Case Study: Sydney Coliseum, Australia

The Sydney Coliseum has become the first venue in the Southern Hemisphere to deploy an L-Acoustics L-ISA Hyperreal sound system. Hurrairah bin Sohail reports.

When it comes to performance venues in Sydney, the first thing that pops to mind is the Opera House. This is a fact that was in the mind of the developer of the Sydney Coliseum, a recently established performance venue in Sydney.

Gerry Gavros, brand manager at Jands, says: “The Sydney Coliseum had high aspirations. Of course, the Sydney Opera House is great and remains iconic, but the aim was to match or even better the experience provided in the western part of Sydney. Sydney is very large and its geography and population can definitely support a new, high-end performance venue.”

Additionally, Sydney Coliseum is looking to cater to a varied segment of the market. Nick Orsatti from Fredon says: “The Sydney Coliseum is very flexible. It can be a flat floor with a balcony area or completely tiered seating. This means it can support events like concerts, musical performances and banquet style events with seated tables. The venue can accommodate anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000 people depending on the mode of operation.”

Integration duties were split between Fredon, which was responsible for the AV package, and Jands Venue Engineering which was handling the entire theatre package. Marshall Day Entertech served as the acoustic consultant for the project.

The brief from the client was clear and Gavros says: “There was a real drive from the end user to have cutting, leading edge technology when it came to audio. They wanted to set themselves apart and the way to do this would be to make sure that the AV systems chosen were the best and that they were truly different from what was being offered at other venues.”

However, pinpointing what qualifies as ‘cutting, leading edge technology’ for audio is not simple. Gavros details: “As the distributor for L-Acoustics the timing just aligned perfectly for us when we first planted the seed about L-ISA. It was at a stage when L-Acoustics started to really market the technology and artists around the world began to embrace it. Coincidently, it also just happened that the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra was performing the soundtrack from the Harry Potter movies using the L-ISA Hyperreal sound system at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. We invited the client down to have a listen and they walked away from that convinced that L-ISA was it. They had obviously heard the competing systems on the market and in their minds the L-ISA Hyperreal sound system was what stood out as a clear winner.”

sydney coliseum online use

The Sydney Coliseum has become the first venue in the Southern Hemisphere to deploy the L-ISA Hyperreal sound system. The 50 Karai loudspeakers take the shape of a five-stack frontal system with the subwoofers centre flown across the proscenium arch.

According to Gavros the system and the venue were a match: “We strive to create an ‘L-ISA zone’ that encompasses at least 75% of the whole audience area. The architecture of the theatre was ideal for L-ISA and the Karai frontal system offered. For the Sydney Coliseum, we ended up with an L-ISA zone that covers 87% of the entire audience area.”

However, the choice of L-Acoustics the L-ISA Hyperreal sound system meant that the scope of the project changed. Orsatti says: “The original audio system was very traditional, it was a simple left-centre-right sound system. Long story short, what was essentially a fairly standard theatre solution morphed into an immersive sound project when we shifted to the L-Acoustics L-ISA system.”

The change to the L-ISA Hyperreal sound system meant that the project required a redesign of the audio system which then cascaded over to other aspects of the project. One part of the original design did not change though; the venue needed to accommodate both the use of the installed system whilst also allowing for rental systems to be bumped in to suit the differing act requirements.

Orsatti provides further information: “On the technical side of things, the design for immersive audio is very different from the design of a traditional audio system. Every channel needs to be individually brought into the console so that it can be placed correctly in the soundscape. This meant that we were now dealing with a much higher channel count than before.”

He continues: “We also had to make changes to the way power and the signal would be distributed. The original installation had power and signal transmission over the network. The switch to L-Acoustics threw that design out of the window. We needed to find a home for the amplifier rack which had to be close proximity to the loudspeakers to ensure we don’t have too much signal loss. There are some stringent installation requirements where all the cable runs have to be similar to ensure commonality.”

Orsatti details how the signal transmission problem was handled: “We settled on using MADI infrastructure because it is widely used in the production industry. Using MADI also meant that we could bring in a secondary front of house console for support if needed. We have a fair bit of knowledge on how to put such a system together and we went through and optimised it.”

The Digico console was expanded with the help of an Optocore loop to account for the L-ISA Hyperreal sound system’s channel count and differing operational requirments.

Stageboxes were reconfigured to allow for simple cross hire from rental organisations when more input channels were required. QSC Q-Sys Core DSPs were utilised to handle back of house audio and paging requirements, and also stage management control, bells and paging.

With the Sydney Coliseum project complete, Orsatti gives his thoughts about the impact the L-ISA Hyperreal sound system has made: “When it comes to audio, we’ve all gone and heard the speakers and been there for the demos. I’ve always walked out thinking that it sounds great. But what does ‘great’ mean to someone who is coming to see a show at a performance venue? Are they truly getting a better experience? After finishing the Sydney Coliseum project and hearing L-ISA in action, I can honestly say that the immersive audio experience delivered is something that everyone will be able to realise is vastly superior.”

Gavros concludes: “Working and growing in the AV industry, we have always had to deal with the fact that we are asked to locate our loudspeakers where the architect or production manager dictates and we are always jostling for space with lighting and visual elements. But with the L-ISA system design stage, audio is given a little more priority which allows us and the sound engineer to be creative and in turn provide the audience with a total immersive and engaging experience. As we continue to develop and promote this technology in our industry, we will find that it becomes the norm. We are now at a stage of educating our industry and changing mindsets. But the future definitely looks exciting.”

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