Back in 2012, Ultra Worldwide, producers of the award-winning Ultra Music Festival in Miami, launched a new event concept appropriately named ‘Road to Ultra’.
Incorporating cutting-edge production values, the journey unfolded through Thailand, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Colombia, Paraguay and Chile. But the most recent addition to the portfolio—the Hong Kong edition, scheduled to take place in the noise sensitive new urban development area of West Kowloon Cultural District’s Nursery Park—was to be the most challenging.
The electronic music extravaganza set out to unite fellow electronic music lovers, and attract tourism from neighboring cities across Asia and Greater China. “We’re calling all ‘Ultranauts’ and dance music fanatics to witness history in the making and support Hong Kong to the next level of a full-fledged edition Ultra festival in the region,” said the promoters. But at the same time, they knew the location had historically been dogged with noise pollution issues.
Faced with this challenge, production manager Alex Ng, long experienced in staging top line Western artists in the region, had been keen to put Martin Audio’s award-winning MLA to the ‘ultra’ test. She asked their local partner MSI Japan whether seasoned sound technician (and Martin Audio product support engineer) Chris Pyne would be available to assist set-up and optimization programming—knowing the sonic capabilities of such electronic music exponents as Knife Party, Martin Garrix and Nero and the need for containment.
Pyne, who is no stranger to the region himself, and conducted his first ever international concert in Hong Kong back in 1984, described the layout of this densely populated area and the potential threat of noise pollution from the single stage event, which would be attended by upwards of 8,000 dance aficionados.
“The Ritz Carlton is immediately behind the park, alongside other high end accommodation plus the Sky 100 [a 360-degree indoor observation deck on the 100th floor of the International Commerce Center]. Across Victoria Harbour is Hong Kong Island — and the water has the effect of extending the audio spill due to a denser air layer above the surface.”
He particularly wanted to get rid of noise issues from behind the stage, using the Hard Avoid setting in Martin Audio’s DISPLAY software. “During the event we were receiving noise data from the three measurement points, taken by the local Government department and the event production management every 15 minutes, but we received no complaints throughout the entire day,” he reports.
This was a ‘first’ for an outdoor festival of this type in Hong Kong, and as such Pyne even managed to increase the SPL after 8pm by applying additional DSP—with the unexpected result that the offsite thresholds were in fact even lower than previously. He reports that the best offsite figures recorded were 101dB(A) at FOH with between 66dB(A) to 70dB(A) offsite.
The entire MLA inventory, including stage monitoring and control, was supplied by MSI Japan. This included 13 MLA elements (plus a single MLD Downfill) on each stage flank. The heavily utilized 24 MLX subs were stacked in a cardioid ‘spaced array’ — in eight columns of three — with the bottom speaker reversed. With just a 330 ft. throw distance, no delays were required.
The event was an unqualified success. The SPL had complied with all offsite thresholds when measured at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park, Sky 100 Hong Kong Observation Deck and The Arch Residences—and the local government was extremely impressed with the results, as was the management of the West Kowloon Entertainment District.
Summing up, Chris Pyne said, “The sound quality was great and we received many positive comments from the DJs and their management companies. This was an important outing for MLA and the event has clearly set a high benchmark for others to match. We have proved conclusively that local authorities can now get around sound issues in this location. I was extremely happy with the overall result, as working in an urban environment such as this is fraught with potential problems.”
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