The Courtyard of Honour at the Palace of the Popes
France - The Festival d'Avignon, an established international event for contemporary performing arts, has chosen Holophonix and Amadeus to re-equip the main presentation area at the festival, the Courtyard of Honour at the Palace of the Popes.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a venue for the Festival d'Avignon since 1947, the Courtyard of Honour had a major stage upgrade including technical infrastructure, a new 2000-seat bleacher area, a new stage, and new audio, video, and lighting equipment installed in 2021 - only the sixth renovation project since the Festival was founded decades ago.
“Under the growing influence of cinema, the work of actors on theatre stages has evolved considerably over the past 50 or 60 years. But if the actors are now almost always equipped with microphones, are we - as spectators - obliged to suffer the sound of voices whose depth, and spatial nuances seem to have disappeared in favour of a certain form of monophony?” says Félix Lefebvre, scenographer of the sixth stage installation at the Courtyard of Honour, co-founder of Kanju and technical director of major cultural institutions including the Grande Halle de la Villette, the Théâtre des Amandiers (Nanterre), and the Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris), among others.
“Amadeus and Holophonix - by developing new spatialisation tools - let ourselves return to the live theatre - performing arts - and brings us closer to the intimacy of the actors," adds Lefebvre.
For two years, experts and specialists in culture-oriented facilities, craftsmen, and industrials of different trades and domains have worked together to create and install this new system. Over the past two years, Amadeus designed and manufactured a system combining the largest long-reach ‘soundbar’ ever built - almost 30m long - with two high-fidelity line-source columns, 4m long each.
This system, optimised by state-of-the-art sound processing, is now installed every summer in the Courtyard. It is complemented by a high-precision tracking system provided by the Théâtre National de Chaillot.
“All our Amadeus and Holophonix know-how combine in this unique and futuristic project, with an augmented sound dimension, confirming the technological revolutions in the world of live performance,” says Gaetan Byk, Amadeus chairman and founder of the Holophonix brand.
This new system replaces the previous sound setup, designed by André Serré in 2002, and was made of two thousand loudspeakers, which provided vocal sound reinforcement at the Festival d'Avignon. Multiple assemblies and disassemblies, temperature, storage, and operating conditions had taken their toll on the equipment's endurance.
Every aspect of the new sound system is controlled by a Holophonix 128 spatialisation processor- with many of its algorithmic optimisations developed for the Courtyard of Honour at Avignon. With Holophonix now available in a software app, these developments are accessible to all - including various optimisations for very large front-fill systems, calculation of gain and delay values in real-time, a new parameter called LSO (Large Stage Optimiser) designed to optimise intelligibility for spectators close to the front-fill loudspeakers, as well as the ability to process stereophonic systems in Wave Field Synthesis (WFS).
“The Courtyard of Honour’s problem with voice reinforcement is unique. The distances - the bleachers’ dimensions, the stage width - are so big that time management problems appear, beyond the simple issue of coverage homogeneity,” points out Marc Piera, director of the sound department at the Théâtre National de Chaillot, an expert of this type of system and the instigator of numerous algorithmic developments, who was called upon for on-site calibration in Avignon.
To maximise spatial coherence and the spectators’ ability to easily locate the sound of the acoustic sources such as actors and musicians present on stage, a very large-format front-fill system - a ‘sound ramp’ - was designed and distributed along the entire length of the front stage lip.
This 30m-long system includes 40 diffusion points split into 20 sound ramp modules, custom designed and made to measure by Amadeus in coordination with the Festival teams and the technical scenography firm Kanju.
The 20 sound ramp modules are powered by five Powersoft Ottocanali 4K4 DSP+Dante amplifiers, developing a maximum of 40 x 500W/4Ω.
“Enhancing intelligibility and the localisation of actors and musicians at the spacious Palace of the Pope’s Courtyard of Honour area has been a long quest that I and my predecessors have pursued since the Festival’s inception in 1947,” says Michael Petit, technical director of the Festival d'Avignon.

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