The heat is on

Summer festival season in the UK is in full swing.
Clear skies have meant ideal conditions for companies setting-up and tearing-down festivals across the UK over summer.
Clear skies have meant ideal conditions for companies setting-up and tearing-down festivals across the UK over summer.

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This summer’s festival line-up in the UK provided a showcase of the latest audio and lighting technologies designed for major outdoor events.

Sunny skies signalling the driest summer period in more than a decade have conspired to ensure relatively ideal conditions for the UK’s schedule of outdoor festivals in 2010. The near-perfect weather conditions have also ensured production crews have enjoyed ideal set-up and teardowns, which proved more than useful given the hectic festival schedule planned during the June-July period.

The popularity of outdoor festivals in the UK, despite the often inclement and unpredictable (read disappointing) weather that often accompanies the summer months, has soared in the past decade, ensuring stellar returns for events production companies and their technology partners.

Glastonbury Festival

Glastonbury remains the UK’s biggest outdoor festival and an annual showpiece for the latest pro audio, lighting and staging technologies.

This year’s event didn’t fail to impress, particularly in regards the iconic Pyramid Stage, which was equipped with Martin line-arrays and associated tech supplied by RG Jones Sound Engineering.

RG Jones has been the official supplier of audio tech to Glastonbury for the past three years, having been initially involved in the event as a supplier of front-of-house and monitor control systems in 2007 – the same year Glastonbury hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after an experimental point-source PA system proved less than capable to the task of powering the Pyramid Stage.

While the point-source system was designed in part to meet the increasingly stringent noise regulations that have become a factor at Glastonbury in recent years, its lack of grunt ultimately left performers and punters frustrated by the experience.
Not surprisingly, the audio set-up was ditched in favour of a line-array PA system at subsequent events, including in 2010.

RG Jones contracted fellow London-based company Capital Sound to supply left and right PA audio hangs for installation on the Pyramid Stage. The company also worked with Martin Audio’s R&D director, Jason Baird, and noise monitoring specialist RPS Planning & Development to design the cardioid sub-bass array, which added much-needed low-end output to the sound installation while complying with this year’s set of noise restrictions.

Utilising 54 Martin Audio WS218X subwoofers powered by Crown Macrotech 12000s, the array’s output was electronically curved to cover the full width of the field, ensuring even coverage as far as 120 metres from centre stage.

First seen at the 2008 event, the sub-bass array has been honed over the past two years to become an integral element of the overall Martin Audio set-up, explains Baird.

“This year’s design picked the best aspects of 2008 and 2009 to make 2010,” he says.

“The cardioid sub-bass array achieves two things, the main one being the broadside array. By delaying the subs incrementally from the centre outwards you can bend the overall wavefront, so it’s actually tuned to fit the shape of the Pyramid Stage field. One third of the subs face backwards in a cardioid configuration to kill the broadside array’s output on the stage itself.”

As in previous years, noise containment was achieved partly by driving the upper four boxes in each of the four arrays from its own controller, allowing the volume of each to be turned down independently of the rest of the array.

“We could make fine adjustments which had barely any effect on the sound in the field, but it achieved the stated objective of reducing levels off site,” says Baird.

In terms of the main array, a total of 64 Martin Audio W8L Longbow cabinets were flown in 16-deep dual inner and outer main PA hangs per side, with a further 64 W8LCs flown in four delay positions, all scheduled using SMAART.

Loudspeaker control was achieved via a rack of five XTA DP448 digital controllers, complemented by Klark Teknik DN360s for EQ.

While the configuration remained mostly faithful to last’s year’s design, a select number of cabinet angles were changed slightly to improve coverage and control.

With the Pyramid Stage’s main array in order, attention turned to front-of-house monitoring. After flirting with digital mixing technologies in 2008, a return to analogue tech the following year pre-empted the inclusion of both formats in 2010, providing the best of both worlds for visiting audio engineers.

A house set-up consisting of two Midas XL4s, two Digidesign Profiles and a PM5D was made available, while select artists including Muse and Shakira, chose to run their own desks.

Self-confessed Midas XL8 fan and FOH engineer Steve Carr ran a pair of the desks to matrix between the various consoles and the XTA drive rack.

Synco dual concentric 15-inch wedge monitors formed the generic ‘house’ stage monitor system, along with L-Acoustics ARCS sidefills and Synco STS drum fill.

On-stage sound, which remained fully analogue throughout, was supplied by a pair of Midas Heritage 3000 desks, providing a total of 24 mixes, running on an A/B flip-flop basis. Each desk’s output was routed into an XTA drive rack, again accompanied by KT DN360 outboard graphics inserted over the groups.

Sennheiser in-ear monitoring systems were provided to all artists, while in the microphone department, AKG414s and 460s, Shure SM57s, SM58s and SM98s featured prominently, while Neumann KMS 105s were used for specific vocal duties.

Parklife

Meanwhile, in Manchester, the two-day dance music-oriented Parklife Festival provided an impressive showcase of the latest lighting and AV presentation technologies.

Local designer DBN Lighting supplied the bulk of the kit and crew required for the event, which was headlined by Ian Brown and Friendly Fires.

DBN’s Nick Walton was responsible for the main lighting presentation which was largely based on an initial design conceived by Colour Sound Experiment.

On the main orbital stage, the lighting rig consisted of 14 Clay Paky Alpha Wash 300s and 12 Alpha Spot 1200 HPEs, along with a selection of two and four-way Moles and Martin Atomic strobes on drop bars. The front truss featured Alpha Wash 575s for wash coverage and Alpha Spot 1200 HPEs for effects and texturing, Atomics for laser effects and 8-lite Moles facing into the audience for crowd illumination.

On the floor were six three-metre vertical trussing towers, each with a Martin MAC 250 on top, and four five-way ChromaQ dB4 LED battens. These were run through a Hippotizer digital media server, triggered from an Avolites Pearl Tiger console. The main stage lighting was run from an Avolites Pearl Expert.

Under the festival’s Big Top stage, lighting fixtures included 16 CP Alpha Spot 300 HPEs and eight Alpha Spot 575 HPEs, six Atomics and three DV3000 strobes, plus generics in the form of PARs, Source Fours and 2-lite Moles. For LED, two iPix BB16 mega wash lights, six i-Pix BB4s and three BB7 spot versions were employed, while the stage’s rear truss featured four CP Alpha Spot 575s.

The festival was branded a huge success, attracting more than 35,000 punters over the course of two-days.

XL8 rules Britannia

Another admirer of Midas’ XL8 console is London-based production specialist, Britannia Row, which used multiple examples of the desk along with a number of PRO6s on festival events including T in the Park, Wireless and Hard Rock Calling.

Two XL8s were used at Wireless in London’s Hyde Park, while at T in Park, three XL8s were used at FOH on the main stage. For Hard Rock Calling, an XL8 and a PRO6 were employed FOH by system tech Josh Lloyd.

“Having owned and toured Midas XL8s and PRO6s for several years, we felt it was time to profile them front of house at a major festival,” explains Britannia Row’s managing director Bryan Grant.

FESTIVAL FAN – RAPID-FIRE Q&A
Andy Jackson, director, Delta Sound Dubai Industry stalwart Andy Jackson has engineered some of the biggest outdoor festivals in the Middle East, including Yasalam F1 and Dubai Desert Rhythm.

The one item of pro audio tech you can’t live without?
Pro tools.

Pro audio tech you wish you’d invented?
Digital microphones.

Favourite pro audio brand?
Digico.

Audio tech you can’t wait to get your hands on?
L’Acoustic K1.
Favourite festival you’ve worked on?
Yasalam, without question.

Most challenging outdoor event you’ve been involved in?
DIFC 2007 for HQ Creative. It was the most challenging, but easily the most rewarding.

What’s your dream gig?
No idea, if it was a dream, it wouldn’t be work!

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