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Floating theatre takes visitors back in time

The Zhiyinhao is a floating theatre and museum, based in Wuhan, China, which includes a sprawling audio installation with two Symetrix Edge DSPs at the heart of the system.

Created by renowned theatrical director and artist Fan Yue, the Zhiyinhao is an enormous steamboat upon which passengers are taken down the Yangtze River and back to the 1920s, where the show unfolds around them, in one of the world’s most ambitious examples of immersive theatre.

By day a floating museum, and by night a unique experience, the Zhiyinhao recreates an era in which the famous city of Wuhan (sometimes called “the Chicago of China”) was only just beginning to take its modern shape. Visitors are immersed in the performance as soon as they arrive at the wharf, with its 220m pier filled with clanking rickshaws. The ship itself is a faithful recreation of an early 19th century Chinese steamer named the Jianghua, accommodating as many as 1,008 people (including 108 performers) over three themed decks, restaurants and more. Keeping the show afloat is a ship-wide infrastructure of network cabling transporting 64 channels of Dante in both directions to 470 loudspeakers located across almost 100 individual rooms and numerous audio zones.

“Working on a project as creative and challenging as the Zhiyinhao has proven that EZPro International has the ability to provide a complete solution, no matter how complex the requirements,” explained Tao Zhang SVP of EZPro, who designed the audio installation with system application manager Yan Chi and product manager Nan Hu. “The Symetrix Edge DSPs are the ideal choice for redundant network audio transmission in such a large-scale, multi-channel system.”

Each of the ship’s zones features redundancy with primary and secondary switches plus the ability for the director to make quick manual changes to all technical systems if required. “The card-based analogue inputs and outputs of the Symetrix Edge DSPs can be configured based on the clients’ requirements,” said Yan Chi. “They represent a flexible and affordable solution that’s easy to expand. Moreover, its open architecture DSP offered us a powerful programming platform for the Zhiyinhao’s unique requirements, as well as the ability to create custom control interfaces. In addition, the Edge DSPs can monitor and manage system status, making it easy for system commissioning and maintenance.”

“It was extremely exciting to participate in this project but we also faced lots of challenges including the complexity of the sound system,” concluded Tao Zhang. “The director and his team often came up with new ideas and we had to quickly adjust the system configuration accordingly. Another challenge was ensuring the system’s stability – performances on the Zhiyinhao take place daily and we needed to know there would be no problems with the audio system.”