For its 30th anniversary, the TED conference moved from its long-time Long Beach location to a custom-built, 1,200-seat theatre at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Canada. Luminaries participating at the five-day event included Sting, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. As was the case in the former location, a Meyer Sound M’elodie® line array loudspeaker system was chosen to provide the audio clarity needed for an audience who came to be engaged and inspired.
“The M’elodies have treated me well since we first started using them six years ago,” says Erik Sandberg, long-time FOH engineer for the event. “Their intelligibility is exceptional, which is critical because some TED presenters are soft-spoken, and not professional speakers. Also, the system is compact and visually discreet, which the client appreciates. And although it works beautifully with the spoken word program, it also translates very well with musical presentations.”
The move to Vancouver presented numerous logistical challenges for sound reinforcement. The arena-style theatre consisted of a thrust stage with a 200-degree audience wrap-around and a very steep seating rake. There also needed to be almost no bleed into the microphones, as the event would be broadcast and webcast.
“The TED conference is really three events at once,” explains Nick Malgieri, who headed event audio for San Francisco-based supplier McCune Audio/Video/Lighting. “It’s a live event for a very select audience, a live TV broadcast, and a taping session for post-production. These all have to be served without compromise, and because of the wide diversity of speakers and performers, the audio system has to handle everything. Fortunately, the clinically precise coverage patterns of the Meyer Sound speakers and the flexibility of Galileo® allowed us to zone the system for perfect results.”
Sandberg and Malgieri, as well as Kurt Graffy of Arup Acoustic Consulting collaborated on system design. Four arrays of nine M’elodie loudspeakers each covered the wide seating arc, with three 700-HP subwoofers flown in a steered directional array. Fill was provided by 10 UPM-2P and six UPA-1P loudspeakers and two UPJ-1PVariO™ loudspeakers. Two UPM-2P and two UPJ-1P loudspeakers were used for monitoring and foldback, and a Galileo loudspeaker management system consisting of two Galileo 616 processors supplied system drive and optimization. System deployment was supervised by Pete Bender, technical director of McCune.
“We had some challenges this year with the new venue and a last-minute change in hang points, but with the power of MAPP Online Pro® [acoustic prediction program], everything fell into place,” says Sandberg. “It was one of the best-sounding TED conferences I’ve done. We had a number of compliments from the audience, and Sting’s engineer—who was gracious enough to let me mix the set—was very happy with how it sounded. Also, everything went up quickly and we were out of there in record time.”
Founded in 1984, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences governed by the non-profit Sapling Foundation. The annual conferences were inaugurated in Monterey, Calif. in 1990.