Mark Carlson (left) and Allan Bagley pause with a rack of three EAW UX8800 digital signal processors.Seattle (May 28, 2008)–A recent visit by the Dalai Lama to Seattle attracted passionate crowds by the thousands to two of the city’s largest venues–Qwest Field and Key Arena–where they were treated to events featuring a wide range of performances and speeches, including acoustic concert performances by the Dave Matthews Band and Death Cab for Cutie.
Large-scale sound reinforcement systems and technical support at both venues in support of remarks by the exiled Tibetan political and spiritual leader, as well as for all other featured contributors, was supplied by Carlson Audio, a Seattle-based audio systems provider, which spent months refining its approach to the events so that it would meet a long list of constantly changing requirements.
At Qwest Field, home of the NFL Seattle Seahawks, where more than 50,000 turned out for the proceedings, Carlson Audio elected to utilize the venue’s house sound system, headed by an all-EAW loudspeaker lineup, to provide coverage to most seating areas. Some portions of the ceremonies, meanwhile, were also served by field-located, left-right configured EAW KF750 three-way loudspeaker arrays joined by EAW SB1000z dual-18-loaded subwoofers that were all driven by QSC PowerLight Series amplifiers and time delayed for synchronicity with the house system.
The most challenging aspect of the event proved to be supplying monitoring for a vast 3,000-member choir located in the lower seating bowl behind the main stage. “We first conceived using EAW KF760 Series line arrays, mounted on carts that could be rolled out by our crew, to provide coverage,” said Mark Carlson. “The difficulty, however, is that many of the seats in that region are simply too low in the bowl and close to the surface.”
The decision was made to use a EAW NTL720 compact, self-powered line array system in its first-ever U.S. public application. Dual NTL720 arrays comprised of six modules each were flown from secured Genie lifts behind the stage, providing 100-degree horizontal dispersion.
“The NTL720 is awesome,” Carlson said. “In the past, we would have had to assemble a PA from various pieces to serve this application, but the NTL720 includes everything in one compact package. The modules are small, light, powered, processed, and only one person is needed to rig and fly. Just run a cable to them, and you’re done. What a godsend.”
Miking the far-flung choir was tricky, but touring veteran Mike Scerra and Carlson Audio system tech Courtney Rusk mounted aircraft cable from an upper deck structure, which was then used to suspend two AKG C 391 condenser microphones on boom arms above the choir. Three more C 391’s were stand-mounted on the field level.
“This worked out really great; we were able to capture exceptional choir input, even considering the circumstances,” Carlson noted. Further fine-tuning came with time aligning the signal from these mics via the Yamaha PM5D digital house console manned by FOH engineer Kristian Harper of ATK/Audiotek (Burbank, CA). Another PM5D was supplied for monitor engineer Jesse Simmons of Carlson Audio.
Many of the same components were deployed when the scene shifted to Key Arena, for the final day’s proceedings, which drew more than 16,000. Under the direction of Carlson Audio chief engineer Allan Bagley, sound reinforcement was presented “in the round” by a concert system configured to supply 360 degrees of coverage.
Carlson Audio elected to go with EAW KF760 Series line arrays, supplemented by KF750 systems as well as NTL720 compact line arrays for choir monitoring and fill behind the stage. Flying the loudspeaker arrays in main left-right hangs, offstage left-right hangs, rear-fill left-right hangs, and center hangs, required 17 motor points throughout the arena, with the large, central scoreboard proving to be the most formidable coverage obstacle. House and monitor mixing were again supported by Yamaha PM5D digital boards. All loudspeakers were tied together by three EAW UX8800 digital signal processors.
Carlson Audio’s planning and communication with the event organizers paid off, even if things didn’t always go quite as planned throughout several hectic days. “As is so often the case with live sound reinforcement, the actual execution in real-time proved a bit more complicated, where last-second changes are the rule and not the exception,” Carlson mused. “However, it really doesn’t matter as long as you’re prepared, and the sheer coolness of these events made any little hassles worthwhile.”