The production of “INSPIRE Onmyoji,” which ran at the 1,300-capacity Nissei Theatre in Tokyo from late December to early January under pandemic regulations at that time, was supported by sound reinforcement from the Martin Audio Wavefront Precision platform (WPM) and Sound Adventures immersive 3D, with all outputs controlled by the SARA II Premium Rendering Engine.
A Umeda Arts Theater production, the show was scripted by Brazily Anne Yamada, Takaya Okamoto, NatsuTeranishi and directed by Junya Yamada. Takao Osawa performed the role of Japanese ancient wizard “Onmyoji” accompanied by high-end sound, video, and lighting. Show producer Junya Yamada, wanted the production to benefit from special effects from the sound system, and so he contacted Iwao Tsurusawa, president of MSI JAPAN Tokyo, Martin Audio’s rental partner, explaining that he wished to create a live show using the Sound Adventures 3D sound system he’d experienced previously.
The main PA system utilized a pair of ground-stacked line array enclosures (eight WPM arrays and two SX118 subwoofers per side) and five stage-based front fills (all WPM). In addition, seven XD12 loudspeakers were pole-mounted in front of the audience area.
The project also incorporated the theater’s installed proscenium left-center-right system, along with wall loudspeakers on the upper floor and second floor, additional loudspeakers aimed at balcony seats and a temporary Martin Audio ADORN A55 loudspeaker set up in the back row of the second tier with a mic stand. In total, 31 outputs were controlled by a SARA II processor, the heart of the Sound Adventures system.
Martin Audio iK42 amplifiers were deployed to drive the WPM and XD12, and Lake LM44 processors were assigned to control both temporary and permanently installed loudspeakers — on the one interface — all connected by a Dante digital audio network. Including the recording lines and backup Pro Tools, the number of Dante patch points exceeded 200.
SARA II supports an external control protocol called Open Sound Control (OSC). With an assist from the technical ability of Audiobrains, the MSI Japan subsidiary, everything was integrated in smart control. MSI also provided the immersive sound engineer, while further engineers were stationed at three separate Yamaha mixing consoles — one for the mics, one for music only, and the last for sound effects. Sitting above that was a separate immersive sound engineer.
The playback application was Ableton Live; when the operator hit playback, this automatically released the unique MIDI Machine Control (MMC) protocol, while another application converted it into OSC signal, enabling it to control SARA II. With this configuration, sound effects could be placed and located everywhere simultaneously and streamed binaurally for Internet live viewings broadcast on December 31 and January 3. Control of the SARA II and KLANG:fabric processors were achieved via a single MMC and OSC simultaneously.
Audiobrains director Sam Yamashita, who was at the hub of the sound design, explains, “All three consoles released MMC when engineers hit the snapshot change; those signals were then fed to an external MacBook Pro, from where they were converted into OSC in order to control the SARA II and KLANG, using a special application. With so much going on, you can see why we needed a separate ‘immersive’ engineer. In fact I believe this will be essential for the next generation of shows.”
Audiences were also able to see numerous special effects including the scenery of a huge LED screen, which is rarely seen in traditional Nissei theatre, and a movable circular LED screen suspended above the stage moves up and down along with each scene of the play. In addition, a new type of fiber beam (harmless to the eyes) was fired into the audience area, adding further excitement to the production.
Tsurusawa concludes, “When sound becomes 3D it means nothing unless all elements are linked: artist, direction, stage, lighting, video and live environment. Thanks to cooperation with each department, and a loudspeaker design that covered the entire audience seating, we were able to create a unique atmosphere for INSPIRE Onmyoji using the latest sound technology. I am happy that we were able to provide inspiration and create an immersive feeling for the [online] audience just as if they were present.”