News

10 Aug 2016

Bee Gees Way: The Tech of the Tribute to the Gibbs

The 'One Night Only' statueICT PROFILE By Jason Allen

Queensland’s Moreton Bay Council is very proud of three of their favourite sons, Robin, Maurice and Barry, who went from their humble origins in Redcliffe to become one of the most successful pop acts in history. To celebrate their lives and links to the area, Council and Barry Gibb have created Bee Gees Way, a permanent physical monument to their career. Jason Allen looked at the tech under the hood….

Bee Gees Way is a specially created alleyway in Queensland’s Redcliffe, about 10 meters wide and 80 metres long, running between Redcliffe Parade and Sutton Street. Originally opening in 2013, it commemorated the lives of the band with some static imagery and a statue, concentrating on their years growing up in the area, and the beginnings of their career. It was such a success that plans were soon afoot to use the vast amount of multimedia content available from Barry Gibb to create something a bit more interactive and informative.

Simple, Beautiful

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Phil Viney, director of Brisbane-based lighting, theatre and audio-visual design firm Design Stage, was approached by Council to add sound, lights and vision to the existing exhibit in a way that was “elegant and tasteful. That was our brief,” said Phil. Working with Brand & Slater Architects, Phil and Design Stage devised an ingenious system of lighting, sound and control that divides the space into seven ‘bays’ that each address different content, that not only runs autonomously 24/7, but can also have its content refreshed and updated through a completely custom-built AMX touchscreen ‘show creation’ and scheduling interface.

“Our design featured a large, centrally positioned screen to deliver content, and a sound system that could independently map the whole area.” explained Phil. “Our vision was for it to be beautifully lit with warm white LED light. Every half-an-hour a show comes on; music plays, accompanied by the video of the song, and lighting changes to an animated coloured display. Light, sound, and video all needed to be under one show control system.”

Phil Viney

Phil Viney

Custom Lighting, Aussie Made

With no off-the-shelf solution available for the type of lighting Phil envisioned, local manufacturer Digilin were bought in to the project. “We had done work with Design Stage in the past, and they knew we could make custom luminaires” reported Andrew Wood, Technical Manager at Digilin. “They wanted uplights, downlights, and lineal strip lights. For the strip lights, we custom made a high-powered RGBW LED fitting that was designed to go across the wavy ceiling structure. It gives you complete control of every luminaire in two metre sections with a lineal dimming format. There’s also signage luminaires in a curved extrusion, uplighting above the columns, and lights under the seats. Everything is RGBW with a colour temperature of 3K in the white, and it’s all fully controllable. There’s around 400 DMX channels in use.” Lighting is controlled with a combination of Dynalite for the architectural elements, and an ENTTEC e-streamer for the custom programmed light shows.

Andrew Wood

Andrew Wood

Big Screen, Total Control

The centre bay of the seven content areas houses the big screen, at 3.5 metres wide and 1.5 metres high. Because the alleyway is relatively narrow, a standard outdoor screen with a larger pixel pitch would have looked terrible when viewed at close distances, so Phil opted for a Christie Velvet Merit Series LED solution with 2.5mm pixel pitch. As it wasn’t rated for outdoor use, the screen had to be housed in a custom made environmental enclosure, which was organised through the project integrator Pro AV Solutions. “We engaged a company that makes outdoor housings,” said Tristan Herrod, Sales Account Manager at Pro AV Solutions. “It’s an IP Rated enclosure. We didn’t want it clouding up due to humidity, and we got a mechanical engineer to design its cooling system.”

Pro AV also helmed the enormous task of integrating all of the technical elements into one simple user interface, through a UI on an AMX touchscreen. “It’s a totally custom UI,” confirmed Tristan. “Just using the touchscreen, users can set up and create shows, save them and schedule them. The Green Hippo 2Kan media server can store up to 500GB of video and audio, and the controller creates custom timelines over a seven day schedule by simply tapping anywhere on the calendar, setting a track from the playlist, adding all of the different elements from the other subsystems on site, and setting when it repeats. Our AMX programmer, Jody Ernst, didn’t use any existing templates; this was all built bespoke.”

Fighting Environment

With the music of the Bee Gees arguably the most important element of the installation, Council wanted the speaker system to deliver very high quality sound. “We needed something could be installed outdoors,” Phil Viney continued. “It’s right on the waterfront, and it’s a fairly brutal environment, so we needed something that the manufacturer was prepared to warrant. It also needed to be small, multichannel, and self-powered because we didn’t have anywhere to put a lot of amplifiers. We also wanted, if possible, a single vendor solution in terms of support.” All of these requirements pointed to a loudspeaker and processing system from Meyer Sound.

“We were initially approached by Phil when he was looking for outdoor speakers,” said Meyer Sound Australia’s Chris D’Bais. “The project needed something small, discrete and high-powered that was good quality. The alleyway has a unique soundscape; you’ve got the beach and a busy road at one end, and trees with rainbow lorikeets in them at the other end. All day you’re fighting the road, the beach and the wind, then you’re fighting the lorikeets in the afternoon, and because of the beach, it’s all covered in salt water. We make all of our product in Weatherproof versions. In Bee Gees Way, it’s all Weatherproof, with gold connectors, stainless steel bolts, and birch timber construction that expands and contracts with humidity.”

Chris D'Bais

Chris D’Bais

Intelligent Audio

The audio system consists of stereo pairs of Meyer Sound MM-4XPs in six of the bays, augmented by one MM-4XP on the opposite alleyway wall. The centre bay with the big screen is fitted with a front and rear stereo pair of UPM-1XPs. There is an MM-10XP subwoofer hidden in each bay’s column, with an additional MM-10XP under the seat in the centre bay. Each speaker is fed its own independent signal. While the day-to-day running of the system sees it running in 16 separate zones, the entire system can be easily changed to run as one big system, run each speaker separately, and even run advanced spatialisation effects, courtesy of the incredibly powerful Meyer Sound D-Mitri DSP system.

D-Mitri is used by Cirque Du Soleil and a lot of other companies around the world for show control and soundscape,” continued Meyer’s Chris D’Bais. “Each D-Mitri system has a DCP (core processor), and its modular design means you add your I/O to suit; you can build it as big as you want. The Bee Gees Way system is running 32 in and 40 out. D-Mitri DCP uses our free software called Cue Station, which gives you the ability to create matrices, groups, EQ, and other processing. After recording audio cues using Cue Station the Bee Gees Way AMX system sends OSC (Open Sound Control) commands to D-Mitri to recall cues as needed. There’s also a feature called SpaceMap that lets you lay out the speakers on the screen, connect them via nodes, then record mouse movements between the speakers, and play back audio through that recorded path. When we were testing, I recorded clapping, and then scared the painters by making the clapping ‘walk’ up and down the alleyway! It’s great to programme using Cue Station.”

Huge Possibilities

The whole installation is remotely monitored via IP camera and web access to all of its systems through Pro AV’s service contract. Audio levels are managed through an ambient level sensing system custom programmed and implemented two weeks after opening, and a movement sensor will trigger the system to quietly play a song if someone walks through out-of-hours. The Council plans for the content to be regularly updated, and the space is engineered to be flexible. “There’s already lot of content authored,” mused Phil Viney. “If they want to have a function, the sound system has the capability. There are radio mics already programmed and patched. The control system can be paused and overridden, and you simply call up a lighting state to suit whatever you want.”

Pro AV’s Tristan Herrod speaks highly of the driving force behind the project. “Moreton Bay Council have been a very rewarding client for us,” he enthused. “They’re not a typical council. They’re a diverse council that cater to a lot of different community groups. As a council, they’re really progressive and see value in using technology to enhance their business capability and to attract and engage the community. You don’t see many projects like this.”

Tristan Herrod

Tristan Herrod

 

'One Night Only' statue in Bee Gees Way Artwork on the alley wall Bee Gees Way by night (1) Bee Gees Way by night (2) Control rack D-Mitri, playback, power and distribution, plus touch screen Maurice Gibb on-screen Meyer Sound UPM-1XP Mythology Tribute to Maurice the seven 'bays' The Christie screen in action The 'Bodding, Basser and Woggie' statue Static imagery Seating

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