Leading the news in the July-August 2014 edition of Pro Audio Middle East was the story of the new audio, video and lighting systems to be installed into Beirut’s White for the outdoor summer season. Equipped by local companies Prolites and Audiotec, the club features a wealth of high-end equipment, but what is it like to perform through the new systems?
Covering off the equipment installed, the visual side of the project was supplied by Prolites. White now features more than 110 Cyclops Lighting moving heads including the new platinum-series beams CL 160B-ER and CL 200B-E with Philips 5R lamps. The venue’s roof is also part of the design and features 20 Chainmaster chain hoists that hold four giant Eurotruss square truss structures framing the large LED screens. In total, White includes over 100 sq-m of LED screens covering the main wall and DJ booth, central bar roof and below the VJ booth to the rear of the venue. The screens are synched and controlled by the VJ to work in harmony with the lighting and audio to build the atmosphere.
The lighting is controlled by an Avolites Pearl Expert Pro with Touch Wing console. It allows the lighting operator to create a variety of designs that accommodate the sporadic changing moods, music and events throughout the night. From the architectural lighting aspect, more than 3km of LED flex strips are wrapped around the trademark central white bar and sides of the club.
On the audio side, Audiotec Group supplied six Funktion One Resolution 3s, four Resolution 2s and two Resolution 3 SHs for the mid highs, as well as eight F221s and two F121s to provide low end. Added to this, F1201s and F101s have been distributed in the upper lounge areas to provide even coverage. A pair of PSM318s act as monitors in the DJ booth which also features four Pioneer CDJ decks and DJM900nexus mixer. Power for the system is courtesy of Funktion One F40Q, F60Q and Full Fat Audio F100-2 amps. Meanwhile, processing is via Funktion One XO4A and XO2 loudspeaker management systems.
As would be expected with the quality of equipment that has been installed, the auditory and visual experience is compelling. Sitting at the central bar, customers are surrounded by different visual elements wherever they look. Meanwhile, the focused point source system, fine-tuned by Funktion One’s John Newsham and the Audiotec Group team, envelops the clientele within an even soundfield.
Core to this customer experience are DJ Ahmad Ajam, better known as maDJam, and Eye See Experience’s VJ Mosig - Moses Magharian. The pair are now regular performers at White. As such, both know the new systems intimately.
‘I’ve been friends with the guys at White for many years, I joined them this year mainly because they decided to upgrade their sound system,’ says Mr Ajam. ‘For them to get a Funktion One system was a serious investment, I saw the plan and decided to join for the summer.’
The club moved to a point source solution from its previous line array system due to issues it was having with noise spillage and coverage within the club. While White is in an industrial area, sound was leaking from the roof-top club into residential parts of Beirut on the surrounding hills. The change has certainly found the approval of the resident DJ.
‘In general, it’s got to be the best sound system in any club in Lebanon. It’s a really good system,’ states Mr Ajam. ‘The balance is pretty good. John Newsham came to Beirut the day before they opened and did a sound check and they fixed up the delays. The sound is quite well balanced everywhere across the whole club, but we have one side of the tables that are quite high above the rest and I’d love to get a few extra subs added there.’
While the DJ is impressed with the overall sound of the venue, the real highlight for Mr Ajam can be found in the newly repositioned DJ booth which this season can be found much closer to the dancefloor. ‘Another main feature that I love about being here is that they have the PSM318s. Even if it’s just a warm-up set and there’s not that many people here, at least in the DJ booth, we have our own party going on.
‘The monitors to me are the winner, there are frequencies I don’t hear in my home studio that I hear here, real mid and mid-low frequencies that I don’t get to hear anywhere else,’ he smiles. ‘These monitors just sound so good. They are the reason we are so motivated, and if you have a DJ that’s happy, you get a club that’s happy. It’s a real pleasure to play here.’
The new setup has also seen changes on the visual side. ‘For me it’s a new playground,’ says Mr Magharian. ‘I work with White as a company. We are creating content specially designed for the space and we are trying to get away from the traditional content. There is also some really good stuff that we buy from the market. The main screen here is pretty thin compared to how wide it is, so we use a very thin layer of the video itself. The content has to be high quality. We are obliged to use only 1080p plus content, mine usually ranges between 1080p and 4K.’
While the VJ is very positive about the overall setup, he does note that the main challenge can come with having so many lumens at his disposal. ‘There is a density of light in the club, if you turn on everything it can get really bright. Even the LED washes are on low and the same goes for the screens, they all go much higher. We are only using 40 per cent of it,’ he explains. ‘We have a lot of LED lights distributed around the place. The challenge is keeping the mood right while not getting too bright.’
From an artistic point of view, the VJ has the full palette available to him and uses it to work with the DJ. ‘We are working to create another trip, built on the trip of the DJ. You work with the beat of the DJ, it’s quite mathematical, you can count them. But once you get into the DJs head it’s quite natural, it just goes. The interesting part is when guest DJs come along,’ he explains. ‘I usually switch between three layers of visuals within a track, but guest DJs have made me change up to seven or eight layers. What we are doing is expressing tunes, we’re expressing beats with colours and movements.’
It is not only the new video system where visual performers can work with the DJ. ‘For the lighting, we go manual most of the time as we try to hit the beat, we like to play with the music,’ notes Mr Magharian. ‘The Avolites desk does pretty much everything we need for that. It’s user-friendly and easy to learn, you can do whatever you want with it. Of course, bigger consoles can do more, but for a club like this, it is more than enough. The lighting system here has all the colours you need and it’s very flexible.’
As Mr Ajam pointed out, the atmosphere of any venue is dependent on the happiness of its performers. White has clearly paid close attention to this and is now reaping the rewards of installing high-quality systems that people enjoy using. For the suppliers and manufacturers too, this has become a reference project to celebrate. The pride that everyone involved takes from this installation is clear to see and translates into a truly unique Beirut experience.