The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland near the nation’s capital likes to celebrate Christmas in a big way. Set in the property’s towering 19-story glass garden atrium with its views of the river, “Christmas on the Potomac” is the hotel’s myriad holiday installation crowned by Cirque Dreams Unwrapped, a six-week-long (Nov 15 to Dec 30), 25-minute Christmas fable combining breathtaking artistry and showmanship from around the world with spectacular costumes, classic Christmas music, a dancing fountain, laser-light show, indoor snowfall and soaring imagination.
Bringing this production sonically alive was the task of an L-Acoustics Kara system, designed and installed by Showtime Sound LLC of Frederick, Maryland. The system was split between the atrium’s lower and upper terraces: the former comprised a left-right design of one SB18 subwoofer groundstacked with five Kara enclosures per side to cover the ticketed seating areas, and a flown LCR delay system of three hangs of one SB18 over seven Kara for standing and balcony areas. Six LA12X amplified controllers powered the delay system while three LA12X were used for the groundstacked enclosures. The system also used the L-Acoustic P1 processor for system management, routing, and time alignment, as well as for its AVB compatibility for long-distance signal transport. Audio came into the P1’s AES inputs and was sent as AVB over fiber to the amplified controllers.
Showtime Sound LLC had two distinct challenges on this project. “The atrium is huge—it’s 110 feet below the steel, about 240 feet wide, and the lower area is almost 200 feet deep,” explains Showtime Sound LLC Director of Operations and Production Brian Linnemann. “It’s also surrounded by hard, reflective surfaces, including a huge glass wall and ceiling, plus concrete balconies. We had to keep the sound directly and precisely on the seating and away from the reflective surfaces. Fortunately, the Kara enclosures can be aimed extremely precisely. We used L-Acoustics Soundvision modeling and prediction software and the result was perfect—great, uniform coverage with high intelligibility and plenty of impact for the music.”
The second challenge was to move the audio signal around this yawning canyon while keeping the cabling and components out of sight. The LA-RAK II amp rack for the groundstacked array was within 50 feet of the stage, but the other two racks for the flown system were located on a balcony about 120 feet vertically from the stage, necessitating substantial fiber and Cat-5 runs. That, says Linnemann, is where L-Acoustics’ compatibility with the AVB networked protocol made a huge difference.
“With AVB, through the P1, we were able to send both the audio and amplifier control over the same wire, which cut down on the amount of cabling needed,” he says. “In the past, we’ve used Dante for the audio, but that protocol can’t also carry the control data. With P1’s AVB compatibility, and Luminex GigaCore switches over the hotel’s own network infrastructure, we had a complete solution for both. It was the first time we’d deployed this arrangement here, and it worked flawlessly. By using so much less cabling, keeping it neat and invisible, which contributes to the quality of the show, was much easier.”
But in the end it all comes down to the audio fidelity, and the Kara system sounded “simply outstanding,” as Linnemann puts it. “The impact of the music was there, the dialog was clear and crisp,” he says. “The sound really completes a spectacular show like this, and this year’s audio was fantastic.”
Credit for all photos: Liz Peterson