The Royal Opera House live relays are making a welcome return to the Covent Garden piazza following the success of their revival last summer, made possible by the generous sponsorship of BP. This three-year sponsorship scheme has already brought three operas and now the very first ballet live from the main stage of the ROH into the piazza. An estimated 5,000 people enjoyed the free performance of Tchaikovsky's timeless ballet, Swan Lake which was broadcast onto a huge screen supplied by Screenco. The complex audio requirements were provided by Dobson Sound who have worked with the Royal Opera House on several previous occasions during the period of its refurbishment.

The system that was put in place for the Swan Lake relay was the result of collaboration between Paul Dobson and Eric Presley, Head of Sound for the ROH. Presley mixed the sound in the ROH and sent the feeds out to the piazza, and on this occasion wanted a system that would incorporate an element of surround sound for a fuller ambience, so he and Dobson designed it accordingly. The main system, which was all d&b, comprised a C7 top and sub either side of the stage for screen sound and three delay positions down either side of the piazza, each with an E9 mid/high cabinet over a C7 sub for the main programme material. BSS TCS804s and Klark Teknik DN410s provided system time alignment and EQ respectively, while a 24-channel Midas Heritage 1000 ran front-of-house. "We had to have masses of delay and time alignment on the system to compensate for the inherent delay in the video signal," said Dobson. "We took VT from Screenco and a BBC OB truck which was there to provide facilities to relay the video although the event itself was not broadcast." There was also a live element to the show when Deborah Bull, herself a principal ballerina with the Royal Ballet, brought out all the dancers of Swan Lake to take a curtain call on the stage beneath the great screen. Shure SM58s were on hand to deal with all of the live presentations onstage.

The surround sound element came from an E3 placed at each of the delay positions plus a further pair of E3s at the back. Paul Dobson commented: "We were really pleased with the surround sound effect. It was very subtle; not something necessarily to be noticed in its own right, but you noticed the difference without it. Eric deployed a highly complex system of microphones within the Royal Opera House in order to derive the signal for the surround sound, and the result was much greater depth and richness. We were pleased with the quality of the sound overall, achieving extremely even coverage from front to back of the piazza, but there is no doubt that the surround sound added an extra dimension. It really brought a sense of the Opera House outdoors."

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