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Inside the Colorado Symphony’s Immersive Star Wars Show

Hyperspace got “hyperreal” when Clearwing Productions deployed L-Acoustics’ L-ISA for a live orchestral accompaniment to The Empire Strikes Back.

Broomfield, CO (June 7, 2019)—The concept of orchestras playing film scores live during screenings has come into vogue in recent years, but the Colorado Symphony kicked that up a notch recently when it performed the full score for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, CO. Clearwing Productions provided sound reinforcement for the shows, employing L-Acoustics’ L-ISA Hyperreal Sound technology to create a more immersive musical presentation.

Aric Christensen, who has served as the symphony’s head of audio for the past decade and a half, conceived of applying the technology to the shows when visiting the company’s L-ISA studio in Westlake Village. “When I was there, I listened to an immersive recording of an orchestra that was absolutely breathtaking,” he said. “Keep in mind that I do rehearsals and shows with an amazing orchestra five days a week, but this listening experience wasn’t simply like sitting amongst the orchestra members; it was almost like I was actually inside of the players’ instruments, and the emotional impact it had on me was incredible. I wanted our audiences to be able to have a similar experience.”

According to Clearwing account executive Justin Beneke, the L-ISA Wide configuration for The Empire Strikes Back at 1STBANK Center was comprised of 60 Kara flown in five identical arrays of 12 enclosures, with two outer arrays of 12 Kiva II each serving as the Extension system. Eight more Kiva II, double-stacked in four pairings, were evenly spread across the floor as audience front fills, while an additional four Kiva II per side delivered fill coverage to the front floor and bowl seats on the far sides of the performance area.

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Eight KS28 subs, flown in two cardioid hangs next to to the center Kara array, delivered the low-end reinforcement, and the entire system was driven by a combination of LA12X, LA8 and LA4X amplified controllers.

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Christensen mixed the shows on the orchestra’s newly Quantum-equipped DiGiCo SD7 FOH mixing console, with all 85 musicians individually miked for maximum gain-before-feedback and isolation. Added to these inputs were three sets of stereo inputs for dialog, sound effects, and auxiliary effects—including Chewbacca’s and R2-D2’s “voices.” Furthermore, an outboard master stereo reverb unit was also utilized to give the strings and woodwinds, in particular, “a more concert hall-like feel in an arena,” he says.

“L-ISA allowed me to do some very cool things,” Christensen explains. “Although the second violins in contemporary orchestras are always seated right next to the first violins, which are on the house left, I chose to sonically put them on the opposite side of the sound field to create a point-counterpoint interval play between them, which was really nice.

“Also, with a huge panorama of seven arrays to work within, I used L-ISA’s ‘width’ feature to stretch out each of the violin sections over several hangs—the first violins being panned out further to the left than they actually were on stage, and the second violins in the same position on the right. It gave us this really lovely, lush string sound that would be impossible to achieve with a traditional left-right or left-center-right system.”

Colorado Symphony •

Clearwing Productions •

L-Acoustics •