Treetop Golf

ProjectTreetop GolfLocationGateshead, UKArchitectCreative Designer – Matthew Ringland CreativeLighting DesignerFull Production Ltd, UKInstallerFull Production LtdAcousticianRaven AV, UKSubmitted byOutBoard TiMax

For the latest Treetop Golf destination in Gateshead, the brand owners wanted the most advanced immersive interaction yet for its playing customers. The requirement was for a multifaceted, high-class audio-visual system that would set a new bar for the visitor experience at Treetops. The brief also demanded that the limited rack space in the venue be accommodated and that loudspeakers be disguised unobtrusively into the design. The entertainment infrastructure needed to be able to run standalone for 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

Employing the very latest show technology, including immersive audio, and an impactful haptic experience Full Production created a system design to meet Treetop’s requirement for high quality innovation coupled with reliability. The final system design incorporated the reliable and versatile show control and audio management capabilities of a 32-channel TiMax SoundHub, the tiny footprint and mighty output of over 100 EMS Series loudspeakers from EM Acoustics and the very latest Powersoft amplification technology, in the form of Unica, chosen primarily for its power density.

Additionally, the brief demanded that playing surfaces of the two themed 18-hole courses – ‘Tropical Trail’ and ‘Ancient Explorer’– completed by a ‘Bonus’ 19th hole, were evenly lit with minimal shadowing, and that the players could see the ball on the putting surfaces. As a result, a large number of luminaires were employed: CLS Jade Expo track-mounted fixtures, various lighting fixtures from CHAUVET Professional including COLORdash Accent 3, Ovation E-910FC and COLORdash Batten-Quad 12, SixBar 500s from Elation Professional, UV Battens from ADJ and 8W RGBW LED fixtures positioned for up-lighting and down-lighting. EclMini DAT Gallery fixtures from PROLIGHTS are also used.

Not only is the family entertainment venue dexterously themed with an arbitrary immersive soundscape running throughout the venue and bar area, the vast majority of the eighteen holes across each of the two themed golf courses – as well as the 19th bonus hole – are interactive.

‘Win’ and ‘lose’ moments are triggered by a total of 40 ball sensors and show control is complicated, with various ‘Win’ and ‘Lose’ routes having multiple outcomes. As the ball triggers the sensors, Pharos LPC2 controllers fire playback commands for lighting, pixeltape, audio, automation and video.

The visitor experience is enhanced as much by the possibilities of audio technology as by the lighting and visuals. Sound effects, either triggered by the balls in play, or standalone, are running on the vast majority of the holes throughout the site. On the ‘stand out’ holes of the Tropical Trail, these sound effects are enabled by a TiMax SoundHub-S32 with Dante networked I/O, with its hybrid delay/level spatialisation system. The majority of holes, however, use the level-based spatialisation capabilities of Innovate Audio’s panLab software for a more general, atmospheric positioning of sound.

Both systems made invaluable contributions as time-saving programming aids, as setting the delay times in each loudspeaker manually would have taken forever, according to audio solutions architect on the project, Dan Roncoroni.

To be expected on the ‘stand out’ holes, the ‘win’ or ‘lose’ moments have a high degree of automation, both from audio and visual elements. Themed characters, such as The Baron Von Batwing (the vampire bat) in the Ancient Explorer area, have a wide selection of comments to make about the golfing performances.

The high-calibre effects were controlled by TiMax and made full use of accurately localised audio objects such as birdsong – which travels from shrubbery up to tree level, and down to another area of low shrubbery and back again – as well as accurately placed insect and animal noises, and realistic actions which are enhanced with tree shakers.

Roncoroni explained: “We used TiMax to make it special and believable, so that when you shut your eyes you believe you are in the middle of a jungle. You can hear the content localised accurately anywhere from in that space, as TiMax does a really good job at handling audio objects. It’s more immersive, the loudspeakers disappear, and you just hear the content. You don’t hear where it’s coming from.”

Playback is controlled via QLab, from two Mac Minis, with just over 1,000 cues in total.

The sounds are provided via 140 loudspeakers, including 104 from EM Acoustics, with 68 EMS-41 and 13 EMS-51X ultra-compact loudspeakers, which provide high quality yet discreet low-level audio. These are supplemented by five EMS-61 compact loudspeakers and four EMS-81X loudspeakers to ensure consistent high-level coverage across both courses.

Finally, 14 S-48 subwoofers ensure a distributed full-range audio experience whilst minimising the risk of disturbing neighbouring businesses. In addition, 24 QSC AD-P4TB pendant loudspeakers form a height layer for spatial effects.

Power is delivered by 16 units of Powersoft Unica 8M amplifier platforms, divided as follows: eight Unica 2000W/ eight-channel and eight Unica 4000W/ eight-channel. Having very limited rack space, Roncoroni chose Unica primarily for its power density. “The design relied on nearly every loudspeaker being individually amplified; therefore, having eight channels of amplification with power sharing in 1U was invaluable,” he explained.

On the golf course, each loudspeaker is individually amplified, with the Unica amplifiers located in a single 42U rack, alongside the lighting and show control equipment rack.

Also used to enhance the customer experience is a Powersoft Mover, a low-frequency transducer which is small and robust enough to be inserted into flooring or walls to deliver a powerful vibration. Here is it placed in the floor on one hole of the Ancient Explorer course, where a falling obelisk is the trigger for an accompanying ground-shaking effect.

Due to the complexity of the system integration at Treetop Golf in Gateshead many interesting challenges presented themselves, but many of these were anticipated and surmounted during the system design phase. For example, none of the loudspeakers were to be visible, which prompted the use of compact, high-quality loudspeakers from EM Acoustics, in conjunction with TiMax SoundHub, which calculates and creates a seamless soundscape no matter where the speakers are positioned. TiMax was in place to assure with confidence that last-minute changes could be dealt with efficiently.

The challenge of very limited rack space and a design reliant on nearly every loudspeaker being individually amplified, was met with Powersoft’s new Unica amplifiers which were also used for DSP and chosen primarily for power density, having 8 channels of amplification with power sharing, all contained within a 1U enclosure.

On one of the golf courses, a falling structure was replicated, the noise and vibration for which would usually come from a subwoofer. However, the venue lacked the ceiling height to mount a large subwoofer, and with fears of noise complaints from neighbouring units, a Powersoft Mover was substituted. In the end, the Mover, which solved both problems, was arguably far more effective than any traditional subwoofer.

A further challenge was that the high quality of the output from the new audio system fully exposed the need for higher-quality content. Treetop made a considerable investment into new material – a move which which has paid off extremely well.

Of course, the real challenge of the moment was equipment lead times and all the products involved in this project were from manufacturers able to surmount those challenges. Unica specifically, was a great help in this respect as manufacturers of amplifiers of a similar quality were unable to meet the lead times needed to complete the project.

The sheer scale of the audio system compared to competitor sites, along with the care in content creation. Treetops have embraced an attitude that would not be amiss in professional theatre production and fully supported the selection of premium products for each part of the audio signal chain, while engaging a great team of creatives.

With a huge variance in visitor demographics, and hundreds of visitors a day, it was vital to ensure that all voice lines remain intelligible in all circumstances, and that sound across the site is well balanced and not cacophonous.

The use of TiMax has created a the ultimate enhanced soundscape which is far more intimate than usual to give a unique customer experience for all players wherever they stand.