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Cirque Hawaii Sounds Off

A venue designed and built for one type of performance may not necessarily work for another. That was the challenge Creative Sound and Lighting of Kaneohe, HI, a small AV sales, service, rental, and installation company, faced in designing a new sound system for Cirque Hawaii, a troupe of acrobatic performers whose daily show is a dynamic display of physical prowess coupled with vibrant music to complete an entertainment spectacular rarely seen.

CHALLENGE: Provide an immersive surround sound system within the limited confines of a small, former IMAX theatre space.

SOLUTION: Design a unique audio system that's tailored to fit the room's dimensions and combines the dynamic quality of a theatre surround sound system with the versatility of a live performance system.

A VENUE DESIGNED and built for one type of performance may not necessarily work for another. That was the challenge Creative Sound and Lighting of Kaneohe, HI, a small AV sales, service, rental, and installation company, faced in designing a new sound system for Cirque Hawaii, a troupe of acrobatic performers whose daily show is a dynamic display of physical prowess coupled with vibrant music to complete an entertainment spectacular rarely seen.

Unrelated to the famous Cirque du Soleil, yet with similar elements, Cirque Hawaii settled on an old IMAX cinema to host its performances, which began long before the end of 2005. The theatre had been vacant for more than three years, but the group soon realized the shape and dimensions of the space would present challenges in designing and installing a high-quality sound system for live performance. Understanding how critical music and sound are to the show, the group's managers turned to Creative Sound and Lighting to design the new audio system in the space within a budget of around $100,000.

Cirque Hawaii's new sound system includes 12 JBL VRX932LA cabinets, powered by three Crown I-Tech 6000s, which were hung on each of the three extensions from the main truss grid, approximately 6 feet from the primary cross-section. Four JBL Control 29AVs per side, powered by a Crown CTS8200 and controlled by a dbx 481 loudspeaker processor, were also installed on each of the side walls.

Cirque Hawaii's new sound system includes 12 JBL VRX932LA cabinets, powered by three Crown I-Tech 6000s, which were hung on each of the three extensions from the main truss grid, approximately 6 feet from the primary cross-section. Four JBL Control 29AVs per side, powered by a Crown CTS8200 and controlled by a dbx 481 loudspeaker processor, were also installed on each of the side walls.

Jeff Kang, install technician at Creative Sound, says the production placed another wildcard on the table: Cirque Hawaii wanted great sound within budget, but also wanted a system that would operate in 5.1 surround while offering the ease of use of a standard stereo rig. “Not to make things even more difficult, but where do you put such a high-fidelity sound system in a space that has 2 inches of foam on all the walls, a sloped ceiling, and a steep incline on the floor?” Kang says. “Do you ground stack? Do you hang? If you hang, what do you hang to? How heavy or light does the system have to be?”

When the project was brought to Creative Sound, Kang, along with owner John Schneck and sales manager Eric Agustin, needed to find a system that could hang in a way that would provide the group with the coverage and quality it wanted without sacrificing the mobility of the performers, the appearance of the set, or the integrity of the existing building.

The structure's weight limitations prevented Creative Sound from hanging a PA system off the walls or ceiling. However, a box truss system being installed from the floor to the ceiling would provide rigging points where they could hang speakers, although they would end up directly over the audience. Because of the vertical nature of the venue and the fact that the team was asked to keep the weight to a minimum to prevent overloading the truss structure, Creative Sound chose the JBL VRX932LA compact line array system for the task.

“The larger JBL VerTecs were beyond the budget, so the next best thing was the VRX, which — if powered correctly — would provide an immersive auditory experience without compromising quality, and would still remain within budget,” Kang says. “We looked at the power requirement of 800 watts per cabinet and immediately decided on the Crown I-Tech series. The amplifiers not only had the correct power for the loudspeakers, but also had the built-in DSP available to replace expensive outboard gear like EQ, compressors, crossovers, and limiters. We felt the amplifiers gave us the power and control we wanted to bi-amplify the cabinets and properly handle the crossovers.”

One unique feature of the VRX923LA that proved valuable on this project was its amplitude shading circuitry. By setting a series of switches on each enclosure, the output of each individual high-frequency driver in the array can be adjusted to result in a coverage pattern that suits the geometry of the venue. This allows the designer to tune the array to deliver more output to the rear of the seating area and less to the area near the cluster.

Unique space

Because sound sources in an IMAX theatre are designed to come from behind perforations in the curved screen, the space wasn't conducive to the standard approach of hanging proscenium clusters left/center/right. “Another challenge was that they asked us to design a system to hang speakers, without knowing the hanging points or the truss locations,” Kang says. “When they approached us, they knew they were installing a truss system; however, they couldn't show us where it would end up, what shape or size it would be, or how much weight it would be able to handle. It was determined that the existing structure wouldn't be able to support speaker clusters, while the floor-standing truss system would be able to support a considerable load.”



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