After 16 years of designing the sound system for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo - the centrepiece of the annual Festival in the Scottish Capital - John Del' Nero has turned to the line array principle for the first time.
Working with Wigwam Hire (as he did at last month's historic World War II
60th Anniversary Commemorations in London) Imagination's sound designer again turned to a Martin Audio solution to achieve the throw and clarity required with a cast of over 1200 performers.
The Tattoo represents the largest gathering of military musicians in the UK and is staged against the matchless backdrop of Edinburgh Castle (where he has deployed quantities of loudspeakers to create a surround environment).
The production features a cast of international performers with its centrepiece the massed Pipes and Drums.
And so Del' Nero's principle consideration was to promote the show's theatrical dimension while at the same time maintaining the correct sound imaging up and down the Esplanade (which contains the stage and the audience surrounding it on three sides).
In order to achieve this, loudspeakers are mounted in front of the audience on hand-rails. 'The loudspeakers are aligned to the aisles, thus allowing enough level to be achieved to throw it to the top
of the three grandstands,'
The strength of the Martin Audio midrange, he believes, presented his best chance at accomplishing this. 'Because it's a modern line array box, it already contains a lot of presence, and it has the ability to throw the midrange both effectively and accurately, a good 30 metres up to the back of the seating block. Because of its compact dimensions it gives us a lower profile so it doesn't block sightlines, and with just a 7.5° dispersion pattern it helps us to minimise the sound pollution as well.'
But John Del' Nero had problems other than efficient sound dispersion to contend with. First he had to maximise the extremely limited rehearsal time to ensure that the vast assembly of international performers was correctly line-checked.
Then - with each loudspeaker enclosure individually mounted on hand-rails - he had to protect them from busses, who are prone to reversing into them up on the Esplanade; this required some inspired bespoke engineering from Chris Hill's team at Wigwam Hire.
'They have redesigned the bracketry so that the individual speakers now only pull out from the hand-rails when we need them in the evening. Other than that they are recessed into a flush position.'
John has used 15 individually-mounted W8LM's, infilled with 22 Martin Audio WTUB low-profile underbalcony speakers, which he believes to be a good match, and able to stand up to the weather.
'The exciting thing about the W8LM's and the WTUB's is that we don't have to put waterproof covers on because they have this special grille which is impervious to water. As for wind, that isn't an issue because this is such a protected environment.'
To create optimum sound imaging, John Del' Nero is again using TiMax to maintain the levels of the bands while marching (and also to compute the delay times).
Entrusted with mixing the show was Craig Pryde. He was already aware of the Martin Audio W8LM's attributes, having been at Wigwam Hire when they first took stock. 'I was impressed then and I'm impressed now. It sounds clean and tight on the vertical. It's well able to throw to the back of the three grandstands, and on top of that it's light in weight, which is an additional bonus.'