For the third consecutive year, Out Board Electronics’ TiMax level and delay matrix system has been specified for Raymond Gubbay's in-the-round production of Verdi’s Aida at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
When staging an in-the-round production such as Aida, the issue of vocal localisation and intelligibility invariably rears its head, creating all manner of difficulties when it comes to allowing the audience to locate the source of the multiple voices vying for its attention. With a stage measuring 20m x 25m, and with so many cast members taking to the stage simultaneously throughout the show, the task of creating clear distinctions as to exactly where individual vocals are emanating from can be fraught.
However, featuring once again in sound designer Bobby Aitken’s Royal Albert Hall designs, Out Board Electronics’ TiMax audio location system has been deployed to tackle such problems via the use of a multitude of simultaneous time alignments to the speaker system, with a localisation delay setup programmed for each of several specific stage zones. This was achieved by dividing the stage into segments of around five metres in diameter, while a time alignment or Image Definition was set up on the TiMax system for each zone. As the performers make their way around the stage, the Image Definition applied to the signal from the actors’ microphones is changed, which subsequently allows the audience, regardless of location, to differentiate the location and the source of each voice coming from the stage.
The sound system in place at the Royal Albert Hall for vocal reinforcement comprised a total of 18 d&b audiotechnik E0 front fill loudspeakers driven from ten TiMax outputs, which were built into the stage floor and covered with grills, while the main PA was divided into down fills to provide coverage for the upper stalls, as well as long throw speakers for coverage in the upper circle and upper boxes. These were flown on a circular truss 15m above the stage in order to meet sight line restrictions. Nine flown drops of three Meyer UPJ’s each were each fed from further TiMax outputs, with nine separate extra cabinets for the Upper Circle on offset delays provided by XTA processors, which also handled all system EQ. Upper Choir seating areas were covered by two drops of four Meyer M1D’s with lower Choir areas served by d&b E3’s mounted on the handrail.
The orchestra system was made up of Martin Audio Longbow main line-array drops, outfills and subs, which were also fed from TiMax with some flatline delay added to focus them back to the orchestra platform, taking the total number of TiMax2 SoundHub outputs in use to 26.
A Digico D5T console was utilised to feed seven principals’ radio mics from channel direct-outs to TiMax SoundHub analogue inputs, plus two chorus groups. TiMax also received orchestra left, right and sub from the D5T, vocal reverb and three off-stage mic channels, including two in the gallery and one special subterranean scene input.
Furthermore, mounted around the balcony hardrails to fully map the oval stage, stalls stairways and upstage areas in three dimensions were seven TiMax Tracker TT Sensors. This extended performer tracking , allowing automatic pre-cueing of the show’s numerous offstage entrances.
The sensors received sequenced pulses of UWB 6-8GHz signal from TT Tags worn by the principals, from which the TiMax Tracker location server then applied vector (AOA) and time (TDOA) analysis to track the actors in real-time and continuously adjust the delay settings in TiMax SoundHub to maintain seamless audio localisation simultaneously for the individual radio mic feeds. The two chorus groups were were not tracked, therefore remaining statically localised for the entire show.