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Designer Cees Wagenaar and Ampco Pro Rent used IC16s to localise vocal imaging for a unique open air performance

An amplified outdoor performance of Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) in Holland in September marked the first European use of Renkus-Heinz’s Iconyx digitally controllable column arrays as part of a live sound system design.

The show was staged during the Zeeland Nazomer Festival in Terneuzen, at the Port of Zeeland. Featuring five soloists, a large choir and a full symphony orchestra, it was performed in the open on a floating stage in Terneuzen’s harbour in front of an audience of 1,000. Ampco Pro Rent provided the audio production, with the Iconyx loudspeakers supplied by sister company TM Audio, Renkus-Heinz’s Dutch distributor.

Sound designer Cees Wagenaar of BV Oorzaak specialises in large-scale opera and classical music and was hired by the producers to create a system design capable of conveying the stirring power of Wagner in full flight – without the assistance of walls or ceiling. “I wasn’t precisely sure what the producers expected, nor what the weather conditions would be,” he comments, “so my line array solution was slightly over-the-top. But Wagner is very dynamically written with a lot of brass and percussion, and you really need the headroom.”

His spec called for left and right hangs of line array, eight a side, flown off tall truss masts and angled down at the audience grandstand. Various fills were provided by Renkus-Heinz Synco STS and CE3 cabinets, with Renkus-Heinz TRC 81/9 and SR5 speakers serving as compact stage monitors – mixed by Rob Acket – relaying the orchestra and choir sound to the soloists.

When it came to the five soloists’ own sound reinforcement, Wagenaar’s aim was to localise their voices to their physical positions on stage, a role for which he’d used other column loudspeakers in the past. An audition of Renkus-Heinz’s Iconyx digitally controlled column arrays earlier this year, he says, literally changed the sonic landscape for him.

“My opinion is that you need to set the speakers where your sources are, so for the singers I wanted to place the speakers right there in among the singers. The small, narrow shape of the Iconyx means you can put them where you want them, as long as the producer agrees – that’s one of the demands of my sound design. In this case we incorporated them into the set so they’re invisible to the audience. In the planning everyone was a little anxious about that but when they were installed you just couldn’t see them anymore.”

Of even greater relevance, he says, was the new loudspeaker’s acoustic performance, designed from the outset not only for voice but full-range music. “The great advantage of this speaker is that it has a very precise vertical opening angle, so there’s no feedback even if a singer is standing close to the column. The other unique thing about these columns is that they’re very warm-sounding; usually columns sound like columns but this is a music loudspeaker.”

A pair of Iconyx IC16s, each of which standard 1.9 metres tall and around 18 cm square, was placed at stage level to the left and right of stage center, spaced apart by a few metres and directly within the soloists’ performance area. With each of the column’s 16 full-range coaxial drivers equipped with an individual DSP channel and amplifier, they were focused by Wagenaar and TM Audio’s Reinier Bruijns using Renkus-Heinz’s BeamWare software, and precisely timing-aligned with the line arrays via BSS Soundweb.

Wagenaar adds: “If you place them correctly, as with most line arrays, you have very equal sound pressure from front to back. The whole IC16 is effectively one loudspeaker with a single acoustical source point, and because you can electronically adjust the opening angle in the vertical plane, you can really focus sound exactly where you want it.”

With the main clusters, flown high above the stage from truss towers, carrying the orchestra and choir sound, the stage-level Iconyx columns provided a distinct acoustical location for the soloists’ vocals within that broad sound field. The two IC16s were programmed to create a square 10 degree lobe, and were tilted backwards to raise the gain before feedback level behind them, as they were positioned between the singers; they were also covered with acoustically transparent fabric to match the set design.

Wagenaar continues: “By hanging the clusters high and concealing the IC16s, gain before feedback was excellent and visual intrusion of all the loudspeakers was minimised. The combination gave us a wide dynamic range, with an excellent separation of the solo vocals in the mix.”

The orchestra was miked using a mixture of some 82 microphones, including DPA, Neumann, AK, Shure, Sennheiser and Crown models, and pre-mixed on two 48-channel Allen & Heath ML5000 consoles, each of which sent two pre-mix channels to a Yamaha 48-channel M7CL at FOH. Processing included a Lexicon 480L.

Choir miking was somewhat unconventional and again used DPA mics – this time allocated as one mic per pair of choristers, each mic being shoulder-worn: “We do that,” says Wagenaar, “to create a very nice, diffuse vocal sound across the whole chorus.”

Reinier Bruijns comments: “It all started with the Iconyx seminars that TM Audio held back in May when Cees heard the system for the first time. He said he’d like to try it in the summer and we were more than happy to oblige. It was a fascinating exercise, to be part of something completely new. We all learned a lot of new things and heard a new approach to live sound reinforcement that worked incredibly well – not something you can say about every day’s work."


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