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Sennheiser finds innovative solutions for Sunset Boulevard show

A Sennheiser Digital 6000 microphone system combined with the EK 6042 camera receiver to film and live stream actors outside the Savoy Theatre, then onto the stage during the hit musical's London run

A Sennheiser Digital 6000 microphone system teamed up with the EK 6042 camera receiver to film and live stream the actors outside the theatre as part of the performance of smash-hit musical Sunset Boulevard’ during its recent 16-week run at London’s Savoy Theatre.

The project demanded that the cameras and audio follow the cast members out from their dressing rooms to the street, then onto the stage. It was a new technical challenge for sound designer, Adam Fisher, and production engineer, James Melling. They turned to Sennheiser’s products to integrate live video and audio streaming.

“Sennheiser is our go-to solution for all of Adam’s productions,” explained Melling. “On this show we’re using D6000 receivers with SK 6212 mini-bodypack transmitters. With the added challenge of leaving the building, we needed the reliability of long battery life in addition to the strong antenna design and small body-worn packs. The really cool thing was the EK 6042 camera receiver. It works with all the Sennheiser products and uses the same batteries, so we could integrate it with our existing charging solutions.”

Filming the performers as they left the building every night, then travelled back to stage through tight corridors, without losing signal at any point was a technically exciting challenge for Matt Bird, radio lead at Autograph Sound.

Bird explained: “We needed to utilise multi-zone antennas, a mixture of Sennheiser AD 3700 directional and A 1031-U omni-directional antennas, which is something we don’t often do in theatre. This system gave us rock-solid RF reception inside the building and when we left the building, we were able to connect to camera receivers seamlessly, which gave us additional range and flexibility. It’s hugely ambitious and is what sets this solution apart.”

Working together, the team settled upon the two-channel EK 6042 camera receivers. They are compatible with a wide range of both analogue and digital Sennheiser microphone systems, including Digital 6000, and feature a very wide switching bandwidth of 184 MHz to cover multiple transmitter frequency windows. The EK 6042 has low latency, so the performers can stay in time with the music as they perform in  different and remote environment.

While working on the set-up, sound designer Adam Fisher attended Sennheiser’s Sound Experts event in Düsseldorf to find out more about the upcoming Sennheiser and Neumann technologies, such as wireless multi-channel audio systems (WMAS), to support new developments in theatrical performance.

“Using the SK 6212 transmitters for Sunset Boulevard just keeps everyone happy,” Fisher said. “The small size and incredible battery life make them stand out from every other competitor, but the new WMAS technology is even more exciting. It would make situations like escaping outside the theatre more easily achievable and give us some really creative options. WMAS technology will open up many more possibilities, it’s a really exciting design tool.”

Heading to Broadway in the autumn of 2024, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is already a multi-award winner, most recently winning seven Olivier awards, including Best Sound and Outstanding Musical Contribution. The haul of seven awards means that it ties with classic shows like Hamilton, Matilda and Cabaret for the most Olivier statuettes awarded in a single night.