in June 2008
Fit For A ‘Queen’
By Jim Stokes
Cunard’s Queen Victoria crests with a new theater.
When you’re in the Royal Court Theater, you don’t realize it’s housed on Cunard Line’s 90,000-ton Queen Victoria cruise ship—and its sound system is of the same quality as a Broadway show.
You’re aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria cruise ship. Within the 90,000-ton vessel are all the amenities, from your accommodations to entertainment. In fact, it’s the second largest Cunarder ever built. And, if you enjoy elegant theatrical surroundings, you’ll find that facet on your voyage, as well, within the Royal Court Theater. We’ll explore the theater AV after some architectural background.
The Royal Court Theater is a three-story, 800-seat venue that features opera-style box seating, professionally staged productions and movie screenings. In a Cunard Lines’ press release (August 20, 2007), coordinating architect Giacomo Mortola said, “We looked at several theaters and were inspired by the spectacular spaces designed by noted English theatrical architect Frank Matcham, whose dramatic multi-tiered spaces made him one of the most prolific theatrical architects of all time.” Sixteen private boxes are one of prominent features within the theater.
Matcham’s early 20th century works encompass more than 80 theaters and have influenced other theater design, as well. For reference, his notable London landmarks include the Coliseum, which is now home of the English Opera, the London Palladium, Victoria Palace and Alhambra Theater. And his design legacy continues. The Royal Court Theater incorporates Matcham’s intrinsic eye-pleasing designs that make theater-going onboard a rich experience. We’ll talk more about the contemporary aspects of the architecture later.
The inaugural schedule of the Royal Court’s staged productions included a range of entertainment. Victorian-age music hall performances came alive again in contemporary choreography and period costumes. “Dance Passion” featured international dancers. “Celtic Heartbeat” told the story of a young Irishman’s journey in music, song and dance. “A Stroke of Genius” pairs world-famous art with popular music. Productions were via UK-based Belinda King Creative Productions, working in tandem with Cunard. There are other presentations, as well, with singers and orchestras.
AV design and consultation of all Local Entertainment Systems (LES) throughout Queen Victoria was provided by Nautilus Entertainment Design (NED), San Diego. NED principal sound designer Alan Edwards gave us an AV overview, and highlighted the audio system. Taking a broad view, he noted that NED also designed the shipwide “Entertainment Network,” which includes CobraNet audio distribution, paging and LES control system network.
We’ll explore theater AV, for which Matthew Hodkinson commented on his video and control systems design, as well. The integration was via Franco Zini, HMS (Havre Marine Solutions) Italia, Staranzano, Italy. The coordinating architect, Giacomo Mortola, is president of GEM, Genova, Italy.
With the lineup of star performances and West-End style productions, Edwards declared, “The theater itself is quite unique in that the first impression you get when you walk in is that the theater is not on a ship. The architecture truly resembles a ‘West End’- or ‘Broadway’-style theater. When NED approached the integration of the LES throughout this venue, we wanted to complement the theater with the latest technology, without modifying the architectural intent of the room. Our [design] integration of sound, video, lighting, rigging and control was to be as seamless as possible.”
Edwards explained that the Royal Court architecture incorporates a “grand proscenium” that arches up the three-deck-tall theater. So, the largest challenge there was the audio-reinforcement system. In most cruise ships, the audio system would incorporate a central speaker cluster above and in front of the proscenium. “To preserve the grand proscenium look, we opted to use left and right Meyer MICA line arrays for our primary reinforcement,” he said. “These arrays, supplemented by center fills behind and above the proscenium, gave the desired sound and desired aesthetic appearance needed for this project. The audio system itself was driven by a Digidesign digital audio console, allowing for quick changeovers between shows. And it allows the engineer to concentrate more on the mix than what cue is coming up next.”
Two (eight cabinet) line arrays and cardioid subwoofer cabinets on either side of the proscenium are well concealed behind the elaborate façade.
Systems integration via control systems was a major concern. He explained that, in order to meet the demands of a rather lean operating crew, all LES had to be tied into a central control system. Two systems were put into place. The Alcorn McBride show control system sends out time-coded commands to various LES equipment during a production show. And the AMX touchpanel control system allows any operating crew to control all integrated LES from any location. Video had its own challenges, as well, which we’ll detail later.
The theater’s main speaker system consists of eight MICA array speakers on either side of the proscenium. They’re well concealed behind the elaborate façade and are only inches from the bulkhead behind it. “Everything on a ship is subject to tight quarters but, in this case, it was even more extreme,” said Edwards. “The MICA was a great solution because it delivers more than enough power and a great coverage pattern, but it’s small enough to require minimal space.”
Four M3D-Sub directional subwoofers and four UMS-1P subwoofers handle low-end content, while six UPM-1P loudspeakers provide front fill. The center channel, a pair of CQ-1 loudspeakers, is augmented by 14 MM-4 loudspeakers hidden along the mezzanine for rear channel ambience.
Several delay rings cover the upper balcony and under-balcony areas with numerous UPM-1P loudspeakers and UPJ-1P VariO loudspeakers, augmented by USW-1P and UMS-1P subwoofers. Meyer Sound’s Matrix3 audio show control system is used for creating surround ambience, handling musical cues for a wide range of performances via CueStation software. Onstage monitoring is courtesy of six UPA-2P and UPM-2P loudspeakers each, along with several portable UM-1P and UM-100P stage monitors available for use as necessary.
Edwards explained that the two CQ-1s provide center channel imaging especially for live theatricals. “Otherwise, you’d have a big hole where the stage is. However, it wasn’t necessarily for a cinema application.” Regarding the under-balcony delay speakers, he pointed out that, in doing EQ and system balancing, they’d put in only one row of those particular delays because the balcony is rather shallow. “But, then, we kept turning them down almost to zero. It was like ‘maybe they weren’t really needed.’ But they do help out in the very high frequencies that you just can’t seem to get when you have large arrays.”
As for the choice of surround effects speakers, 14 MM-4s were concealed. “For a lot of ships, we have a hard time trying to conceal surrounds. We wanted the speaker to be small, compact and blend into the architecture. The MM-4s are only four-inch cubes, but they have a punch you wouldn’t believe. And we didn’t need low frequencies because we’re using 1K, 2K and up to localized surround effects.”
He added, “We actually showed the MM-4 to the architect, and he integrated it into the face of each private box in the balcony. That’s the little round circle in the middle of each box.” Surround sound low frequencies are supplemented with subs positioned around the theater. For instance, the UMS-1Ps would be matrixed in to give directionality and body to an effect emanating from higher boxes, such a helicopter or some other “swooshing” sound. “The four M3D cardioid subs are ceiling mounted, which allows audience members to sit anywhere in the room and be able to ‘feel’ the show.”
FOH duties in the Royal Court Theater are handled by this panel, which handles 72 analog/24 digital inputs and 32 analog/64 digital outputs.
Positioning stage monitors can be a tricky business. They have to be low profile, yet provide enough gain before feedback for the onstage performers. “We try to minimize the look of loudspeakers during a production show,” said Edwards. “We wanted to get away from putting wedges inset in the stage itself because there’s a certain point where you can’t hear anything. So, this time, we decided to put UMPs across the front of the stage. And that was something they were able to work with.”
These were augmented with UPA side fills in the backstage areas coming from light ladders on either side of the stage. “And that pretty much covers the stage entirely for dancers.” Performers benefit from combinations of Aviom and Shure personal monitors, as well. “It was also helpful to have the line arrays for keeping the noise level controlled onstage because they’re rather directional at certain frequencies.”
Offstage performers have immediate sight and sound contact with what’s happening onstage. The show relay audio system is a dedicated cast paging system extending throughout the venue, from the light booth to the backstage hallways, dressing rooms and the stage manager office in the balcony. The system consists of a Sennheiser mic, QSC amplifier and JBL ceiling speakers.
A comparable video show relay RF system lets performers stay in touch with stage action, as well. The system consists of Pico Macom and Blonder Tongue RF components, and Panasonic LCD flat viewing screens. “For awhile, everybody wanted to get away from RF. They were scared to death of it,” said Edwards. “Now, when you go to Vegas and New York, they love to have RF for their show relay or cast stations to see what’s going on, onstage.”
Wireless intercom for crew communications, of course, is well established. “We’re using the Telex BTR-700 for stagehands. In addition, we have outlets everywhere for it. It makes things a lot easier for troubleshooting and maintenance.” And the Listen Technologies RF system is available for those in the audience who desire an assistive-listening device.
There’s one facet of the sound system that, by any Coast Guard, Lloyds of London and maritime regulation, has to mute all audio: It’s emergency paging, which is mainly done in the control room and the bridge about this ship.
According to Edwards, the Digidesign Venue D-Show console has many advantages. “It’s the only desk that offers the highly talked-about plug-ins used for its ProTools system. They’re close to the actual analog counterparts made by manufacturers.” And, every channel has its own compressor, gate and other DSP. That brings in the added advantage of a lot smaller console than an analog counterpart.
Therefore, the Digidesign Venue is very efficient. “At the simple push of a button, you can do a complete sound check. And you can actually change your configuration at the simple click of a button. You don’t have to worry about re-routing patch bays or worry about getting your cue sheets out and getting your dials rolling into what the show’s going to be.”
Related, there are human factors. Time is limited aboard ship-based venues, where it’s used almost 24/7. There may be a captain’s cocktail party followed by a production show in short order. With an analog console, the engineer would have had to come in between those two functions and might miss his own dinner because he’d have to laboriously re-patch and get set up again.
Another advantage is that this console “gives you the opportunity to let the desk do only the things you want it to do,” said Edwards. “It won’t mix the show for the engineer, but it will allow him to concentrate more on the mix rather than on what cue is coming up next.” And the console accommodates the overlap between two engineers, because there may be rather large turnover. “There may be a week overlap, if you’re lucky. So, the engineer coming in has to learn all the ins and outs in a short period of time.” That’s because the desk is already programmed to do a certain amount of show cues and setups. A general production show can have a range between 20 and 200 cues!
Small speakers, integrated into the architecture of the private boxes, provide a surround sound effect for orchestra area seating.
An unusual feature of the sound booth is its proximity to the Digital Projection video projector. “It’s not only near the console, it’s also right above the sound engineer’s head, in front of the console,” declared Edwards. And that’s a perfect segue into the video and control system aspects from Matthew Hodkinson, video systems design engineer and freelancer with NED. The projector is used for staged theatricals, as well as movies.
“It worked out very well,” he said. “The projector is set way back in the theater at an angle. The throw length was a little bit tight at times, with pictures and all sorts of acts. However, ship’s spaces are the quietest of things.” He pointed out that the theater and the Queen’s Room aboard ship were done completely in digital. “So, it’s all SDI, which is a ‘first’ for me. But it’s a battle against money, with SDI and HD coming down in price. The SDI image quality is absolutely superb. It’s rock-solid!”
Although rear-screen projection was considered, it wasn’t implemented because “we wanted to avoid doing a lift in the middle of the house...and it’s more money. The main intent is for cinema, so we cover the whole proscenium. The constraints were the height to get a 4x3 on a 6x9 picture.”
Video production capability is also provided with the JVC cameras taking an extra card for SDI digital output. Cameras are used in conjunction with the Telemetrics pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) head for professional results. Video is used mainly for recording rehearsals. Shows can be recorded with timecode, as well, to either open on a picture or record it as a track. “Then they can go back and rerun the show with timecode so they can look ahead to the lighting cues.”
Regarding modular AV control, he explained, for example, that camera PTZ can be controlled via a local joystick or with the option of using AMX. “When used with the AMX touchpanel, the image can be viewed from the stage, video booth or audio booth,” said Hodkinson. “And you can tie it into the broadcast end. So, you can have multiple points of control, easily.”
Edwards further noted that AMX control is a very close runner to the sound man’s digital mixer desk. “They both reduce the amount of people required for a particular function. The technology itself is just incredible. If you have a crew of three or four, you can do it with one or two because you have the control system. Let’s say you’re doing a ‘one tech’ show and you have a comedian on stage. You can turn the lights up or down, raise and lower the curtain and do whatever rigging is required from the audio booth. The same goes for controlling a CD player.”
Digital Data Distribution
NED incorporates the DMX digital data distribution system into almost all the ships it does. According to Edwards, the DMX “Pathport” pathway “allows us to route what you want to route.” A case in point is the automatic lighting aboard the Queen Victoria, where everything has its own Pathport number. “It gets away from using analog mergers and splitters from point A to point B. It was a nightmare,” he said.
Examples of DMX interfaced and controlled theater lighting are house lights and special effects, which include the low-hanging ground fog system and the diffusion haze and smoke effect. “A lot of times, we have hazes in there because there are a lot of moving lights. However, Cunard lines really doesn’t go into a whole lot of digital lighting. But it’s something you automatically put in. In a production show, you’re bound to have a Las Vegas-style act where you’re going to see the beacon light come down from behind the performer onstage along with moving beams. And when you have moving lights, you’ll typically want to use a haze machine that doesn’t completely smoke up the theater, but gives an atmosphere. It’s not used a lot here. It’s more what you’d see on a Carnival ship.”
And so we’ve come full circle now, to where live sound begins. A glance at the equipment list reveals a full complement of various wired and wireless microphones, including Shure, Countryman, Sennheiser, Electro-Voice and AKG. In addition to the standard handheld mics used by many soloists, headset mics are favored for production shows because they free up performers’ hands.
It’s time now to sit back and enjoy the ambience of the Royal Court Theater, with its elegant architecture and warm surroundings. The audience waits in anticipation of a film showing or a live stage presentation. The house lights dim. The performance begins. And, thanks to the AV system, it’s a memorable experience.
Audio Source, Control
1 ADC Krone ADCPP245500A110 24-port Cat5e network patch panel
3 AKG CK69-ULS shotgun mic capsules
1 Belden 7711A-100 FOH to stage rack 4-conductor RG6/U coax
cable assembly w/male 75ohm BNC connectors
1 Black Box KV824A USB KVM switch
4 Countryman DT 85 active direct inject boxes
8 Countryman Isomax E60W6TSL wireless performer mics w/head
3 Dell Optiplex PCs for audio system
Digidesign 24-fader D-Show main unit, sidecar control surface
Digidesign D-Show FOH rack w/4 DSP mix engines, IOx expanded
I/O, ECx remote control option card
Digidesign VENUEPack Pro plug-in bundle
Digidesign D-Show stage rack w/SRI, SRO, DSI and DSO analog,
digital I/O cards
DSP plug-in Aphex Aural Exciter, Drawmer TourBuss, Eventide
Anthology, Phoenix Crane Song
2 Electro-Voice RE 20 studio mics
2 Genelec 8040A self-powered monitor speakers
1 Hewlett Packard ProCurve 2626 (J4900B) 24-port 10/100
1 Lexicon 960L/D digital multi-effects generator
6 Littlite Rl-10-D gooseneck lamps
1 Marantz PMD371 multi-disk CD player
4 MediaMatrix by Peavey NION n6 digital signal processors
1 Meyer LX-300 Matrix3 system frame w/LX-DSP
1 Meyer RMS remote monitoring system
1 Middle Atlantic DWR-24-26PD 19" 15RU source rack
1 Pioneer Electronics CMX-3000 dual DJ CD player
1 QUBIX art 2006014 fiber patch 12-connector 1RU rack
6 Sennheiser MD 421II studio dynamic instrument mics
12 Shure SM57 mics
12 Shure BETA 58A vocal mics
9 Shure UR4D-Q5 dual wireless mic receivers
16 Shure UR1-Q5 wireless mic bodypack transmitters
16 Shure UR2/KSM9/BK-Q5 handheld wireless mic transmitters
2 Shure UR2/Beta58A-Q5 handheld wireless mic transmitters
2 Switchcraft outboard MTP Series digital patch bays
2 TASCAM MD-CD1 mini-disc recorder/CD players
1 TASCAM X-48 hard drive multitrack player
1 TASCAM DV-RA1000 CD recorder/duplicator
1 ViewSonic VA702B 17" 1280x1024 resolution LCD monitor
1 Whirlwind Director passive direct injection box
22 JBL Control 24ct Micro/NED ceiling speakers
2 Meyer CQ-1 2-way self-powered short-throw speakers
4 Meyer M3D-Sub cardioid subwoofers
16 Meyer MICA compact high-power curvilinear array speakers
18 Meyer UPM-1P full-range speakers
10 Meyer UMS-1P sub-bass speakers
16 Meyer UPJ-1P full-range speakers
4 Meyer USW-1P compact self-powered subwoofers
1 QSC CX 204V power amp w/70V output transformer
Permanent Monitor Audio
6 Meyer UPA-2P monitor speakers w/mounting bracket and
6 Meyer UPM-2P monitor speakers (in stage location)
Portable Monitor Audio
6 Meyer UM-1P narrow-coverage monitor speakers w/VEAM
6 Meyer UM-100P wide-coverage monitor speakers
w/VEAM connector option
Show Relay Audio
7 HMS custom attenuators
11 JBL Control 24ct Micro/Plus ceiling speakers
QSC CX 108V 8-channel power amp w/70V output
1 QSC CX 302V power amp
2 Sennheiser ME66/K6 hypercardioid polarized condenser mics
3 Telex MS-4002 main stations, 4 channels w/gooseneck mic
16 Telex BP-1002 1-channel lightweight beltpack remote stations
16 Telex PH-88 mic/headsets
1 Telex BTR-700 wireless 6-channel base station w/remote
4 Telex TR-700 wireless beltpack stations
4 Telex PH-88R mic/headsets
14 Meyer MM-4 wide-dispersion speakers
4 QSC CX 404 4-channel power amps
12 Aviom A-16II 16-channel personal monitor mixers
4 Aviom A-16R 16-channel personal monitor mixers
4 Aviom A-16cs 16-channel personal monitor mixers
4 Shure P7TRE5-L2 personal monitor RF transmitter/receivers
2 Listen Technologies LT-800-72 RF transmitters (72MHz)
48 Listen Technologies LR-500-72 RF receivers w/program-m
ability and display
ADC audio, video patch bays
1 Adtec Soloist 2-SDI -4 MPEG2 player
1 AutoPatch Modula 32x32 SDI video matrix
1 AutoPatch Modula 24x24 stereo audio matrix
1 AutoPatch Precis RGBHV 8x8 w/stereo audio matrix
1 Blonder Tongue/Tratec 2-way splitter
1 Chyron MicroX 2RU SDI and composite
1 Digital Projection HL16000Dsx+ projector w/SDI
input, analog inputs
2 Extron RGB 460xi RGBHV wall-mount interfaces
1 Folsom Image Pro SDI multi standard and format
2 JVC KY-F560U 1/2" 3 CCD color video cameras
w/SDI interface card, desktop remote controls
1 Leitch FR684AV video distribution frame
1 Marshall V-R82DP-2SDI 2x8.4" rackmount LCD
10 Miranda ASD-271P video-to-SDI encoders
12 Miranda SDM-271P SDI-to-composite decoders
2 Miranda SDM-171P SDI-to-component video con-
verter for plasma displays
2 NEC 42VP5 42" plasma displays
2 Panasonic TC-14LA2 14" LCD flat-screen TVs w/speakers
1 Panasonic AG-MX70 digital vision mixer w/4 SDI inputs DVE
1 Panasonic WJ-HD220/240 8-camera-input multi-window output w/240Gb
hard drive recorder
4 Pioneer DVD-V7400 DVD players
1 Samsung DVD-V8650 VCR/DVD combo
1 Snell and Wilcox CVR250 Kudos SDI and composite standards converter
1 Sony DSR-1500 + DSBK-1501 + DSBK-1504 DVCAM player
1 Sony LMD1420 14" Pro LCD monitor
3 Switchcraft EZ Norm audio patch bays
1 Telemetrics CP-D-3A desktop serial camera pan tilt control panel
1 Teletest OZR4409 4x4" LCD monitor rackmount
Video Show Relay
1 Aphex 120A + 44-008SA 1x4 DA w/rackmount kit
2 Blonder Tongue/Tratec 8-way RF taps
1 Blonder Tongue/Tratec 2-way splitter
4 Panasonic TC-20LA5 20" LCD flat screen TVs w/speakers
4 Panasonic TC-14LA2 14" LCD flat screen TVs w/speakers
1 Pico Macom PFAM550 single-channel agile AV modulator
1 ADC Krone ADCPP245500A110 24-port Cat5e network patch panel
1 Alcorn McBride V16+ Show Controller show control computer, software
3 Aphex 120A + 44-008SA 1x4 distribution amps w/rackmount kit
1 Dell Optipex GX620 PC for show control, video
1 Evertz/Alcorn McBride SMPTE machine
1 Hewlett Packard ProCurve 2626 (J4900B) 24-port 10/100 Ethernet switch w/fiber uplinks
1 Mark of the Unicorn MIDI Express XT SMPTE to MIDI timecode converter
1 NEC LCD72V-BK 17” color LCD monitor
3 AMX NXI-NH Integrated controller w/RS232, IR, I/O, relays
1 AMX D-Link WL-2100AP 802.11bg wireless base station
3 AMX NXT CV10 10" desktop touchscreens w/Ethernet, audio, video
ETC ellipsoidal fixtures
Morpheus Lights color mixing scrollers
1 MA Lighting GrandMA dimmer control console w/4096 channels, moving light
DMX Digital Data Distribution
3 3com Superstack 24-port autosensing rackmounted Ethernet switches
42 Pathway Connectivity Pathport Output 6202 Ethernet-based DMX output modules
2 Pathway Connectivity DMX Manager Plus Ethernet-based DMX input/output modules
List is edited from information supplied by Nautilus Entertainment Design.
Nautilus Entertainment Design (NED)
Nautilus Entertainment Design (NED), San Diego CA, provides technical facilities design services for entertainment and architectural projects, as well as lighting design services for special events and productions worldwide.
NED’s entertainment facility design services include architectural lighting design and technical facility consultation, encompassing lighting, rigging, special effects, show control, audio, video/film projection and broadcast systems. NED designs solutions that address the whole process, from needs analysis and concept development, through design and specification of all entertainment technical systems and backstage spaces, to monitoring the installation and supervision of system commissioning.
Production lighting design services range from television specials and theatrical productions to special events and corporate presentations. NED has overseen the lighting for political conventions, presidential debates and special ceremonies across the globe.
For more information, go to www.n-e-d.com.
HMS (Havre Marine Solutions) Italia, Staranzano, Italy, is a dynamic high-tech company offering services, systems and components in the field of entertainment and internal communication aboard passenger ships.
In 1983, at the beginning of the cruise industry boom, a team of engineers with many years of experience in large multinational companies created HMS. Initially specializing in tailor-made naval and port electronic equipment (electronic docking systems, dredging systems, tide-measuring beacons, etc.), these engineers progressively added more strings to their bow—expanding activities to cover the design and installation of all kinds of systems dealing with audio, video, communication and lighting for large ferries and cruise ships.
Achieving a successful design and installation of shipboard systems means facing challenges, such as space limitations, weight restrictions, vibration concerns, duty cycle, power requirements, as well as reliability and serviceability. The steady upswing in the cruise market since 1985—with the fortunate side effect of creating a greater demand for cruise ships—has allowed HMS to grow.
For more information, go to www.hmsweb.com.
Sound & Communications Contributing Editor Jim Stokes has been involved in the AV industry for more than 30 years as an AV technician and writer.