HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA - JULY 2009: Now celebrating its thirtieth year, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo (RNSIT) is the largest annual indoor show in the world. Each year, literally thousands of performers amass from around the world in what might best be described as a Vaudeville show of truly epic proportions. Everything from operatic performances to motorcycle stunts keep the tens of thousands of spectators at the Halifax Metro Centre at the edge of their seats for ten days.
For those who can appreciate such things, the logistics of sound reinforcement for the RNSIT would be an act in itself, analogous to watching a fire-eating contortionist spin plates while singing "O Canada" on the back of a dune buggy. To make that task slightly less convoluted, the RNSIT recently purchased a phalanx of easy to set up Kling & Freitag self-powered loudspeakers and subwoofers, a high-fidelity output to complement the huge collection of Sennheiser and Neumann microphones on the other side of the console.
RNSIT sound director Al Strickland records every act in rehearsal for a CD that's mixed, mastered, and manufactured by opening night, in addition to mixing the live show itself! "The Tattoo demands a huge audio setup," he said. "It's not for the faint of heart and requires weeks of long days in preparation to ensure that the show ends up looking effortless. To get through it, I need all of my years of sound engineering experience, the patience to work across languages and cultures, and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of humor that's immune to tremendous stress. Of course, having gear that functions well and reliably makes it easier to keep smiling."
For years, RNSIT used arrays of passive, large-frame, heavy speakers. Rigging the speakers, laying the bulky speaker wire, and negotiating eight hundred pound amp racks into place took three days, heaping burden onto an already overburdened Strickland. "By moving to the self-powered German made Kling & Freitag loudspeakers, we've cut that time in half," he said. "They are efficient boxes and have a small footprint. They provide even coverage from the first row to the upper bowl without obscuring sightlines to either the floor or the screens."
Minus the upper bowl, which still relies on the house sound system for logistical reasons, Strickland covers the remaining 10,000-some seats with just eight clusters of two Kling & Freitag 212-9 SP full-range loudspeakers and one Kling & Freitag 215E SP subwoofer each. Six of the clusters form the bulk of the system on the east and west sides of the arena, and the remaining two cover seats at the south end. Together, the two full-range speakers have a dispersion pattern of 90 by 100-degrees so that each cluster knits together perfectly with each of those adjacent to it.
"Perfect timing is the key to a successful Tattoo," said Strickland. "There have been occasions when we've had to load 1,500 performers onto the floor! If the arena masters were to miss a cue, it would be a disaster." Thus, monitors are vital. Four Kling & Freitag CA 1215-9 SP provide even coverage of the floor with minimal risk of feedback.
Contending with the input side of things is every bit as challenging for Strickland, as the show changes continually. Each act performs for only a short time before segueing into something totally unrelated. "There are sometimes six-hundred musicians playing on the floor together with a hundred-piece choir on the sides," he explained. "I use twelve Neumann KM 184 small diaphragm condensers spread out across a huge stage to get even coverage with enough focus from each mic to tweak the mix as needed. At the same time, there is a 36-piece pit band on the opposite side of the arena. I have them outfitted with Sennheiser microphones - a lot of e 614, e 908, and e 609 wired units along with a few classic MD 421s. You really can't go wrong with Sennheiser mics, and with the Kling & Freitag loudspeakers and subs, you can really hear their nuance. Everything comes off sounding as it should without a lot of work figuring out mic placement. We don't have time to do that!"
Many of the acts rely on wireless microphones, and Strickland again turns to Sennheiser for its proven wireless technology. "The wireless system is rock solid with no dropouts anywhere in the arena," said Strickland. "We use Sennheiser MKE 1 lavs because they are sweat resistant and their Kevlar cable is bullet proof. They're tiny and yet sound wonderfully transparent. For hands-free vocals, we have a collection of Sennheiser HSP 4 headset mics. We have four Sennheiser SKM 945 wireless vocal mics for singers and a bank of Sennheiser SR 350 IEM wireless personal monitors for performers who stray from the area covered by the Kling & Freitag monitors."
"There are now Tattoos all over the world," he continued, "inspired by the original one in Halifax. They model their footprint off of ours and will be here this year to check out the new Kling & Freitag system!"
ABOUT SENNHEISER Sennheiser is a world-leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Established in 1945 in Wedemark, Germany, Sennheiser is now a global brand represented in sixty countries around the world through long-term distribution partners and subsidiaries in France, UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Russia, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Japan, China, Canada, Mexico and the USA. Sennheiser's technology is produced in manufacturing plants in Germany, Ireland and the United States. Their pioneering excellence in technology has rewarded the company with numerous awards and accolades including an Emmy, a Grammy and the Scientific and Engineering Award (of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). The Sennheiser Group is proud to be affiliated with Georg Neumann (world leading studio microphones), Klein + Hummel (studio monitors) and the joint venture Sennheiser Communications that brings their award winning technology to headsets for PCs, offices and contact centers.
BRANDS DISTRIBUTED BY SENNHEISER CANADA Innovason, L'Acoustics, Kling & Freitag, K-array, XTA, MC2, Yellowtec, Televic
PHOTO CAPTION Eight clusters of Kling + Freitag self-powered loudspeakers and subwoofers easily covered 10,000 seats at the recent performance of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo (RNSIT), the largest annual indoor show in the world, held at the Halifax Metro Centre.