Darling Harbour Theatre, ICC Theatre, Australia

Find out how Darling Harbour Theatre at ICC Sydney was converted into a ‘cinema’ to host the Australian premiere of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.

The versatility of Darling Harbour Theatre at ICC Sydney was recently put to the test as the space was transformed into a state-of-the-art movie theatre for the Australian premiere of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. This was the first time the theatre was used for the screening of a film for an audience of 2,500 and this required modifications to the theatre, encompassing sound, vision, and lighting enhancements to ensure an immersive cinematic experience.

The inhouse AV team at ICC Sydney comprises a large pool of talented technicians that have experience across many aspects of AV. This team worked from Dolby specifications to determine the modifications required to achieve the desired results. Given the specific nature of projection for cinema, the projection system was managed and provided by the team at HOYTS Cinema Technology Group, who worked with Christie to deliver an appropriate solution. The ICC Sydney AV team determined a suitable projection location to ensure the system provided the best results with minimal audience disruption.

Audio requirements for the Australian premiere of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One were specific. There was a need to address the different audio requirements for both the film screening and formalities. To meet these requirements the AV team at ICC Sydney implemented two separate PA sound systems which leveraged existing technology capabilities as well as augmentation. The primary system delivered a 7.1 surround sound experience for the film, while the secondary system was specifically designed for speeches ensuring clear audio coverage for all 2,500 guests in both the lower and upper sections of the theatre.

The modifications included the deployment of three identical d&b V-Series line array setups, with array processing enabled and positioned behind the screen for LCR (left, centre, right) audio. Additionally, four d&b SL-SUB subwoofers for the LFE were placed directly below the centre array.

Downstairs two side point source speakers, one for the right side and one for the left side, were positioned under the balcony, with special modifications made to the venue to fly them out of egress. Four point source speakers were set for the rear surround, two for the left rear surround and two for the right rear surround. These provided a uniform surround experience in the lower stalls.

For the rear surround in the upper stalls two point source speakers, one per left side and right side, and two rear point source speakers were installed. By working closely with a Dolby sound engineer, ICC Sydney achieved optimal sound quality and ensured compliance with the required specifications resulting in an exceptional sound experience for all guests.

The d&b speakers were specifically selected to complement the existing PA in Darling Harbour Theatre to facilitate a seamless integration of the cinema system with the existing installed PA system which was also pressed into service.

The existing PA system in Darling Harbour Theatre consists of eight d&b V8 and two V12 speakers per side plus six V-subs, 8S front fills and under-balcony delays. All FOH elements are run from D80 amplifiers located in the control room underneath the FOH control. The FOH signals to these amps are routed from a Digico SD8 over AES. The Digico devices are all connected via Optocore and R1 software is used for processing.

The consistent selection of d&b speakers enabled convenient access and control of both systems using the existing R1 control from the FOH position and allowed for smooth switching between the two systems when transitioning from the speech system to the cinematic mode.

By adjusting the positioning and angle of the standard PA in the room, sightline issues to the screen were effectively mitigated, allowing every attendee to fully immerse themselves in the movie.

Ed Nixon, head of audio at ICC Sydney, worked alongside senior audio technicians, Andrew Crow and Liam Shearer, to create this transformation. Nixon said: “It was an exciting challenge to transform the existing PA system into a surround sound experience. Our goal was to transport the audience into the heart of the action, and sound played a crucial role in achieving that.”

A unique challenge of the project was accommodating a 17m screen which is an uncommon include in a space used for traditional conferencing. To tackle this challenge, the venue team made various adjustments, including flying out the standard sound system to reduce reflections from speaker cabinets. Additional measures included installing black carpeting on the stage, removing portable reflective surfaces, and strategically placing masking to the edge of the proscenium. These modifications ensured that the audience enjoyed an uninterrupted visual experience.

Additionally, to accommodate the main and backup projectors, ICC Sydney repurposed the bio box into a dedicated projection room. This involved clearing out AV ops equipment and draping the front window to minimise noise and light distractions. Moreover, exhaust ducting was installed to vent hot air from the projector through the cable hatch, ensuring optimal performance without compromising audience comfort.

ICC Sydney audio visual project manager, Jamie Warmeant collaborated with the client and the broader inhouse audio visual team, overseeing all the technical production elements. Warmeant said: “Through meticulous planning, our unwavering attention to detail and the expertise of our inhouse audio visual team, no aspect was overlooked — resulting in a flawless execution.” ICC Sydney employed various lighting techniques to create an immersive cinematic atmosphere. By gelling the wall footwell lights, the venue effectively reduced light spill and adjusted light levels to match those found in traditional movie theatres. Additionally, moving light fixtures were strategically placed to enhance the ambience and create a visually engaging experience for the audience.

Brian Nash, director of audio visual services, ICC Sydney, concluded: “We are thrilled with the success of transforming our venue space into a state-of-the-art movie theatre for the premiere of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. This achievement demonstrates our versatility and commitment to delivering extraordinary experiences. Our team's careful planning resulted in an exceptional event, setting a new standard for cinematic experiences at ICC Sydney.”

Photo: James Gourley, Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

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