Out Board's TiMax audio delay-matrix has long been a staple of Bobby Aitken's in-the-round sound design approach, but this year's Raymond Gubbay production of Rogers and Hammerstein classic The King and I at London's Royal Albert Hall differed in one significant detail.
The King and I represented the first foray for Out Board's new TiMax2 SoundHub being controlled by TiMax Tracker automation, which has been an Aitken must-have since its launch in 2007.
Aitken observes: “TiMax has always worked well for us on these Albert Hall shows, and with TiMax2 this year I've noticed subtle improvements to the overall openness and clarity of the sound.”
Principals and selected chorus members each wore a miniature TiMax Tracker Tag which enabled the tracking system to divine where they were on stage at any given time. Nineteen delay-based vocal imaging zones on stage were programmed into the TiMax2 SoundHub matrix. These were then mapped onto equivalent tracking zones, monitored by the six TiMax Tracker Sensors mounted on the balcony fronts.
Action sequences were handled by TiMax Tracker with impressive agility – lead and chorus singers were able to run across the breadth of the 30m x 20m stage while their voices stayed perfectly localised and in time.
Similarly, the particular diversity of performers was also managed with ease. The King and I has principal child characters that are sometimes sotto voce in comparison to the tonal maturity of the adult leads. However the consistent localisation achieved by TiMax helped these relatively lighter sources to maintain good intelligibility in the mix.
Channel direct outputs from the Digico D5 console fed the actors' radio mics to the TiMax2 SoundHub's matrix inputs, while a stream of MIDI messages from the Tracker software directed the matrix to continually re-focus every microphone to the relevant stage zones as the performers moved around.
The TiMax2 matrix also received sound effects from Cue-Lab, allowing sound engineer Richard Sharratt to blend effects such as crickets, frogs and fireworks between the flown and stagefill systems.
Aitken and sound design associate Chris Ekers had created a new vocal reinforcement system configuration for The King and I production, all supplied by Autograph. A ring of nine hangs of Meyer UPJ cabinets, flown three-deep to cover stalls, boxes and circle, was combined with a dozen d&b E3 front-fills buried in the stage and two flown Meyer M1D choir-fill systems. A separate Martin Audio W8LC and W8LM line-array system provided orchestra reinforcement.
Out Board's Robin Whittaker was on-site to assist in tech rehearsals and also oversee the new TiMax2 SoundHub's Albert Hall debut: “We're pleased with the way the TiMax2 platform has integrated so well with TiMax Tracker, and delighted that people are already seeing and hearing incremental benefits from the new technology.”