Fatboy Slim at the O2 Arena

The difficulty of creating a typical club atmosphere is the main reason why most world-class DJs avoid playing arenas. Specifically, it is the rear of a long rectangular space that defies the ability of the PA system to deliver. With this in mind, Capital Sound Hire’s Technical Manager, Robin Conway, designed an audio system for an in-the-round presentation of Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook) at the O2 Arena in 2016.

The solution involved the use of the company’s Martin Audio MLA sound rig and a unique stage design to bring the DJ closer to the audience. ‘With the DJ booth in the middle, you forget you’re in a big arena,’ he says. ‘We worked out that’s a way of turning an arena into a huge nightclub.’

Fatboy Slim’s O2 Arena system

Cook subsequently declared in an interview, ‘You get all the benefits of collective euphoria with the budget to do a very big production.’

When he later announced his most ambitious arena tour to date – six appearances called The Round Trip, complete with revolving stage in the centre, circular overhead video, confetti cannons and pyro – Capital decided to extend the ‘boxing-match-meets-rave’ concept by increasing the ordnance of the PA.

To pull off this production, including the largest DJ show ever seen at Wembley’s SSE Arena, Capital – in the shape of house engineer/project manager David Preston and system tech Marty Beath – had to meet a number of unique challenges, notably the location of the mix position (30m from the mother grid, near the conventional monitor world), while fighting with the vast amount of overhead hardware.

‘Whereas last time we fielded four hangs of four MLA and two hangs of MLA Compact, this time we have had six hangs of MLA above the video screen, as close to the centre as possible, so there is a lot more real estate,’ Conway explains.

The speakers had to be trimmed 10m from the floor to preserve sightlines. But the most complicated element was the subs. This comprised a flown MLX system – four independent hangs with five elements in each hang, right above the DJ’s head. ‘These were all positioned close together, firing inwards, to create a perfect omnidirectional sub source.’

Eight Martin Audio DD12s were also deployed, two on each side of the square stage, for front fill.

‘This design is highly efficient and for this application it was perfect – there’s no comb filtering because it’s essentially one single source. I’m a huge fan of this design, it really works well, and Marty managed to achieve extremely good coverage.’

However, the efficiency also needed to extend to the rigging process, with the need for shared cable management and 100m looms required for each one of the MLA and MLX hangs.

In terms of sound optimisation Marty Beath programmed a core design in the dedicated Display software, building six cross-sectional files every day from the centre of the room, with all speakers under proprietary Vu-Net control.

With the lights firing inwards from the perimeter trusses on movable motors, this circus was every bit a club rave in all but name, which will have pleased both the artist and Production Manager, Mark Ward.

Also helping to ensure a first class production were Capital crew chief, Jonny Buck and PA tech, Ben Turnbull.

More: https://martin-audio.com

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