The Buzz: Install of the Month

The city of Melbourne had long been plagued by a fundamental flaw in its city grid: the separation of the central business district from the scenic Yarra...
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The Buzz: Install of the Month

Dec 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Fred Nicolaus

The city of Melbourne had long been plagued by a fundamental flaw inits city grid: the separation of the central business district from thescenic Yarra riverfront. However, in the mid-'90s, a reorganization ofthe railroad network opened up a plot of land for development, and aproject began to create a unifying public space. Now the recentlyfinished Federation Square is a city-block-size arts and entertainmentcomplex that combines open plazas with innovative architecture. A majorpublic and private venture, it is projected to draw 6 million visitorsa year, many of whom will come for the concerts, lectures, andimpromptu performances to be held at the square's indoor and outdoorvenues. As would be expected, these required audio and video systems.In this way, the solution to Melbourne's urban design problem gave riseto a whole host of A/V challenges.

The largest venue at Federation Square is the square itself, asandstone-paved, irregularly shaped plaza surrounded by restaurants,cafés, and bars. With a capacity of 10,000, it features a largeLED screen and offers casual seating for outdoor concerts, exhibitions,and viewing of televised events. Because the screen is in directweather, a model with self-contained, waterproofed display tiles wasnecessary, and the Barco DLite7 was chosen. Among its othercapabilities, the DLite7 has a visual resolution of 7 mm and allows forhot swapping, the replacement of tiles without any interruptionin the performance of the display, a feature that comes in handy giventhe screen's 24/7 viewing schedule. The system is used to broadcastconstant news updates, short films, local and national information,live concerts, and major sporting events like the Rugby World Cup.

Despite the wealth and variety of events scheduled to be held in thesquare, the space was not designed with acoustics in mind. “Thespeakers are directed toward buildings with some harsh surfaces,”says Matt Edgcumbe, project manager for many of the sound systeminstallations at Federation Square. Subsequently, Meyer Sound CQ-1wide-coverage loudspeakers were placed halfway down the plaza toenhance direct-field sound at the rear.

“There is nowhere forward of the stage to fly the clusterfrom, so one of the main requirements was to project sound over the topof the stage without causing feedback,” says Edgcumbe. Thesquare's main cluster, made up of three Meyer M2D compact curvilineararray loudspeakers and an M2D-Sub subwoofer, was placed as close aspossible to the LED screen. Six UPM-1Ps are also used to provideambient sound in the plaza from the audio tracks of the program beingdisplayed on the screen.

For the plaza's audio infrastructure, Edgcumbe chose the BSSSoundweb networked signal processor. A multimedia fiber and Cat-6backbone provide the connectivity for a BSS 9088iiMM and two 9088iiLLsignal processors. These are fed with audio from the scheduledmultimedia system, which is then mixed with the local P.A. desk.Because the mixing desks are only temporarily set up for events, thenetwork is configured to allow the connection of several microphones inan automated mode when no operator is present. Additional Soundwebs areused in the square's other performance venue, the BMW Edge, as well asthree 9088iiLL devices for two THX-certified surround systems in thenearby ACMI multiplex.

The Edge is an indoor amphitheater with a capacity of 450, designedto host concerts, small- to medium-scale theater, comedy, talks, andpresentations. It is situated at the river end of the Atrium, one ofthe square's most prominent structures, a galleria-like construction ofglass, steel, and zinc. The overall effect is aesthetically pleasingbut acoustically unfriendly.

“With glass on three sides,” Edgcumbe says, “itwas important to direct the sound at the audience as accurately aspossible. So we flew two M2Ds and an M2D-Sub on either side of thestage. They were selected because of their tight directionalcharacteristics.” Shane Cannon, who handled system sales on theproject, says, “We had a great deal of glass to contend with, andthe beam configuration of the cabinets allowed us to focus the soundright were we wanted it.”

The ceiling also posed a rigging problem; conventional devicescouldn't attach to the angular glass panels. To overcome that, Edgcumbeand his staff had an adapter bar manufactured to attach to the MTG-2Dtop grid. That enabled them to drop cable slings through the narrowjoins in the ceiling to pick up the grid while allowing some azimuthadjustment of the cluster.

The official opening of Federation Square was presided by thepremier of Victoria, the Honorable Steve Bracks MP.

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