Delta sounds fantastic at Westfield London

Covering a 43-acre site and spanning no less than nine London postcode areas, the Westfield London retail complex is set to become one of the city’s biggest attractions, with up to 60,000 people a day estimated to visit.

Complementing over 260 retailers, 50 places to eat and a 14-screen cinema (due to open in 2009), one of Westfield’s outstanding features is The Atrium, a 6,500m2 rectangular central area that will host a wide range of entertainment, including live performances and exhibitions.

As befits Westfield’s status as London’s most modern destination, a state-of-the-art sound, lighting and video system that can be used and then stored away as needed, has been specified to combine ultimate quality and flexibility with unsurpassed reliability.

“They want this to be a multipurpose space that enjoys an audio quality that reflects Westfield’s status as an ultra-modern facility,” says Lee Dennison, project manager for Surrey-based Delta Sound, which was awarded the contract to design and install The Atrium’s audio system.

“In order to make things as flexible as possible, we needed to design a system that would allow a stage to be placed end on at the end furthest away from the main entrance, sideways on, or in the round. In addition, productions could be anything from one person with a microphone through to full live music or theatrical productions.”

In overall charge of the project was Westfield’s technical manager for The Atrium, Simon Jones, who worked tirelessly to ensure that everything about the project was designed and installed to get the best and most versatile result. He appointed The Rigging Partnershiip to work in close conjunction with Delta Sound to install rigging points throughout the ceiling, providing a range of hanging points and possible truss configurations including standard lengths, figures of eight and circles as required for any given event.
Lee and Delta’s technical manager Daren Hurst also worked very closely with manufacturers EM Acoustics, Lab.gruppen and Yamaha to design a complex networked audio solution, with digital EtherSound installed alongside analogue lines.

Facilities panels are located in The Atrium’s floor, which allow the audio network to be accessed in a variety of locations. Together with the many rigging points, this infrastructure means that the space can be set up in a variety of ways for the different types of live event.

“The network is laid out with fibre optic EtherSound, analogue multicore, video and lighting feeds, plus mains power, routed together,” says Lee. “You can drop into the network via the facilities panels and pick up any of these feeds from any panel. It makes it extremely versatile.”

Managing the system is a Yamaha DME24 digital mix engine, through which all the audio is routed and which also acts as an interface between The Atrium and Westfield’s analogue background music and evacuation systems.

“We needed something that would interface with the emergency system, automatically muting everything apart from emergency announcements if necessary, but also to function as a standalone system for times when a microphone on a stand is required for an announcement, when the main Yamaha M7CL mixing console isn’t needed,” Lee continues. “The result is a very complex system that is actually very straightforward to handle via the M7CL’s remote control panel.”

Another challenge was to get the right results in a space with many hard, reflective surfaces. To cope with this, Lee specified EM Acoustics’ brand new HALO line array loudspeakers, driven by Lab.gruppen amplifiers.

The HALO system comprises eight enclosures per side, which can be flown to broadcast down the length of The Atrium, across it, as a cluster either side, or at the entrance end.

“There are technical bars running down each long side of the space, which again have facility panels to feed the delay speakers,” says Lee. “For this purpose, we specified six EM121 full-range cabinets plus four Quake subs, which will be arrayed two per side, ground stacked beneath the main line array, attached to the stage set, or to a column on either side.”

A comprehensive Lab.gruppen amplification package, comprising four PLM10000, one PL6000 and three FP2600 is used to drive the system.

“The idea is that the system fires directly into the event space, not out or into the upper balconies. It’s focussed down the room and the delays kick in for vocal, so it will be a very neat, compact sound within the space,” says Lee.

The system needed to sound fantastic from the moment the complex opened its doors at the end of October. However, unlike in a theatre, or indeed the majority of live venue installations, where various products can be tested in the space they are required to work in, at Westfield, Delta Sound could not try anything out there before the system was designed and the infrastructure installed, and there was very little time for prior testing.

“The system has been specified for the room shape, looking at what the products do and how they acoustically ‘fit’ into the room,” says Lee. “With the equipment we specified, we had no reason to doubt that it would sound great. It couples how we want it to couple and we knew we didn’t have to do much once it was installed.”

This is very much where Delta Sound’s extensive knowledge of the audio industry and its products came into play.

“We have brought our experience of working in venues for the last 20 years to The Atrium,” smiles Lee. “Delta has a intimate knowledge of the event and installation markets. Having worked all over the world, the Delta team really knows how both events and venues work and what is needed to get the very best results. That’s why we’re here. Everything about this system is focused on audio quality and versatility.
“As a company, we have a long history with a wide variety of manufacturers and know what fits best where. By specifying this particular combination of products, we know that The Atrium will enjoy excellent sound quality whatever the event and however the system is configured.”

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