The Buzz: Installation Profile: Onboard Monitoring
Jun 4, 2009 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer
Carnival Cruise Lines Splendor, Los Angeles
Carnival Cruise Lines' ship Splendor uses a Yamaha PM5D digital mixing console and an Aviom Pro64 system in its 1,300-seat show lounge. Aviom Pro16 personal mixers allow the front-of-house mixer to control microphone preamp levels remotely. The Aviom Pro64 digital snake system uses inexpensive Cat-5, which simplifies cable management.
Carnival Cruise Lines' largest ship to date, the Splendor, carries up to 3,006 guests and 1,150 staff members on weekly voyages around the Pacific from its home port in Los Angeles. A technologically innovative ship, the Splendor features a two-deck-high "sliding sky dome" that covers its open-air pool in the event of a shower, as well as a Seaside Theatre with a 12'x22' LED screen that shows first-run movies.
Onboard the Splendor, technological innovation benefits not only guests, but also technical staff and musicians. Carnival has adopted a 32-channel Aviom Pro64 system to solve audio distribution and monitoring issues for its stage show, The Beat. Every evening, the musical variety show entertains passengers in the 1,300-seat Spectacular Spectacular main show lounge.
The ship's audiovisual team, led by Carnival Cruise Lines' audio supervisor for entertainment, James Keaton, wanted a system that could be controlled remotely and reconfigured to meet the changing demands of the ship's entertainment programs. Aviom's 6416m mic input module includes a remote-control feature that allows an audio engineer to change audio levels and recall settings from the control room that sits far above the stage of the ship's Show Lounge. The show's 10-piece orchestra sits in a steel box that is lowered 15ft. below the stage by hydraulics. The metal walls create high noise levels for the musicians, and Aviom's Pro16 in-ear monitoring allows them to customize their monitor mixes to ameliorate the noise conditions.
Each of Carnival's 22 vessels uses Aviom Pro16 personal mixer systems. With previous generations of Aviom gear, operators were not able to remotely control microphone preamps.
"You had to have somebody do a preliminary mic adjustment on the stage," Keaton says of the former setup. With the newer Pro64 network, the front-of-house mixer can manipulate preamp levels via a palm-sized remote control that sits on the lounge's Yamaha PM5D digital mixing console.
To accommodate the Pro64 system, two Aviom 6416Y2 A-Net interface cards were installed in the Show Lounge's PM5D console to provide two sets of 32-channel distribution. By adding the two cards, Carnival effectively added 32 analog inputs and 32 analog outputs via a single Cat-5 cable. These joined the console's existing 48 mic inputs and four stereo inputs.
On stage are two Aviom 6416m mic input modules, one for the set and another for the band cart that supports the 10-piece orchestra. This allows the audio engineer to adjust the levels of the preamps from the control room four decks above the stage. On the stage, an ASI A-Net Systems Interface unit allows the Aviom Pro16 series A-16II personal mixers used by the band to interface with the Pro64 audio network.
The Pro64 digital snake features Cat-5 connectivity, which simplifies cable management.
"On our older ships, usually you have the mass connector, like a huge multipin," Keaton says. "When the pins get bent or damaged or dinged or squashed, it created a large pain the in the butt." If anything happens to the Cat-5 cable, Keaton says, it's easy enough to replace.
Thirty-two channels come into the console via Cat-5, and 16 channels go back out to the bandstand, whether it's raised or lowered. Across that output is the monitoring, including prerecorded tracks, metronome tracks, and the musicians' instruments.
"Providing them with the ability to use personal monitoring—headphones of some type—it helps protect their hearing," Keaton says, "and it gives them a much better quality of monitoring compared with what was done in the past.
"The environment on a cruise ship is one of the most difficult and challenging environments for any piece of electrical equipment. The ships are obviously on a generator, and just the task of maintaining clean and stable power on a moving vessel is a challenge within itself."
Keaton explains that the ship employs uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) wherever possible to avoid spikes and drops in power.
"There's not a true ground, and that has its own challenges. And different power supplies and different pieces of equipment react differently onboard," he says.