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Feature: Performance upgrade

Feature: Performance upgrade
L-Acoustics K1 hangs have been flown on either side of the stage

Feature: Performance upgrade

The Chinese city of Chengdu has a new performing arts centre, underlining its emphasis on culture and arts in the region. Sue Su reports

In line with its commitment to develop local culture, the Chengdu government has been striving to establish the city as a music capital in recent years. One of the most recent of a number of important cultural buildings to have been built is the Wuliangye Chengdu Performing Arts Centre in the new heart of the city. The project has already won some major awards, including architectural accolade the Li Bing Prize for Sichuan Civil Engineering, as well being named one of the Top Ten Chinese Theatres with Outstanding Sound Effects by the China Institute of Stage Design’s audio committee.

The Wuliangye Chengdu Performing Arts Centre
The Wuliangye Chengdu Performing Arts Centre

The venue has a total construction area of about 99,000m2, with five storeys above ground and two beneath. It is run by the Chengdu Boyang Damofang Performing Company, which has vast experience in staging large-scale sports and entertainment events and counts many industry veterans among its staff. When considering the venue’s profit margins, the company made the bold decision to become the first indoor venue in northwestern China to install an L-Acoustics K1 system, provided by Rightway Audio Consulting. And according to the distributor’s president, Tao Jianxin, it has set a new level of professionalism for the industry.

‘Usually, the only theatres to be equipped with professional stage equipment have less than 3,000 seats,’ he claims, adding that larger venues such as auditoriums and indoor arenas are generally not built as professional performance venues, and therefore don’t provide complete lighting and sound equipment. The venue’s acoustics were also designed in strict accordance with theatre standards.

David Wang, director of stage art at Chengdu Boyang, has the distinction of being one of the first K1 users in Asia. Wang previously worked for Taiwanese rental company, Reyn Yang Professional Sound, and is also the sound engineer for well-known actor and singer, Jam Hsiao. Despite his familiarity with the brand, he chose K1 for the new arts centre’s day-to-day requirements rather than for any personal attachment.

‘This is a venue with more than 10,000 seats,’ he says. ‘The distance from the stage to the last seat is nearly 100m, and from time to time it will put on rock shows. So it needed speakers with a long throw and sufficient power, such as K1. Other speaker brands could have been supplied without any problems but, from the venue’s business perspective, and according to our feedback, K1 is the system that’s most accepted by rental companies and artists.’

David Wang and Tao Jianxin
David Wang and Tao Jianxin

The centre has 12,000 fixed seats and five auditorium levels distributed in a fan shape, with VIP rooms on the third and fourth floors. Twelve L-Acoustics K1 large-format WST line source cabinets have been flown on either side of the stage as the main L-R system, covering the first floor of the auditorium up to the VIP rooms on the fourth floor. Three K2 WST cabinets are hung below the K1 arrays as down-fill. Four Arcs II constant curvature WST elements have been installed on the stage lip to cover the first five rows of seats, while six Kara WST modular line source cabinets are stacked on both sides of the stage for side-fill. The subwoofer system consists of 12 stacks of two KS28s along the front of the stage. The fifth floor auditorium at the top is covered by a delay system of a row of 24 Kiva II ultra compact modular line source cabinets installed along a walkway in the roof of the venue. Onstage monitoring is provided by six X15 HiQs, and all speakers are driven and managed by L-Acoustics LA8 and LA-12X amplified controllers.

The sound system at the Wuliangye Chengdu Performing Arts Centre is a ‘semi-fixed’ installation that can be reconfigured to fit the ever-changing performances arriving at the venue. A large mobile L-Acoustics system, including 24 K2s and 48 Karas, can also be deployed as needed, and rented to visiting artists.

‘Except for the position of the console and the Kiva II delay system, we have so far moved everything around for different performances,’ explains Wang. ‘In [well-known Chinese artist] Zhang Jie’s 2018 concert, Chengdu Station, we added a third more speakers based on the original system, because the show was sold out and his music is so dynamic.’

Wang also explained the rationale behind using Kiva II as a delay system. ‘Our original idea was to use K1 to hit the last row of seats, so that the whole field can be covered by direct sound. But, as the sound pressure level went up, we found that too much reflection came back at the stage, so we decided to cover the venue in two parts. The current Kiva II delay system has been fine-tuned so that, when you listen to it, it is comfortable to hear, like a point source system.’

A DiGiCo SD5 in the theatre's FOH position
A DiGiCo SD5 in the theatre's FOH position

The venue is equipped with two DiGiCo SD5 consoles for FOH and monitor mixing, connected to two 56-in/48-out SD Rack stageboxes via an Optocore system. For smaller shows, monitor signals can also be sent to the FOH console to be mixed from there. The venue differs from most Chinese theatres by having an open FOH position on the third floor of the auditorium, with a lift next to it for transporting equipment to the basement. ‘This way is common in foreign countries but, in China, many theatres install the consoles in a control room,’ says Rightway’s Tao. ‘Sometimes this is not good for audio engineers as they cannot hear the sound clearly in the room. And for those who bring in their own equipment, it is difficult for them to integrate their equipment into the control room, because it’s all fixed. This open design can help engineers quickly bring their equipment up here and, at the same time, take the venue’s equipment down to the basement, allowing the setup to be changed quickly.’

Owing to the trust that Wang has built up in Sennheiser's RF interference capabilities, he chose a 96-channel Sennheiser 2000 Series wireless microphone system, with all handheld mics equipped with DPA d:facto capsules. ‘Sennheiser's wireless transmission and reception is very stable, and the 2000 Series is frequently used by rental companies, so it’s very useful when it comes to meeting artists’ requirements,’ he says.

During the six-month construction period, the technical team took great care to ensure the finish of the venue was clean and streamlined, and this involved concealing large cable runs. A lot of effort was put into hiding cables in wiring ducts in the ceiling and underground, with the longest signal transmission distance more than 180m. Rightway provided full technical support for the project, supplying staff to assist with system design using L-Acoustics Soundvision prediction software as well as equipment installation and alignment, and additionally in the training process.

Dozens of different types of performances have already been staged in the centre. Wang reveals that an estimated 70% of performance groups are choosing not to bring their own systems but to rely on the venue’s, allowing them to save on high equipment rental and transportation costs.

This is just one aspect of Wuliangye that sets it apart from the majority of large Chinese performance venues, and that will help the culture-focused city of Chengdu realise its goal of becoming a music capital.

This article was first published in the May-June 2019 edition of Pro AVL Asia. Subscribe at www.proavl-central.com/subscribe.



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