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Elvis back in the building with Optocore

The single ring network system was specified by Cirque du Soleil's sound designer, Jonathan Deans, after witnessing an Optocore demonstration in New York by Optocore president Marc Brunke.

Elvis Presley’s music is being kept alive with the latest production by the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil. Hosted by the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, the spectacular new show, Viva ELVIS, employs the largest Optocore single ring network ever installed.

Viva ELVIS is billed as “a harmonious fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music” paying tribute to the life and music of Elvis Presley, who died 23 years ago yesterday on 16 August 1977.

The Optocore system was selected by Cirque’s sound designer, Jonathan Deans, after witnessing a demonstration in New York by Optocore president Marc Brunke. Following discussions in which Deans laid out the unique requirement for Viva ELVIS, Optocore accelerated development of the system to provide for multiple clients in a server-based topology.

“We’re the first to use client-servers,” said the show’s assistant head of audio, Aaron Beck. “Up until now, Optocore was run from a single computer. We wanted multiple clients to be able to control any part of the network – we have two clients in the monitor room, one at the front of house, one in the equipment room, and another in the RF area.”

With 21 network devices on the ring out of a possible 24, the low latency system (41.6μs between any points in the synchronous network) has ample room for expansion. The 21 devices handle 504 audio inputs and 776 outputs, converted to 48 kHz AES digital audio.

A guitar sub-system incorporates three on-stage guitarists, a vault of vintage guitars, a basement full of amplifiers, and a mass of foot pedals that must be switched on the fly while the guitarists are busy with their choreography or riding up the 50′ set. The solution is provided by MIDI triggers and a chain of 18 different Optocore network devices, Optocore A/D converters, mics and DIs.

Optocore’s ability to create 24 keystroke macros per client is also used extensively in Viva ELVIS. One macro was written to switch playback outputs from one Optocore DD2FE MADI I/O module to a second DD2FE, effectively becoming the redundant-switcher. The macro can also be triggered via MIDI, if desired.

“We’re using macros a lot in our backup scenarios. We route stem mixes from the FOH console to a Yamaha 02R next to our LCS monitor console. If the LCS were to crash, we can reroute the in-ear monitor signals to come from the 02R with a press of a macro. All band members would continue to get in-ear monitoring while we re-booted the monitor console,” said Beck.

The YS2 and YG2 expansion cards, made by Optocore for Yamaha digital consoles, allow for simple fibre connection of 32 I/O into a Yamaha 02R, while the crew has now programmed in excess of 100 macros for use at various points during and between shows.

Reflecting on the contribution of Optocore to the production, Beck said that he “wouldn’t want to do a show without Optocore now. Regarding cost, I’d say we’ve saved maybe 50 per cent, based mostly on the cost of labour in terminations per copper connection. […] On top of that, Optocore is flawless in performance. During the entire production process, I never had to troubleshoot a single ground problem.”

Tine Helmle, Optocore’s sales & marketing director, says: “We are delighted that Jonathan Deans chose the Optocore solution and that Cirque de Soleil is happy with the system. A key reason why Optocore was chosen for Viva ELVIS was because we could meet all the technical specifications the client wanted – and no other system could offer this. Optocore is traditionally a plug-and-play system, but the technical staff of the Cirque de Soleil have become extremely creative in configuring the system to their specific requirements by reprogramming on a daily basis.”