Hyperreal sound fosters new relationship between production, artist and audience
Acclaimed French singer, songwriter and producer Christine and the Queens (Tilted, Girlfriend), has been touring her studio album Chris, bringing a unique blend of theatrical set, contemporary dance, and her own special 'freakpop' to the stage. For the French leg of her international tour, Systems Engineer Vladimir Coulibre decided to specify a PA worthy of the performance and brought in L-Acoustics L-ISA Hyperreal Sound technology.
Coulibre realised that it incorporates everything needed to fit the sonic, technical, and visual ideals of the artist and her creative crew.
"Christine's show is a whole - a complete universe," he explains. "It has lots of machinery, lots of lighting, and lots of sonic details, as well as the amazing physical performances. We have to be able to create a strong interpretation for every song: to make sure the audience completely understands the sense and the story. Also, because the show is so theatrical, Christine didn't want technical equipment to be a distraction - she wanted it to be invisible.
“With L-ISA we get both - we can take a cinematic approach to the sound and use multiple shorter hangs that don't obstruct the set."
Coulibre’s approach to implementing the technology on the tour combines equal parts enthusiasm and method. "I had to think of the new system from three angles: creative for FOH, technical for production, and financial for the commercial side,” he recalls. “I had to learn as much as possible about this technology to satisfy those three aspects."
A primary requirement was to make sure the system was easy to load in and out. The solution was to create a double truss arrangement with the motors on the front truss and the system rig, including the speaker cable, on the rear truss. "It didn't cost any more than rigging for a left-right system," says Coulibre. "In the 12 shows we did on that tour we didn't have any problems rigging L-ISA, which is a very important point.
"The technical approach that L-Acoustics has taken with L-ISA is perfect. Taking a new approach to sound is the greatest leap, but if you embrace that by putting your previous experience to one side and fully engaging with this technology and what it can offer, it becomes a real pleasure to work with."
To model and fine tune system design for the various tour venues, Coulibre employed Soundvision 3D acoustical simulation and coverage/delay mapping software. He specified a 9.1 L-ISA Frontal system including three central hangs of K2 flanked by two hangs of Kara, two side hangs of K2 and an extension of two hangs of Kara, with the actual number of deployed cabinets dependant on the venue size. The largest configuration—at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris—used three central hangs of 16 K2 each, two outer hangs of 22 Kara, side hangs of 14 K2 and an Extension system of two hangs of a further 16 Kara each. Two hangs of ten KS28 subwoofers were flown behind the central hangs. Lip fills comprise five ground stacks of three Kiva II.
An earlier portion of the international tour had used a traditional left-right system, so the crew had an opportunity for a direct comparison between conventional sound reinforcement and the L-ISA Hyperreal Sound experience. "The left-right mix was good," says Coulibre. "But it's not everything we really want to hear. I don't say that simply because L-ISA does something different; it's because I love music and the relationship between that and what's happening on stage. This technology creates a physical correlation between the sound and the stage. It's definitely an immersive sensation."
“Using L-ISA has allowed us to take a different approach to the way we delivered the audio for this portion of the tour,” concurs front of house engineer, Julien Decarne. “It allowed us to open things up and give a real feeling of space within the mix.”
Coulibre also notes that the higher spatial resolution and object-based nature of the L-ISA soundscape makes a massive difference to clarity and detail: "You hear nuances... In L/R we hear contradiction: the opposition between summed instruments in only two channels. With L-ISA you don’t get that."
But the ultimate endorsement came in the number of unsolicited comments from the audience. "This was the first time people have come to FOH to tell us that the sound was amazing, or to ask what had changed from previous shows," enthuses Coulibre. "Even non-technical venue staff came to us to ask what the trick was."
Coulibre is certain that L-ISA not only helps the FOH engineer fulfil the potential of the performance, but also changes the approach to sound reinforcement into something more collaborative and more creative.
"It requires a new relationship between the product, the production, and the artist," he says. "And this was the first time I've seen all three engage like that. It was impressive. For me, L-ISA is a new vision of sound."