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Dramatic delays by Yamaha enhance The Return of Colmcille

The spectacular outdoor performance marked the culmination of Derry/Londonderry’s celebration as the UK’s City of Culture. A host of Yamaha equipment kept the outdoor audio systems in sync as the production moved a mile along the River Foyle.

Celebrating its status as the UK’s City of Culture, the Northern Ireland city of Derry/Londonderry has staged an array of events, the highlight of which was The Return of Colmcille – a dramatic showdown staged along a mile of the River Foyle. Yamaha audio equipment helped overcome the enormous technical challenges and complex delay issues presented by the spectacular moving event, produced by outdoor arts experts Walk the Plank. “The audio had to achieve three things, all at the same time,” says Melvyn Coote, managing director of the event’s audio production company tube UK. “Firstly, we had to ensure that an audience 750m wide and up to 15m deep was always looking in the right direction at the right time – at the monster, at Colmcille or at the choir on the Peace Bridge. “Secondly, we had to ensure that the sound from every element of the production – which included live narration, playback of suitably dramatic music on playback and the live choir – was also correctly delayed to multiple PA stacks along the river bank, so all parts of the audience heard it clearly and in sync with what they could see. “Thirdly, we had to ensure that the monster’s sound effects, coming from a PA on the dredger itself, reached different parts of the huge audience area simultaneously and tightly synchronised with the rest of the production – while all the time it was moving up river.” Needing complex delay matrices to achieve these aims, Coote and FOH engineer/system programmer John Redfern chose Yamaha DME digital mixing engines as the ideal solution. The live and recorded audio was mixed on a Yamaha CL5 console and two Rio3224-D i/o units in a cabin on the riverside. Alongside them was a pair of cascaded DME64N digital mixing engines with Dante interface cards, programmed with multiple delay matrices to ensure that the sound was clear across the whole area. Adding a further layer of complexity was the monster’s sound effects, which were sent wirelessly from the CL5 to the dredger. An onboard Yamaha LS9-16 console and DME24N submixed the sounds, before broadcasting them through the onboard loudspeakers. At the furthest point, this meant sending the sounds from the cabin to the dredger nearly a kilometre of delay time ‘early’, so they would be broadcast from the dredger at the right time. As the ‘monster’ made its way up the river, the onboard crew had 16 pre-programmed GPS waypoints, corresponding with different length delays, where the DME24N was adjusted to bring it into sync with the shore audio system. Once the dredger was at its final place, ready for the monster’s battle with Colmcille, the audio system still had to draw the audience’s attention alternately to the different elements of the production, as well as ensuring the audience further down the river continued to enjoy excellent sound. “We needed a huge amount of continually-changing delays,” said Coote. “The delay matrix in the Yamaha DME is one of the only products that allows you to do it and on this show we had all three units working at their limits. But despite the complexity, once everything was programmed they made it comparatively straightforward to operate. John was triggering scenes via QLab and MIDI straight into the DMEs and it worked really well.”