Headed for the future

Solaris is Tallinn’s newest and most advanced entertainment venue. Under the focused direction of a tech-savvy owner the centre houses a complex and advanced AV installation. Anna Mitchell explores the massive facility that incorporates cinemas, a concert hall and multiple restaurants.

The Solaris Cultural and Leisure Centre was built to provide the Estonian capital of Tallinn with a flexible and modern entertainment hub. It is a multi-use venue that houses a concert hall, seven cinemas, an arts cinema and more than 40 rental spaces made up of shops, cafes, lounges and restaurants. Although the doors opened in October last year, the venue is still continually developing, adding new technology in a constant journey to remain modern and relevant.

Owners of the building quickly discounted analogue options and selected a digital solution for the building’s AV infrastructure and PA system, turning to Estonian integrator, Digital Emotions. Erik Pauklin, a partner in the firm, claims Solaris represents the most technically advanced project in Estonia the most complex audiovisual and up-to-date venue in Europe. “A lot of this is down to a very good client who knows what he wants,” he explains. “He was even at ISE last year to check up on all the new technical possibilities himself.” Pauklin believes this contributed to the masterful co-ordination of multiple installation companies to create complex systems across the massive building. “It also meant a shorter tender period,” he continues. “When the client saw the digital possibilities and what he could do with all the technology he was really into it.”

The idea behind Solaris was to offer a Cat5 network that the multiple rental space owners could plug into. Each area is able to choose and control its own music but if there is an emergency or the need for a building wide announcement then the local input can be killed and an operator can override the system. Furthermore, the fibre network makes it easier to solve power issues and allows greater flexibility, such as the ability to join two rental spaces.

“We handled the PA system for the entire building,” he continues. “Even today, it’s not finished as the requirements keep growing, which is possible to accommodate due to the digital infrastructure. Already we have 50 inputs and about the same amount of outputs which means a huge digital matrix.”

Pauklin says Digital Emotions installed more than 700 Tannoy speakers, opting for the CVS6 models throughout the concert hall and general areas. “All other locations, like the restaurants and cafes, didn’t have false ceilings so we used Tannoy DI6 on-surface loudspeakers. They’re all powered by Biamp MCA 81-50 amplifiers and Flex processors. In order to shorten cable runs we have placed this equipment all over the building and connected them by Cat5 cabling. The toughest thing was the concert hall in the centre of the building which we had to cable around. We also included Biamp networked paging systems and the PA system operates as an evacuation system and is hooked up to the central fire and security centres.”

In a rather fun application of audio technology, Pauklin explains how the company installed hidden speakers in trees that dot the main corridor of the centre. The small Tannoy speakers play bird song in an effort to create a natural feel throughout the complex.

Eleven digital Barco cinema projectors were used throughout the complex. The Cinamon operated cinema complex houses seven screens, the Cinema Artis has three screens and a projector is used in the Nokia Concert Hall. The audio installation in these venues was handled by Tallinn based, Eventech.

Cinamon is one of the largest commercial film exhibition companies in the Baltic region. In Solaris, each of its seven screening rooms house between 80 and 525 seats. The rooms utilise self-powered Acheron speakers form the Meyer Sound Cinema experience, with the component selection based on audience capacity, room volume and overall acoustical characteristics. In the concert hall the projector is used to screen live opera in HD from venues like the London Metropolitan. Dolby processors are used in all the cinemas. The systems were configured using acoustic predictions in MAPP Online Cinema. Each room is equipped with behind-screen LCR mid-high loudspeaker systems: Acheron 80 systems left and right and an Acheron 100 in the centre. All audio systems throughout Cinamon were precision calibrated and tuned by Meyer Sound engineers.

Identical Meyer Sound systems have been implemented in the three rooms within Cinema Artis, an arts house venue that screens “a shockingly bold film selection” and is operated by Tallinnfilm, a division of the Estonian Film Foundation. In December the cinemas will really be put to the test when Solaris hosts the 2010 European Film Academy Awards.

All screening rooms utilise self-powered HMS-10 two way loudspeakers for surround channel reproduction. Multiple HMS-10 units receive DC power from a single rack-mount power supply and audio distribution unit, with both power and audio carried over a single, low-voltage multi-conductor cable. Signal processing throughout both complexes is accomplished by Galileo loudspeaker management systems.

At the heart of Solaris is the 1,829 seat Nokia Concert Hall, which relies on a combination of MICA and M’elodie line array loudspeakers. The hall was designed to accommodate a wide range of amplified concerts and events, from rock and jazz to Broadway-style musical theatre and film screenings. The sound system had to be capable of handling that. Before work even began on the concert hall, Solaris developers decided an active acoustic system was needed, realising that the only other option would be to alter the physical acoustics of the room. A Constellation system was settled on and Linda Madalik, an Estonian acoustician, was employed to ensure the physical acoustics of the room were focused on creating an ideally balanced but relatively “dry” characteristic. She provided a perfect physical foundation for Constellation with a mid-band reverberation time of slightly more than one second and a desirable rise to between 1.5 and 2 seconds between 63 Hz and 125 Hz.

The system is segmented into six zones. Two on stage zones offer independent control of reverberation and early reflections create the Ensemble “orchestra shell” effect. The hall has four zones; house left, house right, lower balcony and upper balcony. Each zone has its own dedicated MS-VRAS processor, with proprietary digital processing algorithms for creating natural early reflections and late reverberations as desired. The system also includes a master MS-Constellation processor and five MX-CEXP expansion processors, supplying additional inputs and outputs.

UMS-1P subwoofers enable Constellation to reproduce a full bandwidth reverberation envelope. The frequency balance of electronically augmented reverberation faithfully tracks the curve of the physical acoustics. Constellation replicates the subtle effects of natural acoustical reflections that were fed into the system by 56 omnidirectional microphones spaced overhead in the hall, and 16 cardioid microphones placed over the stage. A Lemur touchscreen controller provides system operators at the venue with a selection of five pre-programmed presets. “During our first two months of operation, we have hosted plays and ballet, conferences, jazz, musical theatre, as well as choral symphony, pop and rock concerts. The Meyer Sound systems have worked well on all of them. We have found Constellation to be a great tool not only for acoustic performances, but it also works in combination with the main reinforcement system to enhance jazz and musical shows,” enthuses Priit Rebane, managing partner of the Solaris Centre.

Emerging back out of the concert hall and into the general areas visitors and guided and greeted by a digital signage system comprising OneLan players and Sony 42” LCDs. “But the really innovative bit,” stresses Pauklin, “is that everything thing in the building runs from a Cat5 cable. We built the main network and then restaurant, café and shop owners rent a space and decide on their own screens and equipment that is then plugged into the network. This has provided great flexibility. The client can chose at a late stage where to plug in the equipment. [The Cat5 network] allows us to constantly improve the Solaris without the hassle of pulling and re-routing speaker cables – or any cables for that matter. The project would have been a nightmare if we’d had a analogue system.”

The AV equipment in Solaris is carefully selected and of high quality but, as Paulkin says, the real innovation lies within the centre’s backbone. The Cat5 network that Digital Emotions has constructed will allow Solaris to constantly evolve and accommodate new technologies, ensuring the venue remains contemporary well into the future.


Biamp NPS-1, MCA8150 and Audia Flex
Meyer Sound: PA system: MICA, Mèlodie, UPA-1P, RMS Software, Subwoofer 700 HP, Galileo 616, and M1D
Meyer Sound Constellation system including Constellation Processors and microphones, power supplies, Lemur Touch screen controllers, Stella 4 C loudspeakers and UMS-1P subwoofers
VRAS Processors, MS-CEXP-816 Expansion Processor, MS-Optic optic link, Installation Loudspeaker Stella 4 C, UPM-1P, Stella 8 C, UPJunior, UP4-XP, Ultra Compact Subwoofer UMS-1P, MIC-OMNI Constellation Mics, MIC-CARD Constellation Mics, Stella 188 power supplies, MPS - 488 power supplies, Lemur Touch screen controllers
InOut Security Players
Tannoy D16 and CVS6

Barco digital DP-2000 and DP-3000 projectors
Christie 35mm cinema projector
Dolby 3D servers and CP650 processors
Doremi DCP2000 servers
OneLan digital signage players
Sony FWD-S42H1/47H1 Pro LCDs

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