The MARC Theater in Salt Lake City, a 564-seat motion picture venue on the circuit of the annual Sundance Film Festival, has been the subject of an ongoing audio reproduction capabilities upgrade headlined by the installation of Martin Audio WPC scalable resolution line arrays as a cornerstone of a 7.1 system.
“We realized that the sound systems hadn’t seen an upgrade since the 90’s,” explains Dan Beedy, a long-term member of the technical crew at Sundance who took over as technical project manager in 2013. Although some had received Dolby Atmos fit-outs, the MARC, which hosts many prominent festival premieres, had been neglected. “Sundance has always had a focus on presenting their films to a high standard so we needed to find partners to help bring the audio up to spec,” he adds.
As a result, the organization began working with production project manager Ben VanDonkelaar, senior audio engineer at BlueWater Technologies, and Martin Audio Northeastern regional sales manager Martha Callaghan, who teamed up to design and specify the new system.
Beedy and VanDonkelaar had long worked closely together (notably on the Traverse City Film Festival). “When Sundance was looking for a new partner I suggested they look at Bluewater, and specifically Ben,” Beedy continues. “We have a great short hand together about how venues are set up and what the goals are. While Ben’s team were in charge of flying the rig my team were in charge of tuning it.”
The 7.1 system comprises left/center/right plus left surround/right surround and left rear/right rear in addition to the subwoofers. “We used hangs of six WPC for the left/center/right channels and each of those arrays also has an SXH218 for low-frequency extension,” Beede says. A separate SXH218 serves as a dedicated subwoofer and a further 12 Martin Audio CDD-Live 12s handle left/right and left rear/right/rear surrounds.
The WPC hangs were optimized in 2-box resolution and powered from two touring racks of three iKON iK42 multichannel amplifiers. According to Martin Audio product support engineer Joe Lima, “This required eight continuous hours of pink noise and individual multi-band PEQ tuning on every pair of elements to meet the Dolby standard curve and SPL coverage. Quite an adventure I must say.”
The installation marked Martin Audio’s initiation at Sundance, Beedy notes. He had originally been introduced to Callaghan by VanDonkelaar during a sound upgrade at the ICA in Boston that had proved a challenging space. “She recommended Martin Audio’s O-Line micro line arrays, which worked brilliantly in that space. And so we began talking about participation in Sundance, which is how the MARC system was born.
“I’ve used Martin Audio products for a number of live cinema premieres,” he continues. “Cinema products aren’t designed to meet the more exacting specs of a premiere room. Typical cinemas are ±10 dB front to back, but we shoot for ± 1 dB front to back in a room, as we’d like every seat to have a similar audio experience when we are designing for premieres. Cinema products aren’t designed to meet that kind of specification so we turn to live event audio products.”
In addition to VanDonkelaar, Lima provided tuning support while Simon Purse from the UK office assisted in the design. “We actually pushed what the speakers were capable of and needed help to unlock some of the software to accomplish that,” Beedy concludes. “Overall, the Martin Audio system exceeded the expectations of the festival.”