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Restart-19 Experiment Targets Safe Resumption of Live Concerts

FOH Staff • International News • September 23, 2020

LEIPZIG, Germany — The world looked on as sound company Schalldruck Audio of Chemnitz, Germany supplied a CODA Audio system for a real-world concert experiment aimed at researching ways to restore live events in a post-COVID world.

A scientific study conducted by the Halle University Medical Center, “Restart-19” is aimed at investigating the Covid-19 risks associated with staging cultural or sporting events in indoor arenas. The most visible element of Restart-19 was a test with Tim Bendzko and his band playing for 1,800 masked and socially distanced fans in the 12,200-capacity Leipzig Arena in Saxony, Germany. In this real-life simulations of the concert experience, every measure was taken to ensure that no-one taking part in the experiment or in the local population was put at risk, and it is hoped that the data gathered will assist the authorities in finding ways to reopen sports and concert facilities.

The project received almost a million Euros in funding, a measure of just how desperate the situation facing the future of such events has become. The principle aim of the study was to determine which technical and organizational actions can most effectively minimize the risk of infection.

Schalldruck Audio of Chemnitz, Saxony, provided audio for the event. Deploying a combination of CODA Audio AiRAY and ViRAY, Schalldruck invited CODA Audio’s Sebastian Baehr to deliver technical support for the preparation of the project, and to act as onsite System Engineer to set and tune the system. Powered by CODA LINUS14D amplifiers, the system comprised 12 AiRAY line arrays/side with three ViRAY (downfill) per side, combined with combined with eight ViRAY outhangs/side, six N-APS employed as front fills. LF punch was provided by ten CODA SCP-F and four SCV-F subwoofers in a ground stacked arc array.

The team used CODA’s System Optimiser software. “We set up a detailed System Optimiser file for the Arena, which included all loudspeakers and tuning,” says Baehr, adding, “the virtual parameters were all adopted to the LINUS Control file prior to the actual P.A. check — this virtual prediction is amazingly reliable, and we just had to set and adjust a very few filters and delay times. It was just a little optimization to the actual acoustical room behavior, which was quick, easy, and achieved amazing results.”

The multipurpose indoor arena can accommodates 12,000 people for concerts, but for the Restart-19 experiment, a much smaller audience was present, resulting in more reflective surfaces within the space. “With the CODA products, we were able to minimize the P.A. system’s impact on these surfaces, particularly by using the right Couplers. For example, the four lowest ViRAY boxes in the outhangs were used with asymmetrical dispersion. This helped to keep reflections as low as possible.”

The “concert” part of the day was divided into six periods of 20 minutes, with the audience organized in different social-distancing configurations. Outstanding intelligibility was essential in order that the audience in every part of the arena could clearly hear the instructions being given by the event moderator.

- Everyone was masked and socially distanced, including FOH engineer Stefan Lohr

     Everyone was masked and socially distanced, including FOH engineer Stefan Lohr

“The capabilities of the DDP-drivers achieved this from the front row to the furthest corners of the arena without delay lines. In spite of the stop-start nature of proceedings it was actually a really enjoyable experience — Tim Bendzko, his band and front of house engineer Stefan Lohr did a great job and as always, the AiRAY system delivered a very clear and transparent mix. It worked brilliantly for the whole spectrum of music from soft ballads with piano and cello, to much louder material with synths and overdriven guitars,” says Baehr.

Merlin Marschall of Schalldruck Audio added his point of view: “The main advantages were definitely the HF driver and the short-impulse SCP subs. The moderator of the event had to give frequent instructions to the audience about how to handle the various scenarios, so we needed long-throw with razor-sharp clarity to the very back row. It was important, though, that we didn’t hit the back wall behind the last row, as it is very reflective. Since it’s an arena, subs are always the main concern in respect of boomy room nodes, but with CODA’s sensor controlled subs and their wonderfully short impulses, we were able to reduce the room nodes whilst still retaining the desired punch. The new CODA System Optimiser is really precise in its calculations, and except for a few minor changes, we were able to use nearly all its settings as predicted in the software.

“The main challenge to overcome was that it was essentially an empty arena — without much ‘flesh’ with only 1,800 people in such a large space. Yet the system outperformed itself with brilliant clarity and without the boominess you might associate with a relatively ‘empty’ space. Many of the people in the audience were technicians who’d volunteered to participate in the study, and every single one I talked to said that the performance of the system was amazing.”

David Webster, CODA Audio’s director of global marketing, added “We were proud to see a CODA system at the center of what everyone hopes might prove to be a pivotal moment in helping to restore the fortunes of the live performance sector. The announcement of Restart-19 attracted worldwide interest, and it is to be hoped that the data gathered by the project will give the industry some cause for optimism in the not too distant future.”

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