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!