d&b audiotechnik, K-Array, QSC, L-Acoustics, Exterity, Samsung, DiGiCo, Shure, Sennheiser, Chauvet
Lighting / Visual Designer:
Emma Bigg of Octavius RE , UK
Marquee AV, UK
Project Submitted By:
Annabel’s is a four-storey, Private Members’ Club that operates day to night. The sound system has to work for background music, private events, DJs, live music, nightclub, A-list touring artists and any other format they can think of. The challenge was to achieve premium audio quality throughout that could flex to every requirement whilst sitting discreetly in the background and not detracting from the luxe aesthetic. It also had to be easy to use for all the staff not just the engineers. We used two distinct products to create a sonic identity for the daytime focused areas (d&b) and the nighttime focused areas (L’Acoustics). The most challenging space was the nightclub, which is also a very high-end restaurant but must be able to operate as the best nightclub or a world class live music venue. To install a system that works in all configurations but remains invisible is hard but using the Syva system combined with other L’Acoustics products like 5XTs and SB subs we able to achieve a great sound for all occasions. It even has a line system infrastructure similar to the likes of the Apollo and O2 Academies. They also have a Digico SD11, SD rack plus Shure Digital Microphones as part of the in house live system.
Upstairs in the daytime areas, we leveraged the compact nature of the d&b XA and XC ranges combined with ultra-thin K-Array subs to create a harmonious and elegant solution that simply fades into the background (visually). Even the toilets have the same speakers so you get a premium experience no matter where you are in the building.
Each room in the house can operate independently, but can also be linked together in any combination via numerous multi connection AV input panels in every space. The control for this aspect is very complex so an Engineer’s panel is available in the Comms Room for system wide management. The challenge was to find a way to offer the engineers’ this flexibility without making the system too complex to use. But we feel this has been achieved successfully using intuitive, local touch panels in combination with the Engineer’s panel.
Effects lighting is only used in the nightclub and is designed to work for DJs, live bands, private events and so on. A low ceiling height and numerous ambient lights in the ceiling made this a challenge. Using the Chauvet Slim Pars and Intimidator range we were able to achieve a very flexible system that remains discreet. Multiple DMX and power points are dropped into the ceiling to minimise visible infrastructure and everything can be controlled from the stage or one of two mix positions. The in house console is an ETC ColourSource but they also have a Touchscreen running ShowCAD so you do not always need to bring in a lighting engineer for mid-week or low key evening events. We’ve also put some rigging points in the ceiling, two either side of the stage and two more in the space, along with additional DMX and power panels. If for example, Annabel’s was hosting a fashion show, then the orientation of the room would be different, and they’d be able to just hook in a bar, and immediately be connected into the same DMX and power system – an easy way to expand the system. You can bring in a third party lighting console or add fixtures without the need to run extra cables or more power, it’s all there ready to be used for events that require a little bit more than the house system. The concept was to deliver a high impact solution that was easy to own and operate but provide the entire infrastructure to accommodate larger, more complex productions without the need to run unsightly cabling or supports in the venue. Maintaining the luxury experience but without the limitations.
The initial brief was no screens anywhere but we need to be able to pop a screen in any room in the building and show TV, host video conferences or run presentations. So an IPTV solution has been installed to distribute TV, Sky, video content and digital signage via a network meaning TVs can be setup in numerous places across the venue, as required. IPTV is distributed via the Multi Connection AV panels so you can bring in any portable screen and with an Exterity receiver mounted to the rear and plug and play. Satellite TV audio is connected directly to the in-house system or the TV speakers can be used or we can take an output from the TV and run it into the in house sound system. Using this method we avoided having a complex distribution and switching solution and lots of control panels. It also means any space can be transformed into a training room or a meeting room or private space for watching sports. By implementing a clever, networked back end we’ve completely de-skilled the operation of this element and it is working very smoothly. It also means they can expand the number screens as and when they need it rather than having to accommodate lots of portable screens that may only get used occasionally. The impact has been to create a very flexible solution that is future proof, scalable and easy to operate by all staff.
The biggest challenge was working with the design scheme, it is ultra luxe, maximalist and uses lots of high end materials such as metals, marbles, glass, mosaic, fabrics and so on. And by design all the rooms are designed to work in different orientations and be repurposed at a moments notice to be a nightclub or meeting room. There is literally nowhere to hide anything. The other major consideration was noise management, one of the main rooms is a Garden Terrace with a retractable roof, with the venue being located in a densely, populated residential area there were some very strict licensing conditions.
So to deal with the aesthetics we worked closely with the designers, MBDS looking at speaker size, locations, customisation and finishes that helped them to blend into the background. It was really all about teamwork and communication, compromises had to be made, but through a lot of hard work we came up with a solution that worked on all fronts but without losing the quality. In terms of dealing with the reverberant spaces, that just took a bit of creative system design, moving very far away from standard rules of speaker placement and direction and combining different products to create the illusion of a conventional system, a lot of thought was given to how people react to sound subconsciously and using some of the significant processing power of a QSys Engine to create a sonic mirage. And that also was how we approached the noise management considerations, by carefully considering placement, using a high quantity of speakers in strategic locations to create perceived volume rather than just ramping up the energy levels. And that was successful through the good working relationship with Marquee AV, it was our first time working together and we took an unconventional path that really required some trust on their part that it would be successful.
This was such an amazing project to work on and we had a client who was really interested in delivering a quality solution and were prepared to set aside the right budget to do so. We had the opportunity to work with some very high end products that you don’t normally see in Installation for clubs. It has always been a priority of Octavius RE to bring pro-touring audio products into the world of installation as you can quite often get much better value for money when applying these products creatively. Having a solution like Syva at our disposal was the real key to getting the nightclub to work and every member of the Annabel’s team and head office commented on how pleasant it was to sit in the room even though it was set up for a live gig and it was just achieving that kind of fine balance that was one of the highlights of working on the project. We were also able to build in a vast network of connectivity. We have analogue and network tie lines between different spaces, we have every flavour of digital multicore for Audio, Lighting and Video in the Nightclub and Garden Terrace so the likes of Lady Gaga or Rhianna can bring in their touring set up and just plug and play because everything Annabel’s has is as good as it gets for live music. We’ve also been able to incorporate access to the various networks we are running of QLan, LA Net, Exterity and dbNet so engineers have access to the system when and where they need it. And although there is over 100 channels of IO running around the building every member of staff has access to the right level of control in order to create the best atmosphere and room set up at any time of day. Making the system friendly to all was a key goal and we’ve been able to achieve using QSys.