CUK Audio Supplies Sounds and Sorcery in the Vaults

Photography: Jason Yeoman

Sounds and Sorcery is an immersive audiovisual extravaganza inspired by Disney’s Fantasia.

As audience members move from one scene to the next, all entirely in their own time, so the music changes accordingly thanks to an elaborate and technically challenging sound design built around Williams Sound Hearing Hotspot technology supplied by CUK Audio and installed by Direct Audio Visual.

The man behind the first-of-its-kind sound design is an independent sound designer, David Gregory, he said: “No-one else would be crazy enough to tackle a project like this, but I like a challenge, so I said yes!”

The brief was to take the Fantasia score and reimagine it in stereo for headphones. The first step was to record all the music binaurally, which is a method of recording that replicates the way the human ear and head interacts with and picks up the sound.

David had to find a way of intuitively switching between tracks as people navigate through the different scenarios so that they hear the right music in the right place at the right time. Enter the Williams Sound Hearing Hotspot solution. He added: “Hearing Hotspot is the only product on the market capable of doing what we required.

“The sound quality and stereo imaging capabilities (which we tested thoroughly) were good enough to allow me to create the immersive experience that I was looking for. The aim was for everyone wearing the headphones to experience the music as if he or she were in the place of the conductor. ”

A customised version of the Hearing Hotspot app was created to override the manual selection of audio sources and instead enable the audio to be triggered via a series of Bluetooth beacons strategically located throughout the venue. The other requirement was for a rock-solid Wi-Fi system to be installed venue-wide.

This was a very important point as it’s ultimately the quality of the Wi-Fi that determines the overall performance of the Hearing HotSpot. Music playback is via Q-Lab and thence to the HotSpot server before being broadcast to the iPods. All transmission is 24-bit at 48kHz, meaning that the audio stays at full digital resolution throughout the chain with no loss of signal quality.

CUK Audio was on hand throughout to coordinate the various demos, field technical questions and assist with system design before introducing the contractors who then bid for the project. Systems integration company, Direct Audio Visual, was selected to design and install the Ruckus wireless system, whilst Recursive AV was called in to customise the Hearing Hotspot app and provide the Bluetooth solution to trigger the audio feed in each room.

“From the outset, this was a challenging project to deliver,” admitted Direct Audio Visual’s operations director, Pete Rutherford.

CUK Audio’s Simon Druce said: “I can say that the results are absolutely stunning. Personally, I doff my hat to everyone that was involved – David Gregory did an amazing job of the sound design – as he says, he’s the only guy brave enough to take on something like this! And DAV did a great job with the installation.

“Without their herculean efforts with all of the wireless infrastructure, this show would never have seen the light of day. Finally, Kieron Vanstone, director of the Vaults, has also done an incredible job in implementing extra measures to successfully iron out the inevitable teething problems when a project of this scale and nature goes live.”