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Soldier of Orange is a wheel musical treat

The musical Soldier of Orange, created by producers Fred Boot and Robin de Levita, is based on the autobiography of Dutch resistance hero Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. A well-known story in the Netherlands, and already a movie, the producers selected a 4,200sqm airplane hangar on a former military airbase near The Hague as their workspace for this spectacular production, writes Marnix Bosman

Inside the hangar, the production team created a large stage, measuring 3,250sqm, which is positioned around the periphery of the space. All audience seats are placed on a turntable measuring 30m in diameter, and, in a radical design approach, this rotates from one stage set to the next. These include a ballroom and a beach; props include an original Douglas DC3 Dakota airplane.

The turntable was built by German specialist Bumat and offers around 1,100 seats, which in turn were supplied by Belgium’s Jezet Seating. The complete structure weighs about 250 tons and is driven by 20 4kW motors, which enable it to turn at a maximum speed of about 1.2m/s at the edge. This set-up offers major theatrical possibilities for both the director, Theu Boermans, and the creative audio and video team.

Apart from the large stages, which span almost 180º, large projections screens (500sqm) are used throughout the musical and can be moved around at the same rotational speed as the disk. To accompany this impressive set-up, sound designer Jeroen ten Brinke was approached to create an appropriate sound system.
 “Surround sound is essential for this production and my first thought was to place all speakers on the turning wheel itself,” ten Brinke explains. “This was not feasible though, because of the weight and the momentum when turning the wheel. We therefore created a stationary system with 14 line array clusters.” Alcons LR14 clusters are accompanied by a dual 15-inch subwoofer and are supplied by Focus Amsterdam/Rentall, which supplied all parts of the audio system.
 “I selected the LR14 because of the linear response and the high sound quality,” he adds. As well as from the flown subwoofers, a second stack of subs is placed underneath the public for sound effect purposes.

Soldiering on

“I always look for the best possible sound quality and I therefore wanted to drive the system from an analogue Cadac desk,” ten Brinke explains. “The FOH position is placed between the public and is also moving. The system has around 120-input and 120-output channels so routing all these analogue lines to the console was not realistic. The function of each line array cluster changes continuously from front to side or surround and we therefore decided to go all digital.”

Several digital options were considered of which the DiGiCo SD7 and the new D-Mitri system by Meyer Sound were the only real options because of the 96kHz capability. D-Mitri was selected because of its flexible routing and configuration features.
 Jason Rauhoff of Meyer Sound helped with the system programming and set-up on what is D-Mitri’s first major project in Europe. “Our D-Mitri system features several processor cores which are placed around the stage near the inputs and output amplifiers,” he explains. “All processors are connected using a fibre optic Gigabit network carrying all audio and control data. This optical cable is about the only cable from the FOH position to the processing cores. Because the FOH console is also turning we had to find a way to avoid cable breakage. In the end we found a special cable drum system that allows the wheel to turn a total of 7,000º (19 revolutions). This is just enough to get us to the intermission. During the break the wheel is turned back again for the second half of the show.”
 The D-Mitri system is controlled by a LCS CueConsole that features several fader blocks and touchscreens for all inputs and VCA groups. The FOH console is controlled by either Jos Diergaarde or Chiel Blaauw. Two additional engineers for the wireless systems complete the audio crew. Music is played by a live band, which is situated in a small studio in a corner of the building, or a Nuendo system, which also triggers the sound effects.
 “Sounds are coming from all corners so we spend a lot of time keeping the sound focused when the wheel is turning. We also use a lot of reverb for which we’ve selected 56 AltiVerbs. AltiVerb designer AudioEase programmed a special interface for us to manage all these reverbs during program changes. The sound moves very smoothly from one speaker to the next when the wheel is turning. I am pleased with the result – it was as much an adventure for us to put together as it is an adventure for the audience to see and hear,” ten Brinke concludes.