Yamaha CL5s Solve Swiss Timing Challenge
Six weeks of July and August 2012 have seen a pair of Yamaha CL5s undertake their most challenging task yet. Backed by stunning lakeland scenery and with the CL5s solving complex delay panning issues, Tell - Das Musical recounts the story of Switzerland’s most famous folk hero.
Located in the northern Swiss town of Walenstadt, on the shore of the picturesque Walensee, the open air theatre has a capacity of 2000 and a huge, 60m wide by 30m deep, stage. Behind it the surrounding mountains plunge dramatically into the lake, bringing a true sense of grandeur to proceedings. Sound designer Andreas Brull was tasked with producing an audioscape that matched the scale of the venue. However, it also meant that a complex delay system was required to ensure the sold-out audiences enjoyed pristine audio quality. Together with audio equipment provider Hyposound AG, whose Christoph Muller was the show’s technical director, Andreas chose a pair of Yamaha CL5 consoles and two Rio 3224-D i/o modules, run in a daisy chain setup, to deliver the required sonic quality.
“We have used Yamaha consoles for many years because of their reliability, excellent facilities at an attractive price and high quality support,” says Hyposound’s Mike Muller. “The range of consoles covers all of our needs and, of course, they are so universal that every engineer knows them.” Tobias Stritt mixed the production’s 12-piece orchestra on one of the CL5s, while the vocals - 32 channels of radio mics plus three inputs from a vocal booth for additional background vocals - were mixed on the second by ‘Serge’.
“The show’s composer Marc Schubring loves movie sound, so he wanted a really big-sounding production. It was a real challenge with a 12-piece orchestra and meant I had to use a lot of the CL5’s internal effects,” says Tobias. “These included a doubler plus several room reverbs to fatten up the string sounds. The percussion had its own reverb, which blends very nicely with the main orchestral sound. I was also using the Neve Portico Compressors on all outputs.”
Given composer Marc’s desire for a ‘big’ sound, it was somewhat ironic that the scale of the production’s setting provided the biggest technical challenge for the audio team - and is where the flexibility and channel count of the CL5s really came into their own.
The stereo orchestra mix came from loudspeakers located on two towers which flank the stage, while vocals were from a three-point system mounted left, centre and right, integrated in the downstage decor. Four further loudspeakers were used for delays, mounted on poles in the auditorium. These and the LCR vocal system also carried the orchestra mix at low level.
With a stage 60m wide, there were many timing issues to overcome and the audio team had to devise a sophisticated delay setup.
“Our approach was to delay the content, rather than the speakers,” says Mike. “Thanks to the amount of channels available on the desks and in the Dante network, the signal distribution was handled via the CL5s.
“The positions of the main vocal loudspeakers were defined as three basic play positions, with the output routing of the vocals being programmed L, C or R on the vocal desk, depending where the actors were on stage. These three outputs were each split seven times, each then being routed to an input channel on the orchestra desk. Input delays are applied to these three sets of seven inputs, in order to achieve the corresponding delay panned image, with each of the seven channels sent to a speaker in the vocal / delay system via the matrix of the orchestra desk.”
Monitoring was slightly more straightforward, the musicians in the orchestra pit using Behringer personal monitor mixing systems fed from direct outs and mixes, routed through a Yamaha MY16-AT ADAT interface in the orchestra CL5.
Onstage monitoring for the actors was provided by customised orchestra mixes, sent from the orchestra desk to the vocal desk and distributed to 17 monitors integrated within the set. “Again, due to the actors often being some distance from the main music system, a split and delayed channel was used when appropriate to match the main system’s timing,” says Mike.
Naturally, the complexity of the setup meant that the entire production had to be programmed on the CL5s, the vocal desk having 160 scenes and the orchestra desk 50.
“As with all shows, the director was involved with artistic issues at the point where we had to start putting things together. So one of the big challenges was to get all the information we needed for pre-programming - for example which actor would be singing and where they would be on stage. In addition, it is always difficult to find good positions for monitors, since nobody wants to see them on the set,” says Serge.
However, thanks to some excellent team work and helpful technology like Yamaha’s StageMix iPad app, the system has worked flawlessly.
“In previous years sound designers have struggled with delay panning, even on smaller stages,” says technical director Christoph. “But not this time. The timing was perfectly under control the whole time, thanks to the CL5 and the hard work of the sound team. Together they were a fantastic combination.”
Tobias and Serge were also very happy with using the CL5s. “The CL series custom fader bank is a great new feature. It’s a very intuitive console to use and has all the features I need to produce a high quality orchestra mix,” says Tobias.
Serge agrees, adding “The CL5’s logic is very easy and understandable. The addition of Nuendo Live has also made a big difference. We often did rehearsals while the band and some of the actors weren’t present. In early rehearsals we used the Audinate Virtual Soundcard with Cubase to record the rehearsals and soundcheck. The release of Nuendo Live was a big step forward - with it we could fly everything in very easily. The Scene-Recall Link function also makes finding the correct playback position super easy.”
The most succinct appraisal of the CL5’s success comes from Marco Wyss, CEO of TSW Musical AG, which staged Tell - Das Musical. After the show’s debut he summed up his impression by saying “The premiere sounded amazing!”