When Sonalyst MD Rory Madden was asked to supply full, new build audio distribution and ground control infrastructure for the sensational We Will Rock You Tour in just nine weeks, he knew time was against him: “Normally, for a show of that scale and complexity, you’d feel up against it given three or four months to prepare,” he said. “In this case, we had just nine weeks so our choice of technical partner was absolutely vital.”
One of the first things Rory did was drop in to the premises of VDC in North London. VDC Trading is a supplier of specialist cabling and associated products for all professional audio and visual applications.
“I’d worked with VDC before on a few smaller projects and had a strong feeling they would be the right choice,” continued Madden, “based on the technical expertise, manufacturing quality and ability to work to very short deadlines. But I just wanted to drop in for a chat and see their facilities for myself, before even talking about the We Will Rock You project. When I left a couple of hours later I was certain.”
As it turned out, the audio infrastructure was relatively straightforward, even though it was more complex than the average touring rig. “The brief in terms of audio was for power and signal distribution cabling for a Meyer self-powered PA system,” said Dug Guthrie, VDC technical director. “That was complicated slightly by a large number of balcony fills, hotspots and other auditorium in-fills. In essence, our role in that area was to make recommendations in terms of specific cables, assemblies and connectors. The team at Sonalyst did the rest.”
The ground control infrastructure, which encompassed comms, CCTV, cues and prompting for a hugely complex show, was a far bigger challenge given the timescales. “Time was tight, so the overall technical plan was worked out during a two hour briefing session with the Sonalyst team,” continued Guthrie. “Between us, we decided on a system based on Van Damme AVI series 5 x miniature video and 4 x balanced audio multi-core cable, along with Van Damme VDM 25 pole connectors. This would allow multiple CCTV images along with dedicated comms, cues and prompting audio lines to be sent around the theatre using only one cable.”
Before going any further, however, every element of the solution was thoroughly tested. “We don’t leave anything to chance,” said Madden, “On every project, every component is fully tested before we even think about using it in a live situation. The Van Damme cable supplied to us by VDC was astonishing.”
“Given the amount of cable you’d expect to run into a few manufacturing flaws, some phasing problems here and there,” he continued. “But no, the cable was flawless throughout. This was a seriously high manufacturing spec. The performance wasn’t bad either. For example, we found that the Van Damme miniature coaxes performed so well that a clear image was still obtained even when the video was looped back through the initial 100m test cable – so, over a total transmission length of 200 metres.”
The final ground control system, built for Sonalyst by VDC, included 55 1U XLR/BNC loaded panels, custom panels and breakout stageboxes, 35 VDM 25 multicore looms and breakout tail sets, 100 XLR comms and cue leads, and 100 BNC leads. The whole solution, based on Van Damme and VDC products, was built, tested and delivered, along with nine Kramer VM-1010 Video Distribution Amplifiers, in just four weeks.
@[email protected] “That ability to deliver quality so quickly and based on unrivalled technical know-how just blew me away. I doubt you’d find better advice anywhere in the world.” said Madden. “This equipment will play a vital role in delivering one of the slickest, most complex live shows I’ve ever been involved with, and will do so across 14 months and 14 different venues. The system we designed with VDC had cut the set up time for each venue from four days to three but, more importantly, it is a system built on AV gear I can have total faith in.”
“Dealing with Sonalyst’s requirements for this project was hugely rewarding both personally and professionally,” concluded VDC’s Guthrie. “It was precisely the kind of time pressured, complex manufacturing job that puts VDC’s technical and manufacturing resources through their paces, demonstrating again that they are second to none.”