When designing audio systems with recallable functions for cruise ships, it is important to take several factors into account: the purpose of the venues, the number of technicians on staff, and the effect of a high turnover of the technical staff and how it relates to the consistency of shows and other events.
First is the use of the venue. Most venues on cruise ships serve multiple purposes; lounges can sometimes be used for 18 hours each day with little time for breaks. Designing an audio system that allows for a quick turnover time between events can increase the efficiency and use of a particular venue.
Second is the number of technicians staffed on a cruise ship. Staffing at land-based facilities — say a Las Vegas, Broadway, West End, or even theme park venue — is several times higher than on a typical cruise ship. In a land-based facility, there are usually a dozen or so technicians looking after just one venue. However, a cruise ship has several venues that are taken care of by only a handful of technicians.
Store and recall on the equipment can have a great impact on what the technician can accomplish. For example, there may be a Captain's cocktail party scheduled before a production show, with only an hour between the two events. Generally, the onboard audio engineer would have to repatch the audio system, preset the console using cheat sheets, and have some sort of sound check before the production show. This could take every bit of that hour between the events to accomplish. With a recallable audio console, all the technician has to do is load a new show from a memory card to recall the patch and roughed-in settings. Do a sound check and off you go.
The third factor is that cruise ship technicians have a high rate of turnover. Unlike a land-based facility where a technician will most likely live in his or her home, life on a cruise ship is more like living in a hotel. Therefore, most technicians on a cruise ship are on a four- to six-month contract. This means that every four to six months a new technician gets worked into the rotation. After several rotations, this can lead to inconsistency of the job function and performance. The production shows provide a good example of this inconsistency. When a new audio engineer rotates into a production show, minimal knowledge of the original production sound design is passed on, due to the fact that the ship is at sea and there is generally no downtime between technical crews and casts.
The use of an audio console with recall functionality allows the productions to remain in a more consistent format for the original sound design. One important fact to point out is that these recall functions are not meant to mix the show for the audio engineer. The recall functionality is meant to move the engineer through a sequence of cues. Such cues can be anything from microphones turning on and off to the triggering of effects. This allows the audio engineer to concentrate more on the mix than worrying about what cue is coming next. To sum up, recallable functions allow the show to remain in a more consistent format from one audio engineer to the next.
Alan Edwards of Nautilus Entertainment Design opted for flexibilty and automation when designing the sound systems for the entertainment venues on the new Queen Mary 2, the world's largest cruise ship.