Cho Kabuki: Yoshitsune Senbonzakura (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees) is one of the most popular kabuki plays in Japan. Senbonzakura itself, a ‘Vocaloid’ song launched on the Japanese video-sharing website Nico Nico Douga, originally became a major hit leading to live stage performances and novels and creating a new collaboration—Hanakurabe Senbonzakura. This was a kabuki production first, bridging the past and the present, and premiered at the Niconico Chokaigi Festival in 2016.
When the ‘Cho Kabuki supported by NTT’ event was held recently at Makuhari Messe Event Hall in Chiba, Martin Audio’s Sound Adventures system made an auspicious Japanese debut. This is known as one of the main event booths of Nico Nico Super Conference, which is annually held in Makuhari Messe during the May public holiday and is designed with the aim of reproducing Nico Nico Video live—described as the melting pot of Japan’s internet.
In addition to the famous Kabuki actor Shido Nakamura, Kuniya Sawamura, Choshi Nakamura, and a ‘vocaloid’ Miku Hatune—who represents the virtual reality world— perform together, making the performance extremely innovative. It is also an interesting composition that combines traditional Kabuki performance with modern technology such as CG, VR, AR, and motion capture.
It was therefore fitting that this year’s Hanakurabe Senbouzakura was performed in a more upgraded version than in its premier year, providing a perfect backdrop for Sound Adventures to show its ability to move audio objects in space.
Martin Audio loudspeakers, in combination with Astro Spatial Audio software and processing, combine to produce an immersive 3D sound field—a fully object-based immersive audio delivering new creative options for live acts and theaters worldwide. The proprietary SARA II rendering engine turns audio inputs (pre-recorded material, audio console, mics) into audio objects by adding metadata such as Level; Spatial position; Acoustic characteristics; Velocity; Distance and Point source or Plane wave.
Iwao Tsurusawa, director of MSI Japan, states, “Cho Kabuki is trying very advanced things with a combination of cutting-edge technologies in video and production methods, led by NTT, Dwango and Shochiku.
“However, looking at the previous three shows, we have used a conventional stereo setting for the PA. This year, we suggested to production company, NATiON, a more challenging solution using the new Martin Audio Sound Adventures, knowing it would be a perfect solution for the audio. The production team was also very keen trying new things to make the performance better, so this request was accepted.”
In this setting, in addition to front L/C/R flying rigs (and rear L/R), four point-source loudspeakers on pole mounts per side were used as side channels. The main L/R hangs consisted from of eight MLA per side, eight MLA Compact in the center array, eight WPM at the rear arrays per side, and eight DD12 as the side channels.
The core of the Sound Adventures’ SARA II engine is located under the stage, and all signals were delivered via a Dante audio network. A total of four Auvitran AudioToolBox were used for Dante distribution for the various locations, and eight DD12 on the wall were connected using AES3 via Audinate AVIO. The Martin Audio WPMs at the rear were powered by Martin Audio iK42 multi-channel DSP power amplifiers which, with its Dante input, made it very convenient for remote installation. The three Martin Audio MLX subwoofers were installed side by side so that they would not disturb the stage passage.
Front of house engineer, Takahashi from Shochiku Show Biz Studio, says, “Sometimes, we receive a request to make a 3D sound for the normal Kabuki performance as well. We have usually worked on channel-based solutions with DAW, but it would be useful if this kind of object-based solution would spread further.”
The original plan had been for Miku Hatsune‘s vocal sound to appear from all around the venue along with the opening image video. After checking the production, they instead decided that the sound of thunder and the voice of the dragon’s should be localized at the back of the venue while Miku’s voice continued to ‘fly’ right around the venue. “It is the strength of SARA II’s object-based solution that we could respond flexibly to such last-minute production changes,” notes Takahashi.
Tanabe, of production company, NATiON, explains, “When I first listened to Sound Adventures during trials, I thought it could be used to make a superior production than usual. When I actually listened to it in the venue, I was totally convinced of the success of the show as I felt a sense of presence and impact that I had never experienced previously. I also heard the audience’s favorable response.
“Therefore, I can see myself using this in various productions in the future.”