Oct 1, 2002 12:00 PM, BY CAROLINE MOSS
The small Swiss lakeside town of Neuchâtel (population 40,000) became the artistic focus of World Expo 2002, as Switzerland took its turn to host the national exhibition. One of the custom-built venues at Neuchâtel, the Cargo Club, installed a state-of-the-art sound system to lure international artists and DJs to the exhibition, which ran from May to October.
The design concept for World Expo 2002, for which discussions began in 1995, featured five arteplages, or artificial beaches, along Switzerland's beautiful lakesides. Four were built partially on land and partially on the lake, and the fifth is on a boat that traveled from one site to another. The Cargo Club is built into the framework of the Neuchâtel arteplage, the Expo's artistic center, in a venue constructed over the water.
The Cargo Club hosted free concerts and events for the duration of the exhibition. Four nights a week, from Mondays through Thursdays, the club's lounge area was open to the public, providing a place to relax to ambient background music. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, shows from live music to DJ sets were scheduled, with featured artists including Sonic Youth, Suzanne Vega, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The eclectic house style also encompassed live reggae performances, electronic music, and drum 'n' bass DJs. Some were ticketed events; most of the concerts were free.
Angus, a Lausanne, Switzerland-based company an hour's drive from Neuchâtel, manages the 1,500-capacity Cargo Club and maintains technical equipment. Most of Angus's employees have worked in the music industry for many years, and they decided that the club needed a high-end sound system that would meet with approval from sound engineers of visiting bands from around the world, not to mention the demand from promoters for a line array system. Accordingly, the sound system features the first permanent Swiss installation of Meyer Sound's M2D compact curvilinear array loudspeaker system, provided by Swiss pro-audio distributor Niveau 2.
“Every night there is a different show, so it was necessary to have a system that is acceptable to international sound crews,” says Patrick Vogelsang, Niveau 2 director. Vogelsang and his team submitted their plan to Angus in October 2001. Angus general coordinator Michael Kinzer was instrumental in the choice of the Meyer Sound system.
“There were two distinct elements in the criteria for installing the technical equipment,” Kinzer says. “First of all, it was important for us to have a very up-to-date system, which corresponded with the wishes of the Expo 2002 organizers to present a high standard. The second consideration was that we had certain limitations concerning the sound-pressure levels, as the noise limitations of the Cargo correspond to the national law — 93 dB average. Both of these criteria led us to choose a sound system based on the Meyer Sound M2D.”
Kinzer says the way that the sound can be directed to all the levels and locations of the venue proved important, because the gallery is fairly large. Vogelsang convinced Angus that the M2D, which combines tight vertical pattern control with relatively long throw, would be the best way forward.
“The new system is a huge improvement on the standard of club sound that we're used to, which is usually a problem because it often sounds very loud near the front, yet you have to push the system to reach the people at the back,” Kinzer says. “The M2D has eliminated this problem.”
FROM THE GROUND UP
Angus and Niveau 2 began work on the installation in April 2002, when the building was still an empty shell. Kinzer and his project leader, Patrick David, were responsible for overseeing the complete assignment, including all technical installations, artistic concepts, and interior decor. “The building was already designed as a purpose-built club,” says Kinzer. “It's pretty standard. In fact, it's perfect for a club, being a wide, high building with a main dance floor and a U-shaped gallery.”
Vogelsang worked with Meyer Sound's Todd Meier and Mike Cooper to design the sound system, and rental company Hyperson handled the installation. The design had to be flexible enough to accommodate three distinct entertainment concepts: live bands, DJ events, and lounge evenings when the stage is curtained off and mellower, prerecorded music is played.
This was the first time Vogelsang had worked with Meyer Sound's M2D system. “The M2D is the perfect size and provides plenty of power for the venue,” says Vogelsang. “We found the system really easy to fly, and it's given us good horizontal coverage.”
The design process involved Niveau 2's first use of Meyer Sound MAPP (Multipurpose Acoustical Prediction Program) Online (see the sidebar, “How MAPP Online Works”). “We designed the system on paper, and then Todd Meier translated the design into AutoCAD,” Vogelsang says. “I then confirmed the design concept with MAPP Online. For the prediction, we provided the dimensions of the room, the height of the speakers, the number of speakers, and the locations of floor and wall surfaces.” Once the physical system was in place, Vogelsang fine-tuned it using Meyer Sound's SIM System II fast Fourier transform analyzer, which confirmed that the acoustic predictions were correct.
“We were impressed with MAPP Online,” Vogelsang says. “We used it just two weeks after it was launched at Frankfurt, so it was really good timing from our point of view.”
The Cargo Club's system consists of six M2Ds on each side of the 59.06-by-39.37-foot (18-by-12-meter) stage, with two M2D subcompact subwoofers side-by-side, four 650-P high-power subwoofers, a central pair of UPA-1P compact wide-coverage loudspeakers, and a pair of UPA-1Ps for front fill. A Soundcraft MH4 desk provides the front-of-house mix, with two BSS Audio DPR-404, 4-channel compressors; three Drawmer DS201, 2-channel gates; a BSS Audio FCS-960, 2-channel, 31-band equalizer; a Yamaha SPX990 and SPX1000 multi-effects processor; a Lexicon 300 multi-effects/digital reverb; a Tascam DA30 DAT recorder; and a Tascam CD150 CD player. For DJ events, the club provides three Technics MKII turntables, a Pioneer DJM-600 DJ mixing desk, and two Pioneer CDJ 500S CD players with pitch control. A selection of Shure, Sennheiser, and Audix microphones with BSS direct-injection boxes are also available, and Harting cabling was used throughout the project.
Niveau 2 also supplied a stage monitoring system of ten Meyer Sound UM-1P narrow-coverage stage monitors and four USM-1P extended-range, narrow-coverage stage monitors. A Soundcraft SM24 monitor console with four BSS Audio FCS-960, 2-channel, 31-band equalizers; a BSS Audio DPR-404, 4-channel compressor; a BSS Audio DPR-504, 4-channel gate; and a Yamaha Pro R3 multi-effects processor provide the monitor mix.
One of the challenges that the sound team had to address was providing additional level for the gallery when the club was used for lounge evenings. On those occasions, the overall sound level in the club was lower than it was for live performances or DJ events. A front delay system of two CQ-1 wide-coverage main loudspeakers, flown for the gallery, can be used when only background music is required.
Adrien Coendoz of Serafin Lampion provided the Cargo Club's lighting design and installation. Lighting was chosen on the basis of equipment most frequently used by bands touring this type of venue. There were three main requirements: a strong live stage show, dynamic dance-floor lighting, and original ambient lighting during the lounge evenings.
Working in close collaboration with set designer Harold Berrard, Coendoz designed a system that created an agreeable atmosphere in the venue before and after concerts. The second part of his task was to create the “chill-out lounge” for the lounge evenings. “To accomplish this, we hung a central white curtain on a rail to hide the stage,” Coendoz says. “This curtain is lit from behind with six High End Systems Studiocolor 575s on the stage truss, and a lot of small sources are focused on the armchairs, sofas, tables, and bar zones to create the audience atmosphere. For DJ events, we added four Clay Paky super scan zooms, some pars, and a large (4.92 feet [1.5 meter]) mirror ball in the center of the dance floor.”
Six Richard Martin Lighting Mac 500s also light the stage, along with 12 PAR64 solos, 6 PAR64 six-pipes, 5 PAR16 four-pipes, 2 aircraft series, and 5 Robert Juliat Profiles. Four Profiles and six Strand 1 kw Fresnels light the front of the club. An MA Lighting Lightcommander 48/96 dmx and an MA Scancommander dmx provide lighting control. All light and truss equipment was supplied and built by Geneva-based light and laser company Skynight. Although the facility has no permanent video-projection system, equipment is rented from a local supplier to meet the requirements of the visiting artists' riders.
Kinzer says the club has experienced few technical problems since opening. “I often come and check out the club in the evenings to see how everything is running, even though I don't work there at night,” Kinzer says. “In fact, the only thing that ran smoothly at first was the technical side. That was because we had no idea how many people were going to turn up, as there was no history of this kind of venue in Neuchâtel, and because most of the events were free, we didn't even have presales figures. Consequently, people were lining up for over an hour, which put a strain on areas like security and the bar. Also, because it's free entry, there was a high turnover; if people didn't like the music, they'd leave. Though this caused problems, the lighting and sound systems were functioning perfectly, and we didn't have to worry about them.”
House engineer Sasha Ruffieux says the sound system has pleased the majority of visiting acts. “Most of the visiting sound engineers think the system is great, and it's been flexible enough to cope with all the different types of music we've put on here,” Ruffieux says.
The Cargo Club was a huge success during the summer of 2002, bringing international artists and DJs to a small Swiss town. Yet the people of Neuchâtel may not have much longer to enjoy a state-of-the-art club. With Expo 2002 finishing in October, the building is now up for sale. Whether it will be purchased as a shell or as a complete entity remains to be seen.
Caroline Moss is a freelance writer and journalist based in London. For the past decade, she has specialized in the pro-audio industry.
How Mapp Online Works
Meyer Sound's MAPP (Multipurpose Acoustical Prediction Program) Online is a cross-platform, Internet-enabled application for accurately predicting the coverage pattern, frequency response, impulse response, and maximum sound-pressure-level (SPL) output of arrayed Meyer Sound loudspeakers (patent pending). MAPP Online has two components: a Java applet that runs on the sound system designer's desktop or laptop computer, and a prediction algorithm that runs remotely and that the Java applet accesses over the Internet. An Internet connection is therefore required to request and display predictions.
Residing on the local host computer, the MAPP Online Java application facilitates configuring arrays and, optionally, defining the environment in which they will operate — including air temperature, pressure, and humidity, as well as the location and composition of walls. When a prediction is requested, information travels over the Internet to a high-powered server at Meyer Sound's headquarters in Berkeley, California, which runs a sophisticated acoustical prediction algorithm using high-resolution, complex (magnitude and phase) polar data. (The loudspeaker information used by MAPP is acquired at 1/24-octave frequency resolution and one degree angular resolution in a calibrated anechoic environment.)
Predicted information is returned over the Internet and displayed on the local host in color. MAPP Online offers four displays of predicted system performance:
Sound field: A map of the physical space with loudspeaker(s) installed, showing the distribution of sound energy in a specified frequency band. (In MAPP's sound-field display, the color spectrum signifies sound intensity, with reds being the loudest and blues the softest.)
Spectrum: A graph of sound intensity versus frequency in ⅉ-octave bands, showing the linear frequency-weighted SPL, as measured at a specified microphone position when the loudspeakers are driven with pink noise to the onset of limiting.
Frequency response: A graph of the ratio between system input and output levels, normalized to 0 dB at 1,001 Hz as measured at a specified microphone position, with respect to frequency. The curve may be unsmoothed (1/24-octave resolution) or smoothed to 1/6- or ⅓-octave resolution.
Impulse response: A graph showing the band-limited, normalized response of the system as amplitude versus time. The impulse response can predict precise settings of delay controllers for sound-system alignment.
MAPP Online's ability to predict frequency and impulse response affords real, practical benefits for sound-system designers. With MAPP designers can not only conceive optimal sound systems for any application but also predetermine equalization for flat frequency response using a virtual VX-1 program equalizer. (The VX-1 is a Meyer Sound product designed for gentle shaping of system response; MAPP Online models its functions.) MAPP Online also provides detailed physical information about loudspeaker arrays that can be used to determine rigging load capacities.
MAPP Online is compatible with Windows, Linux, Unix, and Macintosh computers running Mac OS X, version 10.1.2 or higher. It requires Java Web Start, version 1.0.1_02 (included with Mac OS X).
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