The new British Music Experience (BME), which this month took up permanent residence at London's O2 Arena, will provide a riveting addition to the capital's tourist attraction landscape. The high-tech, interactive music exhibition combines one of the most complex audio-visual systems ever designed - masterminded by integration specialists Sysco - with the most coveted music memorabilia of all time.
Working with Land Design, BME's exhibition designers, Sysco constructed a technical infrastructure that enables music lovers to trace historic moments and trends through the decades, learn about music's influence on art, fashion and politics, develop their skills on guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and participate in a full public and educational programme with workshops, lectures, master-classes and concerts. As an interactive exhibition it enables them to scroll through years of music, video clips, stories and images of their favourite artists.
With over 100 artists featured in the exhibition, Sysco needed to source a sophisticated and highly flexible audio network distribution system, and once again specified quantities of BSS Soundweb SW9088iis and SW3088 Soundweb Lite devices, from UK distributors Sound Technology.
Four of the larger Soundweb Originals (SW9088iis) were deployed to run the important Pre-Show and Exit Show features, while the central Core is under the control of a fifth SW9088iis. Around the periphery of the concourse seven satellite rooms - each dedicated to a musical era - have their audio delivered from fixed EQ presets stored in stand-alone Soundweb Lite (SW3088).
Soundweb programming was undertaken by Sysco, working alongside senior sound designer Peter Key, with whom project manager Chris Mothersdale and Director of Engineering, Glyn Hughes, liaised closely.
The real test of Soundweb is in the multi-featured (and reconfigurable) central Core, covered with an ambient sound canopy featuring 120 ceiling speakers, receiving six channels of audio feed.
“The main task was to get Soundweb to implement the various show modes and meet the routing requirements between show and conference set-ups,” explained Hughes. “With the ceiling speakers and floor subs angled in different directions, the system had to be time aligned in different ways to allow the conference space to be used with the DVD in 5.1 surround on the one hand, while at the same time using the facility panels, with a different room orientation, in the show space.”
The Pre-Show introduction and stupendous rock 'n' roll style Exit Show - which takes its feed from a 16-channel HD player - also have different states which required further flexibility in the Soundweb programming.
The Soundweb SW9088iis integrates with the Cue master show control system via RS232. To implement this Sysco used a MOXA serial device at either end of the signal chain, connected via the serial port on the computer.
“One of the nice things you can do with DSP is mix different inputs together with different delays on the input, so that time alignment can differ accordingly, depending on the different orientation of the speaker arrays,” notes Glyn Hughes.
Sysco first encountered Soundweb a decade ago, ironically while working on the Millennium Dome (which featured several hundred 'Webs). “We have always liked the Green boxes and as a cost effective system it's perfect. We know it won't break down and this provides the client with a low cost of ownership.”
Four years in the making, the BME which, occupies 22,000 square feet on the top floor of The O2 bubble, now looks set to become of one of Britain's most compelling attractions.
Sysco director Hugo Roche summarises: “It has been an exciting project for us to work on, and once again has showed that the Sysco team has the experience and innovative abilities to deal with a complex exhibition within a demanding timetable, and in the sensitive context of a complex building.”