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Orbital, d+b on track for Railway Children

Orbital-supplied d&b audiotechnik sound equipment is an integral part of The Railway Children production taking place at London’s Waterloo Station.

Orbital-supplied d&b audiotechnik sound equipment is an integral part of The Railway Children production taking place at London’s Waterloo Station. Inspired by the classic E. Nesbit book and subsequent film adaption, directed by Lionel Jeffries, The Railway Children has already been staged at several other sites with long historical links to the UK train infrastructure.

For the unusual spectacular, the station’s former Eurostar platforms have been transformed into a 1,000-seat theatre, with the audience sitting along a 40m length of platform on either side of the track.

The working station environment presented very individual challenges for the sound specification – challenges that were addressed by the specification of four distinct systems, all using d&b audiotechnik loudspeakers and employing complex routing and delays.

Ed Clarke, the production’s associate sound designer, commented: “To cover the audience successfully, and to ensure that the surround train effects could be perceived effectively across all seating positions, we designed four separate systems. However, two of these – the surround train effects, and the stereo music – effectively share one set of loudspeakers. We have a Yamaha DME64 handling the routing from the different sources, the levels of the different signals being fed, in some case, to the same loudspeakers, and the relatively complex set of delay times.”

The system has been configured into eight delay zones along the track. The vocal system utilises 16 d&b audiotechnik T10 speakers, while the background ambient-effects system is arranged as a four-point surround with d&b C690 loudspeakers. The train effects are delivered by d&b Q7s and Q10s. Careful programming of the DME64 across eight different feeds and 16 channels of QLab has facilitated a consistent sound throughout the unusual venue.

Having surmounted significant logistical and acoustical challenges, Clarke reflected: “Overall, it’s been a tremendous achievement by all the creative team, to build a theatre from scratch in such a difficult environment, equip it to the highest standards, and deliver such a quality result to the audience.”

In addition, the show is among the first UK theatre productions to utilise the moisture-resistant properties of Da-Cappo Micro Microphones, which are distributed in the UK by Orbital.

Explaining the choice of the Da-Cappo fixtures, the show’s number one sound operator, Luke Freeborough, remarked: “One of the principal characters, who is on stage pretty much throughout the show, was tending to sweat-out their mic capsules very rapidly. Their role is energetic, involving much jumping and running about, with sweat therefore being an inevitable issue. We needed a solution to help address this nightly problem, and decided to give the Da-Cappo design a try. In our experience so far, the Da-Cappo capsule is providing an excellent balance between audio performance and resilience – they keep working well, even when wet, with just a small EQ adjustment helping to maximise the time before any attention is required. If they get too wet, they can be simply shaken dry!”

Arguably the greatest star of the show, however, is Stirling Single No. 1 – a beautifully maintained 66-tonne steam locomotive built in 1870 and probably the largest prop being used in a current UK production.