Audio for Baleen Moondjan

Home Novatech takes its complement of L-Acoustics Syva to the beach to provide low-profile PA solution for festival opening event

Dramatic and haunting’ is how you could best describe Baleen Moondjan, a contemporary retelling of Australian first nations’ stories and culture. The production is the creative vision of choreographer and legendary indigenous dancer, Stephen Page, and premiered at the Adelaide Festival this year.

The staging of Baleen Moondjan required considerable imagination and resourcefulness, in no small part because of the setting – Adelaide’s Glenelg Beach. Sand, surf and baking hot Summer weather, aren’t generally things to complain about but it’s not every day a full-blown audiovisual production needs to contend with the elements in this way.

“As soon as we heard about the vision for Baleen Moondjan we knew this wasn’t going to be a standard job,” explains Leko Novakovic with some understatement. Leko is Managing Director of Novatech Creative Event Technology, which has had a longstanding relationship with the Adelaide Festival. Normally, Festival openers will be staged in venues such as the Adelaide Festival Centre, with all the infrastructure, power, data, lifts, ramps and access you could ever need, or the event-friendly Elder Park where event infrastructure is common place. This wasn’t that type of production.

Giant fibreglass ‘whale bones’ form the basis of the show’s staging, designed by Jacob Nash. The stage is a staggering 120m long, low and open to the sky. The vision for the show was for audiences, mostly sitting on rugs and camp chairs on the beach, to be utterly absorbed by the setting and the story. In other words – no huge truss towers, no conspicuous PA, and no lighting grid.

MAKING SHORE

As soon as the unusual production requirements became clear, Leko Novakovic immediately thought ‘Syva’. L-Acoustics loudspeakers form a large part of Novatech’s inventory and Syva carries the lion’s share of the rental company’s portable PA duties. Not only is it low profile, the profile it does have is aesthetically pleasing, which, along with its deceptively capable performance, has made Syva a mainstay of Novatech’s premium corporate & outdoor international sporting events. But a beach gig for thousands?

“I immediately suspected that Syva would be perfect for Baleen Moondjan,” continues Leko Novakovic. “The producers didn’t want the PA to be conspicuous, so that immediately was a tick in the box for Syva. We did play around with an alternative design based on a L-Acoustics line array hung high, up and behind the stage, but ultimately it wasn’t practical. So we returned to a Syva-based design.”

Leko handed the audio design over to his audio specialist, Matthew Ruggiero, who worked in L-Acoustics’ Soundvision sound design and mapping software to arrive at the best arrangement of Syva, subs and fill.

THE SYVA SOLUTION

The solution saw a left/right arrangement of a Syva Low and Syva columns either side of the stage – set wide to ensure the performance area was as clear as possible. From there, three delay rings of Syva ensure complete coverage of the audience area out to 90-100m from the stage.

For low-frequency reinforcement, four L-Acoustics SB28 subs, in an end-fire configuration, were placed in a block between the Syva performing front of house duties. A further three L-Acoustics SB18 subs provide additional low-end energy for those further from stage, positioned behind the mix position, arranged in a cardioid configuration as to avoid disturbing the FOH engineer.

Other fill included L-Acoustics X8 point source loudspeakers on the front edge of the stage, half buried in the sand to ensure minimal impact on sightlines.

“We bounced our Syva-based design off of L-Acoustics for a second opinion,” recalls Leko Novakovic. “They were very helpful and came back with a few tweaks. We were confident we had things right but it was an unusual application, so it was reassuring to have that backup.”

DIGGING IN

Novatech first invested in Syva when it won a bid to provide public address for the Santos Tour Down Under professional cycling race in 2018. It was a brave and innovative move. Deploying Syva with custom engineered winch-up stands that allowed Syva to be deployed four metres in the air along streets, the Tour Down Under never sounded so good.

For the Baleen Moondjan production, Novatech again used the winch-up stands but asked the site crew to assist by digging holes for all the Syva in the delay rings. In doing so, it hid the stand legs but retained the 2-3m height required to cover the audience area.

“We buried the stands, put fence weights on the legs in the sand and winched the Syva loudspeakers up from there,” recalls Leko Novakovic. “It resulted in a very stable and low-profile solution. Running and concealing cable in the sand wasn’t an issue either!”

ALL THE ELEMENTS

The performance itself comprised a five-piece band, playback cues from Q-Lab and narration via headset microphones. The system performed flawlessly over four nights. Completely open to the elements, the stable Adelaide Summer weather ensured almost perfect conditions for the four-night run.

Audiences were utterly immersed in the experience, in no small part thanks to the Syva sound system. Syva’s wide horizontal coverage, even dispersion, along with the team’s meticulous time alignment of the delay rings ensured everyone was totally enthralled by the action, music and storytelling on the night.

“We were pushing Syva out of its comfort zone, but it responded superbly,” concludes Leko Novakovic. “Syva’s wide 140° horizontal dispersion really came into its own, especially for the two front of house loudspeakers – we still managed to capture the vast bulk of the audience despite being set so wide.

“For me, it confirmed what I already knew: Syva is the most versatile loudspeaker we have in our inventory. It never ceases to amaze me just how capable Syva is. It’s just a freakishly well designed speaker.”

As a postscript, and I’m sure many will be wondering: yes, it took many hours, back in the warehouse, for the team to thoroughly clean out all the Glenelg Beach sand from every piece of equipment. But worth it.

Photo credit: David Solm
Photo credit: David Solm
Photo credit: David Solm
Photo credit: David Solm
Photo credit: David Solm