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‘A remarkable step forward’: Astro Spatial Audio brings 3D audio to Loreley outdoor production

Astro Spatial Audio has brought object-based 3D audio and its Stagetracker performer tracking accuracy to Loreley, an outdoor opera produced by Switzerland’s prestigious Theater St. Gallen.

While its origins stretch back to the early 19th century, Theater St. Gallen boasts a truly contemporary technical infrastructure. This year it staged a production of Loreley, a three-act romantic opera written by Italian composer Alfredo Catalani in the 1880s, complete with Astro Spatial Audio’s object-based technology, head of sound, Dennis Schmidt, said that it was his ambition to bring a fresh dimension to show.

“I had experimented with surround sound designs for a number of previous shows in my native Germany and felt that these could benefit this new production of Loreley,” he explained. “I first heard about Astro Spatial Audio in 2016 and had kept track of the technology’s development. When thinking about this latest production it occurred to me that it could help us to simulate the ambience of a big hall despite the production being outside, as well as increase the impact of vocal performances.”

At the core of the Astro Spatial Audio solution is the conversion of audio signals into audio objects. The company’s SARA II Premium Rendering Engine – a 3U road and rack ready processor offering up to 128 MADI or 128 Dante configurable network pathways at 48kHz/24-bit resolution – utilises extensive metadata attached to each audio object. This is designed to provide a precise calculation of that object’s position within virtual 3D space, as well as that object’s acoustic effect on the virtual space around.

Astro Spatial Audio’s recently introduced performer tracking system, Astro Spatial Tracking, based on the Stagetracker system, was supplied for Loreley by 2M Audio. Built to deliver optimium precision and ultra-fast vector-based tracking in all three dimensions, Astro Spatial Tracking is the result of an exclusive collaboration between ASA and Norway’s TTA – developer of the original Stagetracker system as well as the forthcoming Stagetracker II.

“Theater St. Gallen has previously experimented with the idea of creating an immersive outdoor experience, but this year represented a remarkable step forward,” said Astro Spatial Audio director Bjorn van Munster. “In 2016, it took two whole days to set up a channel based surround sound system. In 2017, using the SARA II and Stagetracker, it took less than an hour to create a more effective and impressive object-based solution.”

Schmidt assembled a high-end audio system, including d&b audiotechnik loudspeakers for the main PA, front-fills, delays and surrounds; a Yamaha audio interface; and a Soundcraft Vi7000 mixing console.

According to Schmidt, “feedback from the directors has been extremely positive. I think there is a general feeling that this is the future of audio for theatre and that it represents real progress in terms of the experience we can offer to our visitors”.