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Live Sound

d&b Soundscape Makes Broadway Debut with ‘Lobby Hero’

Event drama becomes first Broadway show to use Soundscape.

New York, NY (May 17, 2018)—Kenneth Lonergan’s 2001 drama, Lobby Hero, recently got a starry Broadway revival this spring, with Chris Evans (Captain America), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), Michael Cera (Arrested Development), and Bel Powley (Arcadia) gracing the stage of the Helen Hayes Theater. Also of note was the production’s audio system, as it was the first Broadway show to use d&b audiotechnik’s new d&b Soundscape signal processing engine and matrix—a move prompted by sound designer Darron L. West and his associate designer, Charles Coes.

“We knew that Lobby Hero was on a turntable and there were early discussions of that turntable being used, at low speed, to constantly change the perspective during scenes,” said Coes. “Usually Darron and I create very, very carefully delayed multizone reinforcement systems and this is tricky on a moving turntable, so my main interest was in the reinforcement. Once we talked about Soundscape and Darron realized that he could use it to create object based effects rather than manually setting levels, he wanted to expand our usage to sound effects, too.”

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The Soundscape engine has two optional software modules; for the purposes of Lobby Hero, the En-Scene software option was used to allow West the individual placement and movement of up to 64 sound objects, such as the New York street adjacent the lobby. While the d&b-based PA was laid out in traditional theater style—proscenium L/R at the upper and lower levels, center cluster and down-fill, under and over-balcony delays, and a surround system across the orchestra and balcony levels—Soundscape used the system differently.

Using an early pre-release version of Soundscape provided by d&b, the team aimed to integrate the street sounds—”the music of New York” as West put it—without the audio drawing attention to itself. “For me, the one thing I did not want was for Soundscape to take a lot of notice,” he said. “It had to be something integral to the production, not imposed on top of the play. That it has achieved, Lobby Hero remains a show of subtleties.”

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Coes elaborated, “Soundscape offered us a user-friendly way to keep the reinforcement and conceptual content focused on them, but also to deliver it to a house with several tricky acoustical zones. The Hayes is, as it is in many Broadway houses, very different under the balcony and at the rear of the balcony. Darron keeps us focused on the story; it’s my job to keep the technology supporting that and out of the way. Soundscape made that easy. It is a slightly different workflow than our usual approach for a straight play, so sorting that out took some time, but once we figured out how best to address it, it was simpler than our previous gear choices for large programmable matrices.”

D&b audiotechnik •