Chicago, IL (January 17, 2017)—Chicago’s Navy Pier is a unique venue, particularly due to its Aon Grand Ballroom, which is inspiring to look at but a challenging audio environment due to parabolic effects added by a domed ceiling, reflective open steel structure, polished cement floor and glass sides. OSA International took on those challenges recently when it had to produce back-to-back events in the space, opting to use a Martin Audio MLA rig.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Designight 2016 had the venue for one night while the Gateway for Cancer Research Cures Gala 2016—with entertainment including Peter Cetera, CeeLo Green, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sinbad, Michael Bolton and The Tenors—was set for the following evening. As an architectural organization, AIA preferred to show less of the technical production elements and highlight the natural historic beauty of the venue. In contrast, the Cures Gala event required extensive lighting and projection trusses, including a flying stage over the audience area. Due to the events’ scheduling, all equipment had to be installed, tested, and stay throughout both events.
With six semis and two 26-foot box trucks of audio, video, lighting and band gear, space was at a premium for the event. The ground level and audience space was packed with guest tables that only allowed enough room for audio consoles on the floor, while video, lighting, audio control and dimmer racks were on the balcony level with limited access.
OSA removed the house audio and replaced it with 10 Martin Audio MLA cabinets a side, using the system’s pattern control to minimize the reflections and increase direct frequency response to the audience seating area, along with 12 specially tuned MLX subs for a balanced low-end response. Plexiglass was used wherever possible to shield direct sources such as drums while guitar amps were isolated into back rooms. The audio system also included two Studer Vista 5SR consoles for the entertainment and a Soundcraft Vi1 for the business portion and videos.
Carmen Educate, sound designer and entertainment mixer, noted, “The David Foster & Friends show went into the Navy Pier Aon Ballroom, and the acoustics in this venue are quite challenging to overcome. Because of this, it was critical to get the stage volume down to a minimum, which included minimizing the SPL from stage monitors, musical instruments, and amplifiers reflecting off of the bandshell.
“The mix experience is always stellar with the MLA system, and most importantly, our show is consistent sounding from arenas and large theaters, to exhibition halls, that are sometimes not ideal for sound clarity. It definitely drives like a super car, because you can feel every move you make at any speed, with precision.”