Morin Productions, the US distributor for Outline Audio Products, recently took a musical walk through the seven deadly sins when its Butterfly line array was used at the Boston Conservatory's Heaven & Hell production. The show, an adaptation of Joe Jackson's 1997 concept album of the same name, gives a modern take on the sins including a sloth enjoying a super-sized soda in front of an ultra large big-screen TV. The production featured an uncomplicated stage backed by the talents of both Conservatory students and audio professionals.
"I have 97 separate mute scenes for the 75 minute show," says Heaven & Hell FOH engineer Nick Joyce, a veteran live sound engineer who mixed the show on a Crest X8 provided by Marathon Sound in Salem, NH. "The production seems simple to the theatregoer but it is a complex audio production with rapid-fire lines and singing in singles and groups. There are times when I can't take my eyes off the script; I'm mixing by total instinct."
Joyce works several shows at the Conservatory every year so when the time came to address the sound system design for Heaven & Hell in the Conservatory's 380-seat theatre, he called Paul Carelli of Morin Productions. "Paul and I go way back; I've known him ever since I came to Boston in 1979," he explains. "I thought the Outline array would be perfect for the show. The producers of the show wanted it to be a loud, impactful show with big dynamics. They wanted the sound to move through a huge spectrum - from the full band down to a whisper."
Carelli and Morin Productions provided support by way of two four-box arrays of the Outline C.D.H. 483 Hi-Pack and one Outline Subtech 218 double 18" subwoofer, all powered by Outline Twin Pulse Series T6.5 amplifiers. In addition, a Micra II SP self-powered loudspeaker and a Micra II passive loudspeaker were used for front fill. The compact but powerful system benefited the crew from the very beginning, with load-in on a busy Boston street and immediately up a steep flight of stairs. Due to limited truss space, the Outline arrays were hung left-right at approximately 25' apart. "Those were the only rigging points we could get. The boxes don't seem to mind being that close. I was a little concerned that there would be phasing issues but there weren't," says Joyce.
Carelli also gave the extra effort to assist the Conservatory by aligning the arrays using Outline's proprietary VIP array design software and optimizing the system using SMAART Live 5 to balance out the room. According to Joyce, Carelli's efforts paid off. "There is a 1dB difference between the first and last rows of the house. That consistency is amazing considering we hit 95-98dB at the back row, which is loud for live theater," he notes. "I still have tons of head room."
The Outline Butterfly line array helped Joyce to focus the sound in the seating area and avoid the reflective walls. "We have 25 lavaliere microphones in a small space. The cardioid characteristics of the Outline array allow me to get higher SPL without having to EQ for feedback on the lavs. Instead, I can EQ for tonality and make the actors sound natural while also having an orchestra that is full and rich. Both elements sit in the mix really well with this rig," says Joyce. "A conventional speaker system wouldn't accomplish this level of clarity."
To assist with clarity, the Outline Subtech 218 subwoofer sitting at stage right receives a mono send out of the Crest console consisting of the cellos and contra bass, electric drums, electric bass, one channel of acoustic percussion and the keyboard subgroup. Joyce explains: "This allows me to keep things that aren't going to use that LF range out of the sub."
In addition to the 25 lavs, Joyce also has five area microphones onstage - three Shure SM98s and two Audio-Technica AT4041 microphones. The SM98s were hung facing down mid-stage and the 4041s were clamped to lighting booms on stage left and stage right. "There is so little of the show where there are more than two or three people singing at once. There are a few parts in the production where the actors off-stage are singing so I need to open all the lav microphones then too," Joyce notes.
System processing was handled by the Outline Genius 26 2x6 processor. Joyce used a Behringer speaker management system to send a stereo LR feed to the processors. "This gave me some additional parametric for the RF without needing to do some radical EQing," he notes.
Joyce, along with Bill Rauworth, Jennifer Lin, and Lachlan Fife, were able to pull of a successful five-day run of the "Heaven & Hell" production in March. Joyce explains that the professional staff and pro audio gear were instrumental in pulling the show together. "I only saw and rehearsed the complete production with the full band and actors twice before we opened," he says. "I didn't hear what the band was going to play until the first dress rehearsal. The show is pretty precisely timed, but sometimes my job is done by feel. It's human beings and live music."