Tokyo (October 28, 2009)–Cirque du Soleil’s unusual performances are a worldwide phenomenon, as illustrated by Zed, the organization’s Tokyo-based production, which makes use of Meyer Sound’s Constellation electroacoustic architecture.
The production, a acrobatics-filled musical fantasy about a mythological-comical character who reconciles earth and sky, is housed at Tokyo Disney Resort’s purpose-built 2,150-seat theater.
Part of Meyer Sound’s LCS Series, Constellation incorporates the physical acoustics of a space with technology and expert services to create flexible acoustical environments. As applied in Zed, Constellation utilizes 97 compact loudspeakers, 32 microphones, and five dedicated VRAS processors.
“Constellation can sound absolutely natural, if that’s what you want,” says Principal Sound Designer François Bergeron, who is also CFO of Burbank, CA-based Thinkwell Design and Production and designer for six prior Cirque du Soleil shows, “but in pure sound design, it also lets you play with the laws of physics. You can create acoustic spaces that cannot exist in the physical world. For example, at one point, the director wanted to create the sounds of a bizarre world using only ambient sounds in the room. With Constellation, we met his request, creating room acoustics impossible to achieve with physical architecture.”
Constellation in the Zed theater is designed to work hand-in-glove with the Meyer Sound self-powered primary and surround audio systems. Everything is linked and controlled by what, surmises Bergeron, may be one of the largest CueConsole modular control surface ever assembled: 14 Matrix3 processors, six fader modules, 11 meter bridges, plus transporter and editor, together giving discrete access to 192 inputs and 168 outputs. Throughout the show, Constellation presets are recalled from a cue list and controlled using the CueConsole.
“The Meyer Sound system affords a whole different level of capabilities,” adds sound designer Vikram Kirby, “including tailoring inputs and outputs to suit the show, specifying exactly what each cue does, and configuring the control surface to the size of the booth. Zed was in rehearsals for five months and, by the end of that time, the LCS system felt like a musical instrument that played the spectral and spatial composition of the mix.”
The Zed theater is designed to be an acoustically dry room, which tends to keep the audience from perceiving themselves to be part of a crowd. According to Tim Younghans, head of audio for Zed, Constellation’s early reverberation provides an effective solution to this problem. “Dynamic mixing with Constellation enables me to evoke a greater response from the audience, allowing a burst of applause, or of ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’, to spread across the theater,” says Younghans. “You could say Constellation is the bridge between the show and the audience.”
The main audio system comprises main left and right hangs of five M’elodie line array loudspeakers each, in addition to an unusual arrangement of a center array of five matrixed and cross-firing SB-2 sound beams. Arranged in an upstage arc, they anchor the sound to the stage while maintaining a uniform L-C-R image at all seats. Bass descends from ten flown 700-HP subwoofers, while intimacy is maintained at more distant seats by delay systems of 12 CQ-1, 11 UPJ-1P VariO, and 16 MM-4 loudspeakers. Surround effects envelop the audience with 81 additional UPM-1P, UPJ-1P, CQ-1, and Stella-8C loudspeakers, the latter models recessed into pony walls behind the audience.
For Bergeron, the main system provides the primary instrument for carrying the performance, but it’s Constellation that allows him to play the room acoustics for emotional effect. “Constellation allows us to transport the audience from one specific room to multiple environments,” he relates. “It’s like an audio zoom-in and zoom-out. When you zoom in, the theater sounds dry and closed in, but when you zoom out it feels spacious and lush. It becomes part of the emotional roller-coaster for the audience.”
The Meyer Sound audio systems were provided by SC Alliance, with support from ATL, Inc., Meyer Sound’s Japanese distributor; installation was by Yamaha YST. The theater’s circus-tent-inspired design is the work of Canadian architects Saucier + Perrotte. The hosting company for the production is Oriental Land Company, Ltd., with planning cooperation from Disney.