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The Interpretation of Themes: Bose RoomMatch helps keep the spirit of Cinecittà alive

Phil Ward follows the Yellow Brick Road to Rome and meets the Wizard of Bose

Sigmund Freud may have focussed on the unconscious, but more important in today’s themed world of entertainment and distraction is the very conscious engineering of customer experience – and, as just one part of a multimedia supply chain, pro audio is getting very good at it.

A theme park, for such is the famous old Italian film studio Cinecittà nowadays, is in many ways the ideal place to showcase a broad catalogue of professional loudspeakers. The sheer variation in acoustic spaces – you could say the many different areas of experience in-fill – constitute the full set of demands that any single project could have. Consequently all the solutions are laid out under one roof or, in a place like this, one sky and scores of rooves from sound-stages-turned-theatres to, yes, the inside of a submarine.
Ambient speakers put sound effects in odd corners. Outdoor speakers make the hedgerows and fences talk and sing, providing cues for actors and other scheduled events that transform typical days here into a kind of surreal calendar that Freud would have loved. Small, medium and large stages spring up everywhere for various shows, needing all levels of sound reinforcement from simple to large – and, since this is a flagship Bose Professional installation, that means all the way from portable L1 Compact arrays to every size of Panaray models and full-scale RoomMatch hangs.

The different areas of the park are largely dedicated to one film genre or another, associated with the golden years of Cinecittà’s output. Not just Spaghetti Westerns, then – also Gnocchi Horrors, Spirali Sci-Fis and Ravioli Rom-Coms. Cinecittà World’s ‘Main Street’ is modelled on 1920s New York, complete with cops and gangsters, but another zone which recreates an Old West town is the first promenade wherein visitors encounter original music written by Spaghetti Western legend Ennio Morricone (pictured at Cinecittà World, right). It comes to them via 20 Bose Panaray 402-II outdoor mid-highs and 10 MB12 subs, delayed and programmed via the unique combination of Bose’s ControlSpace signal processing, MediaMatrix and Dante networking – as is the whole park. Remote control access is everywhere, and all is zoned, planned and programmed.

Except, that is, for the daily Enigma show in Teatro 1, once used for the filming of Joseph Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra among many other Cinecittà triumphs. It’s an independent system, but it’s one of Bose Professional’s signature standalone theatre installs and deals with a lot more than the Queen of Egypt.
“It’s a nice show,” observes Akira Mochimaru, general manager of Bose Professional, who toured the facility a week before PSNEurope, “but it’s mostly playback. Acoustically, this huge sound stage – like an aircraft hangar – is not very friendly. The system’s doing a good job, especially with a reverberation time of about four seconds. RoomMatch is managing to control that.”

There are 16 RoomMatch modules, 10 RMS215 bass modules, eight RMS218 subs, six RMU208 front fills, 14 PowerMatch PM8500N networkable amplifiers and four ControlSpace processors with Dante cards. Enigma is mixed on a Yamaha QL5, and there’s another one in Teatro 4 where a smaller sound reinforcement system hangs six RoomMatch modules, with four RMS215s, four RMS218s, six PowerMatch PM8500Ns and one ControlSpace DSP with Dante.

Cinecittà World puts on this multimedia confection every day, but the space is eminently useable for medium-scale concerts and tours passing through the area. It’s not clear yet how the commercial relationship between the theme park and the real world will evolve, but the potential is vivid. Once filming of a remake of Ben Hur is completed, in the wider expanses of the site still used as an actual backlot, the park will add more zones and attractions until half of Lazio contributes to the illusion.
The current expanse of the park makes good use of the latest DSP technology. Federico Carnevale, professional and live music account manager at Bose, explains the invisible web of sound. “MediaMatrix routes the signals from the audio players to all the zones, and is also on the Dante network,” he says. “So we have several amplifier racks in different zones, but they’re all connected to the network. Typically, one processor has a range of amplifiers with different IP addresses. From MediaMatrix you can route a signal to each address or to a single channel or a choice of channels, enabling you to distribute the audio signals on the network.”

“So the amps are not all together in one control room; they’re located all around the park,” adds Paolo D’Innocenzo, Bose Professional’s sales manager for Italy. “There are about 10 nodes: at every node there is one rack of amplifiers and MediaMatrix hardware, and every node is connected via Dante. Dante is the ‘cloud’ that manages all the signals.”

There are short cable runs between the loudspeakers and the closest amp rack, and then a fibre-optic link between the racks and one control room that contains all of the signal sources: the
fibre ring was put in earlier, with a channel set aside for audio.

“MediaMatrix is the audio management system,” continues D’Innocenzo, “giving the amplifiers their signals, and we placed the amps to optimise the cable lengths from the control room. With so many nodes, the cost of the cabling was high: one of the aims of the design – conceived and executed by our technical manager Moreno Zampieri – was to keep this cost to a minimum. The amplifier positioning therefore ensures the least amount of cabling from the control room to all the speakers.”

There are two wi-fi networks, too: one is for visitors, so they can look up whether it was George Cole or Peter Ustinov who played Flavius in that aforementioned Pharoah fable; and the other is for services, via which the audio team can access single nodes and modify channels, settings and signal sources using an iPad. This is in fact V-LAN, Yamaha’s proprietary local area network, and there is a QL3 console in the control room overlooking the central piazza. In a very modern way, it acts as an automated hub rather than a board operated by the equivalent of a FOH engineer.

There is, however, a direct visual link from here to the largest outdoor stag, spread between two of the sound stage-cum-theatres and facing the piazza and its cooling fountains, with left and right clusters of eight RoomMatch modules each and 16 RMS215 bass enclosures. But mixing is done on the ground, iPad in hand, dodging the kids as they run in and out of the fountains like screaming otters – just your everyday sound engineering challenge in a place like this. Even the bubbles are on the Dante network, actually. This stage is also on the network, so in between the regular outdoor performances it locks into the background music system and keeps the fountain of audio flowing at all times.

Riccardo Capo, general manager of Cinecittà World (pictured above with Russell Crowe’s helmet from Gladiator), has long experience in theme park management but acknowledges that this is the only one in Italy with such a focussed identity. “This was the second Cinecittà site,” he reveals, “built by the great producer Dino De Laurentiis in 1960, and many famous international films were shot here. The idea behind the park was to keep the spirit of movies alive, after the studio effectively closed. Unlike Universal, for example, we don’t base the zones on specific films – only the genres, in broader terms. It’s our interpretation of the various themes.”

It was the recently deceased George Cole, by the way.