The Sydney Theatre Company (STC) has reopened its home venue, The Wharf, at Walsh Bay in Sydney, Australia following a two-year closure for a total renovation, featuring Meyer Sound’s Spacemap Go spatial audio technology.
A complete technical upgrade saw 32 new Meyer Sound loudspeakers installed, largely drawn from the US firm’s new ULTRA-X series.
The system was designed by Bob McCarthy and Josh Dorn-Fehrmann to implement Spacemap Go, Meyer Sound’s new tool for spatial sound design and live mixing. In February of this year, STC’s production of Playing Beatie Bow became one of the world’s first theatrical productions to use spatial effects provided by the new technology based on the GALAXY Network Platform utilising Milan and a new iPad user interface.
For the theatre’s sound and video manager Ben Lightowlers, choosing the right solution was crucial, so the venue chose to retain full control of the PA budget.
“We did explore options from other manufacturers,” he commented, “but over the years we’ve been happy with the UPJ and UPM loudspeakers, which we could easily integrate into the new systems. More importantly, we were very impressed with the new ULTRA-X loudspeakers. They are excellent for vocal clarity, which is paramount as the dialogue must be out front. But they are also exceptional for music.”
Spacemap Go allows the system to be reconfigured to accommodate the 420-seat Wharf 1 Theatre’s various seating configurations, including end-on, L-shape and in-the-round, as well as sound effect source locations specific to a particular production. Systems were supplied by Soundcorp, a Diversified Company. In any configuration, sound designers can leverage the spatial sound potentials of Spacemap Go.
“When Spacemap Go came along during this renewal project, it was exciting to have that added dimension,” added Lightowlers. “I’m responsible for assuring our sound designers have access to a system that will afford them full creative potential. You don’t want them to think too much about the system itself, so they can focus on their art and what they want to communicate with sound. The fact that you can control Spacemap Go from QLab via OSC made the Meyer Sound solution an easy sell.”
David Bergman, the sound designer for Playing Beatie Bow, was the first to leverage the power of the technology, allocating up to 20 outputs from QLab as direct objects for Spacemap Go.
“The composer, Clemence Williams, and I have been loving the way we can run various trajectories throughout the show,” he said. “Some trajectories are doing slow circles around the audience while some randomly zig-zag. It’s been great to move around sounds like wind, reverbs, and solo instruments that otherwise would be static. I love how democratic it makes the show. No one misses out and every show will feel slightly different, even from the same seat!”
Spacemap Go was introduced after Bergman’s sound design already was underway. However, from now on he said he expects to rethink dynamic sound possibilities from the outset. “We have just started exploring the capabilities. The next time I would love to build more specific spacemaps and trajectories, with more intricate recalls from QLab,” he noted.
Lightowlers concluded: “It’s exciting to have a new system that is one coherent palette and have it backed by outstanding support. Some companies will sell you the boxes and then you are on your own, but that is absolutely not the case with Meyer Sound. The ongoing support, especially regarding additional configuration setups, has been outstanding.”