Chicago, ILâ€“â€“On Stage Audio (OSA) recently put Martin Audioâ€™s MLA (Multicellular Loudspeaker Array) system to good use for â€œOprahâ€™s Surprise Spectacular,â€? a live Oprah Winfrey farewell show taped at Chicagoâ€™s United Center for 13,000 fans and national TV broadcast a week later.
OSA partnered with MLA launch customer SES (Special Event Services) to provide the most expansive system yet assembled in the U.S. The array included 99 MLA, 11 MLD downfill enclosures, and 26 MLX subs for front and side fill, center hall and back hall arrays, with 12 subs flown and 14 ground-stacked under the stage.
Under the direction of Harpo Studioâ€™s audio production team, the show featured a number of talented artists such as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Patti Labelle, Jamie Foxx, Alicia Keys, Josh Groban and Rascal Flatts.
OSAâ€™s multifaceted challenge was achieving absolutely even and balanced coverage for the â€œsurpriseâ€? guest
of honor Oprah Winfrey, guest artists, the onstage orchestra and choir, and the high-profile celebrities in attendanceâ€“â€“along with a coloration-free sound for the broadcast remote mix in the large sports arena which is home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks.
Typical of most large sports venues, the cavernous United Center has several tiers of steel and concrete designed to amplify the crowd sounds and reflect them downwards to the playing area, not an ideal setting for audio production.
Besides, the epic scale of the event, time was a critical issue because the Bulls were in the NBA playoffs and with just over a day for load-in and setup, Jim Risgin, OSA Vice President, crew chief, engineer and system tech for the event, says his tem â€œhad to be ready for any and all scenarios. We had to be fluid and react quickly to a show that because of its scale and complexity, was a moving target right until the moment it started, which in large part explains why we went with MLA.â€?
Expanding their system with additional MLA enclosures from SES, OSA worked closely with MLA system designer Jason Baird, technical liaison Ferrit Rowe and Martin Audioâ€™s North American Sales Director Rob Hofkamp to come up with a system that, in Risginâ€™s words, â€œcould go up in a very short time, and deliver the goods for the show without sacrificing the audience experience even though it was being taped for TV.
â€œWe chose MLA,â€? Risgin continues, â€œbecause of its exceptional pattern control and off-axis rejection so we could keep the sound exactly where we wanted it to go. Even with this large a system, it didnâ€™t take us that long to optimize the setup. We only had to fine-tune the vertical pattern coverage of the main and side clusters via software a few dB to dramatically reduce the reflections in the upper levels of the arena without physically touching a cabinet.
â€œThat, plus rotating both clusters 5Âº allowed us to cover the runway off the main stage and the smaller center stage where many of the guests gathered without adding a separate PA as point source, which would have been a problem because of television.â€?
John Harris of Music Mix Mobile who recorded the musical elements and live line mix for the TV broadcast was glad to avoid excessive room coloration and capture the excitement of the audience while getting â€œa very nice and smooth room sound.â€?
Chris Rabold, FOH for Beyonce, who mixed one of the eveningâ€™s most powerful sequences combining choreography, music and vocals for the first live interpretation of her single, â€œRun the World (Girls),â€? was also pleased with MLA.
“I was impressed by the system’s reproduction and intelligibility of vocal content and its coverage,â€? he said. â€œThe system sounded natural, and true, no matter where anyone with a mic was standing. There’s clearly a lot of potential in this system and I’m sure we’re going to be seeing more and more of it as we make the rounds in the future.”
Photo credit: Brendan Shanley @lostinprint
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About MLAâ„¢ (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array)
The result of many years of intensive R&D, MLAâ€™s methodology replaces trial-and-error array design with intelligent numerical optimization of the arrayâ€™s output based on a highly accurate acoustic model. The multi-cellular format has six individual cells in each enclosure, each with its own DSP and amplification.
With up to 24 enclosures, each MLA array has up to 144 cells — too great a number to optimize manually, or by ear. Instead, Martin Audioâ€™s proprietary Display2â„¢ system design software automatically calculates FIR DSP filters for each cell and a redundant-ring audio network (U-NETâ„¢) downloads the settings into each array enclosure. Martin Audioâ€™s VU-NETâ„¢ software provides real-time control and monitoring of the system.
MLA delivers a frequency response and SPL consistency never before achievable; a very high system output (140dB peak, per cabinet @1m); Automatic optimization of the array, both physically (splay angles) and electronically (DSP); Computer control and monitoring of the entire system, and total control of sound system balance for engineers and sound technicians.
MLA is fully integrated, with Class D amplification, DSP and U-NET digital audio
network built into each enclosure. MLA complete systems are ready-to-use, with MLA, MLD and MLX enclosures, flying hardware, software, cabling and training all supplied. Everything needed is included. All ancillary items â€” from tablet PC and Merlinâ„¢ controller to network interconnects and mains distro â€” are also included in the complete system package. This ensures full compatibility worldwide, down to cabling and accessories.
Additional features include 90Â° x 7.5Â° dispersion; a compact size (1136mm wide x 372mm high x 675mm deep), one-box-fits-all (festivals to theaters) application range and a global voltage, power factor corrected power supply.
MLAâ€™s compact size and very high output allows it to be shipped using smaller trucks, offering considerable savings and reduced carbon footprint. The system also includes the MLX powered, flyable subwoofer capable of an unprecedented measured peak output of 150dB @ 1m; MLD downfill cabinet, and Merlin 4-in/10-out system controller and network hub. Audio input is via analog, AES3 or U-NET.
By adopting these principles and system components MLA is optimized for every member of the audience â€” from a 2,000 capacity theater, to a 20,000-seat arena, to a 100,000-person festival site. It will deliver the engineerâ€™s exact mix to every seat (up to over 150 meters) with precision, exceptional power and clarity.
About Martin AudioÂ®
Founded by audio engineer David Martin in 1971, Martin Audio pioneered the use of all-horn-loaded bass designs in world-class touring loudspeaker systems for groups such as Pink Floyd, ELP and Supertramp. Located outside of London, Martin Audio now embodies a sophisticated mix of acoustic design, research, mathematical modeling and software engineering for a wide range of products in the installation, cinema and touring sound markets.