When North America’s largest not-for-profit theatre, Canada’s Stratford Festival, was forced to reinvent itself outdoors to meet the challenges of pandemic gathering restrictions for 2021, its need for wireless audio grew greatly in importance.
When technical director Greg Dougherty, head of sound Mike Duncan, and associate technical director David Campbell consulted with system designer Peter McBoyle, the choice was clear: three Lectrosonics Venue 2 six-channel receivers, 16 ultra-compact SSM transmitters, and four HHa handheld wireless mics.
“We had never done productions outdoors, where you have no control over the ambient noise,” says Dougherty.
“So, a core decision was to mic every cast member in every show – which we usually only do for musicals. The small size of the SSMs made that more palatable for cast members who aren’t used to being miked at all.”
The restrictions due to the pandemic gave the team an additional reason for their long-standing practice of fitting each actor with two transmitters as a failsafe.
“Our first use of SSMs was for A Chorus Line in 2016, long before the pandemic,” recalls Campbell.
“You had actors in revealing costumes, onstage for the entire show with no intermission. The micro size was a real game-changer for us, because the actors just loved them so much that we realised we needed to up our SSM inventory.”
“From a covid standpoint, double-packing means we know we won’t have to get at the actors in the middle of a show, and with the SSMs being so tiny it’s easy to double-pack everybody,” adds McBoyle, who had long been a fan of Lectrosonics’ sound quality.
“I was an original beta tester for the SSMs via Colin Bernard from Lectrosonics Canada. Before that, he’d given me a demo of some SMQVs for a show in Toronto. The sound was so open, it was like the mics were on cables!
"I then specified them for a Broadway show I wound up doing that had a lot of wireless musical instrument mics – DPA and that sort of thing – sounded amazing through them, with no artifacts from companding.”
Beyond size, another feature that recommended the SSMs was off-brand compatibility, which was a boon to the team before they purchased their Venue2 receivers.
“Although we have a decent operating budget, we can’t just spec a new system for every show like they do on Broadway,” explains McBoyle.
“When we got all the SSMs for A Chorus Line, it was a huge benefit that we could run some of the SSMs in an emulation mode and use them with our old receivers until we could find the budget for more Venue2.”