Conception and realization of the FOH-mix for an open air event with a symphony orchestra and varying instrumental soloists.
Special challenges / difficulties:
A very big and open round arch stage, different instrumental soloists, very wide listener's surface, television production (visible audio engineering as little as possible)
The Eurovision Young Musicians (EYM) is a competition for young musicians in the area of classical music. This event is run by the EBU (European Broadcast Union), a union of public law media institutions from 56 countries. At the end of this competition each of the 14 participants has to perform a title together with the WDR-symphony orchestra, and that under open air condition.
The Cologne "Roncalliplatz" where everything took place offered a spectators' area of approx. 44m width and approx. 22m depth. As a main reinforcement system an L-acoustics K2 system (8 elements each side) was used. The low-end formed an array of six SB 28 subs directly in front of the stage. As a front fill four Kara-elements were integrated into the front end of the approx. 2 m high stage.
The company PADCO entrusted me with the concept and realization of the FOH-mix.
In contrast to a concert hall even such a big ensemble does not produce enough sound energy to reach the listeners' area adequately. That’s the reason why with open air events it is absolutely necessary to use a lot of microphones in short distance to pick up all the instruments. To be able to guarantee a relatively realistic conversion for this big body of sound for spectators, I decided to choose time instead of level panorama settings for the left/right allocation of the instruments.
The "classical" intensity-panorama (level setting) for the left/right orientation would just work for only a few listeners in the center of the listeners' surface (sweet-spot). The down side of this level based method is that creating a realistic image of width for only very few listeners lead to absolutely irrelevant mixing results for the majority of listeners, especially in the edge area. This is the reason why very often big classical bodies of sound are mixed in mono at open air events.
To clarify the problem here is an example:
(All left and right seen from the view of the audience to the stage)
Let's take the audio a signal of the last stand of the first violin which is placed classically to the left. By using a "normal" intensity panorama controller this corresponds technically seen with the action that this signal will get more level in the left loudspeakers and less in the right loudspeakers. For the listener in the sweet spot this means that the first violin hearing-related moves to the left. However, for the listeners in the left edge this means that the first violin just gets louder and thereby the volume relation to the other instruments is not right any more. For the listeners in the right edge area the first violin might get so quietly in the whole mix that it is not perceived anymore.
Therefore it is clear that intensity (level) panorama disqualifies itself for such a purpose. After several years of experimentation with different time constellations I developed a system which allows me to build a relatively realistic left/right allocation of the orchestra microphones for a very wide listeners' area. Another big advantage of this kind of sound distribution is that the listeners in the extreme edge areas are not able to hear in stereo. But the mono mix they hear is from its tonal balance identic to the mix of the remaining listeners' area.
Another important fact is trying to make a "normal" listener forget that there is an acoustical reinforcement system in use. That means to match the sound image with the optical impression. The main loudspeakers, especially with TV productions, are hung pretty high, to interfere as little as possible with the pictures of the cameras. This results in a big discrepancy between the place at which the musicians are, and the place from which the sound comes. Therefore, it is very important to work with frontfill loudspeakers. In the case of the relatively big height of the stage we could integrate the frontfill loudspeakers under the stage into the stage risers.
I used a Yamaha CL5 console for the mix of the more than 70 input channels and the realization of the time matrix.
Article from PRODUCTION PARTNER 7/8 2014 here as PDF-Download: