OSA International recently had to produce back-to-back events for two clients who used Chicago’s Navy Pier in very different ways. Fortunately, they had Martin Audio MLA to help them overcome a number of challenges.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Designight 2016 had the venue for one night while the Gateway for Cancer Research Cures Gala 2016 was set for the following evening. Both of the events were completely different technically, and had to be strategically designed to provide both clients exactly what they were looking for.
As an architectural organization, AIA preferred to show less of the technical production elements and highlight the natural historic beauty of the venue. In contrast, the Cures Gala event required extensive lighting and projection trusses, including a flying stage over the audience area. With the tight schedule between events and limitations of the facility, all equipment had to be installed, tested, and stay throughout both events, which meant OSA had to make the equipment as inconspicuous as possible.
Michael Ravenhill and The Mandell Entertainment Group were executive producers for the 25th annual Gateway for Cancer Research 2016 Cures Gala with OSA as the technical producer and David Foster & Friends as entertainment including Peter Cetera, CeeLo Green, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sinbad, Michael Bolton and The Tenors.
With six semis and two 26-foot box trucks of audio, video, lighting and band gear, space was at a premium for the event. The ground level and audience space was packed with guest tables that only allowed enough room for audio consoles on the floor, while video, lighting, audio control and dimmer racks were on the balcony level with limited access.
The Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier is known as a challenging audio environment because of parabolic effects added by the domed ceiling, its reflective open steel structure, a polished cement floor and glass sides. A traditional bandshell that makes up the upstage wall multiplies the acoustical challenge as volume is added.
To overcome these issues, OSA removed the house audio and replaced it with 10 Martin Audio MLA cabinets a side, using the system’s pattern control to minimize the reflections and increase direct frequency response to the audience seating area, along with 12 specially tuned MLX subs for a balanced low-end response. Plexiglass was used wherever possible to shield direct sources such as drums while guitar amps were isolated into back rooms. The audio system also included two Studer Vista 5SR consoles for the entertainment and a Soundcraft Vi1 for the business portion and videos.
The OSA crew for the event included Carmen Educate (sound designer and entertainment mixer) Michael Solomon (production manager), Joseph Burger and Tom Georgitsis (technical directors), Peter Wiejaczka (production mixer), Peter Brennan (entertainment monitor engineer), Paul Educate (communications and RF technician), Orlando Calzada and Adam Rosenthal (system technicians).
Asked about mixing front of house for the event, Carmen Educate says, “The David Foster & Friends show went into the Navy Pier Aon Ballroom, and the acoustics in this venue are quite challenging to overcome. Because of this, it was critical to get the stage volume down to a minimum, which included minimizing the SPL from stage monitors, musical instruments, and amplifiers reflecting off of the bandshell.
“The mix experience is always stellar with the MLA system, and most importantly, our show is consistent sounding from arenas and large theaters, to exhibition halls, that are sometimes not ideal for sound clarity. It definitely drives like a super car, because you can feel every move you make at any speed, with precision. With MLA, I can achieve a better quality sound with less SPL and ear fatigue for the audience. My mix translates perfectly if I am running my show at 92dB or 105dB to accommodate for a certain audience or artist lineup.”
Summing up, Educate concludes, “Mixing on the MLA system is always a distinct pleasure. It’s by far the most advanced and efficient PA being used in the live sound market today, when properly calculated and deployed. MLA has always impressed me with its final results, and consistently helps bring the audience into a great sounding studio environment that our artists and clients have come to expect.”