The sound of music

The home of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra has entered the new musical season with a completely new sound, and media system installed by Croatian integrator AVC Zagreb.

Originally built almost 20 years ago, Zagreb’s uniquely styled Vatroslav Lisinski concert and congress hall is the permanent home to the city’s Philharmonic and Symphony orchestras. However, that’s not it’s only use, the 1,850 seat multi-purpose auditorium has seen numerous conferences, political rallies, business events and even film premiers. In order to allow it to continue to offer such a wide ranging programme of events, it’s owners the Croatian capital’s administration commissioned a two million Euro upgrade to the building’s media systems, bringing it right up to date.

The company tasked with supplying and installing the system was AVC Zagreb, an integrator/distributor, which has worked on the building several times since its opening, under the leadership of project manager Tomislav Smìder.

Smìder first became involved in the design of this upgrade 18 months ago, and in discussions with engineering team from the hall decided on a state of the art digital system. The Vatroslav Lisinski team consisted of Nenad Jalsevec, Vatroslav Mlinar, Kresimir Biscan, Anton Orec and Nenad Povse, who all worked closely with Smìder and co. to arrive at a solution.

The left, centre, right FoH system that the team settled on is based around JBL’s Vertec and VP series powered line array loudspeakers. The left and right clusters are made up of seven VT 4888DP-CN units. Additional VT 4882DP-CN sub-bass units provide bass reinforcement.

Due to the height of the hall’s ceiling and difficulties positioning the projection screen, the centre cluster is formed of six VP7315/64DPCN units. Meanwhile, the side fills are also VP series units.

The stage monitoring system is also from JBL, a combination of SRX and VRX series pieces. These are powered by Crown CTS 2000 amplifiers. In order to allow the hall to better provide for film premiers AVC also supplied a surround-sound system, as Smìder described: “The surround system was probably the most challenging part of the upgrade. We needed a solution that we could mount in the walls of the hall, but as you can see the architecture is a bit unusual. In the end we chose some JBL Control series units. These are normally ceiling mounted speakers but we simply mounted them in the walls and then disguised them with a covering of the same colour as the original finish.”

What makes this system a bit more than your average concert hall performance set up is the back end. It’s fully digital from the new Yamaha M7CL digital console to the self-powered line arrays. Every piece of audio equipment is fitted with a CobraNet interface card, and all of the Harman equipment is controlled over a HiQnet. Ever more impressively, the interconnections are all fibre optic, switched using Cisco fibre routers.

Commenting on his choice of the more expensive fibre solution, Smìder said: “Well we could have gone with a cheaper Cat-5 network, but when you are spending this amount of money on such a high quality system it is nonsensical to not choose the best products and solutions available throughout. That is why we opted for example for the Cisco routers.”

DSP functions in the hall are carried out by five Soundweb London BLU-80 processors, connected over the CobraNet system. Whilst the system is fully digital, nothing was left to chance to the entire audio network is backed up by hot analogue connections in case anything should fail.

In addition to the performance system AVC Zagreb also delivered a full HD video projection solution and media control system. Projection wise, the originally specified product was Digital Projection’s Lightning 35HD. However as is often the case with long term projects such as this, a new model became available, the Lightning 40HD and this is what was eventually installed. It was also equipped with additional zoom lenses. In order to source the large screens required for such a big hall, it was necessary to go for a completely custom built solution.

“The large screen is ten metres by six metres and comes up from the floor,” explained Smìder. “It’s supported by kevlar tubes and its main use is for movie projection. The smaller screen is mounted in the ceiling, and is only thirteen metres by six. We had them both made by Gerriets specially for the job.”

The 22k lumen video projector is controlled by Digital Projection’s MMS1000 Input/Output processor, which receives inputs from an Extron CrossPoint 450 RGBHV Matrix. This accepts the various sources from presenters, TV sources and of course any movies that are being shown. The intention later in the year is to upgrade this projection system to include a digital media server.

The projector, matrix and electronic screens are all under the control of an AMX Netlinx NI-4000 controller, which also has some control of the PA system in the hall’s surrounding rooms. At present the user interface is via a simple web browser page that the operator accesses via any laptop or PC.

The final significant part of the new equipment provided is the DIS conference and interpretation system. AVC Zagreb supplied the hall with 1,200 DR 6032 digital receivers and DH 6021 headphone sets. These are fed by twenty radiators and the system can deliver thirty two languages of simultaneous translation for public speakers or conference delegates. DIS also supplied a small discussion system comprising a dozen delegate units and a pair of chairman sets.

Overall, Tomislav says that the customer is very happy: “The new system sounds excellent, it’s been in use since the end of 2006 and there have been no complaints. It’s a real pleasure to work on this project, not just because it’s the largest one we’ve ever been involved in, but also because the customer has further plans to continue the upgrades. The hall also looks great.”

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