Audio-Technica takes CTRL at the National Library
SINGAPORE: Celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year, Rent was recently staged by theatre company Pangdemonium at Singapore’s Drama Centre Theatre in the National Library. Written by the late American playwright Jonathan Larson, the award-winning Broadway rock musical chronicles the lives of eight 20-something bohemian artists living through an AIDS epidemic in New York's East Village during the late 90s. The inspirational story is backed with a notable musical soundtrack which earned critical acclaim when it was last staged in Singapore at the Repertory Theatre in 2001. Therefore, director Tracie Pang highlighted the importance of the audio quality and in doing so contracted Jeffrey Yue and Lee Yew Jin from CTRL FRE@K to handle sound design and engineering.
‘Our task was to keep it very close to the original Broadway production,’ explained Mr Yue. ‘Meetings with the director, Ms Pang, and the musical director, and understanding the story and music styles were influential for system design and choice of equipment and techniques.’
The band crammed into a small space onstage right behind the set, the first challenge was to get good input signals, Mr Lee described: ‘We were facing the risk of picking up unwanted ambient noise from other backstage activities and equipment when, in addition to DI where possible, using microphones to catch the sound characteristics of acoustical instruments and guitar and bass amps, which are important tonal factors in many songs. So, microphone choice, techniques and positioning were key to an overall good performance.’
After initial considerations and with only four days for setup, tuning and rehearsals, the designers settled for Audio-Technica. ‘They offer a very wide range of microphones, and I have used a variety of them before for recording and live productions,’ added Mr Yue. ‘Also thanks to support from Audio-Technica and them letting us pick from their extensive inventory, during Rent rehearsals we were able to try different models and setups, like the flagship AT5045 side address mic. It proved ideal for overheads; I love its clarity and will continue using it for my other shows.’
Other models included the dual-element AE2500 on kick drum, AE2300 on snare, ATM450 on hi-hat, ATM230 on floor tom, the AE3000 on the guitar amps and the ATM650 on a bass amp used for low-frequency enhancement of the electric violin.
‘We strongly believe less processing is better,’ emphasised Mr Lee. ‘Audio-Technica microphones do not colour the sound, and with the choices they offer and the positioning we were able to achieve in the little space available. Only minimal EQ was needed.’
‘For us, Rent was the perfect showcase for how Audio-Technica can provide complete, purpose-tailored microphone solutions even under difficult circumstances in the theatre and musical world,’ stated Teng Shao Kai, sales manager of Audio-Technica (S.E.A.)
All-in-all, 27 channels from the band plus the actors’ vocals were sent to a Yamaha Rivage PM10 console at front of house. Every single input split and copied, one channel set was used for on-stage monitors and the band members’ personal monitoring through an Aviom system, while the other set served for FOH.
Manning the console, Mr Lee utilised DCAs for grouping inputs as well as sums. ‘Having both front of house and the on-stage systems on one fader each enables me to easily control and mix levels to prevent one overpowering the other, and to create the wanted “live” experience.’
A QLab Live Show Control system came to help with scene changes, yet Mr Lee was always kept on his toes during show performances. ‘Rent is telling a story, and the audience must never get lost,’ he described. ‘So, maintaining the linearity of the show from scene to scene with their many different music styles and lead instruments, keeping the vocals, sung or spoken, intelligibly in a healthy balance with the rock band, was positively challenging.’
The result was delivered through a d&b audiotechnik FOH system. A centre cluster of 10 d&b T10 was hung above the stage, while left and right of the stage were each covered by four V12 stacked on V-Subs and B2 subwoofers catered to the main floor, supported by Ci80 front fills. Additional coverage of the two balconies above was achieved with further Ci and Q Series loudspeakers and matching subs, respectively. Remote control of power and mute was enabled through d&b’s R1 control software and R70 interfaces.