SADiE's portability is a winning formula in the world of rides and rollercoastersCambridge, UK: SADiE products such as the LRX2 audio workstation and the PCM2 portable desktop editor are already proving popular amongst the broadcast fraternity for their ability to make light of virtually any location recording situation. But now the products have found a whole new set of enthusiasts - sound designers who are creating content for theatre shows, theme parks and leisure attractions where the audio content is an integral part of the visitor experience.
One company that is currently using SADiE equipment to great effect on just such a project is Studio 5/5 in Belgium. Headed by Jean-Jacques Quinet, the Brussels-based audio post production facility has been a SADiE user since 1996. It has recently been commissioned to create all of the soundtracks for a new theme park, Space Fun City, which is due to open in Dubai in the middle of December, 2008. This project is led by Alterface, an internationally renowned Belgium company that is in charge of all the visual and interactive elements. Alterface and Studio 5/5 have collaborated on many projects in the past to great success.
"This is a major project for us and we have been working on it since the end of the summer," Quinet explains. "In total it involves 45 days of editing and 10 days of mixing, which are being carried out in our studio. Then we will have two sound engineers on site in Dubai for one week before the opening, putting the finishing touches to the audio."
The set-ups at Space Fun City range from basic stereo soundtracks to full 7.1 surround sound in the theme park's main theatre. For the stereo recording, Studio 5/5 staff are using a SADiE PCM2 audio editing system, which provides the ability to record, edit and mix audio on location using a laptop running Windows XP. For set-ups that require more outputs, the sound engineers are using a SADiE LRX2 multitrack location recording workstation, which offers users the ability to record up to 16 or 32 discrete inputs at 48kHz/24bit from a variety of dedicated in/out cards.
"The portability of both the PCM2 and the LRX2 are vital for this project," Quinet says. "By the time our engineers get to Dubai we will have prepared all the mixes - stereo, 5.1 and 7.1 - in our studio in Brussels. Sometimes the configuration of the PA is very unique and we can't emulate it in our studio: 8.4, 10.2, 13.3 etc. That's why we have to go on site to perform the mixes.
"We also prepare all of the different language versions as most of the time theme parks have international visitors. For the soundtracks of 'Desperados' (an internationally available interactive shooting game), we sent one of our engineers to Shanghai to record foreign versions in Japanese, Chinese and Korean, all with the voice of Jackie Chan.
"We create the soundtracks by using our extensive sound FX library, which has more than 45,000 original sounds. Sometimes we perform Foley recorded on our Foley stage to create new effects. As this kind of show is totally interactive, we have to separate the linear soundtracks that are not influenced by the player/visitor from the interactive sound clips that are played by the show controller, depending on the action of the audience. To ensure maximum flexibility during the last part of our work on site, we perform premixes in our main studio, which is equipped with a SADiE H64, using multitrack stem mixing techniques: one stem for the voices, one for the ambiance, one for the FX and one for the music. Once we are on site, we will use the SADiE equipment to make the final adjustments between each stem. We will also integrate the sound created for the animated live effects for each attraction. The LRX2 will be used for complex audio set-ups (7.1, 8.2, 4.1 etc) and the PCM2 for more basic 2.0 set-ups. The PCM2 will also be used to edit, prepare, rename and bounce all the audio files so that they are ready for the master show controller."
Quinet adds that it is very important for his team to be in the same place and in the same conditions as the park's visitors so that they can ensure a seamless experience and enhance visitor enjoyment of both the interactive games and the shows in the main theatre. The same philosophy is applied to museums, special events and science centres, for which Studio 5/5 has also created audio.
Among these projects, the most notable are Vulcania, France, where it created the sound for a unique interactive seismic simulator; Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, an educational game with 64 levels of interactivity, and Bioscope, France, where it worked on the audio for Mission Ocean, a classic interactive game that incorporates a 'Buttkicker®' speaker in each seat so that audiences literally feel the sound in their bottoms.
"Our Dynamic Earth was one of the most complex projects we have undertaken as it involved 360° HD video projection with 3D sound spatialisation, a 10.2 audio set-up and +3 stereo feeds for the speakers in the seats," Quinet says. "According to an OED survey, the show has earned 100% satisfaction from visitors since it opened in 2006."
For Mission Ocean, Studio 5/5 created a special 'Buttkicker®' channel that fed vibration FX from 30Hz - 140 Hz frequencies through to the speaker. These frequencies can't be heard but they can be felt through the seat, which gives the audience an interesting experience.
"We had to do quite a few experiments to get this right, which were great fun for everyone involved," Quinet says.
Designing audio for theme parks, museums or interactive shows requires close cooperation with the departments responsible for lighting, special FX, scenography, building, etc, as the sound engineers can't mix on site if any dust or dirt from the building work is still present
"It is also common for us to receive carte blanche from the client with regard to the audio because sound is still a very mysterious process for them," Quinet adds. "We put forward a lot of proposals during the visual design stage (movies, 3D animations etc) and very often the graphic designers will ask us for sound ideas or sketches that they can visually illustrate."
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