Hull launched its year at the 2017 UK City of Culture with ‘Made in Hull’, a week of innovative and engaging mixed media sound, lighting and visual installations telling the story of the city and its people over almost a century. Audio specialist tube uk was delighted to join in the excitement, specifying, rigging and fine-tuning audio systems for six separate interactive works around the city centre.
Made in Hull was designed to thrill, excite and intrigue the public and was created by the core creative team of Sean McAllister, Ala, Lloyd, Rupert Creed, Durham Marenghi, Dan Jones and producer Niccy Hallifax, working alongside numerous artists. The installations ran for seven days from 1-7 January.
tube – based in Manchester and London and known for its penchant for invention and thinking ‘out-of-the-box’ was working closely with BAFTA and Ivor Novello Award winning sound designer and composer Dan Jones who created content and curated each of the installations.
tube was chosen to undertake the work by Ground Control, Made in Hull’s technical suppliers who were in turn appointed by Chris Clay, Technical & Operations Director at Hull UK City of Culture 2017.
Melvyn Coote, who founded the company 15 years ago, explained, “It was a fantastic project and a great honour to be asked to work with someone of Dan calibre. We all learnt a huge amount from the experience, and there were several firsts for us … including having to specify and tune a system that was acceptable to penguins and sharks!”
Melvyn is referring to one of the installations located just over the water from Hull’s famous aquarium and marine centre, The Deep. The piece was composed by Terry Dunn but tube and the team needed to take into account the resident penguins and sharks in particular are known for their ultra-sensitive hearing!
Melvyn worked with a crew of 12 sound engineers – seven for the week long run of shows and five more for the get-in which commenced 27th December and for the out on 9th of January. All were hand-picked and are audio specialists in their own right.
‘Made in Hull’ attracted massive crowds – over 342,000 people over seven days - giving a great start to a year that will be full of vibrant transformational cultural activities celebrating the unique character of the city, its people, community, history and geography.
The biggest ‘Made in Hull’ site was Queen Victoria Square in the historic heart of the city. The audience was surrounded by three different PA systems rigged on the three major buildings around the Square – Hull City Hall, Ferens Art Gallery and the Maritime Museum. A left and right speaker array was flown either side of each building on 9 metre high masts, each comprising four d&b V8s and a V-SUB per position. Central to each building were two B2s and two Y7Ps for fill.
This amounted to a rich, immersive 360 degree coverage supporting the three large format projection displays each telling the same story via bespoke video content created specifically for each building surface. d&b was selected by Melvyn to meet all Dan Jones’ requirements and to deliver the power needed whilst looking neat and tidy, almost blending into the background.
In the surrounding streets leading to the square, three ‘distance’ PAs – each made up from a ground-stack of four Y8s and 1 Y-Sub - were located and fed with ‘distance’ effects to add to the enveloping complexity of the sound scape.
The site was dissected by a major road which made the logistics of elements like cable management that bit more challenging.
All the PA structures and various infrastructure like cable bridges and picks were supplied by Star Events, and the area was also architecturally lit and was supplied by dbn Lighting, also from Manchester.
Each aspect of these PAs was individually controlled so sound could be shifted around and spot effects applied via a Yamaha CL5 console run in unison with a Yamaha Rio 3224 rack to handle additional outputs.
Amplification was eight d&b D80s for the V arrays with five D12s driving the distance PAs.
Apple MAC Minis running QLab’s multitrack audio were used for all the playback, chosen as a “reliable and flexible option” says Melvyn, as there was an amount of re-mixing, editing and finessing the content with Dan once everything was up-and-running on site.
Video content was designed by Hungarian animation director and video designer Zsolt Balogh and the projection kit was delivered by Bluman Associates.
Zebedee’s Yard was the location of a pop-up football experience ‘105+dB’. This piece designed and created by Invisible Flock as part of the Creative Communities programme was situated in a courtyard like space measuring about 40 metres long and 16 wide surrounded by lots of tall buildings that’s entered via an alleyway – a perfect urban soccer environment!
tube set up four PA arrays, one in each corner of the yard consisting of two Y7Ps and two Y-SUBs on ground mounted poles, with another four Y10P fills and four Y-SUBS per side – each of the 12 points of sound were individually addressable and powered by D12 amps.
This work by sound artist Ed Waring – featuring Hull City FC in a stadium of sound - proved to be one of the most exciting, unusual and almost life-like installations of the week.
Moving on to The Deep, visitors entered a viewing platform on the opposite bank of the River Hull from the well-known visitor attraction, which confluences with the river Humber at that point, and from here they could enjoy a projection show and its accompanying soundtrack.
The main PA was made up of d&b J series speakers. Two stacks of six J8s a side - were located outside The Deep, ground stacked on PA risers, both for stability and to optimise the long throw distance of approximately 120 metres across the estuary. If they had been flown the slightest bit of wind – highly likely in January and given the geography – would have moved it massively.
Adjacent to the viewing platform was a smaller near-field PA of four V12s, four V_SUBs and two B2s also ground stacked in left and right arrays.
Having the near and far-field PAs allowed Melvyn and the team to sweep audio and atmospherics between the two sides of the river, giving the audience a true sense of sound movement to enhance the projections which were appearing on the side of the beautiful modern architecture of “The Deep” building.
Both near and far-field speaker stacks were driven by D80 amps and the sound track was run on a QLab system via a Yamaha QL1 console. The far-field PA was linked into the overall PA system and timecode control via wireless RF link.
tube and Ground Control also collaborated closely with environmental noise consultants Aria Acoustics for this work, and also with animal behaviourists at The Deep about their inhabitants.
Steps taken to reduce the negative impact of the PA on penguins and sharks was achieved with very careful focusing of the far-field speakers and the absence of any sub cabinets on that side of the river.
Rubber matting was used on the PA risers to further absorb any vibrations and reduce the risk of them being audible in The Deep building via the floor.
“Using the line array as it’s designed enabled all the sound energy to be directed towards the listeners” explained Melvyn, adding, “As far as I am aware all the birds, fish and marine wildlife in The Deep were very satisfied with the results”.
The Underpass was a northern club inspired environment beneath the Myton Bridge flyover created by the artist Jesse Kanda which required an in-the-round high fidelity quad PA system to re-produce the unusual juxtaposition of a sound track to accompany club/rave scenes playing on three projection screens.
With a low roof, compact speaker arrays were needed, so they went with two Y8s and a Y12 per hang – flown off trusses installed by Star.
In the centre of the ‘dancefloor’, a sub sculpture was created from 8 x d&b V-SUBs run off D12 amps.
Another QLab system for control was run through one of tube’s Yamaha QL5 consoles.
Scale Lane Staith is a small pedestrian street and a projection work was beamed onto one of the walls and five d&b E8 speakers – picked for their compact size – together with five d&b E12 SUBs were concealed behind a fence and foliage to deliver the sound track.
Hiding the sound source all added to the sonic conspiracy in this intimate and transient installation as the audio shifted between the five points.
Over at Whitefriargate the shop windows came alive with the buzz and energy of the event – quite literally - as tube supplied Apple MacBook Pro 13.3 machines for playback and Yamaha XP3500 amps to power a series of transducers which were fitted to the shop windows, turning them into speakers. This gave visitors a real element of surprise as they walked through.
All six shows ran for seven nights, with staggered running times to allow visitors to experience all of them on a trail-like expedition around the city.
“The audiences for these installations were treated with some really clever audio tapestries … from the huge spatial and multi-channel sound composition from Dan Jones in Queen Victoria Square, and the amazing real-life football audioscape in Zebedee’s Yard, to the powerful sound from The Deep.
It’s been a privilege to work on this project and see the thousands of people enjoy this creative and highly accessible content.”
For more information about Hull UK City of Culture 2017, please visit www.hull2017.co.uk.
Penguin photo courtesy of Hull UK City of Culture
'We are Hull' at Queen Victoria Square by Lindsay Cave