Bristol Beacon

ProjectBristol BeaconLocationBristol, UKArchitectLevitt Bernstein ArchitectsLighting DesignerLSI ProjectsInstallerSound Space VisionAcousticianBob EssertSubmitted byBristol Beacon

The refurbishment of Bristol Beacon was the first intervention in the building since the 1950s. Audio excellence was at the core of the redevelopment’s design, removing the overhanging balcony from the main hall and replacing it with 2 smaller balconies and acoustically focussed space for all types of music and performance.

In the main space, Beacon Hall, the sound equipment is comprised entirely of L-Acoustics, installed by LSI Projects. The sound reinforcement system can be deployed in two main configurations. A line-array system features 10 L-Acoustics Kata II on each side of the hall, alongside four boxes of KS21, connected with a Syva system and 5XTs to fill the concert hall with rich audio. The second configuration provides state-of-the-art speech reinforcement which is made up of 30 L-Acoustic 5XTs, 14 positioned as side balcony fills, four as box fills and two Syva at the bottom of the stage.

All of the L-Acoustic systems can be controlled remotely, allowing for different configurations across shows. Allen & Health mixing consoles were installed across the three halls with an S7000 and SQ5 as front-of-house mixing desks, alongside S3500 desks for monitors. Each is connected to consoles via GigaACE for audio distribution, networking and control, for Dante, AVB, NDI video and Green-Go Comms throughout the whole area. Dante Domain Manager Gold allows for secure audio data and facilitates audio sharing for outside broadcasts.

As a world-renowned classical venue with 3 orchestras in residence, , the team prioritised intelligible communication with four X8s hung from the back truss to allow the conductor to speak to the choir. Inflatable aQflex bass absorbers above the acoustic canopy control bass reverb beyond what the banners can do, and Beacon Hall is the first in the UK to use this technology. Paired with the PA systems, this allows for highly controllable sound.

The entire audio system was designed to be adaptable. EG. When the front stage extension for more performers is deployed, the PA can be simply reconfigured with speakers muted to prevent sound directed at the stage.

Similarly to the audio configuration, Bristol Beacon wanted to ensure that all the lighting fixtures could adapt to a multitude of different shows to reduce artists’ touring equipment and transportation. As such, the team focused on a carefully selected assembly of lights that were compatible with as many shows as possible.

Beacon Hall’s lighting equipment is filled with some of the most sought-after products within the industry. All installed by LSI, the main space’s wash lights are 28 Robe Spiiders, with an additional 14 Ayrton Diablo S selected as the framing shutter units due to their very small profile, enabling them to fit under the truss without hitting the canopy. Most of the main hall light is achieved through 10 Ayrton Eurus TCs that sit atop the front truss, which can be moved and focused when needed to ensure a fast turn-around between shows. The ease and flexibility of lighting fixtures can change the tone of the hall to complement the event.

As the largest concert hall in the South West of England, the lighting needed to suit amplified sound, orchestras, spoken word and performers all over the spaces.

Lighting fixtures were installed especially for the venue’s renowned classical programme. 14 ETC Source Four LED Series 2 are positioned on the three bridges above the auditorium, selected due to their bright output and versatile bold colour rendering. A further 38 ETC ArcSystem Pro 4 Cell Linear units were installed alongside due to their incandescent output that, when combined, creates an epic display that can illuminate a full orchestra. There are also three Robert Juliat Authur 800 w LED Followspots along Beacon Hall’s back bridge that are deployed when extra brightness is needed for an orchestral choir or soloists.

For pop and rock performances, 16 CHAUVET Professional COLOrado Batten Q15s provide colourful brilliance that illuminates the room’s back drape, creating a high-energy look.

To further surpass barriers to access live music, four Bird Dog P2000s PTZ cameras were installed to allow for highly popular live streaming, a venue feature that is available year round.

Bristol Beacon extensively researched projection and live streaming technology to enhance the guest experience of each venue space. Flexibility was key, to ensure each space was suitable for a range of different conferences, events and concerts, leading them to install Christie Digital DWU-110-GS projectors in each space due to its versatility and reliability. Thanks to its large zoom range and crisp graphics, the projector can project onto a multitude of different-sized screens with the highest quality all without the need to change the lenses.

The team also installed four Bird Dog P200s PTZ cameras and one Bird Dog controller to facilitate live streaming of events, a venue feature that began during COVID-19. The decision to include live streaming into the Bristol Beacon’s refurbishment specification was made largely due to the success of the equipment during the pandemic. This had led to classical concerts now being live-streamed into care homes across the South West.

The Bird Dog equipment also can connect to a venue-wide NDI (Network Device Interface) which allows concerts to be recorded or vision-mixed via a dedicated high–spec PC running VMix 4K.

New portrait Samsung high bright displays have replaced traditional printed A1 posters in the foyer space, advertising upcoming gigs and celebrating successes.

Bristol Beacon is a cultural institution which has reopened following a five-year restoration project and complete rebuild of multiple spaces. Technical manager, Frazer Riches, worked alongside Technical consultants CharcoalBlue and Sound Space Vision (SSV) from inception to opening to create a design to perfectly encapsulate the ethos of the venue.

The main challenges during the installation of Bristol Beacon’s brand new flagship venue Beacon Hall were around achieving versatility and adaptability for touring shows while maintaining the highest quality of sound and experience for visiting performers.

Installing a sound reinforcement system that could seamlessly and rapidly transition from classical performances to amplified standing gigs posed a significant challenge as the venue needed to be ready to host up to three shows per day in each space.
To solve this, the ceiling was designed to hold two separate truss systems, to enable two shows to be rigged and then rapidly swapped for quick setup. The L-Acoustics equipment had to accommodate various configurations. In addition to the flown and stage systems, the upper and front balconies feature five a1Oi WIDE to reinforce sound for spoken word performances.

The system includes features like a pivoting acoustic canopy and motorised acoustic banners and curtains to adjust reverberation levels based on the nature of the performance. The design by acoustician Bob Essert reinforces the string sound and cuts back on brassy loudness, both on and off stage. This process also involved improving sound insulation between halls and optimising the layout of equipment to minimise any disruptions between spaces during events.

It also needed to meet stringent sustainability goals, in line with the target to be net zero by 2030. Lighting selections were made based on energy-efficient LED technology, and suppliers with lower carbon emissions and lower power products were selected.

Space was also a key consideration, so the team had to work closely on design to ensure that lighting systems were compatible with diverse shows while ensuring minimal impact on the acoustic environment. Both the Diablo units and the Spiiders have a quiet studio mode, which allows them to remain on without disturbing the shows.

Bristol Beacon’s Beacon Hall truly showcases excellence when it comes to concert hall technology in terms of legacy, technology, quality, sustainability and accessibility.
At the core of the technology journey was the venue’s ‘Green Promise’, specifying equipment to minimise the need for touring production and transportation of show-specific rigs. Charcoalblue and Sound Space Vision focused on providing audio equipment and programming that would be flexible to suit the over 800 events planned to take place per year. So far, 95% of touring shows at Beacon are utilising the in-built kit to some capacity.

As a grade II listed building, the restored Beacon Hall has managed to preserve its 150-year history whilst expertly integrating modern technology.

The construction project began with the reshaping of the ceiling to remove the sound focussing dome, a significant improvement that has led to a more even distribution of sound across the auditorium and mitigation of flutter echoes. Un-amplified orchestral performances now have an acoustically lively reverberant space, reflecting sound across the room, while amplified performances have acoustic damping, so that the sound is full and clear but not deafening.

The installation of the innovative L-Acoustics system within the hall demonstrates Bristol Beacon’s commitment to delivering exceptional sound quality. This state-of-the-art audio technology enriches the concert experience, ensuring that every note and nuance is heard with clarity and precision, and the pivoting acoustic canopy, expertly designed by Sound Space Vision, allows total versatility.

The L-Acoustics systems within Weston Stage have already been given a chance to benefit Bristol. As well as traditional performance, the underground space now exists as a place for educating growing creators. Through the venue’s ‘Support for Creatives’ program, the stage technicians, artists, and producers of the future can work in Weston Stage, learning about the high-quality equipment that powers it, alongside mentoring from industry professionals.

With the user experience at the core of the transformation, the brand-new technology has left Bristol with a venue for the ages, and a world class space that is both visually and aurally above and beyond any expectations.