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Update On Sound For The Inauguration Of President Obama; Includes New Photo Gallery

In addition to very large-area coverage considerations, Baltzell and the MSI audio support team had to prepare for and deal with serious weather and security contingencies, while designing and deploying a fail-safe sound system to support sound reinforcement for both speech and music.

By PSW Staff January 29, 2009

President Obama at the podium during the inauguration. (See our Photo Gallery of the event for a wide range of great images of the sound equipment, people and overall scale of the event.)

The recent inauguration of President Barack Obama set a benchmark as one of the most widely attended and celebrated civic events in history, with Baltimore-based audio systems provider Maryland Sound (MSI), in collaboration with sound designer and front of house engineer Pat Baltzell of Baltzell Audio Design as well as Clair Global, configuring a wide-ranging sound reinforcement system to serve the event. (See our new Photo Gallery of the event.)

The ceremony took place at the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., with a crowd of more than 1.5 million onlookers extending two miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial on the Potomac River, and along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, with a total audience “in the streets” surrounding the event site estimated to have exceeded two million.

MSI needed about 30 semi-truckloads of audio and support gear for coverage of the Capital and connected areas, while Clair Global stepped in with more than 25 towers of line arrays on delay. Clair was also quite busy supporting numerous inaugural balls in addition to the pre-inauguration concert the day prior at the Lincoln Memorial.

Besides the Oath of Office administered by Chief Justice John Roberts and an address by the new president, the diverse ceremonial program also included music from the San Francisco Boys and Girls’ choirs, performances by Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, the U.S. Marine Corps band playing “Hail to the Chief,” a 21-gun salute, and a number of prayers and invocations. 

Shoeps microphones on the podium, backed up by Sennehiser 816 shotgun microphones, were utilized for all speeches at the Capital, including President Obama’s remarks. Mixing for all of these applications was done on a pair of Yamaha PM5D digital consoles.

With equal attention being paid to clear sound quality and open sightlines, MSI (headed by Bob Goldstein and working its third consecutive presidential inauguration) teamed up with Baltzell to configure a wide-ranging loudspeaker set that relied largely on JBL VERTEC VT4889 large-format line array elements.

In total, 15 of MSI’s custom-built, ground-stacked line array towers, ranging from four to 14 VT4889 loudspeakers each, were dispersed throughout the Mall area, beginning with two 14-box clusters at the main stage at the capital (one per side).

With respect to sightlines, six towers were arranged on the outside perimeter of the main lawn (which measured approximately 550 feet deep by 1,000 feet wide), to provide delays without obstructing the view of the seated audience.

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Patrick says

Not a comment but a question, What microphone do White house or Obama used for speech?

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