Organised by the European Olympic Committee, the first ever European Games was held in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku this June. The event’s spectacular opening and closing ceremonies captured the rich culture of the host county, with additional performances from international acts such as Clean Bandit and John Newman, whose set rounded off the closing ceremony. An L-Acoustics K2 system was chosen as the PA for both events.
Scott Willsallen, no stranger to audio systems for sporting spectaculars having been involved in several Olympic events and Commonwealth Games, designed both the live and broadcast audio systems for Baku’s brand new, 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium, where the ceremonies took place.
Equipment was supplied by Italian rental company Agora, with Scott designing a system similar to the one he designed for the Sochi Winter Olympics, primarily comprising L-Acoustics K2 variable curvature line source cabinets. A notable difference from Sochi, however, was that most of the system had to be ground-stacked due to roof structure limitations, with Scott fully exploiting the ground-stacking possibility offered by the K2-CHARIOT, K2-JACK combination.
“L-Acoustics K2 is my preferred system for this kind of project because it allows for consistent horizontal pattern control, which is really important,” says Scott. “It’s the most consistent system I know of and the form factor of the cabinets also really suits this kind of arrangement.”
The main system comprised 24 ground stacks of K2 distributed around an oval layout, arranged in an alternating left / right configuration, which allowed for ‘a bit of space’ in the mix. Twelve stacks of seven K2 each covered the stadium’s east and west sides and 12 more of six K2 each covered the north and south ends, where there was slightly less vertical coverage requirement. Each stack had three L-Acoustics SB28 subs on each side, while delays of K2 and K1-SB covered the upper tier on the east and west sides. 8XTs and 12XTs were used for localised fills, with the entire system driven by a total of 210 LA8 amplifiers. Monitoring for the cast was principally in-ear, with the addition of L-Acoustics 12XTs and 115HiQs for coverage of the mass movement areas.
“Generally, we have to sit the PA between the front row of the audience and the edge of the performance area, so there isn’t much opportunity to hang anything. This means there’s always a restriction on how tall the loudspeaker stacks can be. In Baku, we needed to cover up to 63m from the PA to the back row of the audience seating. It’s a long distance for a ground stack, but the stages were around three metres tall, which gave three metres of height, rather than the usual 1.3m.”
One of the main requirements for the audio was that both the stadium and broadcast audiences enjoyed a high quality soundtrack to the ceremonies, whilst creating atmosphere for the broadcast.
“These events are primarily about the television pictures,” says Scott. “But, as they take place in the round, the audience is in the background of most camera shots. The more engaged and enthusiastic they are, the more interesting it is for the viewers at home, so we need to make sure that the audience looks at the right place at the right time. For example, during the opening ceremony one of the cultural segments began with a soloist on a stage at the Southern end of the performance area. To support the intimacy of this scene, and to immediately indicate the location of the soloist for the live audience, we added a 12-element KARA ground stack either side of the stage. The solo section ended with a long, reverberant tail that the main orchestration played over. We placed the orchestration in the main system, and the transition of the sound and the action from the soloist to the mass cast on the main stage was a strong theatrical moment.
“The stadium system performed superbly and exactly as our Soundvision modelling process predicted. With the ground stacked arrays being the primary sound source for so much of the audience, the benefits of localising the sound to the action were clearly evident.”
Contractor – Agora
Design – Auditoria Pty Ltd, Australia
Audio technical manager – Justin Arthur (senior patch engineer for the job)
FOH – Richard Sharratt
Replay – Steve Logan and Lewis Miranda
Broadcast – Andy Rose and Griff Hewis