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UK City of Culture shows off with sound and visual installations

tube UK had to work with an animal behaviourist to ensure penguins and sharks were not affected by sound

Hull has launched its year as the 2017 UK City of Culture with ‘Made in Hull’, a week of mixed media sound, lighting and visual installations telling the story of the city and its people over almost a century.

Audio specialist tube uk was responsible for specifying, rigging and fine-tuning audio systems for six separate interactive works around the city centre.

The company worked closely with BAFTA and Ivor Novello Award winning sound designer and composer Dan Jones, who created content and curated each of the installations.

Melvyn Coote, tube UK founder, says: “It was a fantastic project and a great honour to be asked to work with someone of Dan’s calibre. We all learnt a huge amount from the experience, and there were several firsts for us … including having to specify and tune a system that was acceptable to penguins and sharks!”

One of the installations located just over the water from Hull’s aquarium and marine centre, The Deep (entrance pictured) was composed by Terry Dunn, and needed to take into account the resident penguins and sharks who are are known to have ultra-sensitive hearing.

Coote worked with a crew of 12 sound engineers – seven for the week long run of shows and five more for the set-up.

The biggest ‘Made in Hull’ site was Queen Victoria Square (pictured top). The audience was surrounded by three different PA systems rigged on the three major buildings around the Square – Hull City Hall, Ferens Art Gallery and the Maritime Museum. A left and right speaker array was flown either side of each building on 9m high masts, each comprising four d&b V8s and a V-SUB per position. Central to each building were two B2s and two Y7Ps for fill.

This amounted to 360 degree coverage supporting the three large format projection displays each telling the same story via bespoke video content created specifically for each building surface. d&b was selected by Coote to meet all Jones’ requirements and to deliver the power needed while looking neat and tidy and almost blending into the background.

In the surrounding streets leading to the square, three ‘distance’ PAs – each made up from a ground-stack of four Y8s and 1 Y-Sub – were located and fed with ‘distance’ effects to add to the enveloping complexity of the sound scape.

The site was dissected by a major road which made the logistics of elements like cable management that bit more challenging. All the PA structures and various infrastructure like cable bridges and picks were supplied by Star Events. Each aspect of these PAs was individually controlled, so sound could be shifted around and spot effects applied via a Yamaha CL5 console run in unison with a Yamaha Rio 3224 rack to handle additional outputs. Amplification was eight d&b D80s for the V arrays with five D12s driving the distance PAs.

Zebedee’s Yard was the location of a pop-up football experience called 105+dB. This piece designed and created by Invisible Flock was situated in a courtyard like space measuring about 40m long and 16m wide surrounded by lots of tall buildings that’s entered via an alleyway.

tube set up four PA arrays, one in each corner of the yard consisting of two Y7Ps and two Y-SUBs on ground mounted poles (pictured), with another four Y10P fills and four Y-SUBS per side – each of the 12 points of sound were individually addressable and powered by D12 amps.

A work by sound artist Ed Waring – featuring Hull City FC in a stadium of sound – was called Moving on to The Deep. Visitors entered a viewing platform on the opposite bank of the River Hull where they could enjoy a projection show and its accompanying soundtrack.

The main PA was made up of d&b J series speakers. Two stacks of six J8s a side – were located outside The Deep, ground stacked on PA risers, both for stability and to optimise the long throw distance of approximately 120m across the estuary. If they had been flown, the slightest bit of wind – highly likely in January and given the geography – would have moved it massively.

Adjacent to the viewing platform was a smaller near-field PA of four V12s, four V_SUBs and two B2s also ground stacked in left and right arrays. Having the near and far-field PAs allowed Coote and the team to sweep audio and atmospherics between the two sides of the river, giving the audience a true sense of sound movement to enhance the projections which were appearing on the side of the building.

Both near and far-field speaker stacks were driven by D80 amps and the sound track was run on a QLab system via a Yamaha QL1 console. The far-field PA was linked into the overall PA system and timecode control via wireless RF link.

tube and Ground Control also collaborated closely with environmental noise consultants Aria Acoustics for this work and with animal behaviourists at The Deep about their inhabitants.

Steps taken to reduce the negative impact of the PA on penguins and sharks was achieved with very careful focusing of the far-field speakers and the absence of any sub cabinets on that side of the river. Rubber matting was used on the PA risers to further absorb any vibrations and reduce the risk of them being audible in The Deep building via the floor.

Coote says: “Using the line array as it’s designed enabled all the sound energy to be directed towards the listeners. As far as I am aware all the birds, fish and marine wildlife in The Deep were very satisfied with the results.”

Meanwhile, The Underpass was a northern club inspired environment beneath the Myton Bridge flyover created by the artist Jesse Kanda, which required an in-the-round high fidelity quad PA system to re-produce the unusual juxtaposition of a sound track to accompany club/rave scenes playing on three projection screens.

With a low roof, compact speaker arrays were needed, so they went with two Y8s and a Y12 per hang – flown off trusses installed by Star. In the centre of the ‘dancefloor’, a sub sculpture was created from 8 x d&b V-SUBs run off D12 amps.

Over at Whitefriargate the shop windows came alive with the buzz and energy of the event – quite literally – as tube supplied Apple MacBook Pro 13.3 machines for playback and Yamaha XP3500 amps to power a series of transducers which were fitted to the shop windows, turning them into speakers.

Pictures: Photo credit: All Lindsay Cave; except penguins