For the world premiere of the latest 007: James Bond movie Spectre on the 26 October, Britannia Row turned London’s Royal Albert Hall into a ‘state of the art’ cinema using the latest digital projection and audio systems.
Sony Pictures Releasing (UK), the film’s distributors hired event specialists Andy Peat Associates to manage the auditorium transformation and Nibbs Events to produce the ‘Red Carpet’, press and VIP arrivals on the South Steps. These two companies, who worked together successfully on the previous Bond films Die Another Day and Skyfall which also had their World and Royal premieres at the Royal Albert Hall, had a very tight time frame in which to work, following Bob Dylan who performed in the Hall the night before.
Technical director Andy Peat explained: “The films’ producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Brocolli are very clear and precise in what they want so we all know exactly what’s expected of us.”
“It’s not until you get into the realms of sound reproduction that things become a little trickier,” he continued. “Britannia Row Productions provided the audio infrastructure for us and there is history here. We’ve worked together on all the premieres I’ve done at the Hall and all with the sadly missed Derrick Zieba. It was he and Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant that came up with the audio designs for the ideal 5:1 and 7:1 systems for this Auditorium and refined them over the years. Bryan Grant suggested Colin Pink as the ideal man to fill Derrick’s shoes and so it proved; he and Richard Sharratt, who he brought in to engineer the system, did a really great job.”
Pink addressed the audio issues head on: “The first thing to say is staging this in the RAH and being in the round, presents its own set of problems: timing being the main one. So we spent a lot of time and attention setting that to retain clarity. The thing is the distances involved are so much greater than most typical cinemas.” The fundamentals of the system were L-Acoustics K1 and K2 hung L/C/R upstage of the screen, with a large contingent of L-Acoustics coaxial MTD 108P for surround sound distributed throughout the auditorium.
“Of course the film is not recorded in 7:1,” added Pink. “That sound track is created by, in this instance, sound director Scott Millan. He and the film’s sound editor Per Hallberg came down to the RAH mid-morning to check how we had the system set-up and how it sounded. With my background in the theatre I always set up in rehearsal not to make it sound good, rather I try and anticipate what will happen with a full auditorium. Scott understood that absolutely. The first thing he did upon arrival was to say, ‘I just want to sit and acclimatise for ten minutes’. Scott and Per were both very pleased, their only notes were to soften a bit of EQ on one part of the system, and reduce the level slightly in one element of the surround.”
Peat was very pleased with the outcome: “One week prior to the event Colin and Richard went to see a technical screening so they could have some experience of what the sound would be, the explosions, the music, the drama and dynamic of the sound track; the intimacy and stillness of Bond. Colin had that in his head and between him, Richard Sharratt and the Britrow team they then took the Zieba template, updated it accordingly and produced outstanding results. The team at Britannia Row are simply in a different league.”