Updated Infrastructure Allowed Sound Designers John Shivers and David Patridge to Unveil Their Most Sophisticated Design Ever for America’s Oldest and Largest Outdoor Musical Theatre
ST. LOUIS – When The Muny, St. Louis’ beloved theatre institution, opened its 101st season, it also unveiled the completion of Phase 1 of its multi-million dollar renovation. With a newly rebuilt state-of-the-art stage, orchestra pit, light bridge, stage towers and an air circulation system, America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre was now equipped with the latest in stage technology. In addition to The Muny’s in-house upgrades, Masque Sound, a leading theatrical sound reinforcement and installation company, once again provided a custom audio equipment package for the summer festival. With the unveiling of the recently upgraded staging and infrastructure elements, the sophisticated audio design took advantage of the venue’s new cutting-edge audio networking capabilities.
Sound Designers John Shivers and David Patridge used the updated infrastructure as an opportunity to take advantage of Audio Over IP (AoIP) for interconnections rather than using traditional copper cabling. “The pro audio industry has continued to converge toward the use of Dante, AVB and other networking topologies,” says Patridge. “With the upgrades at The Muny, it made sense to take advantage of the comprehensive fiber optic and CAT6 lines added as part of the reconstruction. We opted to go with Dante connections wherever we could, using the Audinate AVIO adapters as the endpoint for signal to the Meyer Sound line arrays.”
The designers integrated the DiGiCo SD7T audio console using the new DiGiCo Orange Box interface with a Dante DMI card together with a Yamaha CL-1 mixing system.
“We used the CL-1 system for distribution of program feeds, paging and our house announce systems. Having three Yamaha Rio racks accessible over Dante to the DiGiCo was game changing,” adds Patridge. “We did run into a few obstructions in our efforts to use AoIP through the entire signal chain. For example, the Yamaha systems can only clock at 48kHz, which dictated that the SD7 would need to clock at 48K as well.
“Since the Meyer Sound Galaxy 816 units used for signal processing only accept AVB at 96K, we could not connect directly to them over our input-side network, so we needed to use more traditional AES connections there. On the output side of the Galaxy devices, we needed to take 96K AVB and convert it to 96K Dante. There are some interesting products coming out to do this in one step but we needed to resort to a 2-step conversion using a MOTU 112D converting AVB to MADI and then an RME MADIFace Dante to get us back to Dante. From there we used industrial weatherproof PoE switches from TrendNet to connect to the Audinate AVIO adaptors.”
With reconstruction at The Muny, the main PA now flies higher and from a single left/right position so that the sound in the house is more evenly distributed. “It also allowed us to have a center sub position, which really helped to achieve comprehensive, satisfying low end coverage,” says Patridge. “In addition, the new building includes a basement/trap room level, allowing for the orchestra to be inside, which is a huge benefit to them in terms of comfort. It also has helped us out as we didn’t have to worry about rain soaking the equipment.”
The wireless microphone package consisted of Sennheiser SK5212 wireless transmitters with EM3532 receivers.
“The Sennheiser gear has stood the test of time and held up really well,” adds Patridge. “It is very important that the equipment we use is bulletproof because the heat, humidity and the accompanying sweat factor is problematic. We have 48 radios working during the entire summer season and the relative infrequency of failures is a testament to Sennheiser.”
For the RF, the designers utilized RF Venue’s OPTIX Series3, a high-performance RF to fiber optic (RFoF) conversion system designed to facilitate the remote placement of wireless audio antennas. The OPTIX system can extend the range of antenna placement up to several kilometers, eliminating the need for bulky coaxial cable runs. The duo also utilized a Masque Sound 48-channel remote monitoring system.
Additional system upgrades that were new for this season included an Eventide H9000 Multi-effects Processor and Radial Engineering’s Catapult Cat-5 audio snakes.
“The Eventide H9000 has proven to us that in a world dominated by plug-ins, a hardware solution with a really effective GUI, Dante connectivity and some really great effects can work amazingly well,” adds Patridge. “We are using it as four-stereo devices for all of the reverb this season but we’re eager to try some of the more unique effects that it can produce. As far as the addition of Catapult, we have replaced all but about 10 pieces of traditional multi-cabling by using etherCON and Catapult. Masque was even able to customize a 1RU mounting solution for the Catapult breakouts that are patched to the DiGiCo SD-Racks.”
Patridge was very appreciative of the group effort that made this season another success. “In addition to the wonderful collaboration we had with Masque Sound, Associate Sound Designers Kevin Kennedy and Tracy Cowit did a great job. Josh Hummel who, together with me, mixed this season, did an amazing job night-in and night-out, and his enthusiasm for the new system design along with his expertise was invaluable,” adds Patridge. “We also want to acknowledge the house audio crew, Sean Wilhite, Josh Riggs, Norma West and Curtis Williams who handle the wireless mics, orchestra pit and everything else! Previously, they had the unenviable task of striking the pit every night and restoring it along with making sure the mics were working and in good positions the next day. The new building and infrastructure updates really set up The Muny for success, for this past season and into the future.”
A St. Louis tradition since 1919, The Muny produces all its musicals in the summer season and operates every year from mid-June to mid-August.
This season, The Muny presented Guys & Dolls, Kinky Boots, 1776, Cinderella, Footloose, Paint Your Wagon and Matilda. During the winter, a full-time staff of less than 25 people prepare for the approaching summer season. The summer staff expands to include more than 750 people in various positions. The outdoor amphitheater seats 11,000 people, with approximately 1,500 free seats in the last nine rows available on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Masque Sound is very fortunate to work with John Shivers and David Patridge – they’re extremely talented and quite possibly the very best in the business,” says Scott Kalata, director of sales, Masque Sound. “We look forward to supporting their cutting-edge designs for years to come.”