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Installation Profile: Full Steam Ahead

Measuring at more than a thousand feet long and capable of accommodating 3,100 passengers per voyage, Royal Caribbean's newest ship, the Mariner of the

Installation Profile: Full Steam Ahead

Jun 1, 2004 12:00 PM,
By Linda Seid Frembes

Studio B converts from an ice rink to a theater

Measuring at more than a thousand feet long and capable of accommodating 3,100 passengers per voyage, Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, the

Mariner of the Seas

, is one of the largest luxury liners sailing the open ocean. The

Mariner of the Seas

, which requires a crew of 1,200 to operate, is a testament to both modern shipbuilding ability and AV technology.

Among its 32 venues, the 140,000-ton ship boasts a main dining area, six themed restaurants, a five-story, 1,359-seat theater, several nightclubs, a state-of-the-art conference facility, and an ice-skating rink that doubles as a theatrical performance space.

The

Mariner

is the fifth liner in the Voyager-class series of cruise ships built for Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCCL) by Kvaerner Masa-Yards’ Turku shipyard in Finland. The first,

Voyager of the Seas

, was delivered in 1999 and served as the shipbuilding and AV template for the forthcoming sister ships. “The first three ships were built to a hard AV specification,” says Rex Stull, president of TeleDimensions International (TDI), a systems integration firm that specializes in the cruise ship industry. TDI’s role began with just owner-supply for Voyager and steadily grew into providing both owner-supply and design/install work for the later ships. “Changes and adaptations to the spec began as soon as the first ship set sail,” says Stull.

The Savoy Theater seats 1,359 guests.

The Voyager class broke the mold for RCCL; it was 40 percent larger than any other ship to date. Because of its sheer size, a number of AV design firms were employed to complete the shipwide specification, which made consistency difficult to achieve. “No single unified choices were made in the original design,” says Stull. “Different brands were used for the same purpose. The

Navigator

[fourth in the series] and

Mariner

were more of an open specification, where there was some new performance and cost criteria that needed to be met. RCCL wanted to make some changes to drive down price and drive up quality and performance. There were some venues that were over- and underdesigned, so we approached changes with an eye for consistency. This allowed us to incorporate new technology and techniques that also saved RCCL money.”

MAJOR VENUES

Stull, along with TDI CEO Marc Goossens, worked closely with RCCL’s sound, lighting, video, and rigging specialist Christopher Vlassopulos to ensure the

Mariner

would meet and exceed the new performance and cost requirements. Vlassopulos, who has been with RCCL for the past four years, brings extensive installation and project management experience to his role as fleetwide manager of all AV products.

“My scope of responsibilities includes maintenance of AV equipment on existing ships as well as specifying every single piece of gear on a new ship. The task can be extremely complicated and political since we buy the ship in total from the shipyard,” says Vlassopulos. “There are specific approaches to the specification process since there is a history of what we need and where. For certain facilities, there are no surprises since we do not make radical changes from one ship to another. We know how to support certain functions in certain spaces across the fleet.”

Among the many areas under Vlassopulos’s supervision is the Royal Promenade. The four-deck-high horizontal promenade was a design featured for the first time on the Voyager-series cruise ships. The length of the promenade is approximately 394 feet on each deck and features boutiques, restaurants, street carnivals, and performers. The Royal Promenade can change in ambience during the course of a day through the use of special lighting and theatrical effects. Sound is by 16 custom Clair Brothers loudspeakers hidden in the wall facade throughout the promenade. Background music for the main dining room is tied into the paging P.A. system, which is based on Bose 102 loudspeakers. For the themed restaurants, background music is controlled at a central rack through a Peavey MediaMatrix X-Frame 88.

Deeper into the ship, its major venues give a better understanding as to the AV challenges facing Vlassopulos and the TDI team. With no central control room, each AV system is locally maintained and operated. The Savoy Theater, the ship’s main theatrical performance space, seats a total of 1,359 guests on three decks and ranges over the entire width of the ship. Studio B is a 900-seat arena that converts from an ice-skating rink to a performance space by way of a sliding floor that covers the ice. The Dragon’s Lair is a full-scale dance club two decks high, with decor resembling a Gothic castle. For business travelers, the

Mariner

also features a fully equipped conference area that includes wireless touch panels and digital projectors.

The Clarity video walls are concealed behind the proscenium drapes in the Savoy until needed.

The

Mariner of the Seas

relies on a relatively small AV staff of five sound and light technicians, three broadcast technicians, seven stage staff, as well as two stage and production managers.

BROADWAY ON THE ATLANTIC

The Savoy Theater is the main performance space on the ship. Featuring three levels of seating, the theater has only six columns, which results in nearly unobstructed views from any location. The Savoy is billed as a professional-class space fit for Broadway productions. The theater can accommodate a show of any size or technical difficulty.

TDI installed the audio system, supplied the video walls, and helped to program the show control computer. “Across the ship, I was most gratified by the main theater and the way it sounded when it was delivered,” Goossens says. “The sound quality is phenomenal since it’s such a well-constructed room. The speaker placement and selection is well done. The entire package is just right. Every time we turn on that room, I get chills down my spine.”

The theater’s sound system totals 66 EAW loudspeakers powered by 35 QSC Audio CX-series amplifiers. The configuration has a two-tier center cluster with three KF650Zs above and two KF300Es flanking an SB330E below. Two proscenium stacks have two KF650Zs and one KF695Z, one SB250P, and one SB528P per side. The rest of the loudspeakers consist of JF80s, MK2194s, and a custom model, the SL12, for fills and surround. Moving lights and fixtures by Martin Professional and Wildfire are controlled by a Flying Pig Wholehog II console. Savoy’s video walls consist of eight Clarity Tigress 52-inch DLP cubes in a 2-by-2 configuration on either side of the proscenium. The Savoy has a full video production booth that can source from video servers, videotape, DVD, cameras, satellite feeds, and effects generators.

TDI also changed the main theater console to a traditional analog mixer that was more compatible to the rest of the fleet, which simplified the operational process. Royal Caribbean preferred to have a traditional live console rather than one suited for recording purposes. The analog Crest V12 was chosen because it fit the application and budget. On the

Navigator

and

Mariner

, all amps were consolidated into one brand, QSC, for greater ease of use and built-in redundancy. It also gave the crew a smaller spares package and the ability to swap amps from venue to venue if need be.

SKATING TO THE CARIBBEAN

The Dragon’s Lair nightclub is two decks high.

Studio B has the distinction of doubling as an ice rink for an ice-skating show or as a theater, and it can be reconfigured on the fly to switch from one setup to the other when necessary. A portion of Studio B’s seating area and proscenium stage are mounted on a sliding floor that can extend out to cover the ice. The versatile setups allow for either a complete ice area, a complete stage and performance area, or a combination of both. Based on the type of cruise, the changeover occurs anywhere from one to four times per week.Studio B’s multipurpose duties are supported by an equally flexible AV system. Studio B has a 4-by-4 cube video wall, multiple TV screens, LCD screens, LED signs, various cameras, and a fully equipped video production booth. “It is a more robust audio system than in the main theater,” Stull says. “Since it’s a multipurpose room, we had to configure the system for a number of different coverage patterns for diverse applications. We also had the goal of making the system super user-friendly so that the staff could operate it without much training.”To make the system user-friendly, TDI used the QSControl monitor and remote-control feature on the QSC power amplifier system combined with BSS Soundweb processing and crossovers to preset the audio routing and delay settings for both stage and ice. QSC also went the extra step to write a custom control application interface that graphically represents the room and makes it easier to understand how to change the presets. Additionally, TDI installed a large patch bay system to give Studio B ultimate flexibility.“Our architects [Wilson, Butler, Lodge] designed Studio B around the fact that it was a technically challenging space. They worked closely with me on speaker placements to ensure maximum configuration options,” says Vlassopulos. In Stage mode, four EAW KF650 constitute the main center cluster, with two each EAW KF650s in the left and right clusters. Two stacks of three EAW SB250 subwoofers are recessed in both proscenium walls. Ten EAW FR153 loudspeakers line the perimeter of the ice rink and act as delay fills. With a simple flip of a switch, Ice Rink mode activates the FR153 loudspeakers as the main system.THE DRAGON’S LAIRThe Mariner‘s fascinating architectural contribution is realized as the Dragon’s Lair, a two-story Gothic nightclub located in the middle of the ship. Conceived as a 600-year-old dungeon by architectural firm Designteam UK, the Dragon’s Lair is a variation in Gothic theme of other clubs on the Voyager-class ships. “We were initially concerned about the concept of a dungeon on a cruise ship. We came up with the theme as an antithesis to the previous version’s modern, futuristic style. The idea of modern music in an ancient setting was appealing,” says Eric Mouzourides, principal at Designteam. “The layout and style of room have been so successful that it’s been retained on four ships in the Voyager series. It is the most successful club that they have on any of the ships.”The club’s lighting elements include an extensive package of products from Martin controlled by a Martin LightJockey computer and a 2532 Direct Access located in the DJ booth.“A ship’s nightclub is always the most difficult thing on many levels. You have to create the right feel for a family cruise ship. With the Dragon’s Lair, it is a nice design, and the footprint is correct. Since it is completely disconnected from the adjoining walls, there is no way the sound can get out and disturb sleeping passengers,” says Vlassopulos. “To date we’ve had no sound complaints. Yet inside the club, the sound is better than a club on South Beach.”And like a club on South Beach, the Lair’s sound system includes loudspeakers from EAW’s Avalon series designed especially for nightclubs. The system features four EAW DC4 loudspeakers mounted to the ceiling of the club facing downward toward the dance floor. There are four EAW SB150 subwoofers mounted in the lighting rig between the first and second levels, and an EAW SB528 subwoofer is mounted at floor level. Forty-two-inch Fujitsu plasma monitors are placed throughout the club for video ambience.In order to achieve the remarkably quiet result outside the Lair, Oslo-based architectural firm Yran and Storbraaten worked with professors of acoustics and engineers at the shipyard to create a floating framework. The first floor of the club is raised off of the steel structure underneath by more than a foot of insulation. Using massive amounts of insulation throughout the walls of the club, as well, there is virtually no sound transmission to the adjacent passenger corridor.TRULY BUSINESS CLASSBelieve it or not, the Mariner often caters to businesses looking for a unique way to kick off a product launch or hold a conference. The conference room facilities were born out of the needs of business passengers who could attend a company event and combine it with a family vacation. The Conference Center is equipped with everything a business passenger would expect to find in a corporate facility, including AMX control systems, flat panels, architectural lighting control, and video projection. Tie lines allow for AV feeds between rooms and to a central broadcast room for videoconferencing. In the Conference Center’s rack room, an Extron Crosspoint 1616HV RGBHV matrix switcher routes video between each of the four meeting rooms. The 1616HV switches separate horizontal and vertical sync, providing a more stable image.With a maximum capacity of 1,000 people, the Mariner‘s conference facility is highly configurable, with four separate meeting rooms that may be combined by sliding air walls, similar to setups found in hotels and convention centers. Four independent sound systems on an Intelix M16L16L audio matrix allow for seamless switching between configurations. Aesthetics plays an important role in the meeting rooms with a Panasonic WV CS854 camera and a Panasonic WV-RM70 camera controller on a Draper in-ceiling lift with a Draper LVC-III power control in each room. In addition, two Da-Lite 60-by-80 Cosmopolitan Electrol screens are concealed in each meeting room. The screens are rotatable 90 degrees and can be used vertically or horizontally.“Our biggest challenge was making the AMX control system user-friendly due to the number of configurations of the room. Our requirements included the ability to bring in a feed from Studio B and to switch lighting presets on the fly,” says Stull. “The solution was to design a multilevel control program for the AMX with a simple screen layout but to also design an underlying interface for a more complicated advanced setup based on the user’s experience level.” The AMX system includes five AXD-CV10 color video wall touch panels, one AXM-CA10 10.4-inch color active rackmount touch panel, and one AXT-CA10 tilting tabletop console.“The other big challenge was to find the best method of combining the sound system to make them work as one,” says Goossens. “In any of the configurations, once you have your point of reference for placing the loudspeakers, it all falls into place.”Total loudspeakers for the conference room include 60 JBL Control 26CT ceiling speakers and 20 JBL Control 19CST in-ceiling subwoofers, powered by QSC CX-series amplifiers. Also offered as a business amenity is a multimedia screening room with 30 seats and a Da-Lite Ultimate 130, 16:9 cinema projection screen with full surround sound. The surround system features six JBL Control 25 for surround fill, two Mackie ART200As, one JBL 4645C subwoofer, and three JBL 3678A loudspeakers with a Lexicon DC-2 DTS 8-channel digital controller.FLOATING TECH SUPPORTBut besides some of the usual challenges that you would find during an installation on land, the Mariner faces an additional obstacle: the Atlantic Ocean. Voyages dock in Port Canaveral, Florida, for 11 hours to change over the 3,100 passengers, leaving only a five-hour window to do any service and maintenance.“A classic example is a recent issue I had with a digital projector on one of the ships. The lamp power supply was a bad design and wouldn’t run. When they finally got it running, it would not sustain the ship’s power and failed within five minutes,” says Vlassopulos. “When I called for service, their response was ‘Oh, just bring it in.’ Well, I can’t do that right now since the ship is in the middle of the ocean!”Vlassopulos faces additional service problems because ships are bought through the yard. This technicality often hinders any warranty repair. His answer to the challenge was to first create the International Cruise Ship Entertainment Professional Association to foster communication between his colleagues and to open up dialog with the AV manufacturing community. The second was to consolidate brands and equipment for new and existing ships.“To maintain such varied venues on a fleet of 20 ships, I am constantly looking for ways to ease any service issues. For most manufacturers, there is no specialist for the cruise ship industry, so we must look after ourselves. We know what works and what doesn’t in this environment — power source issues on the ship and problems from constant vibration, for instance,” says Vlassopulos. “I have gravitated towards brands that are reliable and easy to maintain. On the Mariner, ship-wide wireless is Shure and amps are QSC.”The cruise industry benefits by technology that allows smaller AV equipment that demands less power. “Our equipment requirements do not change. What we do on the Mariner is the fundamental backbone of the AV systems for our future ships,” says Vlassopulos. “We’re helped because the technology is becoming more available. There is a huge emphasis on reliable, quality, robust equipment. This ship is working 24/7 for many years, with finite space to store spares.”Vlassopulos is currently working on the Royal Caribbean UltraVoyager, debuting in 2006.Linda Seid Frembesis a freelance writer and public-relations specialist for the professional audio and video industries. She can be reached atlinda@frembes.com.More InformationAMX Corp.
www.amx.comBose
www.bose.comBSS Audio
www.bss.co.ukClair Brothers
www.clair-audio.comClarity Visual Systems
www.clarityvisual.comCrest Audio
www.crestaudio.comDa-Lite Screen Company
www.da-lite.comDraper
www.draperinc.comEAW
www.eaw.comExtron Electronics
www.extron.comFujitsu
www.fujitsu.comFlying Pig Systems
www.flyingpig.comIntelix
www.intelix.comJBL Professional
www.jblpro.comLexicon
www.lexicon.comMackie
www.mackie.comMartin Professional
www.martin.comPanasonic
www.panasonic.comPeavey
www.peavey.comQSC Audio
www.qscaudio.comShure
www.shure.comTeleDimensions International
www.teledimensions.comWildfire
www.wildfirefx.com

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