Feature: What lies beneath
Feature: What lies beneath
Richard Lawn heads underground in Seoul to check out the small but perfectly formed Under the Clouds theatre
There is little evidence of a multipurpose performance space along the sleepy Wausen-ro residential alley in Seoul’s cultural and academic Hongdae district. Conceived and financed by a mathematics lecturer, Under the Clouds boasts some impressive statistics of its own when it comes to its sound and lighting systems. The newly constructed theatre has been built three levels below ground where it is not only out of sight but it does not register any decibels beyond the boundaries.
‘The owner had a clear vision of what he wanted, but he was less aware of the works that would be required, although construction was almost complete and interior design was well underway when we came on board,’ explains Soundus technical director, BJ Ju. That vision included high-performance audio, lighting and video systems that would allow the theatre to host any type of performance for an audience of 200 seated guests.
On account of its petite dimensions, the intimate theatre provided a number of interesting challenges. Luckily, the owner granted the Soundus team artistic licence that allowed them to design, supply and install an audio system for its multifunctional requirements. ‘The venue can be hired out for a variety of uses, ranging from corporate functions where only speech is needed to high SPL rock and roll concerts,’ continues Ju. ‘In addition, they can also host cinema evenings down here courtesy of the 21:9 LED 4K screen fixed to the rear of the stage.’
Having known Ju for many years, Under the Clouds manager Jae Kyun Park entrusted him to design, supply and install an audio system that would fulfil the varied needs. ‘I proposed a Coda AiRay loudspeaker system as it can be used for all varieties of sound reinforcement,’ explains Ju. ‘From intelligible speech to high SPL music concerts, the high output line array can cover the entire spectrum.’ Following EASE analysis, it was discovered that a five-per-side configuration of the three-way modules would provide optimum coverage.
When it came to low-end reinforcement, Soundus turned to Coda for expert advice. The German manufacturer’s applications manager, Edgar Krueger, provided detailed technical support to design a subwoofer array for the theatre: an L–R system of Coda SC subs suspended directly behind the AiRay hangs. Single SC2-F modules have been sandwiched in between dual SCV-F single 18-inch bass extension subs to create a cardioid configuration. Incorporating dual 15-inch drivers in a compact, vented enclosure, the SC2-F is a sensor-controlled bass extension system that operates within a 35–200Hz frequency range (±6dB). The drivers contain a velocity sensor that measures the diaphragm movement in real-time. By comparing it with the input signal, the sensor can adjust the amplifier voltage and current, correcting any driver inaccuracy to ensure an extended and controlled response.
Four Linus14D four-channel DSP amplifiers power the combined AiRay speakers and SC subwoofers, which can send up to eight audio signals to each amplifier over the LiNet network via Cat-5 connection. System control can be managed on a PC or a tablet from a Linus GUI. A PSQ S10 power conditioner and PSQ 108 AC power sequencer have been added. Back of house communications, which include the upper floors, are boosted by a ClearCom MS-704 Encore intercom system that can connect up to eight beltpacks.
Rarely are two nights at Under the Clouds the same, and, just as the audiences change nightly, so do the performers and their bespoke requirements. HK Audio Linear 5 wedges and Coda Cue Two 15-inch coaxial speakers provide powerful and accurate monitoring, while four channels of Sennheiser G4 in-ear monitors are also available. There is also a four-channel Shure ULXD4 wireless microphone system with two ULXD4D dual-channel receivers, four Beta 58 handheld transmitters and a UA844+SWB antenna distribution system. The microphone inventory also includes DPA d:vote and d:screet subminiature capsules together with AKG C451 B small diaphragm condensers and D112 kick drum mics. The percussion kit is equipped with a largely Earthworks ensemble combining DM20 condensers on the tom-toms and SR25 cardioids on the overheads, together with a Shure SM57 on the snare and a Telefunken M82 on the kick.
Klotz AIS MY200 microphone cabling, together with a combination of Radial and Telefunken DI boxes, make the initial audio signal connections. The microphone inputs onstage are connected to a DiGiCo SD12 console in an open control room at the rear of the venue via a DiGiCo 48-in/16-out D2-Rack over a MADI BNC connection. In addition to incorporating Super FPGA technology and Core 2 software, the SD12 also offers dual 15-inch touchscreens and DVI display output, providing an overview of the console. The 72-channel SD12 incorporates an integrated recording interface that helps the engineers conduct virtual sound checking.
‘Although the SD12 is possibly over specified for a theatre of this size, the owner wanted the best,’ explains Park. ‘It fits all our criteria in that it is a great-sounding mixing board for all live performances and, when you combine it with the Waves platform, it takes things to another level on the recording side. All the engineers that come here enjoy working on it – they’ve either worked on one before or they’re going to leave wanting to use an SD12 again. Finally, it’s really simple to operate.’
One of the DiGiCo Multichannel Interface card slots has been inserted with a Waves MultiRack SoundGrid option. In such a restricted space, the inclusion of this enabled software running multiple Waves plug-ins bypasses the need for racked reverbs, equalisers, compressors, limiters and delays. Located two levels above via Cat-6 MADI connection to the FOH position, a small studio equipped with an Avid digital audio workstation and ProTools HD software can transform the raw SD12 live recordings.
As with the audio system, there was no limit placed on the lighting requirements. All the lighting bars and particularly those directly above the stage are loaded with moving head LEDs and fixtures. Art Tech supplied a large number of Robe moving heads including 10 LED MegaPointes, 10 floor-standing Spiiders and 12 Viva CMY LED washes, spots and beams. In addition, a number of ETC Source Four Zoom 4 750W fixtures have been added to the lighting bars. A grandMA2 lighting console in the rear control room is used for the majority of control, although engineers can create LED designs by virtue of the ProPresenter 6 software programme installed on a PC.
The technology installed at Under the Clouds would be more than comfortable in entertaining audiences three times the size of its capacity. But this little theatre that will never see light of day will keep audiences enlightened and left spellbound for years to come.