closely placed or separated, the amount of sight line blockage of video screens can be an issue.

For this particulate show, the video screens in the arena scoreboard were incorporated as a central video source which meant that if I could place sound arrays at the 4 corners of the square scoreboard, I could minimize sight line blockage, yet to cover the venue sound wise each of the 4 sound arrays would need a relatively wide coverage and would need to be flown in a relatively limited vertical space.

To solve this challenge analyzed and compared coverage, volume levels and sight lines using a conventional J shaped Line array versus using an EAW ANYA system. The EAW ANYA system offers some unique advantages for this application in that the arrays hang in a straight line rather than a J shape. Additionally 2 or more arrays can be connected together side by side, increasing the horizontal coverage while minimizing blocking the video screens and lighting. Additionally, since the vertical coverage of the ANYA system is controlled electronically, the trim height of the sound system could be adjusted to an optimal height without compromising coverage. Here is the ANYA system layout with the goal of exceed 105 A weighted throughout the venue


And here is the system in the actual show during setup


And a closer pic of one of the arrays


And tweeted pic of the full show


In this application, it is all about sound being heard and not seen and an enjoyable challenge working with video, lights, riggers and all of production to merge everything together.

And as predicted, the system was able to meet meet the first 3 goals. In my next post I will discuss how goals #4 and #5 which involved the subwoofers challenges, were addressed.

Cool cool, and never forget to have fun making it loud!

DR

17 comments:

  1. Hi Dave, great article, thank you.
    Do you think "straight" arrays like the Anya system will be the next evolution of line array technology?

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  2. I definitely think that electronically steerable arrays will have a significant portion of the future.

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  4. Hi Dave,

    Your subwoofer design inspired me to do an analysis. Hope I got it right :-)

    Regards,

    Merlijn

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    1. Hello Merlijn, Your analysis is somewhat correct. I will post the Soundvision file in my next blog post along with more info. The results at one frequency are not very useful, especially for Bassnectar that has significant amounts of energy at a wide range of low frequencies.

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    2. Hi Dave, thanks for providing some additional hints. I've added a gradient solution to the album. Looking forward to your next blog :-)

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  6. We've come a long was since Earthquake, and later, Apocalypse Now!, debuted specialized subs at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Must be gratifying and just plain fun to be involved in cutting edge audio like this.

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  7. I was in an area were typically the bottom of the J would be facing , and I noticed certain Hz louder then others in that area , I did not notice this in all 3 nights and different seating positions at red rocks , I'm assuming it has to do with being electronically controlled ? Over all was great at New Years though

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    1. In the design, you can see the flown PA was pushed pretty far outward in relation to the barricade and stage. While this was advantageous visually and logistacally, there was an area between the barricade and behind the PA that relied upon the ring of 16 L-Acoustics ARCs on top of the inner sub ring. Having some frequency variation in the transitional area between the ground stack and flow systems was to be expected. While the J shaped predictions did allow us to hook the sound downward, we also needed back tilt on the system to cover the upper areas pushing the PA even farther outward. It was a very tight precision squeeze pulling the PA up as close inward as we did. Ideally we would have pushed the PA inward an additional 8 to 12 feet so the Anya could cover straight down and hit the people against the barricade, but like many things in life, it is about choosing the best path amongst a balancing act of many factors.

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  9. From my humble ears. The sound quality at NYE was the best I've ever heard. Thanks for the article it's always nice to see behind the scenes a little.
    I personally think that the crispness and clarity of te layers of sound have improved significantly this year starting at Red Rocks. Not only for bassnectar but the systems at the large festivals sound and feel better.

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    1. Very cool and thank you. Quite a bit of time and effort goes into trying to make the BN shows as memorable as possible and there are some significant challenges and often noise level restriction to overcome

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  10. Awesome read. I have had this notion that the last five or so songs that Lorin played were considerably louder than the rest of his set...so im hoping that you could confirm that it is true.

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    1. Hmmm, that I don't know. Lorin controls quite a bit of what is presented and Jason does his best to hand that over to the audience in a clear and powerful way. As far as any distinct level changes, that I am not aware of.

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