The long-anticipated stage version of The Lord of the Rings is the latest high-profile public event to rely on Sennheiser’s wireless technology. In a show not forgiving of errors or imperfections, Sennheiser provided wireless under some of the most demanding RF requirements to date. The show, which premiered at the Princess of Wales Theatre, in Toronto, Canada, features a total of 155 wireless devices used simultaneously in one location–a frequency management achievement on its own–not to mention the frequency fight going on through Toronto's crowded airwaves, to infuse listeners with the crisp sounds of Middle-earth.
The Lord of the Rings involves the talents of over 70 actors, singers and musicians. "This is the most ambitious theatrical production ever staged. And thanks to a strong technological performance by Sennheiser, theatregoers are able to enjoy the powerful sounds of India's most popular composer, A.R. Rahman, and the rhythmic and forceful vocals of Finnish neo-folk group Värttinä, as well as an ensemble of outstanding performers," says the show's producer, Kevin Wallace.
Behind this technological tour de force is Sennheiser's wireless transmission technology, managing a total of 73 channels used simultaneously by the actors' wireless microphone systems (64 channels), wireless monitoring systems (four channels), Voice of God system (four channels) and a radio link system (one channel).
For example, 64 UHF bodypack transmitters (SK 5012 and SK 50) are worn by the cast. The flight of these wireless signals are picked up by eight UHF mainframes with eight receiver modules each, while two SMCD software systems provide user-friendly visual monitoring of these 64 channels simultaneously. The system is capable of monitoring RF signal strength, audio level, the active diversity channel and transmitter battery status.
"I knew for a frequency situation this complicated it absolutely had to be Sennheiser," says Simon Baker, sound designer of the show. "It is virtually impossible that all of these signals are sharing the same airspace and not conflicting with one another, but they are. The Lord of the Rings is a tremendous accomplishment, not only artistically, but from a technological point of view as well."
Sound Associates programmed all of the RF frequencies at their Yonkers, New York facility before transporting the equipment to Toronto. The wireless equipment supplied and installed by the veteran theatrical production provider included all of the show's microphones, the personal monitoring for the singers and a 32-channel communication system and the "god mics."
Not only will the audience benefit from the wireless technology used by the cast, they will also hear ambient sounds and music from the orchestra thanks to wired Sennheiser and Neumann microphones. Two Sennheiser RF condenser shotgun microphones pick up ambient sound on stage, while 17 Sennheiser and Neumann microphones are used in the orchestra pit.
"It is an honor to provide our state-of-the-art technology for such a prestigious event," says Rolf Meyer, president, marketing and sales at Sennheiser. "A huge array of Sennheiser transmitters, microphones, receiver systems and monitoring systems will all contribute to making The Lord of the Rings one of the most spectacular productions ever seen and, most importantly to me, ever heard."