The Frankfurt International Motor Show is held every two years and the 65th Show last month spanned twelve halls of the Messe Frankfurt with around 1,000 exhibitors from more than 34 countries showing off their wares over ten days.
Among the most elaborate pavilions this year was the sensational ceiling at Audi’s pavilion, where, in the style of the Christopher Nolan movie Inception, a huge fake city – involving buildings, trees and clever use of mirrors – hung, upside down, above the German brand’s latest models.
With healthy budgets and exciting creative briefs for production companies, Meyer Sound reported that they had almost 900 of their loudspeakers used for various manufacturers at this year's show: Audi, BMW, SMART and Volkswagen all deployed Meyer kit from suppliers including PRG, CT Germany, Nordlight, Schoko Pro, Leyendecker and the POOLgroup GmbH.
PRG have supplied lighting and audio services to Audi for 15 years. At this year’s event, PRG worked with TFN GmbH & Co KG, an audiovisual design consultancy based in Hamburg, on the design and technical planning of the sound.
Christian Oeser, lead audio engineer and head of implementation planning at PRG, explains the audio set up in the Audi pavilion: “Audi used to have an open truss grid roof with a TV Studio appearance, which made it easy to install loudspeakers of all types. This dramatically changed for this show with the upside-down look.
"The architectural design of the hanging buildings hanging and the fact that about 90% of the truss grid was covered by mirrors didn't allow the sound designer Christian Tesche from TFN to use the loudspeaker types as we had used on the show previously. Therefore we had to install them into the buildings of the pavilion set itself, rigged at varying heights. The design included around 84 UPM-1Ps and 82 MM-4s Meyer Sound loudspeakers.”
Part of the creative brief for TFN was that visitors to the pavilion, when entering an enclosed booth space, should be able to hear the Audi sound logo, itself modified on every new appearance. During the six-week pavilion build, a full audio system was implemented to ensure that the various types of announcements and automated evacuation messages of different priority could be heard on the booth including toilets, storage and technical areas.
In summary a system was needed with around 16 inputs and about 300 outputs. Oeser: “The main audio content was played from the video playback engines, synchronised to the video content. In total we had seven stereo tracks containing the base loop, special effects with specific acoustic localisation and additional sound effects to intensify the impression of specially themed buildings at different parts of the pavilion.”
In addition, he notes, for special events and presentations, the team implemented a set-up with an acoustical focus towards the main stage. “This only could be achieved by using delayed matrices.” Yamaha consoles were the order of the day for Audi on these presentation stages including a DM2000 and 01V96. Four AD8HR mic pre amp sets and no less than ten Yamaha DME64N mix engines were deployed.
Some 218 Meyer Sound loudspeakers were rigged for the Audi pavilion, including on one of the main presentation stages a MINA line array with 500-HP subwoofers. Amps used across the pavilion included 40 Dynacord LX 3000s.
Twenty Shure R Series handheld microphones were available when and where needed. Commenting on his preference for Meyer Sound loudspeakers, Oeser neatly sums up his feelings: “Personally, I like them because I have a lot of experience with those and know how to place and to focus them without listening to the system.”
With high microphone demand in the halls it was vital that wireless requirements were properly managed. To this end Shure's Axient wireless microphone system – able to detect interference and automatically shift operating frequencies, undetected by the user – was chosen by a number of exhibitors. Volkswagen used it for press conference duties on their stand, including 12 Shure AXT 400 Axient Dual Channel Receivers and matching Axient microphones.
The BMW Group hall was dedicated to the three brands of the group (BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce). The parent brand occupied a large part of the room with an impressive two-storey structure and a looped circuit in the form of the infinity symbol, plus a generous event stage. Technical planning and implementation of the display requirements was commissioned by BMW through Berlin planners NIYU media projects under the supervision of managing director Niko Hocke.
The sound system at BMW, described by Hocke simply as "great!", comprised 23 Meyer Sound UPA-1P in the rig for background sound and 26 UPM-1P, two UPJunior and a UPJ-1P on above, below and in the loop course, plus 14 MM-4XP which were used in the loop for improved detection along the race tracks.
On the main stage, two L/R arrays of three vertical JM- 1Ps and a centre cluster with four JM-1P provided sound for the spectators. Behind the stage and above the stage six 700-HP subwoofers with appropriate time alignment provided the low frequencies. For effects and as a surround speakers six UPQ-1P and eight UPA-1P were used. In addition, six UPM-1P served as nearfield, five UPJunior and another UPM- 1P as delay systems, and three UPM-1P provided monitoring.
Audio content for BMW consisted mainly of music with some speech. This was on a multitrack sound file, produced for the video and fine-tuned within Pro Tools onsite, then transferred onto the DVS-Videoserver to be linked to the filmclips.
Set-up on on the booth took about six days including rigging, cabling and speaker placement, followed by a further 10 days for the fine-tuning. Hocke: “The main challenge was to have a powerful sound system without crossing sightlines, because the main LED screen and booth construction left very little space for the loudspeaker rig. Meyer Sounds JM-P1 and UPQ/UPA speakers fulfilled those parameters and delivered a powerful and emotional sound. The BMW team was totally satisfied.”
The IAA Motor Show 2013 not only showcased the German and international automotive industry, it was also a reflection of what is possible for the events industry with uncompromising planning efforts. Oeser concludes: “Whether video, lighting or sound - quality, reliability and a professional performance is what counts. This extensive production and its success had many fathers who have partially invested up to one and a half years into the implementation.”