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48 Hours In Las Vegas: Upgrading The PA For Blue Man Group
87 loudspeakers, 72 amp channels, and tuning -- all in a very tight timeframe...
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The split center cluster of six ARCS IIs, which handles many of the vocal channels, posed an interesting problem. The center location in the theater is not available due to a scenic element, so the choice was to either shoot sound through several truss elements or split the cluster into two parts.

Again, due to the very tight coverage pattern of the ARCS IIs, I was able to segment the coverage of the center cluster while avoiding comb filtering between the two arrays.

On the electronics side, all amplification and DSP was simplified into one platform and re-located, with 18 L-Acoustics amplified controllers deployed at three locations around the theater. LA NETWORK MANAGER provides the ability to compensate the response for array size, curvature and atmospheric conditions, while also providing plenty of EQ for room-specific issues. In the end only a couple of filters were needed in any part of the system.

Go Time
Starting at 10 pm on Tuesday, we removed the previous loudspeakers, amplifiers, DSP and cable, and working with our integrator, Clearwing Productions (Phoenix, Milwaukee), the new system elements were all installed and tested by 8 am. Following a rest period and fortified with plenty of coffee, we were back to work by 5 pm that same day, calibrating the system with the help of Scott Sugden from L-Acoustics we finished before break.

One of the two KARAi and SB18 flown array sets.

As noted, the measured results of the system were almost spot-on with the predictions from SOUNDVISION. Within three hours, the system response was unified and the adjustments required were limited to small time-alignment changes and managing the response of the system in the room.

By 9 am Thursday morning, it was time for sound check. In less than 35 hours, the team had installed 87 loudspeakers at 44 locations in the theater, wired and tested 72 amplifier/controller channels, tuned the PA… and gotten some sleep!

From the first downbeat in sound check it was noticeable that all of the hard work was worth it. Every fader I brought up felt as if I was mixing on nearfield monitors in a studio, not a PA at 70 feet away in a 1,500-seat theater. Having made many adjustments to shows over the past several years for Blue Man Group, this has been the single biggest leap in performance the show has seen.

I’ll close with the reaction of senior music director Byron Estep: “The L-Acoustics system handles high volume and density perfectly, without losing clarity in the transients or changing the tonal character of the mix as the musical dynamics change. Our performers and mix engineers have been extremely happy with them and feel that they accurately translate the choices they make during a performance.

“With more than 20 years of experience working on shows and listening to different systems in different rooms, I can say without hesitation that L-Acoustics loudspeakers sound the best and provide the most musical listening experience for our audience.”


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