Talking Tech: Sound Design – The Art of Being Invisible
By Travis Langley, Sr. Sound Designer / 04.26.2017
For a sound guy, the way I know I’ve done a great job is when no one notices I’m even there. At events and experiences, everyone wants a seamless and rich audio experience with little disturbance and a clear sightline to all the action. My job is to make sure everyone can hear the sound, not see it.
“Can you hear me in back?”
The way us sound guys see and set up a space is different than the way our environmental designers, creatives, video and lighting guys perceive it. Generally, the sound is the last thing to be considered for an experience (unless it’s a concert). You’ll likely never see a PA box in a pretty rendering of your event, so when I enter a room I have to figure out how everyone – from the closest to the stage to the furthest – can have the same, high-quality audio experience while working with and maintaining the event designer’s vision.
This requires having a lot of experience on show floor working with clients and our own production design team. Understanding the complete vision of the experience makes it easier for me determine the right audio package systems in our inventory for the event, venue and audience size. That’s why I geek out about what sound gear we have and keep in our shop, where we install our arrays in space and how they are positioned to deliver the most coverage and clarity to the most people.
“Check, Check, Check the Inventory”
We go to great length to research and invest in powerful, portable sub compacts and arrays that allow us to provide concert-caliber audio quality in more discreet ways. With our JBL Vertec (VT) Series Sub Compact Models, the power, portability and production are second to none. We have VT4886s and VT4883s, incredibly efficient and powerful three-way passive line array elements encased in compact cabinets, which gives us more flexibility. Using these elements for larger conference venues, we can hang arrays above the set and screens inconspicuously so as not to disturb sightlines. This approach further reduces the amount of space needed to cover a larger area without compromising quality and cuts down on our need for delay speakers. This creates a richer and more seamless audio experience with less setup time.
We use custom amp racks so that we can hang an array of 6 x VT4886’s and 2 x VT4883s in one compact array for maximum coverage while only using 1 x NL8 speaker cable to drive all elements. The system can be enhanced with the VT4880 subs on the ground for more low-end impact. The VT4886s can also be integrated into our larger VT4888 arrays as down fill boxes for better coverage for attendees in front without taking up as much space. The best part, the entire subcompact speaker system packs and ships in 4 lightweight, stackable cases that vastly simplify setup and transport which saves us and our clients time and money. Now, that’s music to my ears.
If you want to talk sound, contact us about custom A/V solutions for your next event or experience.