Meticulous Balance: The Sound Design For “Follies” At The Kennedy Center

“This is a classic type of show that was written before productions became too over-arranged. The various sonic elements are balanced naturally, so I wanted the sound system to be as transparent as possible.” - Kai Harada, sound designer

By Keith Clark June 13, 2011

A scene from the Current production of Follies at the Kennedy Center (Photo by Joan Marcus).

Several JBL Control 25 compact loudspeakers handle front fill and under balcony needs, and Harada specified an additional four Meyer Sound UPJunior compact self-powered loudspeakers for the orchestra.

Two Meyer Sound Galileo 616 loudspeaker management systems have also been brought in and inserted in the system signal path.

The orchestra is mic’d with the venue’s package of premium microphones, including models from AKG, Neumann, Sennheiser and Shure.

Performers are served by 44 Sennheiser SK 5212 UHF wireless microphone bodypack transmitters with EM 1046 receivers.

Countryman B6 minature omnidirectional lavalier mics are the choice for most of the actors, although a couple of the male actors are better served by Sennheiser MKE 1 miniature lavalier mics.

“I didn’t want the actor microphones to be visible, and the B6s and MKE1s are the best options available,” adds Harada. (All supplemental gear with the exception of the Stagetec system was supplied by PRG.)

Versatile Package
Harada first began working with Stagetec system elements about two years ago for a traveling production of Wicked, where the goal was to cut the overall footprint of the system.

Sound mixer Patrick Pummill (left) and sound designer Kai Harada.

The key was Stagetec Nexus base devices that provide all input/output, routing, mic preamps, and much more in an extremely versatile package that is modular, portable, and reliable.

After that initial positive experience, it’s now become a staple of his designs, including Zorro in Moscow and Hinterm Horizont in Berlin.

The Stagetec complement for Follies is extensive, with four Nexus base devices working in tandem with a 48-channel Aurus mix/control surface.

The Nexus devices take 48 mic inputs from the orchestra, another 44 inputs from the actors wireless systems, as well as a variety of other digital and analog inputs, including 10 channels (via MADI) of QLab pre-programmed effects from a Macintosh computer.

Another scene from Follies at the Kennedy Center. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Outputs of the foldback and surround systems are equalized in the Aurus realm, while outputs to the vocal and orchestra systems are directed to the two Galileo loudspeaker management systems that provide critical final tailoring capability.

All inputs and outputs can easily be routed everywhere and anywhere desired via the Stagetec system interface.

“Stagetec Aurus and Nexus are such a powerful, flexible package, and each time out, I discover further ways to take advantage of that flexibility,” Harada states. “There’s really nothing else like it that sounds as good and is also such a customizable solution to meet any technical or creative need that might arise.”

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About Keith

Keith Clark
Keith Clark

Editor In Chief, ProSoundWeb & Live Sound International
Keith has covered professional audio and systems contracting for more than 25 years, authoring hundreds of articles in addition to hands-on work in every facet of publishing. He fostered the content of ProSoundWeb (PSW) from its inception, helping build pro audio’s largest portal website, and has also served for several years as editor in chief of Live Sound International (LSI).


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J. P. Reali says

The information in this article pertaining to the theaters construction is incorrect.  The walls are made of ash not laurel wood, and the curtain is not wool and was not a gift from the people of Canada.  The laurel wood walls and curtain from Canada were features of the theater before the 2007 renovation.

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