At a recent a stadium show in Seoul, South Korea, the LA Philharmonic Orchestra took the music of celebrated composer John Williams to a whole new level, incorporating giant screen projection and a truly epic soundscape provided by L-Acoustics L-ISA Hyperreal Sound technology.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (aka ‘LA Phil’), led by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, has been celebrating its 100th year with the 2018/19 LA Phil 100 centennial programme. The season includes runs at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Hollywood Bowl, the free Celebrate LA open-air festival, a global tour that includes seven residencies in seven cities, and performances on three continents.
That journey started with LA Phil’s 2019 Spring tour of Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, and included a landmark performance of film music by John Williams in the Seoul Olympic Park Gymnastics Arena (KSPO Dome). John Williams’ music includes classic and award-winning scores for films such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Harry Potter, and Jurassic Park. To do justice to that prodigious portfolio, the show included motion picture montages projected onto giant screens, and a stunning, immersive soundscape thanks to L-ISA.
Grammy Award-winning Sound Designer, Mixer, and LA Phil regular, Fred Vogler, specified the system, which was supplied and set up by local L-Acoustics partner, Seoul Sound.
When Vogler took on the sound design for the tour he already knew that the Seoul show would be a fantastic opportunity to push boundaries and present something spectacular. “I’ve attended several L-ISA shows and had already mixed deadmau5 with an orchestra in L-ISA a year ago,” he recalls. “When I discovered there was strong L-Acoustics support in Seoul, I immediately enlisted the L-ISA team for design and coordination. It was an opportunity to use a much bigger system and I was extremely excited to hear all of the possibilities.”
System design specifics fell to L-Acoustics specialists Alvin Koh (Head of Application, Asia) and Carlos Mosquera (Application Engineer, L-ISA). Both realised that the acoustics of the KSPO Dome would present challenges, but accurate modelling of the venue in L-Acoustics Soundvision software using the L-ISA Tools feature pack helped build the best-fit solution. “In addition to coverage, some great evaluation features have been added to Soundvision for elements relevant to perception, such as hyperrealism and immersion – all important for an impactful, certified L-ISA experience,” notes Koh.
The final setup consisted of seven Kara arrays of 15 elements each for the main L-ISA Scene system above the stage, extended by two additional 12-element Kara arrays, along with two ten-element K2 outfill arrays to cover audience areas outside the main L-ISA zone. For subs, the team flew two arrays of six KS28 arranged in an end-fire configuration, located just above the centre Kara scene array. With careful time alignment of the two arrays, they achieved excellent sub-spectrum consistency for the whole audience area and good rejection for the stage area.
It became clear that the set-up had not only achieved all the sonic ambitions of the design team but had provided a benchmark system for the venue. Doo Soo Park is the Team Leader at Seoul Sound: “This venue was designed for use as an athletics facility, not a music venue,” he explains. “With a traditional LR system, it is very hard to achieve linear sound pressure levels and frequency response from the front to back. However, L-ISA technology solved that.”
The FOH mix for the Seoul event used L-ISA object-based positioning to emphasize the location of instruments in the orchestra and, according to Vogler, this did much to enhance the connection between the orchestra and the audience.
“The conductor and the orchestra were extremely complimentary about the arena experience with L-ISA,” he said. “Many members told me they felt like rock stars. They all felt the difference on stage. It gave them a lot of good energy back from the audience and many players asked me if we are planning to use L-ISA at the Hollywood Bowl, the summer home for the orchestra. I told them that we are working on it!”
“This was one of the most impressive shows in my career so far,” adds Doo Soo Park. “The LA Philharmonic’s performance was amazing, and thanks to L-ISA I heard every detail; the natural tone of every instrument came through. That show has changed my sound ‘reference’. I am very pleased to have worked with Fred, Carlos and Alvin to make it happen.”
For Vogler, the whole experience was a rewarding one: “The Seoul Sound team was professional, good-natured, responsive, and polite,” he reports. “Everything worked the way it was supposed to work. They are a great group of people and I hope to do more with them in the future.
“I came to Seoul for a new experience, hoping that it would go well. It exceeded my expectations and I left feeling immensely proud of all we accomplished.”